I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION

A popular song during the 70's asked an age old question: "What's it all about Alphie? Is it just for the moment we live?" Three thousand years ago Job asked the same sort of question: "If a man die, will he live again?" (Job 14:14). What do you say? There are three answers. Skeptics say no flatly. In the words of Woody Allen, "It is impossible to experience one's death objectively and still carry a tune." But skeptics aren't skeptical enough. They don't doubt their doubts. Instead, they construct fantasies and myths trying find some meaning and purpose in their hopeless world view. Faced with the dreary prospect of death and non-existence, they often speak of the lasting influence of the deceased upon their family and history. But they can't suck real satisfaction from that plastic orange.

If a man dies, will he live again? Skeptics say no flatly. Pagan religion says yes partly. Almost all other world religions (except Christianity) teach the immortality of the soul — apart from the body. They see death as a permanent condition in which the body is forever destroyed and the soul set free or merged into the soul of the universe. If a man dies, will he live again? Pagan religion says yes partly. Dead souls live again, but not dead bodies.

If a man dies, will it live again? Christianity says yes entirely. The gospel offers whole salvation not just soul salvation. We believe not only in the immortality of the soul, but also the immortality of the body. If a man dies, will he live again? Christianity says yes entirely — body and soul.

WHY? BECAUSE JESUS WAS RESURRECTEDThe Empty Tomb
Our belief in the resurrection of the body is not based on some debatable theory or wistful hope, but on the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His resurrection is the pledge and pattern of our own (1 Corinthians 15:20). He who demonstrated mastery over nature, disease and sin proved his power over death when he arose from the grave. All that death can do, he can undo. "We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will also raise us up with Jesus and take us… into his presence" (2 Corinthians 4:14 TEV).

Those who don't believe in Christ's resurrection can no more believe in their own resurrection than they can spell "goat" without learning the alphabet. Once they believe in the resurrection of Jesus, it naturally follows that they can believe his promise that his followers will be resurrected too (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Christian life is becoming more and more like Jesus. Christian death is becoming like his death and resurrection.

WHAT? WE SHALL BE LIKE JESUS
Let us confess with candor that Jesus didn't tell us everything we would like to know about life after death. He certainly was not a soothsayer pandering to our curiosity. But neither did he leave us in total ignorance concerning our personal future the other side of the grave. "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

"How are the dead raised?" Paul asks, "With what kind of body do they come?" (1 Corinthians 15:35) He answers that question by explaining that our present bodies will be changed to our resurrection bodies just as a seed changes to a flower (1 Corinthians 15:36-38). It's the same body, but magnificently changed. Paul describes four great changes in terms of sowing and sprouting. I'm glad he spoke of planting, not burial. If I bury something I don't expect to see it again, but if I plant something I expect to enjoy it in another form. The body of your loved one is not buried but planted. Notice the changes in the body between the planting and the resurrection.

First, "It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body" (1 Corinthians 15:42 NASB). Imperishable! Incapable of decay! Dentists and doctors are going to have to learn another occupation. "This perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53). At last our quest for the fountain of eternal youth is
over. Morticians are out of business. We will be raised immortal.

Second, "It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power" (1 Corinthians 15:43). Jesus' resurrected body had the power to pass through locked doors and ascend to heaven. No one knows the full extent of our future powers. Someday God will trust us with a power which we are now too immature to handle. Every newspaper tells us that what little power God has given us in this life we often turn to our own destruction. But there will come a day when we shall be made trustworthy and our bodies will possess undreamed of power.

Third, "It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory" (1 Corinthians 15:43a). Will we be raised with a body showing the age at which we died? Will those who died in infancy be infants forever? Will those who died in wrinkled old age have that same body they tried so hard to preserve? The Bible doesn't speculate on this, but says simply that the body placed in the grave may be dishonorable, but when it is raised it will be glorious. To know that is to know enough.

Fourth, "It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44). A spiritual body doesn't mean a body made out of spirit any more than a physical body means a body made out of physics. A spiritual body is one made for spiritual, heavenly existence, just as a physical body means one made for physical, earthly existence.

We shall not be disembodied ghosts. Remember how Jesus invited his disciples to "touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39). Neither will we be angels. One man was bragging about his successful marriage to his buddy. "My wife's a perfect angel," he concluded. To which his friend replied, "I should be so lucky. Mine's still living." We can understand the man's problem, but his theology is defective. We don't become angels when we die. Though we do become like them in that we don't marry and raise families (Matthew 22:30).

"How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" (1 Corinthians 15:35) As you know, many bodies are totally disintegrated and made part of other bodies. The Providence Rhode Island Journal printed an article entitled, "Who ate Roger Williams?" That's the kind of headline you might expect in a supermarket tabloid, but it contained some interesting information. When the remains of Roger Williams were exhumed it was discovered that a large root of an apple tree had entered his grave. The root can be seen today at Brown University. Presumably everybody who ate apples from that tree consumed particles from Roger Williams' body — which in turn became part of their bodies. The question is on the day of resurrection, to whose body will those particles belong?

I am going to suggest an answer and an explanation, but before I do, I want to make a disclaimer. Don't get your hopes too high. My answer won't satisfy the curious nor will my explanation satisfy the skeptical. My answer is simply that what God has promised he is able also to perform (Romans 4:21). Don't ask me how. I don't know. But I am happy to say God isn't limited by my ignorance.

My explanation doesn't really explain, but rather points to a direction where the truth may lie. What is at issue, I think is not the recombination of the atoms and molecules of our body, but the restoration of our sensory experience. Scripture tells us that at the moment of death we are absent from the body and present with the Lord (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Our bodies remain on earth, but our spirits are in heaven. That means that although we have no physical senses, we continue to have spiritual senses: memory, knowledge, will and love. At the resurrection, however, the delightful ability to smell roses, taste honey, and feel velvet will be completely restored so that we are fully alive.

Our resurrected senses will be far more sensitive than they are now. Life after death is no dream world. It will be so real that it will make this life seem dream-like. The hills and valleys of the new heavens and new earth will be to those we now experience, not as a copy to the original, nor as a
substitute to the genuine article, but as a flower to the root or as diamond to coal. (See Letters to Malcolm by  C.S. Lewis, page 121).

C. S. Lewis concludes his Chronicles of Narnia with Aslan, the lion who represents Jesus Christ, saying to the children, "You are — as you used to call it in the Shadowlands — dead. The term is over: the holidays are begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning …" All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.

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