- Three natures of Jesus Christ (spiritual - human - divine)
- Nature versus appearance of the Lord after resurrection
A cursory look at the websites in an internet search engine shows that the authors of the texts on the nature of Jesus Christ speak rather of two natures - divine and human, coexisting in him during his earthly s. This topic will also be discussed in the lecture. However, if the title mentions three natures, succession is meant rather than coexistence. Jesus existed before he was born of Mary and exists after his death and resurrection. In each of these three periods, he's had a body with certain characteristics, i.e. he existed in a certain nature. There are Biblical indications that it was not the same nature in each period: the Lord's earthly body was different from his earlier incarnation, and his present nature is higher than the previous two. To make things easier for myself, I will use the name Jesus for each incarnation, although it is obvious that he did not have this name all the time. I hope that a perceptive reader will not bear grudges with me for this reason.
To begin with, one should ask about the Scriptural indications that the Lord did exist during the three periods mentioned above. There is no doubt about the second and third period. The Gospels inform that Jesus existed as a man. The Gospels also contain a record of his resurrection, and in Acts, chapter 1, we read about his ascension. However, not all believers agree that Jesus had existed before 2 BC, and I would like to devote a little more attention to this topic. I would divide the arguments for the prehuman existence of the Savior into two categories. Category 1) are direct statements of the Word of God: 1) in Jn. 8:58 our Lord Himself declares that He existed before Abraham; 2) in Phil. 2:6-8 Paul writes that the Lord existed in the form of God before He took the form of a servant; 3) in Col. 1:15,16 we read of Jesus that he is the firstborn of all created things, through whom all other things were made.
Category 2) is concerned with the logic of God's creative process. In Gen. 1:26,27 God addresses someone with the phrase "let us make". The result of this was to be man created in the image and likeness of God, yet in Eden Adam was created only in the likeness. The creation of man in the image was to be completed by the one to whom God says "let us make". In the New Testament, however, we read that man is created in the image of Jesus Christ. Rom. 8:29 speaks of God who saw through and then appointed those to be fit in the image of His son. Likewise, in 2 Cor. 3:18 Paul writes that "we all, with unvailed face, the glory of the Lord beholding in a mirror, to the same image are being transformed, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (YLT). This information is also in line with the content of the aforementioned Col. 1:15, which speaks of Jesus as God's instrument for creating everything. If everything, then also man in his finished, perfect condition.
Three natures of Jesus Christ (spiritual - human - divine)
There are, therefore, Biblical grounds for believing that Jesus existed before He came to earth as a human. So it also becomes reasonable to discuss the three natures of the Lord. I would like to take as a starting point the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:39-41 - "All flesh [is] not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another of fishes, and another of birds; (40) and [there are] heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but one [is] the glory of the heavenly, and another that of the earthly; (41) one glory of sun, and another glory of moon, and another glory of stars, for star from star doth differ in glory" (YLT). In other words, the body is adapted to the conditions of life. A fish has a body adapted to life in water, a bird to life in the air, and a human to life on earth. According to the same logic, beings living in the spiritual realm do not need material bodies, only spiritual bodies. Likewise our Lord: when he was on earth, he had an earthly body; when he is with the Father, he has a spiritual body. In a prayer recorded in Jn. 17:5 Jesus says: "And now, glorify me, Thou Father, with Thyself, with the glory that I had before the world was, with Thee" (YLT). Hence, I infer not only that the Lord had a spiritual body before the incarnation, but also that it was a glorious body according to the status of the firstborn son.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus was human. He had an earthly body like all people have. The apostle John does not leave any doubts about it in 1 Jn. 4:2 - "in this know ye the Spirit of God; every spirit that doth confess Jesus Christ in the flesh having come, of God it is" (YLT). It should be emphasized that the apostle here uses the Greek sarks, which has no metaphysical meaning (as is the case with soma) but only a physical meaning; sarks is a material body, meat. Such an actual human body belonged to our Lord. An additional argument on this topic should also be the fact that he had earthly parents. The fact that his mother was Marry does not need to be discussed further. However, the Father of the Lord was not the holy spirit, as is commonly believed, but Joseph. This is evidently confirmed by the evangelist Matthew, who leads the genealogical line of Jesus to David, Judah, and further to Abraham through Joseph (Mt. 1:1-16). Hence I understand that the biological father of Jesus was Joseph; the holy spirit was God's miraculous instrument that brought Jesus' life to birth from these two parents without sexual intercourse (Mt. 1:20; Lk. 1:30-35).
On the third day after his death, Jesus was resurrected, but no longer as a man, but as a spiritual being in the nature of God - the divine nature. Here too the principle stated in 1 Cor. 15:39-41 applies. People need a human body; spiritual beings inhabiting spiritual glory need a spiritual body. "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44 YLT). In this regard, Paul continues, "The first man Adam became a living creature, the last Adam [is] for a life-giving spirit, (46) but that which is spiritual [is] not first, but that which [was] natural, afterwards that which [is] spiritual ... and, according as we did bear the image of the earthy, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly" (1 Cor. 15:45,46,49 YLT). Adam "became a living creature" because he was created to be human. And this divine plan will be fulfilled in the coming Kingdom when he is raised up among Christ's earthly subjects. About Jesus, the apostle literally writes that "the last Adam [is] for a life-giving spirit". Our Lord's destiny, then, was resurrection to spiritual glory, which was fulfilled after the victorious accomplishment of his mission.
Therefore, also in the case of Jesus, "that which is spiritual [is] not first, but that which [was] natural" - first he was a man of flesh and blood, then he arose as a spiritual being. On this principle the resurrection of the Church also takes place, which is now in the flesh (being the image of the first Adam), but after the resurrection "we shall bear also the image of the heavenly". In this regard, the apostle John writes that "children of God are we, and it was not yet manifested what we shall be, and we have known that if he may be manifested, like him we shall be, because we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn. 3:2 YLT). If our Lord still had a human body after his resurrection, these words of Paul and John would be at least incomprehensible. The hope of the Church is the resurrection to the immortal divine nature (1 Pet. 1:3,4), and this also means a glorious body like the one Jesus has. We read clearly that "himself having made a cleansing of our sins, [he] sat down at the right hand of the greatness in the highest ... being the brightness of the glory, and the impress of His [God's] subsistence" (Heb. 1:3 YLT).
Nature versus appearance of the Lord after resurrection
However, it is not something that the Savior always had. The apostle Paul teaches that the exaltation of the Lord was related to the successful accomplishment of his mission: "he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death - death even of a cross, (9) wherefore, also, God did highly exalt him" (Phil. 2:8,9 YLT). However, it is necessary in this context to refer to the numerous cases of the Lord's revelation after his resurrection. These events lead many to conclude that Jesus was resurrected in the same body that had been tortured three days earlier, and that he received the body of glory after his ascension. I do not sympathize with this view. As I mentioned before, I believe that Jesus is resurrected in a glorious, spiritual body. I explain the cases of the Lord's apparitions by referring to the difference between nature and form. The New Testament makes a clear distinction between these meanings. The Greek fysis describes nature, and therefore the inherent qualities of the body, and so it is used, inter alia, in Rom. 2:14, 11:24; Gal. 2:15; 2 Pet. 1:4. Morfe means form and defines the way fysis manifests on the outside.
The apostle Paul uses morfe to describe Jesus' prehuman existence in Phil. 2:6-8. Our Lord then existed in the form of God, so He manifested himself to other creatures as God Himself. But he did not have the Divine nature, which he received in his resurrection. And, as Paul points out, he did not consider equality with God to be a thing he would like to appropriate, but on the contrary, he took the form (morfe) of a servant. Of course, there is no such thing as the nature of servant. Rather, the terms of the Lord and the servant describe the social role we are fulfilling, and therefore the way others see us. Thus, although the Lord was seen as God, he humbly presented himself as a servant. After his resurrection, he presented himself in different guises, which is apparently reported by Mk. 16:12. Therefore, he was not recognized by his closest relatives. The disciples who accompanied him on the way to Emmaus recognized him not by the form but by the way he broke the bread (Lk. 24:35). He would appear suddenly, although the door was closed, and suddenly disappear (Lk. 24:31; Jn. 20:19,26).
The form in which Jesus appeared was not an illusion or a hologram. It was an actual physical form. The Savior allowed Himself to be touched and ate in the company of His disciples to convince them that they were dealing with his resurrected self (Lk. 24:36-42; Jn. 20:24-29). This, however, was still the Lord's morfe, not his fysis. It is obvious that faculties, such as sudden appearances and disappearances, do not belong to earth but to spiritual nature. The best example of this is found in the book of Genesis, where the angels visit Abraham first and then Lot. The form in which they appeared was human (Gen. 18:1,2, 19:1). Like Jesus with his disciples, they also ate the meal Abraham had prepared (Gen. 18:8). This does not mean that the angels of the Lord had human bodies "permanently" and in these bodies also they existed in the spiritual realm. Apparently, however, this means that spiritual beings are capable of manifesting in various forms depending on circumstances.
While I hold firmly to the statement that Jesus was a man during his earthly ministry, I do not reject the term "God-man" as used by Trinitarian Christians. To answer the question "why?", I would like to refer to the lecture Spirit, soul and body in the Bible, in which I discussed the above concepts in their Biblical meanings. There I proposed the following quasi-mathematical formula: soul = spirit + body. In other words, soul (being encompassing the material and the spiritual) includes spirit (consciousness / mind) and body. Spirit is the constitutive element of being (soul): "And Jehovah God formeth the man - dust from the ground, and breatheth into his nostrils breath of life, and the man becometh a living creature" (Gen. 2:7 YLT; Job 33:4). Without spirit, there is no life: "Thou hidest Thy face - they are troubled, Thou gatherest their spirit - they expire, And unto their dust they turn back. (30) Thou sendest out Thy Spirit, they are created, And Thou renewest the face of the ground" (Ps. 104:29,30 YLT).
But for the completeness of being, the spirit needs the body; it needs a shaped form ("And Jehovah God formeth the man - dust from the ground"). The formless spirit is movement; activity that requires direction; a potential that will not be realized without a body. Hence, one of the meanings of the Hebrew ruach is wind or breath. Jesus also describes the spirit as the wind: "the Spirit where he willeth doth blow, and his voice thou dost hear, but thou hast not known whence he cometh, and whither he goeth; thus is every one who hath been born of the Spirit" (John 3:8 YLT). The wind is the movement of air. It has no material form, but manifests itself in the effects it produces. Similarly, the spirit - in itself is not material, but when it comes into contact with matter, it moves and enlivens it. Hence the connection of spirit and consciousness. Awareness is where there is the ability to receive information, and if it to receive, then also to react (the very fact of receiving information is the same as a reaction). Reaction, then, is information-driven movement. Therefore, all these meanings - wind, movement, awareness, mind - overlap.
Our Lord was born human in spirit and in flesh. Nevertheless, something happened during his baptism in Jordan that radically changed things: "And having been baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water, and lo, opened to him were the heavens, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him, (17) and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, 'This is My Son - the Beloved, in whom I did delight.'"(Mt. 3:16,17 YLT). So we see the Lord upon whom the spirit of God descends. Moreover, John the Baptist, who was a witness to the incident, says of Jesus that he received the spirit "not by measure" (Jn. 3:34 YLT). Isaiah, in turn, prophesies what this spirit was to be: "Rested on him hath the Spirit of Jehovah, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and might, The spirit of knowledge and fear of Jehovah" (Is. 11:2 YLT). In this connection, the symbol of the open heavens, which Matthew speaks of in his account, is appropriate and clearly indicative of our Lord Jesus having been provided with an understanding of spiritual things that are not available to man; matters whose scope goes beyond material existence.
The baptism in Jordan therefore holds the key to understanding the meaning of the term contained in the subtitle: God-man. After baptism, our Lord remained a man in his body, as he was before. In spirit, however, he was transferred to another level: to the level of the divine being. His mind was given abilities that no human has. In this sense, the divine originated in Jesus Christ, although He received the divine nature after His resurrection. The New Testament speaks of this as begettal of the spirit. For, birth means the coming into the world of a complete being (soul): spirit and body. The initiation of a new life without an a developed body takes place in the act of begetting. The Lord's existence on the divine level therefore began on the level of consciousness, when he was given access to the spiritual things represented by the open heavens. As a divine being, our Lord was begotten of the spirit of truth at his baptism in Jordan, and he carried out his mission in this state of begettal, as the Apostle John puts it in Jn. 1:18: "God no one hath ever seen; the only begotten Son, who is on the bosom of the Father - he did declare" (YLT). The divine body was given to our Lord after he had successfully carried out his mission.
Our Lord, therefore, is fully Divine now, both mentally and in nature. Such a high position, however, is not the result of his equality with the Father or of being a Trinity person; rather, it is the result of the successful accomplishment of his mission in the hardest of trials. In Heb. 12:2 Paul writes of "the joy set before him," for which he "did endure a cross, shame having despised, on the right hand also of the throne of God did sit down" (YLT). If the Lord were part of the Trinity (and in nature, as the doctrine has it), it is hard for me to imagine who could promise him anything. But since he was a spirit-begotten son of God, much could be expected; he could gain a lot, both in nature and in office. Yet he pleaded with the Father to restore him to the glory he had had before the incarnation (Jn. 17:5). The Lord's interest was to do the work; the bestowal of life, glory, and office was on the Father's part. In this attitude, Paul sets Jesus as a model for the Church: "Therefore, we also having so great a cloud of witnesses set around us, every weight having put off, and the closely besetting sin, through endurance may we run the contest that is set before us, (2) looking to the author and perfecter of faith - Jesus" (Heb. 12:1,2 YLT).