SUPERNATURE, THE SUPERNATURAL
FROM Unnature, the unnatural, we turn now to Supernature, the supernatural. This is the last and highest condition into which Nature can come. It has its origin in the Resurrection of our Lord. When He was raised from the dead, then for the first time the supernatural appears in the life of man. The Son took our humanity under its condition of mortality. He died and was buried, but His flesh did not see corruption, nor was His soul left in Hades (Acts 2: 27). He rose from the dead in a new and higher type of life. Now as immortal could He enter on a new and creative phase of His redemptive work (Rev. 1: 18). He could be made the great High Priest, the Head over all things to the Church, the Prince of the kings of the earth.
It is this change in the humanity of our Lord, wrought at His Resurrection, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the mortal to the immortal, that must be carefully noted by us. It is the Apostle, St. Peter, who states most clearly the time and nature of the change: "Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit; in which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3: 18, 19, R. V.). It is now generally accepted that "quickened in the spirit" does not mean, as expressed in the common version, "quickened by the Holy Spirit," but as in the Revised Version, "in His own spirit." Flesh and spirit are here used to denote the two component parts of our humanity. He was put to death in the flesh, but in His spirit He was quickened. The spirit is the life principle in man, and this in our Lord was vivified. There was not a new creation, but the communication to the old of a new and higher type and potency of life. The spirit was endowed with higher powers, and brought into new and indissoluble relations to the material body (Rom. 6:9). It is in this quickening at His Resurrection that we may find the fulfilment of His words: "As the Father has life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself" (John 5: 26), and to become a source of life to others. Being Himself quickened in spirit, He could become "a quickening"—life-giving—spirit to others. The Apostle Paul says: "The first Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor. 15: 45, R. V.). The life which He had in Himself, the gift of the Father, was not His life as the eternally-Begotten, for this was not the gift of the Father to Him, nor could it be given to any created being; nor was it that in mortal flesh which He took at His birth of the Virgin, but that taken at His birth from Death, "the first-born from the dead." The same Apostle declares (Acts 13: 33) the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 2)—"Thou art my Son, this day I have begotten Thee"—to have been fulfilled when the Father raised Him from the dead. In this new condition of being, "the natural"— psychical—body became "the spiritual"—pneumatical — body (1 Cor. 15: 44), so that the separation of the two elements of our humanity became henceforth impossible. "I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev. 1: 18). "Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over Him" (Rom. 6:9). It is only as immortal that He could fulfil the office of High Priest through the ages (Heb. 5: 6) and His Kingdom be without end. It is to be noted that the place the Resurrection of our Lord holds in Christian theology is not that a dead man has been restored to life, not to die any more; but that He now enters into a condition of being which enables Him to manifest Himself as the Incarnate Son, the heavenly Man. It is the manifestation of Himself as risen and glorified that proves the Incarnation. His Resurrection has thus a special significance, such as that of no other could have. Abraham, or Moses, might be raised from the dead, and the possibility of a resurrection proved; but that of the Lord brought Him into a condition where He could be His own witness, and show forth in the glory of His Person and in His acts the place given Him as the Head of the new creation.
Let us note some features of the supernatural life as now seen in the Person of the Son.
(a) It embraces the threefold elements of our humanity—body, soul, and spirit—and is immortal. It is capable of being glorified in a degree not possible to the natural life.1
That which is to be noted here is that according to the quality and degree of life is the glory. In its highest measure, it is manifested in the Person of the Son since His Resurrection and Ascension. Then He "entered into His glory" (Luke 24: 26). Of this glory as visible, an anticipatory illustration was given on the Mount of Transfiguration. The disciples with Him "saw His glory" (Matt. 17:3; 2 Peter 1:17).
1 "Glory" is a term used in the Scriptures in various senses—good opinion, renown, excellence; but here we are concerned with it only as applied to material things. As thus applied, its underlying idea is that of light, brightness, splendour, something eminently visible to the eye. Thus it is said that "the glory of the Lord shone round about" the shepherds (Luke 2: 9); Stephen, looking into Heaven, "saw the glory of God" (Acts 7: 55). St. Paul was blinded by the glory of the light that shone round about him (Acts 22: 11). We read of the glory that shone upon the face of Moses when he came down from the mount (Ex. 34: 29), but which, the Apostle declares, is inferior to that which shall shine in the faces of those under the ministration of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3: 7).
Of this glory of the Head, His members at His appearing will be made partakers. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun" (Matt. 13: 43). Only the supernatural life is capable of supernatural glory. Now we have "the body of humiliation." Our "life is hid with Christ in God, but when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory." "When we see Him as He is we shall be made like Him," and "the body of humiliation" will give place to "the body of glory" (Col. 3:3; Phil. 3: 21).
(b) It is the perfect life, because through it in His Person the Godhead is most fully revealed to all reasonable beings, and thus all, being brought into the closest possible communion with the Father, attain to their highest blessedness.
(c) Those having this immortal life are capable of doing the will of God perfectly in all the offices He appoints of worship and of service, and thus may be His saints and ministers for ever.
Of the Church as partaking of the supernatural life of the Head, and of the means by which it is given to men, and is nourished, mention will be made in speaking of His work after His Resurrection. The changes in the earth adapting it to the new life will be spoken of when considering the new creation.