Monday, August 29, 2011


I received the following question in an e-mail the other day:

“Hey, I've got a question in Matthew 28:18 (NIV) when it says "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."  Was there some authority that Jesus didn't have until after the resurrection?  Is "has been given" a recent event at that time? Did Jesus have all authority in heaven, but not on earth?  And now he has both? If he didn't have "all", who had it?  And who gave it to Jesus?  Did Satan have some authority until Jesus' death?  Etc.  Questions along Those lines.  Thanks, Tom”

The following is the answer I gave, with a few changes and expansions:
Wow -- that's a great set of questions!  These are questions that are not often asked and they have to do with a very important doctrine that for some reason or other is usually ignored by evangelicals/Bible church people.  Though it has been called by other names, it is the doctrine of the Exaltation of Christ.

If I may give my own definition/description of the doctrine it is this:  Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, the eternal Word, humbled Himself to become Man and died as a sacrifice for the sins of all humanity.  Because of this, God the Father raised Him from the dead and gave Him all authority, an authority which He did not previously have; this authority was given to Him as the God-Man.

We find the doctrine preached all through the Book of Acts.  The earliest preaching was in Peter's Pentecost sermon -- the first "Christian" sermon.  In Acts 2:32-36, Peter, speaking of Christ’s resurrection, quotes Psalm 110:1, "The LORD said to my Lord, sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”  Then he states, ”God has made Him both Lord and Christ -- this Jesus whom you crucified."  This seems very clearly to state that the resurrection itself was God's declaration of His exaltation of the crucified Christ.

In Acts 10:42, Peter says that Jesus was "appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead."  Again, this seems to be speaking of Jesus as crucified and raised.  It's interesting that in Acts 2, Peter was preaching to the Jewish people, while in Acts 10, he is speaking to the ones who would become the first Gentile converts.

Then in Acts 13, in his sermon in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, Paul picks up the same theme, only this time basing it on Psalm 2:7.  In Acts 13:33, he quotes this verse, " ... God has fulfilled this to us their children, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'You are My Son; today I have begotten You!'"

In Acts 17:31; this time speaking to pagan philosophers, Paul says, " ... He (God) has fixed a day when He will judge the whole inhabited earth in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all by raising Him from the dead."  The word "appointed" here is the same word that Peter used in Acts 10:42.

Psalm 2, especially verse 7, looks to the LORD’s covenant promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 of a Descendant or “Seed” to sit on his throne.  The LORD says in verse 14:  “I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to me.”  This was partially fulfilled in Solomon, but awaited its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.  The resurrection and ascension is the declaration of God that Jesus is His Son.

The author of Hebrews also quotes Psalm 2:7 twice.  In Hebrews 1:3b-5, he ties it to Christ’s ascension to God’s right hand.  In 5:5, it is connected to the declaration of Christ’s high priesthood in Psalm 110:4.  Hebrew 5:1-10, places His designation as High Priest after His perfection by suffering (verses 8-10).

In Romans 1:4, Paul says that Jesus " ... was appointed (same word again) the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead ..."

In Romans 14:9, Paul says, "For this reason Christ died and came to life, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living."

I believe that the above passages make it very clear that Jesus the Christ, the God-Man received a special new position as Son, as Lord, as High Priest and as Judge, at His resurrection and ascension.  It was God's "seal of approval."  This is the "authority" that Jesus speaks of having been given in Matthew 28:18.  And it's true, the Son as the second Person of the Trinity always did possess authority.  But it as the crucified and resurrected Man, He is given a new authority which in some way He did not possess before.

This is what Paul is speaking of in Philippians 2:5-11.  Because Christ emptied Himself, took human form and died on the cross, God has "highly exalted Him," through the resurrection, ascension, heavenly priesthood and ultimately His coming again to reign.

And yes, apparently Satan had authority over this world.  This is seen in his offer of "all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8, 9; Luke 4:5-7).  Notice that Jesus didn't correct Satan that this wasn't a valid offer.

I hope that an understanding of this doctrine gives us a greater understanding of what the great commission is all about!

Also see:


Preach said...

I always appreciate how God uses you sir. Not just the wisdom that seeps out of you, but the love that God Himself, manifest through your blog! I apologize that I have not been in touch more often. I pray that all is well, and that you will continue to be blessed, to be a blessing.

Bill Ball said...

Thanks Preach. Good to hear from you again.