Christianity 201

May 4, 2016

Resurrection: Better Bodies

We continue with #4 in a series of Resurrection Facts. Read here or at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon, or for this post at source, click here.

•••by Clarke Dixon

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35 NRSV)

Paul is imagining this being asked with a highly sceptical tone. “How on earth can that happen?” We may have as much trouble wrapping our heads around the Biblical teaching of resurrection today. Indeed, with what kind of body will the dead be raised? Will those fortunate enough to die in their elderly years have the misfortune of being raised with elderly bodies? Will those who have been cremated be raised as a cloud of dust? The Bible assures us that we need not worry:

36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. (1 Corinthians 15:36-37)

We often confuse resurrection to eternal life with something that would be better called resuscitation. With resuscitation, you take a seemingly dead plant, add water and sunlight, and it comes back to life as a plant. So, for example, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead this was more in line with resuscitation than the kind of resurrection we look forward to. Lazarus came back to life, yes, but with the same kind of body and presumably he did die again. Paul speaks of the resurrection to eternal life in terms of transformation. Rather than being like a dead plant becoming a living plant, resurrection is like a seed becoming a plant such that you can no longer even find the seed. This transformation is so complete that those who are alive at the resurrection must undergo it:

50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:50-51)

Paul’s main point in using the seed and plant analogy is that the resurrection body is a very different kind of body:

42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

Resurrected BodiesDrawing from this seed and plant analogy there are some further points to consider:

  • Individuality is maintained. One seed gives way to one plant.
  • Our identity is maintained. One seed gives way to a particular kind of plant and not another.
  • Humility in theology is important. Unless you are familiar with seeds and plants you cannot tell from a seed what the plant will look like. I do not have a green thumb and generally cannot tell what most seeds will become. I do know what Dandelion seeds look like as I am quite proficient at growing those. The point is that we do not know much about what the resurrection body will be like. We have some clues by reading about the resurrection body of Jesus, but we do not know much.
  • Excitement is appropriate. Though care of seed is important, no one buys seed in order to cherish the seed, but to look forward to a lush lawn, beautiful flowers, or great food. We can look forward with great anticipation to what is to come.
  • God has the ultimate green thumb. When Paul refers to various ‘kinds’ in verses 38-41 we are taken back to God’s work in creation. God created. God can re-create. No wonder Paul calls the Corinthians fools for their scepticism, for they are considering matters without thinking of God’s part in them, whereas: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10 NRSV)

When it comes to the resurrection from the dead, 1st Corinthians 15 may not satisfy our curiosity. There may be many lingering questions such as what happens to the very atoms that make up our bodies. Paul does not satisfy our curiosity on such things, instead he goes somewhere else. He goes to our Adam problem and our Jesus solution. Figuring out how God will raise the dead in Christ is not the crucial thing, figuring out that God will raise the dead in Christ is. Consider:

45 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life- giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:44-49)

There is a lot to be said about those verses, but for now the central point is that though we might die in Adam, we live and will live in Christ. Never mind what happens to our atoms, our cells, and tissues, and organs, never mind what happens to our DNA, or our souls. Look instead at what happens to our sin. Or rather look at what has already happened to our sin. It is nailed to the cross, and therefore death gives way to life.

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Indeed “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Resurrection to eternal life is a gift. Again, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Resurrection to eternal life is a gift only God could give.

There are many questions we might have about how the dead are raised or what our bodies will be like. The bigger question is, how can we give thanks.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

(All Bible references are taken from the NRSV. All emphases are mine)

 

 

April 13, 2016

Resurrection: Yes, There Will Be One

••• by Clarke Dixon

Click this link to read this at source.

When we Christians talk about the afterlife you might get the impression that we do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Asked what happens when we die, there is often a reference to either going straight to heaven or hell, or of being reunited with loved ones in a spirit world. I imagine that my favorite bass player thought he was capturing Christian theology when he penned these words for a song by the Who in the 1960s:

On top of the sky is a place where you go if you’ve done nothing wrong
If you’ve done nothing wrong
And down in the ground is a place where you go if you’ve been a bad boy
If you’ve been a bad boy
Why can’t we have eternal life
And never die, never die?
In the place up above you grow feather wings and you fly round and round
With a harp singin’ hymns
And down in the ground you grow horns and a tail and you carry a fork
And burn away
Why can’t we have eternal life
And never die, never die?            (Lyrics by John Entwhistle)
There is something we can refer to as “pop theology.” That is, many people believe and say things that fit more with what popular culture believes and says, or what popular culture thinks Christianity believes and says, than what the Bible actually teaches. Often Christians will echo the belief that when it comes to the afterlife you are a disembodied soul or spirit for the rest of eternity. Pop theology is far from Biblical theology here. Those who believe pop theology today are not far from the Christians in Corinth who also had a pop theology problem. The Christians in Corinth had come to believe the Gospel and that Jesus rose from the dead. But it seems they continued believing the common theology of the culture they lived in, a Greek culture which tended to believe that when you die, your soul is freed from your body, never to have a body again. The apostle Paul addresses their pop theology:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:12)

In other words “why do you say the future is only about being disembodied souls and deny that we shall be bodily raised?” Instead of taking their theology from Greek thinking, they really ought to be taking their theology from Jesus Himself, the fact He rose from the dead, and from where Jewish theology had been pointing all along.

Paul’s argument begins in verse 12. We might interpret “Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead” as meaning He was raised from a state of being dead, but the Greek behind it is quite explicit; “Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead ones.” So if Christ is raised from among the “dead ones” we ought to expect the same for all the “dead ones.”

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. (1 Corinthians 15:13)

The line of reasoning is easier to see if we think of it this way: “If we are not expecting the dead to be raised but rather to be disembodied souls, then why didn’t Jesus appear following his crucifixion as a disembodied soul? Why was the tomb empty?” 

Paul goes on to point out the logical consequences of not believing in the resurrection of the dead and therefore of not believing that Jesus rose from the dead:

and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

ResurrectionThere is much to be said about this, but suffice it to say that the resurrection of Jesus was many things including the confirmation of who Jesus is and what God was doing through Jesus’ death. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, history may have recorded that he was simply a miracle worker and teacher who said some quite blasphemous things about himself. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is confirmation of who He really is, and that in His death God really was doing something about our sin.

So Paul’s main point to the Christians at Corinth? Move from the pop theology of the society around you and move into theology that comes from God Himself. Does this have anything to teach us today? Very much so as our views of the afterlife can often be informed by pop theology also. Consider the following:

  • We can focus too much on people, substituting our own sense of greatness for the greatness of God. While it is not wrong to long to be with our loved ones when we die, it becomes too much when the afterlife becomes all about that reunion, and not at all about being with the LORD. When I die I suspect my wife and children will miss me, they may even pine for me. But my hope for them is that their heart’s cry will be not for my presence, but the presence of the Lord. My prayer for them is that their longings to see the LORD face to face will overwhelm their desire to see me again. As John the Baptist put it: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). If we find it hard to let our loved ones take a lesser place in our longings when they pass on, or if the fact we will not be married in eternity disturbs us, then perhaps we do not have a great enough glimpse of the greatness and glory of God. We fall into pop theology when our focus is too much on people and not enough on the LORD. 
  • We can think our bodies are bad. If we think the goal is to become a disembodied soul, we might come to think of our bodies as something awful to be discarded ASAP. When we recognize that the future points to a bodily resurrection, yes a changed body, but still a body, then we can more clearly see that when the Lord gives us a body, it is a gift, it is a good thing. He already has given us a body, and it is not something awful, but rather a gift, one we will want to take care of.

Unfortunately, not only is pop theology messing with the minds of Christians, it also affects those who do not believe. Too may people think they are rejecting Christianity when in fact they are rejecting pop theology. So when people say things like “Christianity teaches that if you are a bad boy you go to hell” then we need to remind them that we are all bad boys and girls and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) When we hear people say things like “if you are good you will go to heaven” we need to remind them that Jesus teaches “No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18) Salvation is made possible by God Himself in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is by His grace. And salvation does not mean becoming disembodied souls with wings and harps. Salvation means the effect of sin that has separated us from God has been dealt with. It means life in the full presence and glory of God becomes a reality and will be most real when we are raised from the dead.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away
(Revelation 21:1-4)

(All Bible references are taken form the NRSV)

 

May 15, 2013

Heaven Will Exceed Expectations

Again, we introduce you to another new blog, By Farther Steps. This post was originally titled Better Than Harps and Clouds and Halos.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

I don’t want to be naked, not naked like Paul is describing it above, at least I don’t want to be that kind of naked for very long. Though Paul is mixing the metaphor a bit, what he is getting at is that we’re not souls in a physical body which we’ll be released from when we die. A disembodied soul is what he means by being “naked.”

[click to source blog for picture]

This is from the TV movie “The Littlest Angel” which is about a shepherd boy who goes to heaven and becomes and angel. I remember it from my childhood but now I see how wrong it was.

When I was a kid, the idea you got from movies and TV was that when we die we go to heaven to become angels. Sometimes we have to earn our wings by doing something to help the living so what we really become is guardian angels. That sounds nice and makes for okay TV movie plots, but in reality it is a far cry less than what really awaits us.

According to Paul’s terminology here, we have a “tent” that is our earthly home. But it isn’t a flesh spacesuit we take off when we die. It is imperfect and, whether we know it or now, we long for the heavenly version of it. But that heavenly version isn’t clouds, halos, harps, white robes and earning wings and becoming angels. No, we will judge the angels (1 Cor 6:3) and what we have is what the angels long to examine (1 Pet 1:12).

We get something much better than what the angels get. When some of the angels rebelled, God created hell for them (Matt 25:41) and appointed a day when they’d get sent there (Matt 8:29) to be punished for their rebellion. He didn’t make a way for their sin to be forgiven. Angels won’t be redeemed.

But God decided to redeem a portion of humanity even though we’re a little below the angels (Heb 2:7). The cost to accomplish this, the eternal Son to set aside his glory, took on a real human body and human soul so that he could die a real human death. And what did Jesus gain for us? Clouds and halos for eternity? No, that would be boring. Jesus no only got us an escape from hell, which would be very good, but he also gained us new life. That new life consists of a new heart in this life and a resurrected body for eternity. The taste we get new pales in comparison to what it will be like for us in the resurrection. That’s what Paul is getting at in the quote above. What is mortal will be swallowed up in life, not in long white robes and not disembodied spirits floating around either.

So what happens after death and before the resurrection? We are with Jesus (2 Cor 5:8) which is better (Phil 1:21). According to the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16 we will be comforted with the saints, not tormented with the sinners. But according to Paul above, we still long for our resurrected bodies. We’re not complete if we’re just a spirit and we’ll long for the completion.

I shall sleep sound in Jesus, filled with His likeness rise,
To love and to adore Him, to see Him with these eyes:
’Tween me and resurrection but Paradise doth stand;
Then—then for glory dwelling in Immanuel’s land.

The Sands of Time are Sinking, Anne R. Cousin