The Enduring Humanity of Christ

Recently I was asked this interesting question, “Does Jesus continue as a human forever?” The question surprised me at first. I knew the answer, or so I thought, but my mind was searching for the reasons. Additionally, and I could be wrong on this, but weren’t people stoned for denying this in the first century; a topic for another day I suppose. My imagination went wild: did God wear his humanity like a coat? That thought was a bit morbid, I’ll admit. Anyway, how should Christians understand the continual humanity of Christ? Let me explain two biblical reasons why every Christian should believe that Jesus’ humanity continues forever.

First, several passages of scripture clearly imply Jesus’ continual, ongoing humanity. For example, in Philippians 3:20-21 Paul says that our sinful bodies will be made “like his glorious body.” In other words, our sin-cursed body will be made like his perfected human body. Jesus did not lose his body when he died; rather, he ascended into heaven and returned as a man. We know that he returned as man because Jesus appeared to his disciples in flesh and blood after his resurrection (Luke 24:39-40). Moreover, Acts 1:9-11 reminds us that Jesus will come back “as you saw him go.” Jesus will return in his humanity at his second coming. Additionally, Jesus could not lose his humanity; the humanity of Christ makes him the perfect mediator: “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

Second, Jesus can only serve as a perfect high priest when he is united to his people by means of his humanity. The author of Hebrew spends an entire chapter addressing the humanity of Christ and how his humanity effects his role as a priest. Essentially, the author will argue that Christ is a better high priest for his people because he is, in fact, human. And he remains a perfect high priest forever. Only a human priest can make offers of appeasement for the sins of the people: “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (2:17). Moreover, the humanity of Jesus unites humankind to Jesus: “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (2:11). The high priesthood of Christ predicates itself on the fact that Jesus was made like his brothers; for only on the basis of Christ humanity could Jesus become “a merciful and faithful high priest” (2:17). Also, according to Hebrews 5:1, only a human can serve as high priest because only mankind can “act on behalf of men in relation to God.” This redemptive function of an earthly high priest (“to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins”) corresponds perfectly with the atoning function of Jesus as high priest in 5:9-10; in becoming human, “he became the source of eternal salvation.” Jesus, in 5:7-8, also knew the sorrow of human experience because he fully shared in the doleful conditions of human life.

Consequently, when the author of Hebrews says that Jesus “continues as a priest forever” in 7:2, he is saying Jesus remains a human forever. Jesus cannot function as a perfect high priest forever if he is no longer a human. Christ shared in human nature so that through his human death he could destroy the one who has power over death (2:14) and free those humans who are captive to the fear of death (2:15). In his humanity, Christ sympathizes with the weakness and frailties of humanity and intercedes on their behalf as high priest—forever. The atoning work of Christ proves efficacious for those he represents in his humanity. As a result, Christ must maintain his humanity forever. If Christ shed his humanity, he would be shedding the very thing that makes him a perfect high priest.

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