As the incarnation of Christ was necessary in order to his being in a near capacity for the purchase of redemption; so his resurrection and ascension were requisite in order to the success of his purchase.
I. His resurrection. It was necessary in order to Christ’s obtaining the end and effect of his purchase of redemption, that he should rise from the dead. For God the Father had committed the whole affair of redemption to his Son, that he should not only purchase it as priest, but actually bring it about as king; and that he should do this as God-man. God the Father would have nothing to do with fallen man in a way of mercy but by a mediator. But in order that Christ might accomplish the success of his own purchase as God-man, it was necessary that he should rise from the dead. Therefore Christ, after he had finished this purchase by death, rises from the dead, to fulfil the end of his purchase. This matter God the Father had committed unto him, that he might, as Lord of all, manage all to his own purposes: Romans 14:9. “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
Indeed Christ’s resurrection (and so his ascension) was part of the success of what Christ did and suffered in his humiliation. For though Christ did not properly purchase redemption for himself, yet he purchased eternal life and glory for himself, as a reward of what he did and suffered: Philippians 2:8, 9. “He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him.” And it may be looked upon as part of the success of Christ’s purchase, since he did not rise as a private person, but as the head of the elect church; so that they did, as it were, all rise with him. Christ was justified in his resurrection, i.e. God acquitted and discharged him hereby, as having done and suffered enough for the sins of all the elect: Romans 4:25. “Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” And God put him in possession of eternal life, as the head of the church, as a sure earnest that they should follow. For when Christ rose from the dead, that was the beginning of eternal life in him. His life before his death was a mortal life, a temporal life; but after his resurrection it was an eternal life: Romans 6:9. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” Revelation 1:18. “I am he that liveth. and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen.”—But he was put in possession of this eternal life, as the head of the body; so that the whole church, as it were, rises in him. And now he who lately suffered so much, is to suffer no more for ever, but has entered into eternal glory.
This resurrection of Christ is the most joyful event that ever came to pass; because hereby Christ rested from the great and difficult work of purchasing redemption, and received God’s testimony, that it was finished. The death of Christ was the greatest and most wonderful event that ever came to pass; but that has a great deal in it that is sorrowful. But by the resurrection of Christ, that sorrow is turned into joy. The Head of the church, in that great event, enters on the possession of eternal life; and the whole church is, as it were, begotten again to a lively hope, 1 Peter 1:3. Weeping had continued for a night, but now joy cometh in the morning. This is the day of his reigning, as the head of the church, and all the church reigns with him. This day was worthy to be commemorated with the greatest joy. Psalms 118:24. “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And therefore this, above all other days, is appointed to the end of the world, to be weekly sanctified, as a day of holy rest and joy, that the church therein may rest and rejoice with her Head. And as the 3rd chapter of Genesis is the most sorrowful chapter in the Bible; so those chapters in the evangelist, that give an account of the resurrection of Christ, may be looked upon as the most joyful. These give an account of the finishing of the purchase of redemption, and the beginning of the glory of the Head of the church, as the greatest seal and earnest of the eternal glory of all the members.
It is further to be observed, that the day of the gospel most properly begins with the resurrection of Christ. Till Christ rose from the dead, the Old-Testament dispensation remained: but now it ceases, all being fulfilled that was shadowed forth in the typical ordinances of that dispensation. Here most properly is the end of the Old-Testament night; and Christ rising from the grave with joy and glory, was like the sun rising after a long night of darkness, appearing in joyful light to enlighten the world. Now that joyful dispensation begins, that glorious dispensation, of which the prophets testified so much. Now the gospel-sun is risen in his glory, and with healing in his wings, that those who fear God s name, may go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
II. Christ’s ascension into heaven. In this I would include his sitting at the right hand of God. For Christ’s ascension was nothing else, but ascending to God’s right hand in glory. A deliverer of a people as their king, in order that he may be under the best capacity for it, is first installed in his throne. We are told, that Christ was exalted for this end, that he might accomplish the success of his redemption: Acts 5:31. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand, for to give repentance unto Israel, and the remission of sins.”
Christ’s ascension into heaven was, as it were, his solemn coronation, when the Father set him upon the throne, and invested him with the glory of that kingdom which he had purchased for himself that he might thereby obtain the success of his redemption in conquering all his enemies: Psalms 110:1. “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Christ entered into heaven, in order to obtain the success of his purchase, as the high priest of old, after he had offered sacrifice, entered into the holy of holies with the blood of the sacrifice, in order to obtain the success of the sacrifice which he had offered. See Hebrews 9:12. He entered into heaven, there to make intercession for his people, to plead the sacrifice which he had made in order to the success of it, Hebrews 7:25.—And as he ascended into heaven, God the Father did in a visible manner set him on the throne as king of the universe. He then put the angels all under him, and subjected to him heaven and earth, that he might govern them for the good of the people for whom he died, Ephesians 1:20-22.—And as Christ rose from the dead, so he ascended into heaven, as the head of the body, and forerunner of all the church; and they, as it were, ascend with him: so that we are both raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 2:6.
The day of Christ’s ascension was doubtless a joyful, glorious day in heaven. And as heaven received Christ, God-man, as its king, so doubtless it received a great accession of glory and happiness. So that the times in both parts of the church, that part which is in heaven, and that which is on earth, are become more glorious since Christ’s humiliation than before.—So much for those things whereby Christ was put into the best capacity for obtaining the success of redemption.