To Be Free of the Flesh, part 4- Applying the Final Resurrection Practically Today

April 23, 2009

Over the course of the last three posts we have been developing a perspective on the final resurrection, particularly as it focuses on the resurrection of believers.  We have argued that Scripture makes the case for a resurrection of the dead, and exchange of the living, from mortal physical bodies into immortal physical “resurrection bodies,” which for the believer will reign forever glorified and without sin in the holy presence of God.  We showed that God has at least two clear purposes in this; first, that the body and spirit be not separate but together as was original created; and second, that our physical bodies may dwell forever in a physical city which descends from the new heaven as the total fulfillment of the Promised Land from the time of Abraham forward.  

All of this is great to look at and reveals so much of God’s wonderful plan of salvation to us, that since his first calling of Abraham (and even before) God has had a plan to return us to an actual place of tabernacle with him on the Earth.  However, as much as God’s glory can be proclaimed through it, there seems to be something missing if we are unable to make a practical application of it in our daily lives.  My biggest issues with the eschatalogical madness of many contemporary evangelicals is that it is such a fruitless venture, producing books and charts and making little underinformed housewives paranoid about every news report mentioning Israel, but at the end of the day contributing nothing of value to the body of Christ.  As Thom Schreiner says in his commentary on 1 Peter, “Nowhere does the New Testament encourage the setting of dates or of any other kinds of charts. Eschatology is invariably used to encourage believers to live in a godly way” (p.210-211).  This is the sentiment that I see Paul expressing as well when he addresses the Thessalonian church about their fear over those who died before the parousia (1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11), straightening out their theology and yet leaving them with the practical instruction to “encourage on another with these words” and to not worry about the actually timetable since “concerning the times and the seasons . . . [they] have no need to have anything written to [them]” (4.18-5.1).  Very little of what is taught concerning eschataology seems encouraging to me.  Instead it comes off more as dire warnings about nothing and egocentric pinings that we must be living near the day of his coming since things are soooo bad in our world today.  Therefore, if what I have said about the final resurrection has no capacity to encourage than we should leave off from it right now and move onto thoughts of more edifying ideas.

But alas, there does exist a practical application of the final resurrection to us in our daily lives.  And no, this is not the usual cop-out reason either, that one day we will have “perfect” bodies that will not contain the diabilities and aches and age of our current frame.  (I am told that I discount this layer of it because I am young, and I do understand the legitimacy of this idea, I just doubt its biblical importance.)  No, more than receiving a body that is physically perfect and free of flaw, what we will receive is a body that is morally perfect and free of flaw.  What do I mean?  I mean exactly what Paul tells us in Romans 7.21-24,

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

“Who will deliever me from this body of death?”  Who will keep me from following the temptations of my flesh over and above the desires of the new heart Christ has created in me?  Anyone who has continued to struggle with specific sins after becoming a believer in Christ can understand what’s being said here.  Our heart of flesh wants to follow the laws which God has written upon it (cf. Ezekiel 11.19-20) but the sinfulness of our physical bodies, containing the root of sin that they inherited as an heir of Adam (Romans 5.12ff), leads us away from God’s laws and back into the course of the world in which we once walked unaware (Ephesians 2.1-3).  This is the frustration of indwelling sin.  I see it frequently in myself and in the people I serve with and disciple and counsel throughout the church.  

Who will deliver me from this body of death?  That is God’s promise in the final resurrection for believers.  Not only will our glorified resurrection bodies be perfect from a physiological and anatomical sense, but they will be perfect in a righteousness sense.  There will be no more sin enslaving our members, drawing us away from God’s loving call of obedience.  As it says in Revelation 21, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away . . .  nothing unclean will ever enter [the New Jerusalem], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (vv.4, 27).  These things are all the result of sin and thus display the passing away of sin from the body.  All things will be restored, especially the sinlessness of all creation that God endowed it with in the beginning.  

This is hope.  This is practical.  I know and you know that those days of frustration at not being able to fully kill off that sin pattern that has haunted our lives from before regeneration til today will one day be gone.  We will no longer struggle with keeping pure thoughts or speaking honoring words or practicing righteous living, for the temptation of the flesh will be alleviated and we will be dressed in flesh that is not warring against us.  That is a reason to praise the God who has promised us of a final resurrection into glory.  That is the promise that we will one day be free from the flesh!