It’s taken me longer than I thought to get back to this series of posts, because of all the happenings around Easter week. I suppose it’s okay to take a break from talking about Easter if instead you are celebrating it!
In the previous post I urged us to make a distinction between “Saturday” and “Sunday”–between, in other words, our curiosity about “what will happen to me when I die” and “what is God’s ultimate intention, not just for me, but for the whole world?” This second question is the question of the resurrection. What happened when Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning, and what does the resurrection mean for us? As I said previously, our hope is ultimately of the resurrection, so it’s worth thinking about this.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, it meant that death had not been able to have the final word on Jesus’ life. Jesus’ resurrection was God’s powerful reversal of the very thing that had ruled life on earth for all of our generations: the knowledge that we will die. Death is the result of sin (Romans 6:23). Death is something that places humans under a certain amount of fear (Hebrews 2:15).
When Jesus was raised from the dead, he was still in a body. Jesus was not a ghost, not a “spirit.” He was embodied. He ate food with the disciples. They could touch him.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, it was the same body that had died that was raised. Granted, this body was transformed. Granted, this body was not always recognized by the people who met Jesus. But this body bore the scars of Jesus’ life and work for us.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, he could come and go at will, in and out of locked rooms. He could even move out of this “worldly” realm into God’s realm, as we see in the ascension.
In all of these things, as N.T. Wright would remind us, we see one central fact: in Jesus’ resurrection, we see “heaven” and “earth” coming together. The split that we often think of between “physical” things and “spiritual” things is only a result of sin. This split is artificial. God will finally get rid of it. God’s world had been held in captivity by sin. Now, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has reclaimed what belongs to him. And now, in Jesus, there is a man who will never die again. He didn’t have to escape his body; his body had to be transformed. He didn’t have to be cut off completely from all that he had done in his life; his work on the cross (signified by the scars) was of ultimate value, and could be carried with Jesus forever.
All of this leads to a few important thoughts about what the resurrection means for us:
1) Death does not have the final word. Those who belong to Jesus are promised life. It’s interesting to note here that the “eternal life” of John 3:16 can also be translated “the life of the age”–the life of the “age to come”–when everything is as God intends it to be.
2) We will have bodies. The future God has planned has to do with the physical world. God created a world that could be touched, used, walked on. He has no intention of scrapping that world. He called it “good” from the very beginning. Instead of scrapping it, God decided to redeem that world. Our bodies are our little part of God’s creation — the little patch that has been entrusted to us.
3) These bodies will not be entirely the same as our current bodies. We are best to think of bodies being “renewed”. God will transform our bodies according to his plans and purposes. We will still somehow be ourselves. But we don’t know in what ways our bodies will be changed. When we read about having “spiritual bodies” in 1 Corinthians 15:44, this doesn’t mean “spiritual” instead of “physical.” It means bodies whose fuel is the Holy Spirit–and which, as a result, will never die–as opposed to bodies whose fuel is the sinful world–as now, in our dying state.
4) This is all part of God’s bigger plan. God’s ultimate plan is not just to redeem individuals, but to rescue his fallen world. Romans 8 speaks not just about our troubles in our current bodies, but about creation itself “groaning” as it waits for its freedom. Though right now there’s a huge difference between “this world” and “heaven” (God’s realm), that difference will ultimately disappear, when God brings everything together. God’s glory will be always evident. God’s people will never feel far away from God. And all of this centres on the work of God’s own Son, Jesus, who himself belongs completely to heaven (as God himself) and completely to earth (as a human being). In him, everything has already come together. One day, it will happen for all who are his.