He Rose Again to Warn the World

The Empty Tomb — and Coming Judgment

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7)

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep.

The timer starts slow, but then gets faster and faster. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Heart rates rise. The air gets thick. The end draws near. Beep, beep, beep.

The accelerating clock makes all the difference in the game Catch Phrase. Each player tries to help his teammates guess the word or phrase, without saying it, that appears on the handheld device. Once they guess correctly, he passes the device to the opposing team. While the teams are passing it back and forth, the timer is running down — first slowly, and then with increasing speed: beep, beep, beep. Whatever team is holding the device when the beeps stop loses that round.

One often overlooked aspect of the resurrection of Jesus is how it signals that the time is short. Easter tells us that history now is beeping more and more rapidly, calling for our repentance. The nations soon will be a footstool for the feet of the Son (Psalm 110:1). They, and each of us, should kiss the Son and take refuge in him before it is too late (Psalm 2:12).

Today I Have Begotten You

The refrain of resurrection returns many times in the Psalms, but it makes its first appearance in Psalm 2. Do you hear the refrain?

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
     today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7)

The today of Psalm 2:7 is Easter Sunday. It is as if the psalmist sings, “Christ the Lord is risen today.” How do we know that the today of Psalm 2 is the same day as Easter Sunday? Listen to the apostle Paul preach and apply Psalm 2.

As It Is Written

Acts 13 is the clearest text that establishes the connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the today of Psalm 2. There, Paul preaches the good news of the gospel, from the Old Testament Scriptures, to unbelieving Jews. He declares that God raised Jesus from the dead in fulfillment of the promise to the fathers. What text will he choose to prove it?

We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

     “You are my Son,
           today I have begotten you.” (Acts 13:32–33)

Paul’s sermon ought to provoke some pondering on our part. How could the psalmist say that there is a day (“today”) that Jesus was declared the Son of God (“You are my Son”)? The eternal Son of God never had a beginning; there was never a moment when he suddenly came into existence and God the Father declared him to be his Son. This text, however, seems to say that there was a moment when God the Father made a sonship declaration.

Declared to Be King

At the start of Romans, Paul unpacks the good news of God’s Son (Romans 1:1–3). He highlights the greatness of the Son of God from two different vantage points — his earthly life (as a descendant of David according to the flesh) and his resurrected life:

[He] 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 1:4)

When was the eternal Son of God declared to be the Son of God in power? Answer: “by his resurrection from the dead.” This declaration is a moment of enthronement because he is the Son of God “in power.” This phrase in power is related to the first phrase “descended from David.” He fulfills the promise of the royal Son of David who would rule on Jerusalem’s throne in power. The moment of fulfillment is the resurrection.

Tale of Two Thrones

This New Testament reality of the Son of God’s enthronement resolves a perplexing tension in the Old Testament. God is King — his dwelling place is in heaven. But he also said that his dwelling place was in the temple in Jerusalem. And there was a throne there too — a human king descended from David would sit on that throne. The kings of Israel often rebelled against God’s rule. Therefore, the King of the universe often had to judge the king of Israel. How and when would those two thrones ever come together and reign as one?

Answer: the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Jesus took his seat on the throne promised to David’s Son. Where is that throne? The earthly David had a throne in the earthly Zion (Jerusalem), but great David’s greater Son has a throne in the heavenly Zion. Because Jesus is risen and cannot die, the heavenly throne is filled forever (Hebrews 1:1–5).

Advance Warning

What is the Easter lesson for us in Psalm 2? The nations urgently need to hear heaven’s decree: Jesus is risen. Psalm 2 calls all nations, and all rulers, to stop raging (Psalm 2:1–3) and start repenting (Psalm 2:10–12). Why? God has installed his resurrected king on the throne of the universe.

The resurrection is the advance warning that judgment is coming. The King has been raised. The rebellion failed. The resurrection changes everything. Since the Son rose from the dead, history is now racing toward judgment, like a freight train with a full head of steam.

Paul makes the same point in Acts 17. The resurrection has happened. “The times of ignorance” have ended, and the time for repentance has come:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31)

The resurrection, among other things, is the assurance that God means business. Judgment is coming. Let all peoples be warned. And let those who have bowed to the Son “rejoice with trembling,” for “blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:11–12).