We’ve considered the necessity of a physical resurrection to the truthfulness and efficacy of the Gospel message. We also dealt with the logical, practical and theological ramifications of a losing a physical resurrection. In the end, we were left with a question on how such a thing would work.
Two caveats: (1) I am not positing an ad hoc explanation of how a physical resurrection works and (2) this piece is being addressed to Christians. As to (1): the resurrection is not an event that occurs by random choice via a process of natural selection: it occurs miraculously. Regarding (2) I am addressing those Christians that seek to rephrase the language of the resurrection to mean something that it historically isn’t. For a polemic on a historic resurrection, please note the titles located at the end of the post.
Throughout Scripture, the goal of the people of God is to enter into the abode of God under His direct purview. In the Old Testament, one can see the theological development whereby God’s involvement in personal lives wasn’t limited to 75 years of life. There was an aspect of purpose and permanence even if there was generally a belief in the end of life being the ultimate end. Even so, the concept of the Kingdom of God, where He rules centrally and eternally, starts to really realign that sort of thinking.
Explicitly, in the New Testament, Christ’s message becomes abundantly clear. There is an eternal Kingdom of God, it’s coming, and it is impossible for mere flesh and bones to inherit it (John 3). People, in their natural state are not eternal. People age and We die. That’s the normal route of things.(1 Cor 15:50)
Some Christians, as an out, have embraced a view whereby the human sheds their skin, embraces the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven and lives There. Yet Paul states that the desire of a Christian is not to remove his flesh and bones (after all, that’s part of what makes us human) but to be “properly clothed” (which would need some unpacking but it correlates with what I’m saying here: 2 Cor 5). The point of the Christian’s eternal existence is not to go There—but to be in a Renewed (not recycled) Here (cf. Romans 8, Revelation 20-22).
Even so, the idea of humans (the way we are now) existing in an Eternal Here sounds horrifying—imagine aging without dying. Worse if you age, die and get up to keep living…
Paul uses three examples (1 Cor 15:35-48) to direct our thinking: (A) horticulture, (B) biology, and (C) celestial bodies.
(A) When a seed is planted it eventual grows as a plant. Plants are no different from a seed in respect to genetic information but that’s not Paul’s point. The seed is exceedingly different in look from the plant; the plant’s existence is connected to the seed; and the two are inseparable in their presentation. In other words, the farmer doesn’t look at a plant in surprise that it doesn’t look like a seed; he doesn’t plant a seed and expect nothing; and he doesn’t plant a sunflower seed and expect cherry blossoms.
This establishes that we don’t know how a resurrection body looks like; we know that God is the one who does something to make it happen; and we also know that the resurrection body is inextricably tied to the information of the bodies we have now. It’s going to happen and be different, the fact of it is connected to our own bodies via God’s power and it won’t be some foreign body that doesn’t belong to us as individuals.
(B) Animals are equipped for their environment. Ocean dwelling fish are physically built differently from Pola. In both cases, neither of these animals, unlike birds, can survive if you throw them out of a plane.
This establishes that however the resurrection body looks like we know that it will be built for the eternal environment. God orchestrated how creatures are biologically equipped so there is no way He would have overlooked the biological equipment necessary for the Eternal State.
(C) Equipment to function in the terrestrial sphere is completely different from that necessary for the celestial sphere. Yes, we know that a hunk of rock on the moon is no different from the hunk of rock on the Earth and we also know a lot about the variable light from stars but all of this doesn’t establish Paul’s point. A Sol’s constant nuclear reactions occur where they occur in space but if that happened here, all life would end in seconds. They are similar to terrestrial bodies but totally different and bordering the unimaginable.
This establishes that the very high difference which could result in the realization of these new physical bodies. It doesn’t mean that we’ll be monsters but it does mean that we don’t really know how that body will look like or how it will function in an eternal environment.
Now we might have some pointers. Christ’s words come to the fore as he mentions that people will be like the angels in one respect: that they won’t marry (Matthew 22:30). We also have the precedent that Christ established in His own resurrection; even if we still don’t really know everything that Christ was able to do in His resurrected body we know something—it was way different.
So in conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that there are enough current examples in our own experience to establish that a physically resurrected body, with the understanding that God is the one doing this, is experientially possible. When we consider our own present state, we realize that a physical resurrection is necessary. Yet, there is also a theological necessity to a physical resurrection and I’ll address that in a later post.
Books for proof of the historical resurrection of the Son of God
- William Lane Craig debate: Jesus’ Resurrection Fact or Fiction
- William Lane Craig: The Son Rises
- Josh McDowell Evidence for the Resurrection
- NT Wright: The Resurrection of the Son of God