Volume 1, Issue 2:
Resurrection of the Body
"By entertaining of strange persons, men sometimes entertain angels unawares: but by entertaining of strange doctrines, many have entertained devils unawares."
- John Flavel
The secular world is much preoccupied with the problem of illiteracy, and rightly so. Some have pointed out that there is a type of illiteracy that is just as big a problem as the inability to read at all. There is a book entitled Cultural Literacy, which makes the point that many Americans do not have the necessary knowledge to carry on the traditions of Western Civilization. These are real problems, but there is an even greater problem.
This is the problem of doctrinal illiteracy among Christians. Among evangelical Christians there is an incredible ignorance on many basic truths of the Christian faith.
For example, many believers have an almost Gnostic view of the body, as evidenced by what they believe about the resurrection of the dead. Many assume that we will go through eternity as ghosts incorporeal and wraith-like, standing on clouds for some reason, and strumming harps.
When confronted with theological liberalism, which denies that Jesus rose from the dead in a bodily way, the evangelical draws the line. No, Jesus' resurrection was physical.
But what else was the resurrection of Christ? The Bible tells us that He was the first fruits of the general resurrection. We shall be raised from the dead in the same way that He was raised (1 Cor. 15: 20-23). And Jesus assured His disciples after the resurrection that He was no ghost (Luke 24: 37-39).
It is important for Christians to realize that after the resurrection of the dead we will all have bodies. The immortality of the soul is not a Christian doctrine. If we are to be biblical, we are to affirm a belief in the resurrection of the dead. There is a difference between the two doctrines. The first assumes a spiritual existence beyond the grave, while the second looks beyond the grave to the final hope our receiving of eternal, incorruptible, imperishable bodies.
In the ancient Gnostic view, there was a split between material and spiritual, with the spiritual being good and the material bad. The goal was to escape the confines of the material world. Tragically, many Christians today have been corrupted by this kind of thinking.
In the Christian view, the material/spiritual divide is not a division between good and evil. Sin can exist in the material world and it can exist in the spiritual world. Rather, the division between good and evil is determined by the creature's obedience or disobedience to God. The disobedient creature can be purely spiritual (as with a demon), and the obedient creature can have a physical body (as with a Christian).
While our current bodies are still fallen, and will die because of sin, they are not corrupt because they are material. We know this because in the resurrection we will receive incorruptible bodies. In addition, our current fallen bodies can be legitimately offered up to God as acceptable worship (Rom. 12:1-2), and He will receive nothing that is inherently defiled.
So then, Christians should begin thinking and meditating more on their final hope the hope of a body that will live forever, with no possibility of death, disease or sin. And in this way we will always be with the Lord.
- Douglas Wilson
"If a skillful workman can turn a little earth and ashes into such curious transparent glasses as we daily see, and if a little seed that bears no show of such a thing can produce the more beautiful flowers of the earth; and if a little acorn can bring forth the greatest oak; why should we once doubt whether the seed of everlasting life and glory, which is now in the blessed souls with Christ, can by Him communicate a perfection to the flesh that is dissolved into its elements?"
- Richard Baxter
If we are to receive such great blessings as these, then how thankful and grateful should we be! There is no greater mark of sin and self-centeredness than the refusal to give thanks. Paul marks it as the source of intellectual darkness and futility (Rom. 1:21-23). Ingratitude is the crown of the unregenerate man and what a perverse thing to place on one's head! And as Jean Daille observed, "Thankless men are like swine feeding on acorns, which, though they fall upon their heads, never make them look up to the tree from which they come."
- Douglas Wilson
"The Day of Judgement is remote, thy day of judgement is at hand, and as thou goest out in particular, so shalt thou be found in the general. Thy passing bell and the archangel's trumpet have both one sound to thee, In the same condition that thy soul leaves thy body, shall thy body be found of thy soul. Thou canst not pass from thy death-bed a sinner, and appear at the great assizes, a saint."
"We are more sure to rise out of our graves than out of our beds."
- Thomas Watson
"A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next."
- C.S. Lewis
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
- 1 Cor. 15:42-44
What difference does it make? Who cares if we will have tangible bodies or not? Why not just wait and find out?
The Bible teaches that this particular doctrine has a potent ethical impact. How we think about our future with the Lord has a profound influence over our present behavior. 1 John 3:2-3 states, "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
In other words, thinking about this hope transforms us. Before the final glory is revealed, we may still be transformed from one degree of glory to another as we meditate on future glory. This transformation begins within each individual, but it would be fundamentally wrong-headed to limit it there. As individuals are transformed, so are families, churches, businesses, towns, and countries.
There is therefore no dichotomy between personal piety on the one hand, and the involvement of Christians in the world around them on the other. Some are concerned that involvement in such things may distract from our future hope. True, they may, and such seduction must be resisted. But at the same time, we may measure how true our hope of eternal life is by whether it has any impact on those around us.
- Douglas Wilson
"Death is only a grim porter to let us into a stately palace."
- Richard Sibbes
"Christianity teacheth me that what I charitably give alive, I carry with me dead; and experience teacheth me that what I leave behind, I lose. I will carry that treasure with me by giving it, which the worldling loseth by keeping it; so, while his corpse shall carry nothing but a winding cloth to his grave, I shall be richer under the earth than I was above it."
- Joseph Hall
"Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither."
- C.S. Lewis
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
- Rev. 21:4
We Christians have a heavenly calling. We are citizens, not of the City of Man, but of the City of God. Because of this, our thoughts are to be set on the things above, not on the things below.
Humanism is nothing more than idolatry; it is the substitution of the created for the Creator. It seeks to find meaning and purpose "under the sun," to borrow a phrase from the book of Ecclesiastes. But all relativistic attempts to build meaning for our lives are nothing but a mist.
God has set eternity in our hearts. If our hearts are not set on eternity, and the eternal God, then our hearts will be adrift, floating aimlessly in an ocean of confusion.
Because Christians know they shall live forever, there does not have to be any aimlessness and confusion while we travel to our heavenly destination. Because we will not live for men, but rather for the glory of God, we are therefore equipped to serve them. The man who serves his fellow man because he is a servant of God has found the key to authority and dominion here.
He has influence here because he is not an idolater. The humanist works here because this is all he has, and he ruins what he has. He destroys what he worships. The Christian has come to a mountain that cannot be touched with human hands, and because he has done so, he can be effective with those things which can be touched.
- Douglas Wilson
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
- Jude 25