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My understanding is that Christians believe that Jesus died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven alive.

What is believed to have been the purpose of this? Specifically, once dead, why not just ascend to heaven in soul form like everyone else? I mean, either way, he gets to heaven.

I looked at Wikipedia and saw only that "Paul explained the importance of the resurrection of Jesus as the cause and basis of the hope of Christians to share a similar experience", which doesn't make much sense to me (I assume it doesn't mean that it's believed to allow for modern-day CPR), and that Augustine "argued that the death and resurrection of Jesus was for the salvation of man", which also doesn't.

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I think this site frowns upon denominationless questions. Comment here, please, if this question is, for that reason, no good as asked, and I'll edit in a denomination I'm asking according to. – msh210 Aug 22 '12 at 18:17
I am a little surprised. Aren't you the high rep mod at Mi Yodeya? Then why ask such simple questions? The answer is quite simple - He had to see his disciples, give them instructions to preach the gospel and say bye bye. – Monika Michael Aug 22 '12 at 18:29
@MonikaMichael, I had no idea, actually. I looked at Wikipedia and saw only that "Paul explained the importance of the resurrection of Jesus as the cause and basis of the hope of Christians to share a similar experience", which doesn't make much sense to me (I assume it doesn't mean that it's believed to allow for modern-day CPR), and that Augustine "argued that the death and resurrection of Jesus was for the salvation of man", which also doesn't. But if "He had to see his disciples, give them instructions to preach the gospel and say bye bye." is the answer then by all means post it as such. – msh210 Aug 22 '12 at 18:34
This is good too! Simple enoughbut not necessarily easy it obvious. Your last comment would make a good edit to the question though... – Caleb Aug 22 '12 at 18:37
@MonikaMichael The significance of the resurrection reaches far, far beyond beyond spending a little more time with his homies while on earth. This is an extremely good and important question. – Kazark Sep 9 '12 at 1:20

It has been well said that mankind's greatest enemy is death. Whoever would be the Savior of all mankind must then, of necessity, conquer mankind's greatest enemy. Had Jesus merely died and returned to Heaven without overcoming death, then man's greatest enemy would remain unconquered. As it is, we can ask along with the apostle Paul, "Where, O Death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55) Death's sting has been thoroughly defeated. So, the first reason is that death had to be conquered.

Secondly, the resurrection proves that Jesus is not merely a great, albeit misunderstood, teacher, nor is He merely a prophet or a narcissist. No, the resurrection proves that Jesus is divine, as Paul states:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:1-4 ESV

Indeed, it was and is the resurrection of Jesus that brings credibility to His otherwise incredible claims. If there were no resurrection, Christianity would be nothing. Indeed, Paul also says that very thing:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 ESV

It is also the resurrection of Christ that gives us the hope of resurrection for ourselves.

So, three significant reasons are 1) to conquer death, mankind's greatest enemy, 2) to prove His Divinity, and 3) to give followers of Jesus the hope of resurrection.

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+1, thanks for the explanation. (Note to other readers: the third and most cursory of the three answers here is explained more fully in the earlier-posted answer by thursdaysgeek.) – msh210 Aug 22 '12 at 19:09
But, this gives more complete reasons, and thus is a better answer. – thursdaysgeek Aug 23 '12 at 19:12

Jesus was resurrected to a physical body, and as Paul says, was the first-born with that new eternal and physical body. That is our hope now too, because of his resurrection.

Colossions 1:15-20:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

When we die and then live in Christ, we will not be spirits, we will have physical bodies, just as Jesus did. He was resurrected so that we know that we have that same hope.

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+1, thanks for the explanation. I don't see the relevance of the quotation, though. – msh210 Aug 22 '12 at 19:02
He is the firstborn from among the dead, showing not only physical life after death, but if he's first, others will follow. – thursdaysgeek Aug 22 '12 at 19:06
Ah, I see. Thanks. – msh210 Aug 22 '12 at 19:10

This is an addendum to Narnian's answer. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead so that the people of God could stand before God blameless and holy.

  • Forensically: his resurrection completed the justification of the saints (i.e. all of his people, those who he makes holy). The resurrection was God's stamp of approval on Jesus Christ, his public acceptance of his atoning sacrifice. One of the less well-known and understood verses in Paul's letter to the Romans reads,

    He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. —4:25

  • Experientially: his resurrection completed the regeneration of the saints by giving them new life. As the children of God are united to the Messiah, they participate in his death and resurrection. His death destroyed the power of sin in their lives and his resurrection brought about the power of God in their lives. This is explained in detail in the middle part of Romans, particularly chapter 6.

But there's another tact that could be taken in making this answer: God does not break his promise, and he had promised that the Messiah, after undergoing suffering would reign in glory, that he would not live in Sheol, the place of shades, of ghosts. Read the Psalms; the alternatives there are not life and nonbeing, but life and Sheol. Clearly there is something deficient for a man to live only as Spirit.

  • In Psalm 16:10, David in his office as the anointed of God speaks prophetically of the ultimate anointed of God: "For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave." This does not apply to David himself; he died and is long decomposed (though he awaits the resurrection on the last day). It applies to the greater Messiah, the last Messiah, the fulfilment of all God's promises, Yeshua from Nazareth.
  • Isaiah 53 is abundantly clear both that the Messiah will die, but also that afterwards he will experience life and glory.

    9He had done no wrong
    and had never deceived anyone.
    But he was buried like a criminal;
    he was put in a rich man’s grave.
    10But it was the Yahweh’s good plan to crush him
    and cause him grief.
    Yet when his life is made an offering for sin [=shedding of blood/death],
    he will have many descendants.
    He will enjoy a long life,
    and the Yahweh’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
    11When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
    he will be satisfied.
    And because of his experience,
    my righteous servant will make it possible
    for many to be counted righteous,
    for he will bear all their sins.
    12I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier [not of a dead war hero],
    because he exposed himself to death.
    He was counted among the rebels.
    He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

So the second type of answer is that Jesus was resurrected to fulfil the prophecies.

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−1. First of all, as I understand it, most branches of Christianity don't believe in saints. (Only Catholicism, C of E, and LDS do. Am I wrong?) So it'd be nice if you clarify what denomination you're answering according to. Secondly, I don't see what saints have to do with anything; moreover, much of the answer seems ike disjointed sentences that have little to do with one another: the answer as a whole is very unclear. Lastly, if you're going to interpret Tanakh as referring to Jesus, then you should provide a source. – msh210 Sep 9 '12 at 5:41
@msh210 +1 You shouldn't get hung up on the word saints. Sometimes it is used in a general sense to refer to Holy people. Psalm 50:5 Gather my saints together unto me. In second part of the answer, you might personally disagree with application of those verses to Christ. But you'll find 90% denominations of Christianity would apply those verses to the Messiah only. So the conclusion of answer would be - He had to be resurrected for fulfillment of prophecy. – Monika Michael Sep 9 '12 at 6:28
@MonikaMichael Thank you—exactly. – Kazark Sep 9 '12 at 14:56
@msh210 To confirm what Monika has said, saints is just the Anglicized Latin word for the Greek ἁγίοι, which is קְדֹשִׁים in Hebrew. This is how Paul addresses his letters; it is not denominationally tied! Sorry for using a word that caused confusion—I didn't anticipate that confusion. And if you ask a question on Christian site, you ought to expect the Tanakh to be interpreted Christologically. That is standard procedure. – Kazark Sep 9 '12 at 15:04
Ah, thanks, Kazark, @MonikaMichael. – msh210 Sep 9 '12 at 15:55

There have already been several answers here, and I don't usually post an answer to questions that have already received lots of attention, but no one here so far has touched on the central point of this doctrine: The Atonement of Jesus Christ compensates for the Fall.

Genesis gives the familiar story of how God gave to Adam and Eve a commandment and a warning: that if they broke it, they would surely die. So the Fall was the introduction of sin and death to mankind. Paul reiterates this in Romans 5: 12:

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

Jesus came as our Savior, to fix what had been set wrong by the Fall. By living a life free of sin, and taking upon himself the sins of the world, he overcame sin. And by dying and being resurrected, he overcame death, and both made it possible for us to do the same. By the atoning blood of Christ, we can repent and be cleansed of our own sins. And through the Resurrection, we will be raised from death into life. Coming back to Romans 5, we read in verse 19:

19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

And again, in 1 Corinthians 15: 22 we see the same point.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

This is the reason for the Resurrection: to undo death, which is an unnatural state that came upon mankind as part of the Fall, and allow us to be restored to life.

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+1, thanks for the explanation. – msh210 Sep 9 '12 at 17:08

For one reason, it shows that the body, as created by God is good and made for eternity.

The Manichean heresy got this point wrong and constantly pitted the good soul against the evil body. Christ's example, as being God With Us, in a bodily resurrection codifies that belief. It's a good question you raised, sometimes God teaches us truth by example and not the platitudes we expect.

The teaching of Bl. Pope John Paul II on the Theology of the Body is a good jumping off point if you had more questions regarding the purpose of the resurrection and the inherent goodness of the human body as well as its eternal purpose.

It also shows us a meaning for our suffering. That after we bear our cross (endure the hardships of this life), we will be given a new body, like Jesus, which will be our own, but glorified.

Christ's Resurrection has revealed "the glory of the future age" and, at the same time, has confirmed "the boast of the Cross": the glory that is hidden in the very suffering of Christ and which has been and is often mirrored in human suffering, as an expression of man's spiritual greatness. This glory must be acknowledged not only in the martyrs for the faith but in many others also who, at times, even without belief in Christ, suffer and give their lives for the truth and for a just cause. In the sufferings of all of these people the great dignity of man is strikingly confirmed. (Pope John Paul II Salvifici Doloris)

It's true for all of us who have bodies, not just professed Christians. The resurrection is for everyone.

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If Jesus had gone directly to Heaven without stopping off on Earth first, how would anyone know that he had, in fact, risen from the dead? He had to return to Earth to show people that he had risen.

Also, he had to come back in body and not just in spirit to demonstrate that we will be resurrected in the same way.

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+1, thanks; the second reason of your second reasons has been mentioned in other answers; and the first is very similar (though not identical) to the second reason offered in Narnian's answer. – msh210 Aug 23 '12 at 16:49

You've already received a number of great answers, but this is a central question of Christianity and the faith has developed many ways to answer it. One answer comes from the early Christian text called Hebrews. Written sometime between 50-95 A.D. by someone who was familiar with Paul's letters, the book tackles the issue of why the God of Abraham might introduce a new covenant centered on the person of Jesus. While the whole book is worth a read, perhaps the most direct answer to your question is found in chapter 7:

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.—Hebrews 7:23-28 (ESV)

The business about "oath" versus "law" picks up on an argument begun in the previous chapter. But the main point here is that the levitical system was impermanent since:

  1. high priests were subject to death, and
  2. the priests themselves needed to be purified via daily sacrifice before they could offer sacrifice for the people.

It's important to note that the 1st century Jewish concept of resurrection was not simply "going to heaven", but what N. T. Wright calls 'life after "life after death" '.1 What Christians believe happened to Jesus was that he was born into the world with a temporary body, he was killed, and he came back with a permanent body.2 God, it seems, is determined to play by His own rules and therefore required His Son to suffer death in order to obtain a resurrection body.

Jesus' death served double duty since it also functions as a final, effective sacrifice to replace the daily temple sacrifices. This aspect is developed more fully in Hebrews 10. Scholars are divided over whether Hebrews was written before or after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. If it were written after, the author missed a further argument for the necessity of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus: the Temple sacrifices can't occur without the Temple. Without the sacrificial system, there's no levitical method for atonement of sins and cleansing of worshipers.


Jesus needed to be resurrected in order to obtain a permanent body so that he could be our eternal High Priest.


  1. I simply cannot recommend Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God highly enough. It's a thoroughly comprehensive study of the concept of resurrection prior to and during the first century of Christianity. Even reading a sampling of sections is fascinating to any student of ancient history and philosophy.

  2. Definitely not a Christian text or authoritative in any way, but I'm reminded of the fictional world of George R. R. Martin and the Drowned God ritual:

    Priest: Let your servant be born again from the sea, as you were. Bless him with salt, bless him with stone, bless him with steel.
    Response: What is dead may never die.
    Priest: What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.

    The imaginary ritual resembles the 1st century baptism ritual and highlights the connection to resurrection. (It also involves literal death and resuscitation, but that's a topic for a different Stack Exchange.)

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+1, thanks for the explanation. – msh210 Sep 10 '12 at 20:15

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