“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” – Apostles Creed
I said something similar to that every Sunday since I was a boy. Yet it wasn’t until a year ago that I understood what the resurrection of the body really meant. Much of the credit for that goes to the writings of N.T. Wright who is second to none when it comes to Resurrection. Consider for a moment.
Jesus rose bodily.
But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:37-43)
See my hands and my feet.
He took it and ate before them.
Resurrection is physical. The gospels go out of their way to let you know that resurrection does not mean spiritual existence post-mortem. Resurrection is not that when we die, our soul goes off to be with the Lord. Resurrection is something more than that.
Think about it. When Jesus died on Friday, nobody would have had a hard time saying that His soul had gone to be with God. He died committing his spirit to His Father. Nobody would have doubted that His spirit had joined that of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in heaven. Nobody would have struggled with saying there was life after death.
But nobody called that resurrection.
Resurrection is what the disciples said happened to Jesus when they saw that His body was alive again. His soul had been reunited with a glorious resurrection body. What had never happened before, happened with Jesus. Others had been revived only to die again. Countless others had souls that went on to live with God. Jesus was not the first to have an afterlife, but Jesus was the first to resurrect. This is why the Epistles call Jesus the “firstfruits” of the resurrection. Like a harbinger that shows you what the rest of the harvest will be like, Jesus is the prototype for what all other resurrections will be like.
Resurrection involves not just soul, but hands that can be seen, feet that can be touched, and food that can be eaten. When Jesus appeared, they thought they were seeing a spirit. Jesus wouldn’t have it. His resurrection was not spiritual. It was physical.
When you think of resurrection, do you think of a ghost-like soul that lives eternally in a wispy place? Would you let Jesus’ resurrection help you to see it differently?
When you think resurrection, think flesh and bone. Think broiled fish. Think body.
The Christian hope is way bigger than just a soul that lives on after death. The Christian hope is resurrection! When we attend the funeral of a Christian and we look over the casket, our hope is not just that so and so is in a happier place. Yes that is part of our hope, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord! But our hope doesn’t end there. That’s just phase one. Phase two, is that Jesus will return. And when He does, there will be the resurrection of the dead and all who are in Christ will live forever in the New Heavens & New Earth in a body.
And because Jesus rose bodily, we will rise with a body like His. But more on that tomorrow…
We do not desire to eat gravel. Why? Because God did not design us to eat gravel. Trying to develop an appetite for a disembodied existence in a non-physical Heaven is like trying to develop an appetite for gravel. No matter how sincere we are, and no matter how hard we try, it’s not going to work. Nor should it. What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire if we admit it, is exactly what he promises to those who follow Jesus Christ: a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth. Our desires correspond precisely to God’s plans. It’s not that we want something, so we engage in wishful thinking that what we want exists. It’s the opposite— the reason we want it is precisely because God has planned for it to exist.