By Robert F. Turner
The resurrection of Jesus is, of course, absolutely essential to the true meaning of Christianity. Without it Jesus was a teacher of great insight and ability, but self-deceived, and a deceiver. Without it Christianity becomes but another human philosophy, totally of this world. As Paul put it, “then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Cor. 15:14), and having only a this life hope “we are of all men most pitiable” (v. 19). Jesus Christ “was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). (Phillips says, “patently marked out as the Son of God by the power of the Spirit of holiness which raised Him to life again from the dead.”) Cancel the resurrection, and you cancel the power that gives Christianity its life. Proofs therefore are tremendously important.
The Scriptures, as historic literature from the first century, record many proofs of the resurrection. His enemies knew very well His promise to rise again after three days and used every means at their disposal to make the sepulchee sure, lest “the last error be worse than the first” (Matt. 27:26f). Yet, at the appointed time the tomb was empty. The apostles and early disciples displayed incredible faith – even unto death -for what? A ruse they themselves had worked? But we do not plan to discuss such proofs in this study. Instead, we beg your attention to two proofs offered by the Apostle Peter, on the first Pentecost following the resurrection. One rested upon the testimony of believing witnesses; and the second, upon the experience of enemies who heard the witnesses. The first, His enemies were asked to believe; the second, they could prove to themselves by their own logic and experience.
Prophecies from Isaiah and Daniel had pointed to the “rule” of a coming Messiah. (The “anointed one” was Messiah to the Hebrews, Christ to the Greeks.) The “mountain” of Jehovah’s house would be established (Isa. 2), and the “sovereignty” and “dominion” of this government would be exercised by a descendant of David (Dan. 2:44; 7:14; Isa. 9:7). Peter must prove the crucified Jesus to be “Lord and Christ.” Obviously, both of these hinge on proof of the resurrection, and Luke records the marvelous way the Apostle blends these two purposes (Acts 2). Get your Bible, and follow with me.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles, a multitude of Jews were attracted and were amazed and marveled at what they heard (v. 7f). But others mocked, saying these men were drunk. Their rash charge set the stage for Peter’s introduction. He declared “this is that” manifestation of the Spirit which Joel said would mark the “last days” (final dispensation) in which the remnant of the Jews, and “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2:28f). He thus gave those who marveled at the demonstration of power something to consider, but with Jesus still dead this could be dismissed as a groundless boast. So Peter offers his first proof of the resurrection: the testimony of witnesses who had seen the resurrected Jesus. Peter said God had raised Him up (v. 24) and established His testimony by other witnesses (v. 32; cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-8). And His testimony was strengthened by the fact that this Jesus was “a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know” (v. 22, all Scripture emphasis mine).
Peter then reasoned with the Jews from Psalms 16:8f, a Scripture they considered Messianic. “David saith concerning him. . . ” (i.e., Jesus), “I beheld the Lord. . . ” (Acts 2:25). Furthermore, the “Holy One” would not see corruption (v. 27). And finally, “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ . . . … On the strength of Peter’s first proof, the testimony of witnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus, he has reasoned that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord, Holy One, and Christ; and that He now occupies the throne of David. Unless we are extremely well versed in Hebrew thought and their obsession with prophecies about a Messiah, we can scarce appreciate the force of Peter’s argument. The Holy Spirit was guiding him to reach these Jews with their own brand of logic and with Scriptures they all held in a proper understanding of his next statement. “Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear” (Acts 2:33). “Being exalted” and “having received” are both singular and masculine, and must refer to Christ. It was Jesus who had been exalted, and it was Jesus who had received “the promise of the Holy Spirit.” The big question is, had Jesus been promised the Spirit; or, does this refer to something the Spirit had promised to Jesus?
Robertson says, “In itself the genitive is neither subjective nor objective, but lends itself readily to either point of view.” We must therefore allow the context to answer our question. If “promise of Holy Spirit” refers to the Spirit Himself, we have the problem of deity being given to deity, of whom it has already been implied that He had the Spirit without measure (Jn. 3:34). Isaiah wrote of “the Spirit of Jehovah” resting upon a branch out of Jesse (11:2), upon the “chosen servant” (42:1), and the “anointed” (61:1). However these passages point to the Lord’s show of divine power (Matt. 12:17f; Lk. 4:17f), and of divine approval during His personal ministry (Matt. 3:16-17). 1 am persuaded this passage refers to something the Holy Spirit promised relative to kingship; something closely suited to the argument and proof Peter is offering.
During the Lord’s personal ministry He had spoken of a time when “living waters” would flow from His disciples; and John explains this referred to the Spirit which “was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn. 7:38-39). An outpouring, such as that on Pentecost, awaited the glorification of the Son of God. When Jesus promised the Spirit to His disciples He not only stressed the necessity for His going away; He also explained that He would occupy a new and different heavenly office (Jn. 16:7). Note, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name, ask and ye shall receive. . . ” (v. 24). “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter” (14:16). “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name” (v. 26). His glorification and Lordship is here clearly indicated.
Now, how are these things “the promise of the Holy Spirit”? The immediate context quotes David as saying, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet” (vv. 34-35; Psa. 110:1). Jesus had cited this same Psalm (Matt. 22:43) saying, “How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying. . . . ” Mark’s account of this reads, “David himself said by the Holy Ghost. . . ” (12:36, KJ). Clearly, the Holy Spirit had foretold (promised) that the Son of God would be glorified, seated upon David’s throne. This exaltation would be given Him by the Father (Dan. 7:13-14). Then, and only then, would the glorified Son “pray the Father” that the Spirit be given the disciples “in my name.” But none of this could occur until Jesus had been raised from the dead.
Peter’s second proof of the resurrection called upon his audience to accept the logical conclusion of their own seeing and hearing. It ran something like this: You have seen and heard proof that the Holy Spirit is poured out from heaven; and you are amazed and marvel at this fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. But these “last day” wonders could not occur until the Messiah is exalted, and the Holy Spirit’s promise of kingship is realized. The promise of kingship was to one who would not be left in the place of the dead, and whose body would not see corruption. The conclusion is inescapable: We are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (v. 32); and you are witnesses to something that could only occur after Jesus had been resurrected, exalted, and made King on David’s throne (v. 33).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 12, pp. 367-368
June 19, 1986