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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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The Resurrection of Christ
The saving fruits of the Resurrection of Christ
The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation and the crown of our Orthodox Christian Faith.
The Resurrection of Christ is the first, most important, great truth, with the proclamation of
which the Apostles began their preaching of the Gospel after the descent of the Holy Spirit. Just
as by the death of Christ on the Cross our Redemption was accomplished, so by His Resurrection
eternal life was given to us. Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ is the object of the Church’s
constant triumph, its unceasing rejoicing, which reaches its summit in the Feast of the Holy
Christian Pascha. “Today all creation is glad and rejoices, for Christ has risen!” (Canon of Pascha,
Canticle 9). The saving fruits of the Resurrection of Christ are:
a) the victory over hell and death;
b) the blessedness of the saints in heaven and the beginning of the existence of the Heavenly
c) the sending down of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the Church of Christ on earth.
A. The victory over hell and death.
Human existence after the loss of Paradise has two forms: a) the earthly, bodily life; and b)
the life after death.
Earthly life ends with the death of the body. The soul preserves its existence after bodily
death also, but its condition after death, according to the word of God and the teaching of the Fathers
of the Church, is diverse. Until the coming to earth of the Son of God, and until His Resurrection
from the dead, the souls of the dead were in a condition of rejection, being far away from
God, in darkness, in hell, in the underworld (the Hebrew “Sheol,” Gen. 37:35, Septuagint). To be
in hell was like spiritual death, as is expressed in the words of the Old Testament Psalm, “In hades
who will confess Thee?” (Ps. 6:6) In hell there were imprisoned also the souls of the Old
Testament righteous ones. These righteous ones lived on earth with faith in the coming Saviour,
as the Apostle Paul explains in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, and after death
they languished in expectation of their redemption and deliverance. Thus it continued until the
Resurrection of Christ, until the coming of the New Testament: “And there all, having obtained
a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for
us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39-40). Our deliverance was also
Christ, after His death on the Cross, descended in His soul and in His Divinity into hell, at
the same time that His body remained in the grave. He preached salvation to the captives of hell
and brought up from there all the Old Testament righteous ones into the bright mansions of the
Kingdom of Heaven. Concerning this raising up of the righteous ones from hell, we read in the
Epistle of St. Peter: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He
might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; by which also
He went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:18-19). And in the same place we
read further: “For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that theymight be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter
4:6). St. Paul speaks of the same thing: quoting the verse of the Psalm, “When He ascended up
on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men,” the Apostle continues: “Now that He
ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that
descended is the same also that ascended up far above all the heavens, that He might fill all
things” (Eph. 4:8-10).
To use the words of St. John Chrysostom, “Hell was taken captive by the Lord Who descended
into it. It was laid waste, it was mocked, it was put to death, it was overthrown, it was
bound” (Homily on Pascha).
With the destruction of the bolts of hell, that is, the inescapability of hell, the power of death
also was annihilated First of all, death for righteous men became only a transition from the world
below to the world above, to a better life, to life in the light of the Kingdom of God; secondly,
bodily death itself became only a temporary phenomenon, for by the Resurrection of Christ the
way to the general Resurrection was opened to us.
“Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor.
15:20). The Resurrection of Christ is the pledge of our resurrection: “For as in Adam all die,
even so in Christ shall all be made alive; but every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits:
afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:22-23). After this, death will be utterly
annihilated. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
The troparion of Holy Pascha proclaims to us with special joy the victory over hell and
death: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs
bestowing life.” “Christ ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things” (Eph.
B. The Kingdom of Christ and the triumphant Church.
Before His departure to the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ said to the Apostles: “In My Father’s
house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place
for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself
that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). The Saviour prayed to the Father, “Father,
I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My
glory which Thou hast given Me” (John 17:24). And the Apostles express the desire to depart
and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), knowing that they have “a house not made with hands, eternal
in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).
A depiction of the life of the Saints in heaven is given in the Apocalypse. Saint John the
Theologian saw around the throne of God in the heavens “four and twenty seats” and on them
elders clothed in white garments and having crowns of gold on their heads (Apoc. 4:4). He saw
under the heavenly altar “the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony
which they held” (Apoc. 6:9); and yet again he saw “a great multitude... of all nations,
and kindreds, and people,” standing before the Throne and before the Lamb and crying out:
“Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb” (Apoc. 7:9-10).
The bright mansions of the Heavenly Home sacred Scripture calls “the city of the living
God,” “Mount Zion,” the “Heavenly Jerusalem,” “the Church of the first-born written in
And thus the great Kingdom of Christ has been opened in heaven. Into it have entered the
souls of all the righteous and pious people of the Old Testament, those of whom the Apostle hassaid, “These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise” (until
the coming to earth of the Son of God and the general salvation), that they without us should not
be made perfect, that is, attained the joy and blessedness of the Heavenly Church of Christ (Heb.
11:39-40). Into this Kingdom in the New Testament there entered the first ones who believed in
Christ, the Apostles, first martyrs, confessors; and thus until the end of the world the heavenly
Home will be filled . the Jerusalem on high, the granary of God . until it shall come to its perfect
St. Symeon the New Theologian teaches the following: “It was fitting that there should be
born all who have been foreknown by God, and that the world which is above this world, the
Church of the first-born, the heavenly Jerusalem, should be filled up; and then the fulness of the
Body of Christ will be perfected, receiving in itself all those foreordained by God to be conformed
to the image of His Son . these are the sons of the light and the day. Such are all those
foreordained and forewritten, and included in the number of the saved, and those who are to be
joined and united to the Body of Christ; and there will no longer be lacking in Him a single
member. Thus is it in truth, as the Apostle Paul reveals when he says: Till we all come in the
unity of the faith . . . unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ
(Eph. 4:13). When they shall be gathered together and shall comprise the full Body of Christ,
then also the higher world, the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the Church of the first-born, will be
filled up, and the body of the Queen of God, the Church, which is the Body of Christ God, will
be revealed as entirely full and perfect” (Homily 45).
According to the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the blessedness of the souls of the righteous
in heaven consists of a) the repose or rest from labors; b) nonparticipation in sorrows and sufferings
(Apoc. 14:13, 7:16); c) being together with and consequently being in the closest communion
with the forefathers and other saints; d) mutual communion between themselves and with
thousands of angels; e) standing before the Throne of the Lamb, glorifying Him and serving Him;
f) communion and reigning together with Christ; g) the joyous beholding face to face of God
C. The establishment of the Church.
The Lord Jesus Christ, in His conversation with His disciples before His sufferings, promised
them to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Who would remain with them forever — the
Spirit of Truth Who would instruct them in everything and remind them of all that He Himself
had spoken to them, and would inform them of the future. Appearing after the Resurrection to
His disciples, the Lord granted them the grace-given power of the Holy Spirit with the words,
“Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever
sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). And ten days after His Ascension, the
Lord, in accordance with His promise, sent down the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of
Pentecost in the form of fiery tongues.
The descent into the world by the Holy Spirit was expressed, first of all, in the extraordinary
gifts of the Apostles in the form of signs, healings prophecies, the gift of tongues; and secondly,
in all the grace-given powers which lead the faithful of Christ to spiritual perfection and to salvation.
In the Holy Spirit, in His Divine power, is given us “all things that pertain unto life and
godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). “These grace-given gifts are in the Holy Church which the Lord
founded on earth.” They comprise the means of our sanctification and salvation.An examination of these means of salvation is the subject of a new section of Dogmatic
Theology . that concerning the Church of Christ.