In Romans 8:29 Paul says that Jesus was intended to be the firstborn of many brethren. He was not speaking, of course, about Jesus’ earthly birth. Rather, he was speaking about Jesus being the firstborn from the dead.
Our modern minds must continually be brought to remember that before Jesus’ resurrection, no one expected the afterlife to exist above in heaven. Rather, it was understood to exist below in Sheol (or Hades in the Greek language). This was the case for everyone who died. No one went to heaven when they died. No one even hoped they would go to heaven. It was an unheard of notion. People were doing well just to hope that God would some day resurrect the dead to earth, yet they knew it would create complications. For this reason the Sadducees parted company with the Pharisees, the former giving up on the idea of resurrection altogether because of such complications (e.g. multiple husbands for widows who had remarried).
Out of this very uncertain hope of resurrection, God raises Jesus from the dead and brings Him all the way to heaven indicating that resurrection would not be to earth, but to heaven. Jesus had already made this known during His earthly ministry (Matthew 22:30), but punctuated the lesson dramatically when He was lifted up in the sight of His apostles (Acts 1).
The point of all this was not for Jesus to have this experience for Himself but that He might create a way for humanity to have a permanent and blessed existence after death. Thus we human beings are the “many brethren” for whom He became “the firstborn.”
The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.