Anonymous asks:

Hi Will,

Growing up, I was taught that when a person dies they go directly to heaven or hell. Of course the biblical teachings of the “resurrection of life” and the “resurrection of damnation” seem to contradict this view. To overcome this discrepancy, as I am aware, some teach that the resurrection only involves the physical body and that the dead, prior to their resurrection, are consciously aware and living in “spirit”. This teaching, to my understanding, is not cohesive with Scripture in it’s entirety, and in a number of instances I find it completely incompatible, both in it’s application and to the very nature of God.

I believe the bible is very clear on the matter – The dead know nothing. Unconsciously, ceasing to be, until Jesus resurrects us from the dead. – When we consider the application it truly is remarkable – for within a state of unconsciousness time is no more. Between death and the resurrection is like a “blink of an eye” – and – we all are brought to God at the same time. A remarkably beautiful reunion.

I am curious. As an Anglican, what do you believe?


Hi Anon and thanks for the question.  This is the topic of the Intermediate State and is a subject that has received much debate over the years/centuries.

You specifically ask me “as an Anglican” so I’ll start there.

The 39 articles are not particularly attentive to the “Intermediate State” but they do reject the form of it that is clearly extra-biblical, and that is the concept of purgatory around which a Roman Catholic sacramental system was cemented.  Article XXII clearly states that purgatory is “a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”  In all that I talk about below I am not talking about purgatory.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer includes much eschatological language and expressions of eternal hope – these do not interact with the question at hand because they allude to the final state.  We must note, however, that in the intermediate time the BCP draws upon a framework of “Christ’s Church militant here in earth” and the “Church Triumphant” who in some sense are present with Jesus.  And so we see, for instance:

The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world : doth acknowledge thee

— Te Deum Laudamus, Morning Prayer

THEREFORE with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord most High. Amen

— Preface in Communion

We meekly beseech thee, 0 Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our brother doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world: Grant this, we beseech thee, 0 merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.

— Collect in Holy Burial

Language such as this implies an intermediate state, associates it with rest and peace  and worship – but does not equate it with the culmination of the kingdom or the ultimate resurrection.  This is  in line with more recently espoused Anglican theology such as that of N. T. Wright (I reviewed the book of his that most engages with this topic) who decries an escapist framework whereby the gospel is couched in terms of departing to heaven when we die, rather than in terms of seeing the Kingdom of God come to this earth in its fullness when we are raised from the dead.  N. T. Wright’s framework only holds together exegetically if some passages of Scripture are seen to be referring to the ultimate resurrection and other passages are seen to be referring to an intermediate state.

You say “the bible is very clear on the matter.”  It would be helpful if you could point me to the parts of the Bible which you draw on to provide that clarity.  It’s hard to engage otherwise.

There are certainly parts of Scripture that do seem to clearly imply an intermediate state.  From the fact that Samuel can appear before the witch of Endor, and the framework undergirding the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, to affirmations from Jesus that the thief on the cross will be with him that day in paradise, and references to a great cloud of saintly witnesses.

I have certain degree of sympathy with your view, and recognise its beauty.  I have a friend, a mechanical engineer, who suggests that in the intermediate state time is shaped as a parabola so that no matter at what point you enter it you get to the end at the same time – we, who die before the parousia, all arrive together to accompany the bridegroom to collect his bride.  That too, has beauty.

In the end, I am comfortable with a post-death pre-resurrection form of existence as the church triumphant celebrates and awaits the fullness of the Kingdom of God.  But whatever the viewpoint, the eventual promise is the same, and that is what is at the heart of the gospel.

Anonymous asks:

It is my biblical understanding that a person who is to be baptised is first to be a believer. Of their own free will they are to receive Jesus Christ as their personal saviour – A faithful, cognitive act.

Some churches conduct baby baptisms and, although the church admits that the baby is not consciously choosing Jesus Christ as their personal saviour, they claim that the baby is being baptised into the faith of his or her parents. I believe this is not a biblical truth, but rather a man made tradition.

Can you please comment?

ps – not to be confused with dedications.

Thanks for the question – happy to respond.  The one caveat being is that the whole infant-baptism/adult-baptism debate is long, emotive and the most constructive response at the end is usually to agree to disagree.  This is true simply because Scripture does not have a clear definitive proscription or prescription for infant baptism.  For every verse that people point out emphasising baptism in the context of individual faith and post-conversion, you can find one that alludes to baptism in a covenantal context in which there are allusions to whole households being baptised etc. etc.

So I disagree with your biblical truth / man-made tradition comment.  The scholarly considerations simply do not allow this distinction to be drawn, one way or the other.

I ascribe to and practice the baptism of infants.  I was baptised as a child (also subsequently baptised in the Baptist Church in my teen years when I wanted to make my own confession (confirmation?) of faith and I was part of that community).  My children were baptised as infants.

There are number of aspects to this issue that I believe provides a framework that is thoroughly consistent with Scripture.  I can’t be exhaustive, or even thorough here, but here are some brief thoughts.

1) The primary agency in baptism.

Historically (man-made tradition?) the primary agency was perceived to be the church.  Hence the popularisms of being “baptised Catholic” or “baptised Anglican.”  Such a view embraces infant baptism as a way of including children in the right ecclesio-sociological fold.  When people feel a need to confront infant baptism it is usually a confrontation with this framework.  I do not subscribe to it.

A popular view these days is that the primary agency is the baptisee.  In other words, a person comes to faith and therefore expresses that faith by being baptised. Baptism is therefore a symbolic act on the part of the new believer.  This view requires a believers baptism stance but not necessarily vice versa.  A danger with this view of agency is that it can become highly individualistic.  I know of people, who struggling with a recurring struggle against sins or addictions, have been baptised a number of times as they respond to their series of “backslidings.”  I do not subscribe to this framework.

For me the primary agency in baptism is God.  In baptism, through the church and the witness of faith, by the Spirit of God someone is signed and sealed into the body of Christ, the people of grace.  It is an act of covenantal obedience where that covenant is applied in some sense.  This is not incompatible with infant baptism.

2) What happens at baptism?

There is the wide spectrum, of course, between baptism-is-completely-and-utterly-salvific to baptism-is-a-nice-but-not-necessary-witness-of-salvation.  I hold that baptism does do something.  It certainly has a dedicatory effect – the person is signed and sealed for salvation and membership of God’s people.  And it also has a sacramental effect – a means of grace by which a person who continues strong in the faith can be considered to be walking in the grace of their baptism.  It is something by which we are able to say, and hold onto the truth of: “I am a baptised person.  By grace I am dead to all but alive to him.  I belong to Christ, I am marked as his.”

This is not incompatible with infant baptism.

3) Who exercises the faith?

You rightly point out that infant baptism relies on what is sometimes called “vicarious” faith.  The parents exercise faith on their child’s behalf.  While this may seem strange to some I do not think so for a number of reasons.

a) It matches a covenantal view of baptism.  In the spirit of “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

b) It is actually an ordinary thing to do.  After all Christian parents exercise faith on behalf of their children all the time.  They pray for them and with them – encouraging them to say Amen, or more, at the family table; teaching them to tithe their pocket money etc. etc.

c) Except in the case of baptism following clear adult conversion it is something that happens anyway.  For instance, those who hold to believer’s baptism must have a view on when a child’s decision to follow Christ is “adult enough.”  At what age is the child’s faith completely theirs and not their parents? What is the right way to respond to age-appropriate faith?  I would argue that age-appropriate faith for an infant is complete dependency on their parents’!

4) As some have asked – is a child “a pagan in need of converting or a Christian in need of nurturing?”
Not sure if I like that popular phrasing.  But it gets the point across.  If I consider my child to be a part of the church, covered by God’s grace, and endeavour to help them walk in this light – I cannot see baptism as askance to that.  Free will is not taken away – they may choose to continue to walk in that grace, or, as an adult, to leave the fold.  But while I am answerable to God for their wellbeing I will look to them to walk under his grace.

Like I said, in the end, this is one of those agree-to-disagree questions.  It is something I have wrestled with personally and have arrived at these conclusions.  After all “Let the little children come unto me…” sounds more like the gospel than “wait until you’re old enough” and, in the end, even for adults, it is only those who are like children to God who can enter his kingdom.

God bless.

I remember when I first began studying at College.  We were taught exegesis of the Bible – applying literary and historical analysis, asking that all important question of “What did the text mean for the original hearers?”, and all that sort of thing.  Many students who are used to a more devotional reading of Scripture find themselves stumbling.  More than once I would read a passage, consider it’s meaning as reasonably obvious, and then second guess myself: Have I been truly considerate of the context? Do I have a prejudicial hermeneutic that’s getting in the way?  The vast majority of the time my initial conclusion was right – the meaning was plain.

It is in this light that I find myself describing N. T. Wright’s Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision as an exegetical book.  Firstly, because it is a book that requires two hands – book in one, Bible in the other.  Secondly, because its unpacking of the New Perspectives has the same effect as the experience of novice exegetes.  As I read Scripture from that perspective I get the mixture of “Isn’t that obvious?” with “Am I reading that right?” with “It’s not that controversial really is it?”

Apparently it is controversial.  This book is a parry-riposte to John Piper’s The Future of Justification which is itself “A Response to N. T. Wright.” Not having read Piper I can only infer from Wright’s response that there are some theological differences surrounding some nuances of justification – for instance, what it means to be “righteous” before God (Piper wants an imputation of merit, Wright prefers the sense of legal acquital), and the means of being made right (Piper elevates the salvific efficacy of faith in Christ, Wright elevates the covenantal consequences of the faithfulness of Christ).

I find myself very sympathetic to Wright and the New Perspective (if “New” is the right word).  The applicable heart of it all is the sense of “God’s-single-purpose-through-Israel-for-the-salvation-of-the-world.”  It is a cohesive framework which draws the key aspects of the Christian kerygma into a God-honouring hermeneutic.  Those theological things that are normally underdone or unsatisfyingly shoehorned in when needs must, instead find a full and fruitful place – the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation, for instance, and the salvific inherence of the resurrection, or the continuity of covenants old and new.

Wright is quite polemic in the early chapters when he clarifies his framework and negotiates the sticking points. He is less so when he gets to the more beneficial Part 2 which covers exegesis in Galatians, Philippians, Corinthians, Ephesians and Romans.  This is where I found the book most enjoyable, almost devotional in its usefulness.

In the end, in application (and proclamation?) the debate ends up being about nuances and emphases more than anything else.  Wright admits that “we begin to realize at last how the emphases of the old and new perspectives belongs so intimately together” as he summarizes a section of Romans:

(a) The overarching problem has always been human sin and its effects – idolatry, pride, human corruption and ultimately death.

(b) God launched a rescue operation, the single plan, through Israel, to save the world.

(c) But Israel, too, is part of the original problem, which has a double effect:
(i) Israel itself needs the same rescue-from-sin-and-death that everyone else needs;
(ii) Israel, as it stands, cannot be the means of the rescue operation that God’s plan intended.

(d) therefore the problem with which God is faced, if he is to be faithful to his own character and plan in both creation and covenant, is
(i) he must nevertheless put his single plan into operation, somehow accomplishing what Israel was called to do but, through faithlessness to his commission, failed to do;
(ii) he must thereby rescue the human race and the  whole world from sin, idolatry, pride, corruption and death;
(iii) he must do this in a way that makes it clear that Israel, though still of course the object of his saving love, is now on all fours with the rest of the world.

In other words, God must find a way of enabling ‘Israel’ to be faithful after all, as the middle term of the single plan; God must thereby deal with sin; and God must do so in such a way as to leave no room for boasting…

As the first year College student might say, “Isn’t it obvious, or am I reading it wrong?”

I used to think it was my own little heresy – that the gospel was all about the Lordship of Christ and the fulfillment of his Kingdom here on earth when he returns, more than any possibility of being raptured into an ethereal eternity.  My “heresy” has found a harbour.  Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope unpacks an eschatology that brings forth the foundation of the biblical narrative.  Not only is it hermeneutical framework changer (or strengthener) but completes the circle by dealing with the putting of gospel into practice.

The book is quite simple in essence.  Wright seeks to answer two questions: “First, what is the ultimate Christian hope?  Second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present?” (Page 5).  And he insists that these questions be asked together, for the Christian hope is not about escaping an evil creation, but about “God’s new creation.. that has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth.” (Page 5)

“I find that to many – not least many Christians – all this comes as a surprise: both that the Christian hope is surprisingly different from what they had assumed, and that this same hope offers a coherent and energizing basis for work in today’s world’ (Page 5)

Wright then proceeds, to unpack these two issues – the Christian hope, and it’s application.

To the first issue he brings his skill as New Testament scholar and general theologian to bear in a knowledgeable and astute way.  His touchstone is the resurrrection and ascension of Jesus, a topic that is poorly handled (if considered at all) in many of the systematic theologies I’ve read.  The historicity of Christ’s resurrection is a deliberately aberrational impact of God’s purposes into the world.  People simply do not rise from the dead, so that fact this this man has inaugurates something profound.  First, it places Jesus higher than all – as the one in whom the Kingdom of God is inaugurated he is Lord of all.  And, secondly, upon his return, as the early Christians cry Maranatha!…

“They believed that God was going to do for the whole cosmos what he had done for Jesus at Easter.” (Page 104)

Before he gets to the practical implications Wright unpacks the theological ones.  He sets this expression of the gospel against insidious platonism and an assumed dualism that is prevalent in liturgical and spiritual language.  I particularly enjoyed how he pulls apart some of our hymnody.

“While we’re on Christian carols, consider ‘Away in a manger’, which prays, ‘and fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.’  No resurrection; no new creation; no marriage of heaven and earth.  And when we find in the hymn book the blatant romantic nature-religion and universalims of Paul Gerhardt…

But when life’s day is over
Shall death’s fair night discover

Death in the New Testament is never a ‘fair night’.  It is an enemy, conquered by Jesus but still awaiting its final defeat.”

There are theological corollaries to his framework, and he also unpacks these.  It could be here that some controversy might lie for some, although it needn’t for I think he draws a line between what is necessary and what is speculative.

Some examples of his thinking includes the necessity of an intermediate state of paradise ahead of the coming of Christ – which means the many rooms prepared by Jesus for his disciples (John 14) are temporary.  He also looks at judgement and justification.  His view of hell, rather nicely, is not annihilationist, but somewhat Narnian, where hell is for “beings that once were human but now are not, creatures that have ceased to bear the divine image at all.” (Page 195)

One aspect I need to put some more thought into is the notion that the creation of Genesis, while definitely good, is not necessary complete.   Rather, creation itself is eschatological (crf. Romans 8), designed as a vessel to receive the fullness of God himself so that the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

“It looks as though God intends to flood the universe with himself; as though the universe, the entire cosmos, was designed as a receptacle for his love.  We might even suggest, as part of a Christian aesthetic, that the world is beautiful, not just because it hauntingly reminds us of its creator, but because it is pointing forwards: it is designed to be filled, flooded, drenched in God; as a chalice is beautiful not least because of what we know it is designed to contain…

The world is created good but incomplete.  One day, when all forces of rebellion have been defeated, and the creation responds freely and gladly to the love of its creator, God will fill it with himself, so that it will both remain an independent being, other than God, and also will be flooded with God’s own life.” (Pages 113-114)

The key value of this book however lies in Wright’s attempt to complete the circle from theology to practicality – the intertwining of gospel with mission.  1 Corinthians 15 is a key passage as Wright engages with Paul’s vision of our future in the resurrection and reflects on Paul’s application of this hope: “Therefore, my beloved ones, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”

“The point of the resurrection, as Paul has been arguing throughout the letter, is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die.  God will raise it to new life.  What you do with your body in the present matters, because God has a great future in store for it… What you do in the present – by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbour as yourself – all these things will last into God’s future.  They are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we live it behind altogether… They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.” (Page 205)

The basic sense is knowing the Kingdom of God in part here and now what we will know in fullness when Jesus returns.  It’s a life that prays “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” and builds for that kingdom.  Wright unpacks kingdom tasks around the categories of working for justice, beauty and evangelism (chapter 13).

When talking about mission it is hard to get the balance right between our obligation and the sovereign work of God.  I like Wrights’ God builds the kingdom, we build for the kingdom phrasing.  But I’m not sure whether describing our missions as “seeking… to implement the achievement of Jesus and his resurrection” (Page 245) is helpful.  Jesus “achieves” and we “implement” – I’m not sure if this hits the balance.  Perhaps it’s my cynicism – many of the examples Wright gives of mission in action seem simply too bureaucratic.  Part of me is discontent with welfare programs or even “Truth and Reconciliation Commissions” as an outworking of the gospel.  They seem doable without Jesus and thus devoid of power.  I want to see miracles as the Kingdom of God comes near to those who are bound by sin and the world, just as it did for Jesus.  Perhaps this is eschatological angst on my part.

I did appreciate Wright’s last two chapters, however, where he goes where my heart always goes – the reshaping of the church for mission.  The message for a church which has lost its hope is “It’s time to wake up!… Come alive to the real world, the world where Jesus is Lord, the world into which your baptism brings you, the world you claim to belong to when you say in the creed that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead.” (Page 265)  Such a message can and must reinvigorate our worship, our prayer, our attitude towards life.

In all this Wright has let down a bucket into the depths of the gospel water from which I have not drunk for a long time.  The bucket is imperfect for sure.  But the water is oh so sweet.

It took me a while to read Atonement for a Sinless Society by Alan Mann.  It’s style is full of ultramergent pomo-babble which normally turns me away and made it tough going for this particular storied-self.  But the title intrigued me and piqued my curiosity.  Finding effective ways of communicating the gospel of atonement in away that is faithful to Scripture, inherently Christ-centred, and readily grasped by those who are hearing it is something I have grappled with (as all church leaders and teachers do I guess).  For this reason I persisted.

Mann’s main premise is that the word “sin” has become meaningless, semantically diluted, in our Western culture.  Consequently a gospel that speaks of atonement in terms of the alleviation of guilt, or the forgiveness of sin, fails to impact those who nevertheless are in need of atonement.  Mann’s suggestion is to consider the human predicament in terms of “shame” and the “incoherence” in their “story”, a difference between the story they tell of themselves to others, and their real self:

“The chronically shamed fear exposing the reality that the way they narrate themselves to others is not their real self.  They are insecure in their relating, constantly aware of the need to cover the self from the ‘Other’ for fear of being found socially unacceptable.  The shamed person lives lives in permanent state of hiding, even when interacting with others.  Only ever seeking to story their ideal-self, he or she never wants their real-self to be found.” (Page 41)

There are some strengths to looking at things this way.  For instance, shame is certainly part of the fallen human predicament (e.g. Adam & Eve hiding from God and each other).  So is relational dishonesty and that sense of incoherence between the who we aspire to be and who we actually are (e.g. Peter’s denial of Christ).

It also provides some useful handles on how we might consider the redeemed person.  Such a person has allowed themselves to be exposed before the ‘Other’ (expressing faith, contrition, perhaps repentance?) and has found themselves caught up in the story of One who has never been ontologically incoherent, namely Jesus.  Lives are “re-narrated” and therefore made coherent in Christ.

Analysis like this is not necessarily antagonistic to the truth of the gospel.  Mann explores this sense of shame, self-narration and coherence in great detail – including an explanation of narrative therapy.  Much of this is useful.

My difficulty with this book, therefore, is not so much the “What?” question but the “So what?” question.  Setting up a semantical framework which is broad enough to express the gospel is one thing, actually bringing it to bear in a useful way for the Kingdom is another.

One of Mann’s problem is that he ends up preaching his framework rather than simply doing what he suggests.  For instance, in proclaiming “We come to reflect on his story.  But we also come to reflect on our own story.” (From a proposed Communion liturgy on page 169) he misses his own point.  Just tell the story of Jesus so it impacts our own!

He does do this somewhat in an intriguing comparison of the deaths of Judas and Jesus – both hanging on a tree, both under a curse.  Judas’ is the result of his incoherence – a shame-filled suicide.  Jesus’ is the result of his coherence – the being true to himself as obedient Son to the point of death.  The juxtaposition of how one is redemptive and the other is not is a useful exercise.  And the application whereby we all see ourselves in Judas is also helpful.

But even in this he never quites get there.  He may get us to look to Jesus’ coherence on the cross… but then what?  Are we simply to be inspired?  Follow his example?  If we are made coherent because of Jesus – what actually causes that coherence, upon what does it rest?  Mann talks about the “restory-ing of the self” (Page 151) through ritual (particularly Communion) but in this Jesus is simply an inspiring character, not a sovereign Saviour.

I think it’s indicative of a nervousness about being objective in any way, or to talk about sin-in-terms-of-guilt in any form.  For instance, Mann wants absolution in liturgy to be deliberately ambiguous so that all people can bring their own story to it and notes that “this is perhaps a story that only those who already dwell in the fuller picture of the story of salvation can understand.” (Page 157)  For me this speaks of telling one story to the uninitiated and another to the more fully initiated – isn’t this the same incoherence we are trying to find an answer for?  No, narrative needs to meet truth at the beginning, and delve deeper as the spirit leads – but that will never be askance to what is first heard.

I think this book is well motivated and it is one of the better engagements of the gospel with postmodernity that I have read.  His framework is not inherently flawed and would be contextually appropriate in many places (including Mann’s own circle I suspect).  But it needs some theological precision so as to make Christ, not story, central – and an actual telling of the story, more than telling the story of the story.

The book concludes with a conversation between Mann and fellow author Robin Parry who interacts with Mann at his weakest points.  It’s by far the most productive part of the book to read and makes the task of reading the book somewhat satisfying rather than annoyingly circuitous.

Recently I posted an article on the facebook group Club Theo < and a member quoted me, writing:

Hi Will, I like what you said here:
“The resurrection can thus be seen the Father’s act to honour the son’s act of self-sacrifice – and to bring not only Christ, but all those he counts as “his” – into a place of new life and authority.”
What verses/ideas did this flow out of? I’d not heard it put this way before, but it rings true to me. (perhaps a new discussion is now born??)

Well, here’s some thoughts-on-the-fly and a bit of a biblical cherry-pick. I would like, at some point, to do this properly, dip into the greek etc., but for now I’ll do what time allows.

There’s two points to make:

  1. That the resurrection is primarily the act of the Father.
  2. The act of the Father is, at least to some degree, a response to Christ’s act on the cross.

If these two points are true then we have an insight into that wonderful phrase (hinted in an entry in my Connections blog): “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom 4:25).

So here goes:

There are lots and lots of places where Jesus foretells the resurrection in the passive – e.g. “…until the Son of Man is raised” (Mt 17:9). See also Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32; Mk 14:28; Lk 9:22. And also after the resurrection the simple descriptions are also in the passive – “He has been raised from the dead” (Mt 28:7). See also Mk 16:6; Lk 24:6; Jn 2:22; Jn 21:14. The implication is that the Father, or at least “God” is the active participant in the resurrection.

In Acts we have many similar simple descriptions – but we also start seeing some reason being ascribed. Consider:

Acts 2:23-24 – This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

Although the reason for the “impossibility” for the hold of death is not given, there is at least a sense that God’s action to raise Christ was a right thing to do, not an arbitrary thing to do. [For further consideration: implications of the quote from Psalm 16 in Acts 2:25-28, it is quoted again in Acts 13:34-35 where the “reason” for the resurrection is related to a fulfillment of covenantal promise]

The Pauline epistles, especially Romans, also use the passive “raised” and Paul is quick to apply the resurrection to us as part of the justification process:

Romans 6:4 – “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Romans 8 is probably my favourite chapter in Scripture and contains the wonderfully trinitarian reference to “the Spirit”, “the Spirit of God” “the Spirit of Christ” and “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom 8:9-11). Galatians 1:1 specifies, explicitly, that it is the Father who is the “raiser.”

In the letter to the Hebrews we, once again, see some reason/cause or purpose to the Father’s actions:

Hebrews 2:9 – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

In the end (and I’ve probably missed a whole heap of passages – so feel free to point them out to me), I think this famous passage sums it up:

Philippians 2:8-9 – “… he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…”

In this well-known “hymn” the cross and it’s death is an act of the Son’s self-sacrifice and obedience – and the resurrection is an act of God – who “exalted” him and a response “therefore.” [For further consideration – exact nature of the “therefore” in the greek.]

Perhaps I can conclude with something of a blessing:

Heb 13:20-21 – May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleaseing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen