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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

A Commentary
on the
Shorter Catechism

by
Alexander Whyte


Q. 28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?

A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.


Christ’s exaltation — See Larger Catechism, Questions 51-56.

his rising again from the dead on the third day — The conception of the resurrection of Christ is almost confined, in modem times, to the fact that “after three days he rose again.” In St. Paul it has a much wider import; it is a new life of Christians as well as Christ — a resurrection of the believer at the same time with his Lord. Altogether, there are four ways in which the resurrection of Christ is spoken of in the Epistles of St. Paul, the ethical or spiritual meanings often blending with the literal facts. First, the resurrection is spoken of as an outward fact, of which there were many witnesses. Secondly, as an idea or doctrine, forming a part also, or aspect, of the inner life of the gospel. Thirdly, as the figure or condition, almost the cause, of the resurrection of believers, which is identified with the resurrection of Christ as the Christian himself is with Christ Himself. Fourthly, as the figure, or condition, or principle of spiritual resurrection. . . These four series, as points of view in which the resurrect ion of Christ is spoken of, easily pass into one another (condensed from Jowett on Galatians 1:1).

“The death of Christ is the principal agency toward our reconciliation; but His resurrection is the real assurance that we are truly reconciled to God” (Lange).

ascending up into heaven — It was in His human nature that Christ ascended, not in His Divine Nature, because it was always in heaven. “Heaven, that place of all places in the universe of things in situation most eminent, in quality most holy, in dignity most excellent, in glory most illustrious, the innermost sanctuary of God’s temple above” (Barrow). “The heaven into which Christ ascended is not the atmospheric or stellar heaven; the term is an emblematical expression for the invisible residence of God, the seat of perfect order, whence emanates every manifestation of righteousness upon the earth, every victorious struggle of good against evil. The visible heavens, the regularity of the motions of the stars, the lifelike and pure lustres of their fires, this whole great spectacle has always been to the consciousness of man the invisible representation of the divine order” (Godet).

“From God the Father He proceeds,
To God the Father back He speeds;
Proceeds as far as very hell,
Speeds back to light ineffable.”
—Ambrose.

sitting at the right hand of God the Father — “A similitude borrowed from princes, who have their assessors, to whom they commit the office of ruling and issuing commands. Thus Christ, in whom the Father is pleased to be exalted, and by whose hand He is pleased to reign, is said to have been received up, and seated on His right hand, as if it had been said that He is installed in the government of heaven and earth, and formally admitted to possession of the administration committed to Him, and not only admitted for once, but to continue until he descend to judgment. . . All that the apostles intend, when they so often mention His seat at the Father’s right hand, is to teach that everything is placed at His disposal” (Calvin).

“Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! There was nothing but Christ that was before mine eyes. I was not now for looking upon this and that benefit apart, as of His blood, burial, resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ, as He in whom all these, and all other His virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that as He sat on the right hand of God in heaven “ (Bunyan).

and in coming to judge the world at the last day. God in His pure Godhead is not to be our judge, but Christ in His Godhead and manhood. We are to be judged by man. And man’s feelings, affections, passions; His pity, compassion, tenderness, will alt operate in the judgment, as well as His wrath, scorn, loathing, and contempt. Our judgment will be as near, and direct, and personal as if we were arraigned before a judge in an earthly court, and as searching and immediate as if God Omniscient and All-righteous sat on our case. The man Christ Jesus will judge every one of us (Acts 17:31). “Between His ascension and His coming in glory no event intervenes equal in importance to each of these two events; therefore these two are joined together. Naturally, therefore, the apostles, before the giving of the Apocalypse, set before them the day of Christ as very near. And it accords with the majesty of Christ, that during the whole period between His Ascension and His Advent He should, without intermission, be expected” (Bengel). Read Jonathan Edwards’ great sermon, The Final Judgment. On Paul’s words, “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel,” Bengel remarks: “The gospel is the whole preaching as to Christ, and Christ will be the judge. . . All the articles of evangelical doctrine, and the article concerning the final judgment, greatly illustrate one another; and moreover this very article, even in respect of believers, is altogether evangelical (Acts 10:42; 1 Peter 4:5).”


Uses.

1. “To none of the great truths relating to the two natures of our Lord is it more necessary to adhere firmly in the present age than to that of His resurrection. A hearty belief in the literal and local ascent of our Lord’s humanity is in itself a belief in the whole mystery of the union of Godhead and manhood” (Ellicott).

2. “Human nature is at this moment the highest of created natures, and more intimately united to the Godhead than any other; and where our Head is, there shall all His members in due time be. Whoever, then, thou art that turnest thine eye on this one page, our message to thee is, that in a few short years thou must occupy that place to which angels may look up with admiration, or that on which devils may look down, with the conviction that they have been less guilty than thee. Higher than heaven is the fate of him whom the Saviour of the world became man to redeem; and lower than hell must be the fate of him who has even at such a price refused to be redeemed” (Dods in Christian Instructor, 1830).

3. “It is consolatory to think that judgment is vested in Him who has already destined us to share with Him in the honour of judgment; so far is it from being true that He will ascend the judgment-seat for our condemnation. How could a most merciful prince destroy his own people? how could the head disperse its own members? how could the advocate condemn his own clients? . . .It certainly gives no small security that we shall be sisted at no other tribunal than that of our Redeemer, from whom salvation is to be expected; and that He who now in the gospel promises eternal blessedness, will then as judge ratify His promise. The end for which the Father has honoured the Son, by committing all judgment to Him, was to pacify the consciences of His people when alarmed at the thought of judgment” (Calvin).

4. “Coming to judge the world.” “The thing is true, but the time appointed is long” (Daniel 10:1).


QUESTION.

Explain Bengel’s remark, that the doctrine of the final judgment Is “altogether evangelical.”

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