To Be Free of the Flesh, part 3- The Second Purpose of the Final Resurrection

April 22, 2009

Last time we stated that a first purpose in God’s plan of a final resurrection for all people is that he had always intended for the spirit and body to be married, and thus it is to this that he returns his creation in the end.  Today we will examine a second reason for the final resurrection of all people, believers in particular, to immortal, physical bodies.  To do this, let’s begin in Genesis 28.

Genesis 28.1-5 gives us an account of Isaac’s sending of Jacob to find a wife in Paddan-Aram at the house of his mother’s father, among the daughters of his uncle Laban.  Seeing him off, Isaac commissions Jacob with the blessings that have been passed down through the generations since Abraham, saying specifically, “May [God] give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” (v.4).  With this Jacob pictures the life for believers who are also labelled as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 1.1, 2.11), a people whose citizenship is said to be in heaven, though they still live upon the earth (Philippians 3.20).

Continuing in Genesis 28.10-22 we find Jacob, freshly departed off to Paddan-Aram to find himself a wife, stop in the night to rest.  While sleeping he experiences the dream most of us know as the dream of Jacob’s ladder.  Among the things God says to Jacob in this encounter is, “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring” (v.13), which is serves in reiterating the promise which Issac had just passed along to him.  The curious thing  is, that in looking back now, we see biblical testimony that this inheriting of the land never actually happened (cf. Hebrews 11.13, “These [the patriarchs, including Jacob] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth“).  Moreover, this inheritance was not accomplished later by any if the succeeding generations of Israel, not Joshua (cf. Joshua 13.1), not David (cf. Hebrews 4.5-8), no one (cf. Hebrews 11.39).  Thus, we are left asking the question, “Did God lie?”  The answer to this is “No” and comes to us from Hebrews 11.16 and 13.14:

But as it is, [the patriarchs] desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11.16)

For here we [believers] have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13.14)

So, the promise is of a heavenly city yet to come.  But what does this even mean?  Is it further described in Scripture to us?  Gloriously yes!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21.1-3)

In Revelation 21, following the return of the conquering Christ in chapter 19 and the Great White Throne judgment in chapter 20, we see the picture of the final resting place for believers, and it is delivered to us as a holy city that comes from heaven down to a new earth (one that has been “set free from its bondage to corruption,” cf. Romans 8.19-22).  This is not a spiritual place in the sense of disembodied spirits inhabiting it; this is an earthly place within the physical creation made to be inhabited by physical bodies.  And just what physical bodies will inhabit it?  Why, immortal, sinless, glorified bodies of course!

Therefore, we see that a second, and  greatest reason for the final resurrection is because God’s ultimate plan of eschatalogical salvation for those called according to his name is a heavenly city on a regenerated planet where he may dwell freely with his people having no need for sacrifices or veils or priests.

Tomorrow we will spend one last day in this thought, working out what our response to the hope of a final resurrection should be in our everyday lives as believers.