It is important to note that the story does not end with Jesus rising from the dead. Christians may understand Christ’s resurrection, but the emphasis of Christ’s exaltation could be neglected. Jesus ascends into heaven and sits down at the right hand of God the Father. God placed Jesus on display for all to see, enjoy, and obey.
I was recently jarred by this idea when reading New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ by Dr. Tom Schreiner. He argues that it is the exaltation of Christ through the resurrection that crowns Jesus as king. All of the prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah are fulfilled and proven true in this event. In Psalm 110:1, God tells God to sit at His right hand. God the Father asks God the Son to join him on his ruling throne. In Acts 2:36, the Apostle Peter realizes this and says, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus who you crucified.”
This means that Jesus was in some sense not ruling as king until this event.
“We know from the Gospel of Luke that Jesus was the Christ during his earthly ministry, and therefore this verse does not teach that Jesus “became” Lord and Christ only when raised from the dead. The point of the verse is that Jesus became the exalted Lord and Christ only at his exaltation. He did not reign as Lord and Christ until he was raised from the dead and exalted to God’s right hand.” (292-293)
It is a very stunning statement to say that Jesus did not reign as Lord and Christ until he was raised from the dead. Nevertheless, this appears to make the most sense of Acts 2:36. Jesus is crowned king of Israel and assumes his royal place of honor. Thousands of generations had been waiting for this moment and the resurrection of Christ enable it to happen.
In Luke 4:8, Jesus himself recognized and preached that the Holy Spirit had anointed him according to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Jesus has always been divine and was the Messiah upon entering the world. Even though he was already the Messiah, he was not yet reigning at the right hand of God. Schreiner points this out commenting on Philippians 2:9-11. “Jesus is exalted as Lord because of his humiliation. The Son of God, of course, reigned with the Father eternally. But Jesus of Nazareth, the God-man, was exalted as Lord only at the resurrection.” (326.) Jesus was called to suffer on the cross in obedience to the Father before he would be exalted on high. The exaltation of Christ through resurrection is the appointment of his reign as the victorious messianic king.
Without the resurrection of Jesus, believers would not have a living mediator between them and God the Father. By rising from the dead, Jesus proves that he truly was the Christ who suffered for the sins of the world. The believer can be assured of a future hope because of the exaltation of Christ through the resurrection. Christ is currently praying to God on behalf of us. Hebrews 7:25 testifies to this reality when it says, “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.” Celebrate Easter and have a Happy Intercession Day!