Saturday, 23 December 2017

What Resurrection Means

Some pagans in the first century already believed in the continuing existence and consciousness of the soul, somewhere, after death. So if that's all the New Testament meant by 'resurrection' too, they wouldn't have needed to distinguish the Christian hope from something many pagans already thought!

But the New Testament does offer something which paganism didn't believe in, by saying: "If the dead rise not, then we are of all men most miserable". They hoped in something extraordinary, and it informed the way they lived.

Many Jews also believed the souls of Maccabean martyrs would be kept safe in God's hands: yet they believed in a resurrection to come even after that, distinguishing it from it.

So: resurrection doesn't mean just the souls of the dead waking up to consciousness, or being transported to heaven - it means bodily resurrection.

Corruptible flesh - flesh susceptible to sin - can't inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore once God has raised up our mortal bodies, He is going to transform it.

A 'physical' body, is this body quickened by the soul; but a 'spiritual' body, is the body quickened by the spirit. Like a 'helium balloon' and a 'hydrogen balloon' - the terms don't describe different balloon casings - but describe what's powering the balloon. Our body, quickened by the soul, is currently corruptible - but when our body is raised and transformed into a body quickened by the Spirit, it will be incorruptible and thus compatible with the kingdom of God.

If a body is so completely decomposed by that Day - no problem to God. Many cells in our bodies are already replaced periodically: yet when they are replaced with new cells, it is still us. A bit like a flowing waterfall: it maintains the same shape, even though it's different water molecules that keep flowing down the waterfall.

However God puts it together, it will be recognisably you. It will be an accepted continuance of you. But made alive by the Spirit, rather than by the physical/soulish combination, it will also be transformed and fitted for the kingdom of God.

Like Jesus' own resurrection. His physical body was raised - it didn't stay in the grave - it wasn't just that Jesus' soul went to heaven. His body was raised - and yet it obviously also had some transformed characteristics: characteristics which fitted it for heaven. It will be exactly the same for the dead in Christ.

Describing the soul of a dead person as going to heaven doesn't defeat death - it merely describes death. Yet the New Testament teaches that Jesus destroyed death on the cross, for us as well.

Resurrection means an undoing of what happens by death. Physical death.

There is a spiritual resurrection too - but the New Testament distinguishes physical resurrection from that.

Resurrection will occur at the last day. It will be the grand reunion of the living with the dead, with Christ. By its own definition therefore, it will be visible and unmistakeable by all.

Early Christians still looked forward to the resurrection, even after AD70. They had no thought that it had happened in AD70, or that it should have, they never redefined it, and all of that they found entirely consistent with a proper reading of the Olivet discourse and other New Testament passages.  

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