Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 29 March 2018

I Believe; week six

The resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting

When we say we believe in the resurrection of the body, are we thinking of our own body, the body of Jesus resurrected after the crucifixion, or maybe the body of the church?

"The resurrection of the flesh", the literal wording of the Apostles' Creed, means that besides our immortal soul, our "mortal body" will also return to life.

The resurrection of the dead has always been a central Christian belief. "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor 15:12-14).

In Jesus' time, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. At the same time, Jesus castigated the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. "You are wrong. You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God, for God is the ‘God of the living'" (Mk 12:24-27).

Even more important, Jesus joined the resurrection of the dead to his own person. "I am the Resurrection and the life" (Jn 11:25). He promised resurrection to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn 6:53-59). He raised people from the dead as a sign of his future Resurrection (even though his was of another order). He proclaimed the "sign of Jonah," that he would be raised after three days in the tomb (Mt 12:39). The apostles became "witnesses to the Resurrection" because "they ate and drank with Jesus after he rose form the dead" (Acts 10:41).

Faith in the Resurrection of the body has always met opposition. "On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the Resurrection of the body" (St. Augustine).

At death, the human body decays. The soul goes to meet God while awaiting reunion with the body. God will definitely grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls. All will rise: "Those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment" (Jn 5:29).

This gift comes from Christ who "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body" (Phil 3:21). "The dead will be raised imperishable, for this mortal nature must put on immortality" (1 Cor 15:35-37). 

So maybe it will not be the actual physical bodies we live in here on earth, but a perfected body, like Adam’s before sin entered the world, a perfected new body to dwell in the perfected new Jerusalem.

 “With these final clauses of the Apostle's Creed, Christian commitment to life from the moment of conception is under-girded and Christian hope in the face of death, even death by violence, is affirmed.

On the one hand, the Creed implies that life in
this body is of everlasting significance and therefore must be tended, guarded and nurtured. It braces us with the reality that no human being is discardable or neglectable. On the other hand, the Creed comforts us with the hope that life goes on beyond the bounds of this world.

Though we may fail to protect life here, that failure is not eternal. There is more life to come. The forgiveness we seek is grounded in the sacrifice of Christ once for all in the past and also in the future he has established where the consequences of even our worst actions will be resolved.

The resurrection of the body
Our belief in the resurrection of the body is very different from the idea that what makes us essentially human is our immortal souls, which continue after the body is discarded. Our gospel shocked the culture of Greek thought that prevailed during the years in which the New Testament was written. The body was understood to be a prison for the soul. The goal of spirituality was to slip the bonds of corrupt, weak flesh through developing the mind or enacting mystic rituals. So, the gospel seemed foolishness to educated Greeks. What kind of God would actually take up residence in a stinking human body? The resurrection of Jesus in his body seemed contrary to everything they believed about spirituality. Even granting that God had come to the world in a body, why would he ever keep that body after death?

In that culture, bodies were often burned after death. There was no need to honour or preserve what had been only a hindrance to true life. By contrast, Jews and Christians tenderly cared for the bodies of those who had died. This was not done with some naïve idea that only an intact, preserved corpse could be resurrected. Rather, it was a matter of honouring the body because we have our lives in an embodied existence. Though these bodies will be healed, vivified and transformed into something more splendid than we can imagine, they will yet be our bodies. We will not be airy spirits floating on clouds with harps. We will be more real, more substantial, than we have ever known.

In a passage that has been crucial to the theology of the resurrection of the body, Paul declared: "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Saviour, 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" (Phil. 3:20-21). We are going to be like Jesus. Jesus was raised and ascended in the same body in which he was crucified. Yes, he has been glorified and outfitted for heaven. But he has not forsaken his body. Because we are going to be like Jesus, we know that our bodies will likewise be transformed and decked out for life in glory.

With his usual clarity, C. S. Lewis writes:

"He goes "to prepare a place for us." This presumably means that He is about to create that whole new Nature which will provide the environment or conditions for His glorified humanity and, in Him, for ours.… It is the picture of a new human nature, and a new Nature in general, being brought into existence. We must, indeed, believe the risen body to be extremely different from the mortal body: but the existence, in that new state, of anything that could in any sense be described as "body" at all involves some sort of spatial relations and in the long run a whole new universe. That is the picture – not of unmaking but of remaking. The old field of space, time, matter, and the senses is to be weeded, dug and sown for a new crop. We may be tired of that old field: God is not”

Gerrit Scott Dawson ,

·        If our bodies are cremated they are totally destroyed, does that mean our bodies cannot be resurrected?

·        Should this effect our attitude to organ donation.?

·        Will I still be deaf in heaven?

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