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The Joys of Life in the Resurrection Body

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From the Series: Heaven
May 17, 2015

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”  (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

We have a marvelous subject before us today.  Over these last weeks we have been looking at the theme of heaven: How can I be sure of heaven?  What will be our experience in heaven?

Will we know one another in heaven?

We have seen that there is a good, better, best pattern to the Christian life.  To be in Christ is good.  To be with Christ is better, better by far.  But even for those who are with Christ now, the best is yet to be.

Our loved ones who are with Christ are fully conscious and actively engaged, but they are also eagerly waiting for the resurrection body that will be the gift of God to all of his people when Christ returns in power and in glory.

I had not planned this message as a part of the original series, but today I want to encourage you as we look together at what the Bible has to say about the resurrection body.  We are going to look at four doctrines, four promises, four changes, and then four conclusions.  We begin with four doctrines that teach us the importance of the body.

 

The Importance of the Body

Creation: God made us body and soul

The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)

The doctrine of creation tells you what you are: A body/soul unity.  God made the body of Adam from the dust of the ground.  It was a biodegradable corpse, but then into this corpse, he breathed the breath of life.  So the life of Adam is a body/soul union.

This is the reason that the Bible sometimes speaks about death as an “enemy,” or as the “last enemy.”  Because death is the undoing of our nature.  It is the tearing apart of what God has joined together.

You have a cell phone.  But if it is not connected to a network, it is no longer a phone.  It cannot fulfill the function for which it was made.  The same can be said for the network.  The fact that there is a cellular network is of no value to you if you do not have a phone.  It is the joining of the two together that makes this wonderful gift of telecommunication possible.

God created your body as much as he created your soul.  All that God has created is good.

That is why he will not scrap it and start again.  What God has made, he will redeem, and that means your body as well as your soul.

Fall: Sin ruined us body and soul

Our bodies, as we experience them, are very different from the bodies that Adam and Eve experienced as they were created by God in the garden.  They had no aging, no disease, no pain, and no death.  All of that came with the entrance of sin into the world.

Sin has afflicted every area of our lives.  That would include tooth decay, cholesterol that goes up, energy that goes down, skin that sags, bones that ache, eyes that need glasses, and hearing that declines.  We live with the trials of chemical imbalances in the body, and hormones flying around out of control.  On top of that, a multitude of diseases, maladies, and conditions that afflict various people at various times during the course of their lives.

Incarnation: Christ became one with us in body and soul

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

God became a man in Christ Jesus.  The body of Jesus was a body like ours with a central nervous system.  He grew in strength from a baby to a child to a man, and he knew what it was to be hungry, thirsty, and weary.

The first heresy, the first false teaching that the early church had to contend with was not the denial that Jesus was God, but the denial that he was man.  In that culture people got to thinking, “How could God, who is pure spirit, possibly get mixed up with something as base as the human body?”

There was a nervousness about the Son of God taking on human flesh, but that is precisely what the Bible teaches.  That’s why you find in 2 John 7: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.”

If the Bible said, “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word remained spirit” (John 1:1), we would have to limit God’s interest in our lives to the things of the spirit like prayer, meditation, and bible study.  It would mean that God was concerned with your heart but not with your home; with your spirit but not with your schedule; with your character but not with your activity.

But the Bible doesn’t say, “the Word remained spirit.”  It says, “the Word became flesh!”  God entered the world of noisy kids and pushy parents, the world of overcrowded schedules and unscrupulous traders, the world of relentless pressures and unending demands.

When Jesus went to the cross, he died, not only to save your soul, but also to redeem your life!  That means God invading every part of your life – marriage, checkbook, career, kids –everything!

Resurrection: Christ will redeem us body and soul

All religions have some belief in the idea of survival after death.  This is also true of popular culture.  That’s why when they made a movie about the Titanic, Celine Dion sings of how “My heart will go on.”  Some idea of the survival of the soul is common to humanity.

But the resurrection of the body is unique to Christianity.  Only Christians have a risen Savior.  At the heart of our faith is the great truth that the tomb was empty, that the corpse of Jesus was raised to life, and that all who belong to him will share in his resurrection.

The resurrection of the body is a Crown Jewel of the Christian faith.  It is a truth to be treasured and put on display for all to see.  We should be proud of this and commending it to the world.  It is a promise to excite our interest, a hope to anticipate with joy.  It is a tragedy that many Christians do not have a firm grasp on this wonderful truth.

I have met many Christians, good people, who have the sub-Christian idea that what God has prepared for us is a kind of half-life, a compensation for those who did not have the strength to continue with real life in this world.  But friends, the resurrection is the purpose for which you were created by God and redeemed in Christ!

Let’s look at four Scriptures that speak of what God has promised, marvelous promises throughout the Bible about the resurrection of the body.

 

Promises about the Resurrection of the Body

#1: Job 19:25-27

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Notice what Job already knew: a. that his Redeemer lives, b. that his Redeemer will stand on the earth, and c. when that happens, Job will see God with his own eyes.

Job is talking about the physical here: My eyes!  My flesh!  I will see God!  And all this will happen when my Redeemer, who lives, stands upon the earth.  You will see God as truly as you see this pulpit in front of you.

#2: Romans 8:22-24

We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.

The redemption of the body is the hope in which you were saved.  The great purpose of God is not to save a part of you (your soul) but the whole of you (body/soul unity).  Christ made you (body and soul), and he will redeem you (body and soul).  He will do it in this order; soul now, body later.  All that God has made is good and all that God has made he will redeem.

#3: Philippians 3:20-21

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

a. The human body is described as ‘lowly’

At its strongest and most developed, the human body is fragile.  Even if you are really fit, and you get hit by a truck, you will be in trouble.  Our bodies are fragile.

C. S. Lewis says, “When you are learning to ride they give you unimpressive horses. Only when you are ready for it are you allowed an animal that will gallop and jump.” [1]

Wait till you see the upgrade.  Even if you’re impressed now.  You ain’t seen nothing yet!

b. Your body will be ‘transformed’ by the Lord Jesus Christ and by his power

The resurrection of the body is a truth that cannot be grasped apart from the work of Christ and the power of Christ.

The credibility of this great truth is that Christ demonstrated his power to raise his people by rising himself!  Every Christian says, “Yes, the Savior has given me a new heart!”  He will also give you a new body.  It will be the completion of his redeeming work in your life.

c. Your resurrection body will be like Christ’s glorious body

That means it will be a physical body.  You will not be a disembodied ghost or spirit in the new creation.  The reason you won’t spend eternity floating on the clouds is that bodies don’t float, right?

Jesus said, “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” (Luke 24:39).  Flesh and bones!  This is a physical body!  Jesus is talking about his own resurrection body.

In terms of appearance, Jesus’ resurrection body was so similar to the form of the body we have now that Mary could mistake him for a gardener.  And to the two disciples on the Emmaus road, he looked like just another traveler.

So, although the resurrection body will be very different, the similarities to the body you have now are more striking than the differences, according to the Gospels: “He said to them,

‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and took it and ate it before them” (Luke 24:41-43).

Later in John’s Gospel, we have Jesus not only cooking breakfast but eating it with the disciples.  We are definitely talking about barbeque in the resurrection folks!  We are talking about walking, running, jumping, and hitting balls out of the park on this renewed planet made perfect, as it shares in the redemption of all the children of God.  Get that into your mind and you might start looking forward to it!

“A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:40).  That’s about as physical as you can get.  So forget the idea of a body that passes through walls.  You can’t play football with a body that passes through walls!  How could you block and tackle?

Wayne Grudem says, “No [Bible] text says that Jesus passed through walls or anything like that.” [2]  Why would anyone think that?  Because the Bible says the disciples were meeting behind locked doors when Jesus came in (John 20:19).  But Peter was also behind locked doors in prison and God miraculously opened them so that Peter could walk out (Acts 12:10).

The idea of heavenly bodies that materialize and dematerialize comes from watching too much Star Trek, not from the Bible.  Jesus speaks about his resurrection body in terms of flesh and bones.  The first thing you need to know about the resurrection body is that it is a body!  When you get that settled in your mind, you will have far greater anticipation of the joys that lie ahead.

#4: 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Behold! I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
The transformation of the body you have now, into the body you will have, will be instantaneous.  All believers will receive this gift at the same time.  What do we know about this new resurrection body?  There’s continuity, but also changes.  Here are four of them.

 

Changes with the Resurrection Body

Imperishable

So is it with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. (1 Cor. 15:42)

Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11), but the body he came back in was the same body, not a resurrection body, which meant that at some point he would have to go through the whole miserable business of dying again!

But Jesus rose in the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:16) and he’s never going to go through death again, and neither will you in the resurrection.  Your resurrection body, like his, will be a body that will never die.  Your resurrection body will never age, and it will never decline.

People say you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, but in the resurrection the wisdom of maturity will be combined with the strength of youth.  All of Christ’s people will flourish to their full potential.

Glorious

It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. (1 Cor. 15:43)

Think about the face of Moses, when he came down the mountain after he had been in the presence of God.  His face was shining.  Why?  Because he had been in the presence of the Lord of Glory.

Think about the transfiguration of Jesus: He goes up the mountain with Peter, James, and John and their faith was strengthened with a preview of the future glory of Jesus!  There was a brightness and a radiance about him.  And there will be a brightness, a radiance, and a glory, not only around you, but in you (in the resurrection body).

Powerful

It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (1 Cor. 15:43)
The [resurrection] body is going to have more energy, more physical capability, more stamina, more athleticism, more speed, more coordination, more durability than it ever had because we’re not going to need the body less, we’re going to need it more and use it more. [3]

Think about what this will mean for all of our friends who have been restricted to wheelchairs, or have physical challenges that have restricted their lives in this world.  What will it mean when finally and fully Jesus’ words will come true in all of their fullness?  The blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will walk.

The Garden of Eden offered scope for the pursuit of art in all its creativity, the pursuit of science in all its forms, and technology as well as theology.  The same will be true of the world to come.

Donald Macleod says it well, “Not only the Creator but the Creation, too will be an object of wonder to the redeemed.  It will challenge their intellects, fire their imaginations, and stimulate their industry.  The scenario is a thrilling one: brilliant minds in powerful bodies in a transformed universe.” [4]

If you work out at the gym and you want to engage someone in conversation, try asking them, “How would you like to have a really strong body, a really powerful body?”  Then you can tell them, “You will have one on the resurrection!”  I guarantee if you ask them this question, though, at first they’ll think you’re trying to sell them some kind of supplements!

Godly

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15:44)

I use the word ‘godly’ here, because the word ‘spiritual’ is often misunderstood.  A ‘spiritual’ body!  What is that?  That doesn’t sound like a body in which you could go bungee jumping, snorkeling, or snowboarding!

The resurrection body is a physical, material ‘flesh and bones’ body.  When Paul speaks about a spiritual body, he is speaking about a body that is fully responsive to the Holy Spirit.  That is a marvelous thought!  In the resurrection body, you will never feel or think or say, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  Your resurrected body will be as eager to do the will of God as your redeemed spirit.

Here’s what you have to look forward to in the new heaven and the new earth: A body that is adapted to life forever and will never decline, a body that is glorious and powerful, a body that is fully responsive to the Holy Spirit.

 

Living in the Light of Your Resurrection Body

Recognize that you are wholly owned by Jesus Christ

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

Christ has the right to determine where you live, what you do.  He bought you with his own blood, and over every area of your life, Jesus Christ says “Mine.”  You are not your own!  Your life is his to spend and the great calling of your life is to glorify him.

Be done with everything that defiles your body or your soul

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
(2 Cor. 7:1)

Since we have these promises, not “since we have these rules.”  He could have appealed to the law, but he is going for a higher motivation.

There is a glorious future for your mind, so use your mind in a way that glorifies God.  Don’t pollute your mind!  Fill your mind with what is pleasing to God.

It’s the same with your body.  Don’t use your body as a vehicle for sin (Rom. 6:13).  Use your eyes, ears, hands, and feet in ways that honor Christ.  Let your tongue speak words of kindness.  Let your hands be a means of helping (not hurting) others.

Offer your whole self to God

I appeal to you… brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom. 12:1)

It is common in church circles to speak about “giving your heart to Jesus.”   We understand what is meant by this, but the obvious question is: Why should it only be your heart?  It’s not enough to say that your heart is in the right place.  God wants more than your heart.

“Present your bodies.”  The body is what gives us the capacity to act.  Spend your strength in ways that honor Christ!  This is the greatest motivation for living a sacrificial life.

One of the implications of the doctrine of the resurrection is that you don’t have to worry half as much about your bucket list!  You can afford to live sacrificially.  You can afford to lay down your life if need be.

The new earth will be better than the earth we have now.  The resurrection body will be better than the body you have now.  And you will have forever to savor the pleasures that God has in store for you.

That is the whole basis on which the Christian can say, “I will spend my life doing everything that you call me to do in this world until I see your face.”  Otherwise, you will live another life, because you didn’t really believe in the resurrection.

Never give in to discouragement!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)

“Therefore…” Because you will soon savor the joys of life in the resurrection body.  Because your struggles with sin in this world will soon be over.  Because the weariness that comes with being sometimes stretched to the limit will soon be a thing of the past.  Because you are pressing toward the resurrection…

Keep giving yourself to everything that God is calling you to do.  Don’t hold back in any way.

Do it with joy, and do it knowing that if even a cup of cold water will not go without its reward, you can be sure that a life of faith laid down in service for Jesus Christ will be a life that cannot be lived in vain.

 

 

[1] Cited in J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ, p. 66, Crossway, 2007.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 610, Zondervan, 1994.

[3] Donald Macleod, A Faith To Live By, p. 277, Christian Focus, 2010.

[4] Monthly record of the Free Church of Scotland, 1990, p. 125.

 

© Colin S. Smith

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