In yesterday’s post we made the statement that all believers should be looking forward to a final glorification where the dead will be raised to life and all mortal flesh, either of the dead or of the living, will be exchanged for immortal flesh. Today we will discuss one or two reasons why believers will be given “resurrection bodies,” but first I want to make a small note.
Throughout yesterday’s remarks I mentioned the granting of “resurrection bodies” as something for the believer, and in the context of hope we will continue to speak about this in terms of the believer. However, we want to make sure to acknowledge that the resurrection of the mortal and exchange into immortal is not just a promise solely for believers but it is something that will come about for unbelievers as well. In their case it is not for eternal glorification, but instead for eternal condemnation. We see this attested to in various New Testament passages:
[Jesus says,] Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear [the voice of the Son of God] and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5.28-29)
But this I [Paul] confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. (Acts 24.14-15)
Thus, we see the truth of a final resurrection is not just for believers, it is a promise to all of mankind. In the end there is not simply death, but there is a second life, an eternal one, in which judgment comes and people are either glorified forever in the presence of God or sentenced to a never-ending punishment away from him. Either way, the grave is no persons the final stop.
So, back to the resurrection experience for believers. We are curious to understand just why it is that our story ends not as disembodied spirits floating about in the ether, but instead God makes for us a new skin suit, one that will never die away? Just what is the purpose? All our flesh has ever known is sickness and pain and death of all sorts, why would we ever want to take that on again?
The first answer I see is because God wants us to be in the flesh. Think back. God created us as we see ourselves now. We were not already formed beings that God chose to claim for himself. We were nothing and God made us. But he didn’t just make us spirit (soul, mind, whatever you wish to think of it as), he made us both spirit AND body. For whatever reason that was important to God. It was part of his plan to give us physical bodies and to place us upon a physical earth.
Yet, even more than him making for us bodies, he made for us perfect bodies! Adam and Eve existed in perfect bodies, free of pain and suffering, and, most importantly, free of death. If they would have made it through the probationary period, the Tree of Life awaited them and they would have lived forever (cf. Genesis 3.22). However, at the moment sin came into the world through their disobedience, death in its various incantations came along as well (cf. Genesis 2.17, 3.16-19), and from this point on all bodies have been subject to dying and the corruption of the flesh (cf. Romans 5.12-20). Then at death, body and spirit part (cf. 2 Corinthians 5.6-8), and we no longer are connected with the flesh the way God had meant us to be.
Therefore, God resurrects us into immortal bodies because that is what he wanted all along. Adam and Eve were created to live forever, but through their sin they, and subsequently all people, lost this privilege. But God, in his great power, returns us to life, returns our spirit to the flesh, that we may exist in the form he had intended us to. It was never his plan to have people existing as disembodied spirits. God created body and spirit in one and said that it was very good.
Tomorrow we will examine a second purpose for the final resurrection of believers that we find in reading through Romans 8, 1 Thessalonians 4, Hebrews 11, and Revelation 21.