In today's post, we continue to follow Jesus through the 66 Books of the Bible. We want to note how He is present with His people. The Book of Acts shows us how Jesus Christ, post-ascension, is still accessible to His people back then and to His people in the here-and-now. What follows below is an attempt to discover how the Book of Acts develops this idea. We will then theologically unpack how Jesus Christ as truly God and truly man can be still present with us, even though He has ascended to Heaven (a clue is found in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit). We will close with applications and examples of how Jesus is present with His people in key experiences of their lives.
In the Book of Acts, we find the outline for the book contained in Acts 1:8
Distinguishing the states of Christ.
Whenever we study the doctrine of Christ (known as Christology) in the Bible, we sometimes will focus attention upon what is called "the states of Christ". All we mean by the term "states of Christ" is in what way creation's relationship to Christ changes as He interracts with it. Also, this discussion pertains to what changes Christ undergoes in His human nature, from incarnation, through resurrection, through ascension, to exalation. It merits our attention to consider the "states of Christ", particularly in the realm of His incarnation in the Gospels (sometimes called "the pre-Pentecost Jesus") and His exalation or ascension in Acts (sometimes called "the post-Pentecost Jesus").
1. Christ's pre-existent state, that is, He as the Second Person of the Trinity, existing co-eternally with the Father and Holy Spirit as the blessed Trinity from all eternity.
2. Christ's pre-incarnate state. When we come into the Old Testament, we find God making appearances to His people or traveling alongside with them. At times, we encounter a figure known as "The Angel of the Lord". This mysterious figure is referred to some fifteen times in the Old Testament. Most theologians refer to the "Angel of the Lord" as a "Christophany", that is, an appearance of the Son.
3. The third state of Christ we often speak of is of course His incarnation. Christ's incarnation is where He, as a Divine Person, unites with truly human nature (comprising a rational human soul and physical body), whence was obtained from the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit's work in the virginal conception.
4. The fourth state we speak of is the resurrected state of our Lord Jesus Christ. Resurrection refers to a physical body being raised to glory and immortality. It is important at this point to remind readers that when we talk of the "states of Christ", were not speaking of a change in the Divine nature of our Lord.
Whenever Christ would enter our world in the Old Testament, it was not He who changed, but instead He was expressing Himself through the media of the changing creation (whether clouds, rocks, or even temporarily taking on human form (see Genesis 18; Joshua 5). As for Jesus' human nature, that certainly undergoes change.
5. The fifth state, which brings us to Acts, is what we call "Jesus' exalted state" or what I've heard referred to sometimes as "The post-Pentecost Jesus". Philippians 2:9-11 records this exaltation of Christ to the Father's right hand. As our exalted Lord, Jesus Christ is our Prophet, who speaks through the Scriptures (Acts 2:30-36; Hebrews 1:1-2). He is our Eternal High Priest, interceding and representing us (Acts 7; Hebrews 7:24-25). He is our Soon coming King, returning for His people and aiming to set up His Kingdom here on earth (Acts 1:11-14; Philippians 3:20). In this exalted state, Jesus Christ still retains His glorified, resurrected body. As man, He is locally in Heaven, seated at the Father's righthand. As God, He is everywhere present with the Father and Spirit.
6. The sixth state, which I'll mention briefly, is what we could call Christ in His "Messianic Kingdom State." Whatever one may believe about the nature of the Millennium in Revelation 20, we know that in the future, Christ's Kingdom in Heaven will become visible and earthly. Luke alluded to this in Acts 1:11-14. Pre-millennialists (like myself) are convinced this will entail a 1,000 year reign on earth before the ushering in of the New Heaven and Earth. Other believers who hold to an A-millennial or Post-Millennial viewpoint believe that Christ's return will usher in the New Heavens and Earth. I won't go into the distinctions between these views, only to point out they all agree that our Lord will return visibly and rule over the earth and the universe from the earth. Our Lord will be visible to all. This "Messianic State" our our Lord will feature Him ruling on His throne, over the nations, with His saints alongside Him (see Ephesians 3; Revelation 20).
The activity of Jesus in the Book of Acts and today.
The reason for working through the various states of Christ that we find in the Bible is to aid us in thinking of how we find Jesus in the Book of Acts. For example, we find Jesus encountering Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:3-7
"Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.” 7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one."
Who was it that Saul encountered. In 1 Corinthians 15:8, Saul (renamed "Paul", see Acts 13), mentioned Jesus "appearing to Him": "and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also."
One of the things we note about Jesus' state of exaltation (i.e. "The post-Pentecost Jesus") is that by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Who was sent from the Father and Himself to the church at Pentecost in Acts 2 and in subsequent outpourings in Acts 8, 10, and 19), the deity and humanity of our Lord is made accessible to His people.
He as the Divine Son of God, united to the Spirit and the Father, is immediately accessible to His people. The humanity of our Lord, also attached to His Person, is made accessible because of the Holy Spirit's working. The whole Christ, as truly God and truly man, is that precious stone that is made accessible by faith to the Christian (1 Peter 2).
"We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood. "
He who was able to mysteriously, yet wondrously appear to Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 is still available to every believer this day. He who stood to receive the soul of Stephen upon his stoning in Acts 7 prays for and feels the pain of every Christian, as their human representative, while exercising His omnipresence as God to meet their every need (see Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 7:24-25; 1 Peter 4:16-17; 1 John 1:9-2:2).
We see how Christ, as truly God and truly man, is present with His people in suffering.
2 Corinthians 1:5-6 "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer."
We see also how Jesus is present with His people, by the Spirit, in their worship.
Hebrews 2:11-13 "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for this reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, “I will proclaim Your name to My brothers, In the midst of the assembly I will sing Your praise.” 13 And again, “I will put My trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me.”
Once more, we note how Jesus as God and man is present with Christians in temptation.
Hebrews 2:14-18 "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, so that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For clearly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brothers so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."