In the previous part we observed the Scriptural answer to Mr. Burch’s first “difficult question” regarding Jesus dying on the Cross and being God at the same time. If we do not let human rationalism cloud our thinking, we realize that this “paradox” of the One Who is divine becoming incarnate and dying is not only acceptable but rather definitional to the orthodox Christian faith. On the heels of this first question comes Mr. Burch’s second “difficult question” concerning the resurrection of a divine Christ.
If He died and was God, who raised Jesus?
The question, of course, misunderstands the concept of the Trinity–yet again! Remember that the Trinity is one Being of God in three Persons. The Person of Jesus Christ died on the Cross. The whole Being of God did not die on the Cross. Also remember that death is not a cessation of existence; neither is it necessarily a cessation of consciousness. No logical contradiction exists in the Biblical concept of the death of the Divine. Nevertheless, we need to answer the question of who raised Jesus from the dead if He shares the divine Being. For the answer we will consult the Scriptures. Not surprisingly, the answer is understandably trinitarian!
God raised Jesus from the dead
A plethora of Scriptures declare that God raised Jesus from the dead, as we would expect:
- Whom God hath raised up… (Act 2:24)
- This Jesus hath God raised up… (Act 2:32)
- And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead… (Act 3:15)
- …God, having raised up his Son Jesus… (Act 3:26)
- The God of our fathers raised up Jesus… (Act 5:30)
- Him God raised up the third day… (Act 10:40)
- But God raised him from the dead (Act 13:30)
- God hath fulfilled…in that he hath raised up Jesus again… (Act 13:33)
- But he, whom God raised again… (Act_13:37)
- …that God hath raised him from the dead… (Rom 10:9)
- And God hath both raised up the Lord… (1Co 6:14)
- …we have testified of God that he raised up Christ… (1Co 15:15)
- …God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Col 2:12)
- …God, that raised him up from the dead… (1Pe 1:21)
Neither Mr. Burch nor any trinitarian would have any issue explaining these passages. Of course, Mr. Burch would understand “God” to be indiscriminately The Father, Who is the uncreated Creator and Jesus to be a finite creature; and a trinitarian would understand “God” to be defined by the context. Most often in the Old Testament it refers to the whole divine Being as distinct from the creation. Most often in the New Testament it refers to the person of the Father. Sometimes it is qualified for the Person of the Son Jesus Christ or the Person of the Holy Spirit.
The Father raised Jesus from the dead
A couple Scriptures also refer to the Father raising Jesus from the dead, as we also would expect:
- …Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father… (Rom 6:4)
- …by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (Gal 1:1)
Once again, neither Mr. Burch nor any trinitarian would have a problem with the Father raising Jesus from the dead either. Yes, the Father is “God.” Yes, the Father is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, Jesus called the Father “My God and your God.” No trinitarian should struggle with such statements, because they reflect the very meaning and purpose of the incarnation and of the Son humbling Himself, being our perfect example of obeying the Law to be our substitute, and being obedient unto death.
The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead
A few Scriptures declare that the Holy Spirit (distinct from the Father) raised Jesus from the dead:
- …according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection [of Jesus] from the dead (Rom 1:4)
- …the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead…[God] shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit… (Rom 8:11)
- For Christ…being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1Pe 3:18)
Mr. Burch would depersonalize the Holy Spirit and just say that the Spirit is just the impersonal power of God, but we have seen many Scriptures in an earlier part that show the Spirit being distinguished from the Father and the Son in the same category as they, and doing things that only persons can do, such as speaking, hearing, giving gifts according to his will, and so on. According to the whole of Scripture, the Holy Spirit must be a distinct Person from the Father and the Son, but He also was involved in raising Jesus from the dead!
Jesus raised Himself from the dead
Finally, a few Scriptures say that Jesus raised Himself from the dead:
- Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…. But he spake of the temple of his body. (Joh 2:19,21)
- Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (Joh 10:17-18)
Here comes the rub! This is where Mr. Burch’s presuppositions regarding both deity and the nature of death are put to the test. Jesus said that He would raise Himself from the dead! Jesus said that He had the power to take His life back up again having died. Just as Jesus said that no one took His life involuntarily from Him–He gave it freely and only in His own power–so also Jesus had the same power to raise Himself back to life. These statements of Jesus prove at least one (or both) of these propositions:
- Jesus was divine and had the power to raise from the dead as only God can do.
- The nature of death does not necessitate a loss of conscious existence.
Yes, Jesus said that this power was a command from the Father, but everything He did as the example and servant on earth was in obedience to the Father. No one else in history ever received a command from God to raise himself from the dead, because no one has the power to do that. However, Jesus could obey the command to raise Himself from the dead, because He, being divine, has that ability. He has “the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:18) and, since, He can only do what the Father does and whatever the Father does Jesus does (Joh 5:19) including working on the Sabbath (Joh 5:17-18), He has the power to raise whomever He wills (Joh 5:20), including Himself (Joh 2:19-21; 10:17-18). Why? “That all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father”! (Joh 5:23)
The trinitarian miracle
Let us recap what we have just observed from the Scriptures. Who raised Jesus from the dead? God? Yes! The Father? Yes! The Holy Spirit? Yes! Jesus Christ Himself? Yes! The entire Godhead was involved in raising Jesus from the dead, including the divine Son of God! How very trinitarian of the Scriptures!
- Les Burch, It Isn’t The Way We Think It Is: Seven Common Beliefs That Aren’t in the Bible (Mustang, Okla.: Tate Publishing, 2013), 77, 109.
- Jesus is not the only One Who raised people from the dead. Elisha, Jesus’ apostles, and, perhaps, others raised people from the dead according to Scripture. However, the unique prerogative of raising people from the dead was never in one’s own power. It was a petition before God, or done in the name of God with full revelation that God would answer. Jesus raised Himself from the dead by His own power, just as He laid down His own life by His own power.