Resurrection Summary

           

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  • Resurrection is central to Christianity. The resurrection of Christ is a vital foundation for the faith.  Paul says that if Jesus was not raised the Christian faith is useless and, of course, no-one else will be raised (1 Cor 15:14-19).
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  • However, Paul affirms: “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor 15:51-52).
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  • In the Apostles Creed we confidently affirm: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” But what do we mean? Does it mean our present body is raised or is it a totally new body? Is it a physical body? We shall examine these questions.
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  • What does Paul mean by the resurrection body being a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:44)?

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  • Does he mean it is no longer a physical body?
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  • Physical objects and people in this life can be described as “spiritual.” 

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  • Paul refers to the manna eaten by Israel in the wilderness and the water Moses brought forth from the rock as “spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” (1 Cor 10:3-4). Yet it was, of course, physical.
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  • Professor Andrew Lincoln writes; “By the term spiritual we must not understand this to mean non-material or non-physical, but that it is a way of describing a bodily existence that is fully energised by the Spirit.”
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  • Our resurrection body will be like Jesus’ resurrection body which was physical (Philippians 3:21). 

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  • ·         The risen Jesus could be touched (Matt 28:9; John 20:27; Luke 24:39).
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  • ·         The risen Jesus ate with the disciples (Luke 24:42-43).
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  • ·         The risen Jesus broke bread and gave it to his disciples (Luke 24:30).
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  • ·         The risen Jesus made a fire and cooked fish for breakfast for the disciples (John 21:9, 12-13).
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  • Our resurrection body will be a glorified body

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  • Our bodies will be imperishable and powerful (1 Cor 15:42-43). They will not experience tiredness, weakness, sickness, injury, ageing or death.
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  • Our bodies will be glorious. Professor Wayne Grudem says: “The word `glory' … suggests that there will also be a kind of brightness or radiance surrounding our bodies that will be an appropriate outward evidence of the position of exaltation and rule over all creation that God has given us” cf. Matthew 13:43).
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  • The risen Jesus was able to appear and disappear and to move through solid objects (John 20:19-20, 26). There is some debate over whether this will be true of our resurrection bodies. Some say it was something unique Jesus did but I see no reason why it should not be an ability of our risen bodies.
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  • What about Paul’s statement that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50)?

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  • Professor N T Wright says that Paul’s use of “‘flesh and blood’ is a way of referring to ordinary, corruptible, decaying human existence. It does not simply mean, as it has so often been taken to mean, ‘physical humanity’ in the normal modern sense, but ‘the present physical humanity (as opposed to the future), which is subject to decay and death.’” Other scholars agree.
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  • In other words, our present body in its ageing and decaying state, cannot, as it is, inherit the kingdom of God, it has to be glorified by resurrection. But it remains a physical body in its glorified state.
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  • Is our resurrection body continuous with our present body?

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  • 1.      Rom 8:23: Paul says that we “wait eagerly for … the redemption of our bodies.” Something can’t be redeemed if it is destroyed.
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  • 2.      1 Cor 6:15: Paul says: “Your bodies are members of Christ himself?” i.e. closely united with Christ, suggesting our present bodies will be raised.
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  • 3.      The term “resurrection” surely implies the resurrection of the present body. One cannot resurrect a body by replacing it.
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  • 4.      We know that Jesus was raised in the same body – that is the reason for the empty tomb.
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  • But how can God raise the bodies of those whose physical remains have long since disintegrated. Professor Wayne Grudem makes an interesting comment: “We must simply say that God can keep track of enough of the elements from each body to form a ‘seed’ from which to form a new body.”  As a result of the discovery of DNA unique to each created being, we now know that is all that is needed, given the intervention of the Creator God, for a body to be able to be resurrected.
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  • The importance of God overcoming death

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  • We need to understand that death is an enemy of God not just of us (1 Cor 15:25-26). Death is alien to the living God. Hence dead bodies were ceremonially unclean in the OT (e.g. Num 19:11-16).  Professor Jay McDaniel says: “The significance of physical death is that it finalizes the degree of death that the soul has experienced.” So it is crucial that God totally overcomes his enemy death and that includes the resurrection of what Wayne Grudem calls “the elements” from a person’s physical remains. Only then is the victory total. Death at every level – spiritual, relational, physical - must be overcome. God will achieve a total redemption, including “the elements” of the old body.
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  • Paul exults in the victory of our resurrection: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54-57).
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  • Hebrews says Jesus shared in our humanity “so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil –and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb 2:14-15). John says that ultimately death will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14).
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  • When will the resurrection take place?

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  • There are different views. Some say there are two or even three resurrections.
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  • Paul speaks of a resurrection of believers at “the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:51-52) when the Lord himself comes down from heaven, i.e. the second coming (1 Thess 4:16).
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  • John speaks of a second resurrection (Rev 20:4-6). He appears to be saying that only the martyrs are raised before the millennium, i.e. at the second coming. But others think the first resurrection includes all the believers who had previously died and the second is of unbelievers. This seems to be in harmony with Paul’s teaching in Corinthians and Thessalonians.
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  • Others take the first resurrection as meaning the spiritual experience of receiving eternal life and the second resurrection as the bodily resurrection but various scholars disagree with this interpretation (e.g. R H Charles, Robert Mounce).
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  • The resurrection of Old Testament saints

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  • We should, in passing, note that the resurrection will include Old Testament saints. The hope of resurrection is not prominent in the OT but some spoke of it: Job (Job 19:25-26), Isaiah (Isa 26:19), Daniel (Dan 12:1-2).
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  • Hebrews says “they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one” (Heb 11:13-16, 39-40).
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  • Then there is that account by Matthew of Old Testament saints rising from the dead at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection and appearing to many people (Matt 27:51-52). Some take this account as symbolical but, whether literal or symbolical, it is clearly teaching the resurrection of OT saints.
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  • The resurrection and justice

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  • Psalm 73 raises the whole issue of underserved suffering in this life very eloquently. This life can seem very unfair. The psalmist says he was envious when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. They were healthy and free from common human burdens. They are “always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” (Psa 73:3-12).
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  • He then describes how he struggled with the unfairness of it all. He has tried to live a righteous life but seems to have been punished. He was deeply troubled (Psa 73:13-16).
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  • We too must struggle with it whether because of our own suffering or in sympathy with others. There is no room for glib comments or even accurate comments made insensitively. Suffering is real. The unfairness of this life is real. However the Psalmist continued: “It troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.” (Psa 73:17-20).
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  • There is, of course, no room for rejoicing over the ultimate end of the impenitent but the Psalmist began to see his suffering (and that of other righteous people) in the light of eternity, in the light of the resurrection.
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  • Whilst avoiding insensitivity towards those who suffer we need to see the suffering, meaninglessness and unfairness of this life in the light of eternity. God forbid that we should not be compassionate and do all we can to alleviate the suffering of others. But the remaining unfairness and injustices of this life will be more than rectified for us believers after the resurrection.
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  • The resurrection of unbelievers

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  • The New Testament is clear that unbelievers will be judged before God but there is controversy over whether unbelievers actually experience bodily resurrection. After all, it is possible for God to judge disembodied spirits. The New Testament says little on the subject. Jesus says those who have done evil will come out of their graves to be condemned (John 5:28-29).  He also says that God “can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28). Paul says: “I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:15).
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  • So there seem to be hints in the New Testament that unbelievers will experience the resurrection of the body in order to stand before the Judge of all, but not, of course, the glorification of the body which believers will experience.
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  • Conclusion on the resurrection

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  • We believers shall rise after death with a glorified physical body, like Jesus.  Our glorified bodies will be imperishable and powerful. They will not experience tiredness, weakness, sickness, injury, ageing or death. Our present body will provide the ‘seed’ from which God will form our glorified body. So, all the results of sin will be conquered and we shall live for ever in the new heavens and new earth. God will finally triumph over death itself.
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