THE RESURRECTION BODY
In the long, long ago—probably at least two thousand years before the birth of Christ—the grand old patriarch Job asked the question, “If a man dies, shall he live again” (Job 14:14a)? Given the suffering he was going through at the time as a test of his faith in God, it is not easy to determine the attitude with which Job asked this question. A look at the larger context indicates that it may have been asked in a moment of cynicism. Earlier Job had said, “Man decays like a rotten thing, Like a garment that is moth-eaten” (13:28). He went on to say, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue” (14:1-2). He lamented, “But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he” (14:10)?
But regardless of the frame of mind Job may have been in when he asked his question, Jesus provides the unequivocal answer to the question. He declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? These words were spoken especially to encourage the followers of Christ to have confidence with reference to the future of their deceased loved ones, but earlier Jesus had spoken of the resurrection of all the dead the good and the bad. He said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
Mankind has an innate curiosity as to the kind of body one will have in the eternal state. In response to this curiosity, the apostle John wrote: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2, emphasis mine). The question of what we will be the eternal state has not been revealed, and it is not for the theologians, the protestant reformers, the restorers of the ancient order of things, or those among us today with fanciful and speculative theories to advance to provide us with answers which God Himself has not provided! It is more than sufficient for us to know that “we shall be like Him.”
Paul chided those who asked, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come” (I Corinthians 15:35)? In the King James Version Paul responded to the one asking this question with a blunt “Thou fool” (verse 36)! In a Bible class under the late and great H. A. Dixon over half century ago at Freed-Hardeman College, a student was concerned about this very question. Brother Dixon asked the student, “Are you asking what kind of body we will have in the resurrection?” The student said, “Yes, that’s what I want to know.” In good-natured jest, brother Dixon replied, “Thou fool”!
First Corinthians 15 is the “resurrection chapter” and provides much insight into the resurrection body. Comparing the burying of the fleshly body to the sowing of a seed, Paul affirms that “you do not sow that body that shall be” (verse 37, emphasis mine). In other words, the resurrection body will be a different kind of body than the one in which we now live. Paul continues:
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (showing that there is a distinction between the two, hf) (verses 42-44).
The “natural body” is the fleshly body that we inhabit in this life; the “spiritual body” is the one we will have in eternity. “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual” (again showing a difference between the two) (verse 46). “And as we have borne the image of the man of dust (Adam, hf), we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man (Christ, hf)” (verse 49).
Jesus gave some insight into the nature of the eternal state when He said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). In the resurrection we will be like the angels. The writer of Hebrews, quoting the Psalms, says, “And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire” (1:7). A bit later, still referring to the angels, he says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (1:14)? The point to be noted is that angels are ministering spirits! But elsewhere Christ emphatically declared, “. . . for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have (Luke 24:39, emphasis mine). Now think: In the resurrection we will be like the angels. Angels are spirits. A spirit does not have flesh and bones. Therefore, in the resurrection we will not have “flesh and bones” bodies!
In the eternal state, God will be “all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28), and “the tabernacle of God [will be] with men, and He shall dwell with them” (Revelation 21:3). Yet, God is Spirit (John 4:24), a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), and there is not the slightest indication anywhere in scripture that God, in the hereafter, will assume a “flesh and bones” body! If the One who is “all in all” and who will dwell with His people can exist in the hereafter without a “flesh and bones” body, so can those among whom He will dwell!
Yet with all of this we still do not know the particulars of the kind of body we will have in the eternal state because “it has not yet been revealed what we shall be” (I John 3:2). Clearly, we will have bodies and we will be recognizable, otherwise it would not be a resurrection. But, in the hereafter, our bodies will not be “flesh and bones” bodies!
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly (earthly, hf) body that it may be conformed to His glorious (heavenly, hf) body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
September 20, 2016
September 28: Centerville Church of Christ, Centerville, TN