What comfort doth the “resurrection of the body” afford thee?
That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken
up to Christ its head; but also, that this my body, being raised
by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and
made like unto the glorious body of Christ.
–Heid. Catechism, Question 57
“That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its head.” The soul! My soul! Immediately! To Christ! How wonderful and comforting! That, in Scripture, is the first resurrection.
When I think of death, that fearful, inexorable death; of that dark, forbidding grave in that forsaken cemetery; of that endless eternity, wherein a thousand millenniums is less than a drop in the ocean…
Then, when I think of that salvation, which will be my inheritance the moment I breathe my last; a salvation for which I will not have to wait one second; wherein I will be delivered from all that belongs to this world; wherein all will be holy and beautiful and wherein I will enjoy unending communion with God, with Christ, with all the angels and saints in that blessed home God is even now preparing for that purpose…
Ah, how full is the cup of my contentment and joy! How comforting and wonderful is the hope of the saints! How plain it is that death has lost its sting, the grave its victory, and that we are indeed more than conquerors through Him that loved us! “Thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory….”
Yet, that salvation of the soul at death, that first resurrection, is only the beginning. For many reasons it is still so incomplete. First, the entire man will not be there until the day of the Lord Jesus, and as long as the body lies rotting in the grave redemption cannot be said to be complete. Then, all the saints will not be there until Christ comes again in glory, and as long as a part of the church is still struggling and suffering and dying and sinning in this evil world it cannot be said that even the part in heaven now has attained to the fullness of salvation. Furthermore, that public exoneration and rectification of all things to which the church looks forward has not yet taken place. Finally, the new heavens and earth are not yet, and without them, surely, the glorification of the church, however blessed, is not complete.
For all these reasons the church of Christ looks over and beyond that initial fulfilment of its hope at death to the glorious restoration of all things in the day of Christ and the resurrection of all the dead. That is the hope of the church still on earth. And that is the hope of the church now in heaven. They too are looking for something more. They must, it cannot be otherwise, until the eternal day dawns, when also their graves will yield to the glory of Immanuel and their bodies will arise unto everlasting life with God.
How certain it is from God’s infallible Word that these things will certainly come to pass. It could not be more so. Soon history will have run its course, the counsel of God will have been realized in and through all things, the last elect will have been brought into the fold and the world will have added the last drop to the measure of its iniquity, and all will be ready according to divine wisdom for this greatest of all days. Then Jesus will come again. Then the trumpet will blow and the voice of the archangel will be heard. Then all the dead will be raised by the wondrous might of Him, Who is the Resurrection and the Life; those still living in that day will be changed in the twinkling of an eye; the judgment will be held and the sentence pronounced that will determine our lot forever. And then the wicked will be cast into everlasting torment, body and soul, while the righteous will inherit the heavenly mansions prepared for them, where they will shine forever as suns in the heavenly Father’s realm.
“This my body,” says our instructor. Hence, the very same body, which we now have and which will presently be laid to rest in the grave, will be raised again by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That is true of the wicked also, of course. The very body that lived and died on earth will issue forth from the grave in that day of Christ’s glory. How could it be different? In that body they sinned, rebelled against God and hated Him. With these eyes and ears and mouth and hands and feet they loved and served the world and darkness. This body, not another, belongs to their personal existence. This body, with its own soul, will have to bear the consequences. Also in this respect the justice of God requires that the guilty party shall pay.
And so it will be with the righteous. The same bodies will rise again. Don’t ask me how. I’m not God. It will require a stupendous miracle, that’s certain, but no greater than that of creation, or the conception and birth of a child, or the growth of a tulip. With God all things are possible. For the believer it should not be too difficult to leave this matter also to God, and to submit his tiny intellect to the greatness and wisdom of his Maker. Quit wondering about the possibility of such a resurrection! God is God! That’s enough, isn’t it?
Scripture could not be clearer on this point. In all the raisings from the dead, both in the Old and the New Testament, the same bodies are restored to life. On Easter Morn the same body of the Lord, that was nailed to the cross, arose from the tomb. The linen clothes were left behind; the nail and spear wounds were still there. “The hour is coming,” says Jesus, “in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth.” In the Book of Revelation we see the sea and death and hades give up the dead which are in them. How plainly Paul teaches, that the resurrection body will come forth from the body that died, as the plant grows from the seed that is sown. “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” Romans 8:11. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” Philipp. 3:20, 21. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It 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” I Corinthians 15:42, 43. The same subject; the same “it.”
The catechism states it so simply, yet beautifully: “that this my body, being raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul.”
Most certainly! Otherwise the body would have little or no significance, other than that of serving as a mere abode for the soul. It would not be an essential part of you. No, the body belongs to the human nature. My body belongs to my soul, and my soul to my body; they are adapted to each other; they belong together; and only when they are together I am I and not another.
Besides, if this same body were not to rise again God would have to create another, and that would not be according to the scheme of redemption. The latter is not a new creation, but a re-creation. Redemption is precisely that: redemption, salvation, renewal.
Finally, if this same body were not to rise again, Jesus would not be a complete Savior. Some people talk only about the soul. Christ came into the world to save our poor, lost souls. No, Jesus came to save man, the whole sinner. He came to save our poor, lost bodies, too. “What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ” Catechism, question 1. Christ redeems the whole of His possession. Nothing of God’s creation is lost, least of all that marvelous masterpiece: the human body.
Therefore, the righteous bury their dead as they do. The Christian does not cremate. Not because this would limit God or make the resurrection impossible. From this viewpoint it makes no difference what happens to the body. Many people are cremated as it is, when they perish in fires, explosions, etc. However, cremation does not harmonize with the Biblical idea of resurrection, and of burial as a sowing of the seed. Nor is the Christian particularly concerned about preserving the corpse indefinitely. As long as it is above the ground it must be kept, of course. Thereafter, however, it matters little how long the mortal remains are kept intact. The Christian buries. He lays the body to rest in the bosom of the earth—in the hope of the resurrection. He plants the seed, whence soon, in wondrous glory, the resurrection body will be raised—raised out of the very grave wherein it was laid.
The very same body—but different in form. “That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body” I Cor. 15:37, 38.
There is nothing impossible or unlikely about that, is there? Even nature gives numerous examples of how the same essence can change in form. Water and ice and steam are all the same, essentially, yet they differ greatly in form. Slow down the molecules and you get ice; speed them up and you get steam. When the ugly caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly, or the grain of sand becomes a precious pearl in the shell of an oyster, the transformation is great, but there is no essential change. Why then should it be considered impossible for God to effect a transformation from the earthy to the heavenly, from the natural to the spiritual, without changing the essence?
You ask: What will be the difference? With what body will we arise in that day of the Lord Jesus? I don’t know. Who does? Of this wonder, too, we cannot form a conception until it shall have taken place.
This I know: “Our bodies shall be made like unto the glorious body of Christ.” What more could we possibly desire? Jesus “shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” Phil. 3:21. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him: for we shall see Him as He is” I John 3:2. Space forbids further elaboration on this blessed truth. The rest we will leave to your Christian, sanctified contemplation.
Then our glorified bodies will be reunited with their own souls, and we shall again be complete.
Then we shall enter, body and soul, into the fullness of “everlasting life,” into that perfect salvation, “which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.” The human eye has seen beautiful things. The human ear has heard wonderful sounds. The human heart has conceived lofty things. Ah, but never anything like this!
And the great purpose of it all? “To praise God therein forever.” To praise Him for everything in this life and the life to come. To sing forever the song of everlasting adoration, that of Moses and the Lamb:
“Great and marvelous are Thy works,
Lord God Almighty.”