THE TWO STAGES OF CHRIST’S MINISTRY
The Bible shows us that there are two stages in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. To understand the New Testament we must realize and comprehend these two stages of the Lord’s ministry.
Christ’s Earthly Ministry,
from His Incarnation to His Crucifixion
The first stage was Christ’s earthly ministry, from His incarnation to His crucifixion, that is, from His birth to His death. In this first stage He ministered as a man, speaking forth God in His flesh (John 8:26; 12:49-50). First, He lived for thirty years to become fully mature. According to Numbers 4:23, thirty years is the full age for a servant of God. At the age of thirty He came out to minister for three and a half years, traveling back and forth between Galilee and Judea. In the Gospel of Matthew He spoke much concerning the kingdom, and in the Gospel of John He spoke much concerning the divine life, which is the eternal life. Then He went to the cross and He died an all-inclusive death to solve all the problems in the universe between God and His creation. After finishing His work in His death, He rested, keeping the Sabbath.
In His Resurrection Christ Being Born
as the Firstborn Son of God
and Becoming the Life-giving Spirit
Then, from that rest He rose up in His resurrection. In His resurrection He was born. All Christians realize that Christ was born once. He was born in Bethlehem, of Mary, to be a man. But the New Testament shows us that the Lord Jesus was born a second time. Incarnation was His first birth, a birth in which He as God became a man. Resurrection also was a birth to Jesus Christ as the last Adam. To this last Adam, this last man, resurrection was another birth. In this birth He was born to be the firstborn Son of God. This is clearly revealed in Acts 13:33, which tells us that Christ was born in His resurrection to be the firstborn Son of God.
Before His resurrection Christ was already the only begotten Son of God (John 1:18; 3:16, 18). From eternity to eternity He is God’s Only Begotten. However, in His incarnation He became a man; He put on humanity. As the only begotten Son of God, He was divine, but in His first birth He picked up humanity and put it upon Himself. Thus, from that day forward He was no longer merely God; He was also a man. He was the complete God and the perfect man. He was such a wonderful person. Nevertheless, there was a problem: As a divine person He had a human part that was not divine and that had nothing to do with God’s Son. That human part was the Son of Man, not the Son of God. When He finished His earthly ministry, at the time when He accomplished God’s eternal redemption, He finished His work. Hence, He rested. At the end of His crucifixion He declared from the cross, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) because His earthly ministry, that is, the ministry for the accomplishment of redemption, was finished, consummated, completed. Therefore, He slept and He rested.
However, God’s economy was not yet finished. That was just the first part of God’s economy; it was not the greatest part. The greatest part of God’s economy was yet to come. Therefore, after He rested for three days, He rose up. On the one hand, the New Testament says that God raised Him up; on the other hand, it also says that He Himself rose up (Acts 2:24 and note 241; 10:40-41). Both God and He brought Him out of death, Hades, and the tomb. In 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter that deals particularly with the matter of resurrection, verse 45 says, "The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit." According to this verse, in His resurrection, as a man, the last man, the concluding man, the last Adam, Christ became a life-giving Spirit. He was also born to be the firstborn Son of God. This means that in His resurrection, Christ "sonized" His humanity. He made His humanity also a part of the Son of God. Now Jesus Christ as the Son of God has two natures, the divine and the human. After His resurrection He came back to His disciples as the Spirit (John 20:19-29). At that time He asked His disciple Thomas, "Bring your finger here and see My hands, and bring your hand and put it into My side" (v. 27). This means that the resurrected Christ still had His physical body. We cannot understand how the Lord can be both physical and spiritual at the same time. Nevertheless, in His resurrection Christ was born to be the firstborn Son of God as the life-giving Spirit.
Christ’s being the firstborn Son of God indicates that many sons of God will follow. His birth in resurrection and through resurrection was not just the delivery of one son; it was the delivery of the firstborn Son and of many sons as well. According to 1 Peter 1:3, we all were regenerated, that is, reborn, with Christ in His resurrection. In His resurrection He was delivered as the firstborn Son of God, and we were delivered as the many sons of God. We all were included in that great delivery (Eph. 2:6a), in which millions of sons of God were born.
We all need to realize that the birth of the firstborn Son with the birth of the many sons created another world. In this universe there is another world, a spiritual, heavenly, and divine world. The unbelievers know only this present human world. They do not know anything about the other world. But we have been regenerated out of the human world and into another world that is spiritual, heavenly, and divine. Thus, Philippians 3:20 tells us that we are heavenly citizens, and Ephesians 2:6 says that we have been seated together with Christ in the heavenlies.
(The Issue of the Dispensing of the Processed Trinity and the Transmitting of the Transcending Christ, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)