Just when we New Englanders thought that we would not outlive winter’s grip, signs of spring begin to appear. It’s subtle. You have to watch for it. The bare willow trees turn sunny and golden. Crocuses and tiger lilies poke up through the dark earth, rising up out of their beds. Magically, tiny buds appear on tree branches, intricate structures that will turn into leaves. We breathe a sigh of relief as the sun warms and the winds soften. Spring is winning over winter, once again. Life triumphs over death.
“I believe in the resurrection of the body …” Really?
All over the world, Christians gather regularly to speak these words.
Has anyone else noticed the increasing cultural trend to disparage the physical in deference to the spiritual? Oh, I know we fuss over our bodies. I do it all the time. What will I eat today? How will I control those rising numbers on the scale? How will I work enough exercise into my busy schedule? What does that latest twinge of pain signify? What about the latest beauty product that promises to restore my skin to its youthful luster?
Yet when it comes to moral issues, does it really matter what I do with my body? After all, isn’t it my “spiritual” side that matters? Does my body have any enduring value? Most of us have stared death in the face and seen the light leave the eyes of someone we love. What is left? Certainly not the “real” person. Only an empty shell. Do our bodily deeds really matter that much?
So with Easter already past and now in the middle of Eastertide and spring, we wonder. Resurrection is a great mystery. I am drawn back into Scriptures that tantalize and intrigue me.
A Journey to Resurrection in Scripture
I wander back into the book of Job, said to be one of the oldest books in the Bible, and I’m captivated by his words.
“If I hope for Sheol as my house,
if I make my bed in darkness,
if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?
Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?
Shall we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:13-16)
If that’s all there is, as the song claims, why bother? No transcendence to seek. But wait, as the TV commercial commands, there’s more! Job is not done yet.
“If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my service I would wait,
till my renewal should come.
You would call, and I would answer you;
you would long for the work of your hands.” (Job 14:14-15)
Job’s question, the only question that ultimately matters, comes coursing down to us through the ages. Yes, we will live again. God longs for us.
And that’s not all. It gets better.
“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.
My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:23-27)
My flesh, my eyes, my physical being. I will see God for myself, in my body! How can this be? Yet Scripture proclaims it, from beginning to end. I drift forward to Isaiah the prophet, some years later.
“And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:7-8)
Death swallowed up forever? This is good news indeed.
“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19)
What a day that will be! But on to the apostle Paul I go. He is about to reveal a mystery to us.
“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. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)
Paul reminds us again that our bodies have an eternal destiny.
“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.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
We must remember that the body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
The Importance of the Physical Body
We cannot dismiss our physical life as insignificant. We are called to live in this reality. No other truth claim can match this solemn and glorious obligation. It’s a high calling indeed. Through our bodies, through our words and actions, we demonstrate to a dying world that Jesus is risen.
All of God’s physical creation is valued by God. God made it all, including our physical bodies, and it matters to God what we do with and in them. They will be raised, and changed, when Jesus returns for us. Forever fit for eternity. I am called daily to remember my current identity and my destiny as a child of God and to live in that hope. We believers are called to rejoice in this:
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 ESV)
It is with this backing of Scripture that I can say boldly, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
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