The Bible devotes a great deal of space to the Christ of the past. Through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we learn of his pre-existence, his identity as God the Son, his incarnation, his early life in Nazareth, his public ministry, his sufferings and death, his resurrection and his ascension into heaven.
The Bible also gives us glimpses of the Christ of the future. We see him returning with power and glory, raising his people from the dead, summoning the whole of humanity to judgment, banishing the wicked to hell and then dwelling with the righteous in a glorious new world.
But what of the Christ of today? One strand of teaching insists on his abiding presence: in his own words, ‘Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). And what an extraordinary thing that abiding presence is! For repeatedly the New Testament speaks of Christ being in us; even more frequently of believers being in Christ. The Christ of today is clearly no absent Christ.
But that is only one strand of teaching. Another insists, with equal emphasis, that this present Christ is absent. With their very own eyes the disciples saw him ascend into heaven. There he is said to be seated at God’s right hand, and there he will remain until it is time for him to come back. The Christ who in one sense is already here is clearly in another sense not here.
It is this theme of a Christ who is simultaneously absent and present that Dr Peter Orr explores in Exalted Above the Heavens. It is a recent addition to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D. A. Carson.
Various matters are taken up including the exalted Christ’s identity in relation to the earthly Jesus, the Spirit, and the church; the exalted Christ’s location (in what sense is he absent, and in what way is he still present?); the exalted Christ’s body; and the exalted Christ’s activity both on earth and in heaven.
A great deal of attention is given to the various statements of the New Testament bearing on these questions. The relevant texts are subjected to careful scrutiny and throughout there is respectful but critical engagement with the opinions of a wide range of contemporary scholars.
By the standards of historical orthodoxy Dr Orr’s conclusions are sound: unapologetically so. This is a safe book. It is also a stretching book. Dr Orr is in significant disagreement with many of the scholars with whom he engages, and his analyses of their positions and his responses to them require no small concentration. For me, the seriously wide-of-the-mark views with which it was necessary for him to take issue made it a rather sad book. But it is also stimulating. The exegesis is first rate and I will want to consult it in the future.
Who should consider buying and reading this? Preachers, divinity students and seminary professors will find it helpful. So too the believer who has become aware of the diversity of opinion on this important topic and who needs help in separating truth from error.