Where is the Resurrection of the Body?
Death comes to us all, and grappling with its presence and looming reality is something most of us have wrestled with. Atheists shrug off death as something that is natural and final. Buddhists believe that death is part of a refining cycle where we progressively live, die, live and die until we reach Nirvana. Christians and Muslims believe that those faithful to God (or Allah) will be raised from the dead. Whatever it is that people believe, death is a phenomenon that disheartens us and compels us to develop a system to confront it.
Where is the resurrection of the body? I don't see it proclaimed in churches very often. Did we forget about its importance? As a Christian, I am discouraged by the ignorance of the resurrection in the Christian community. This is the most important tenet of our faith, and it is also the most crucial conviction that empowers us to combat sinful tendencies.
The Resurrection of the Body is Central to the Christian Faith
The resurrection of the body is perhaps the most peculiar and embarrassing beliefs of the Christian tradition, and yet this is precisely the point of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul tells the church of Corinth that the validity of the Christian faith rests on the bodily resurrection of Jesus:
"If Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Cor. 15:12-19)
Due to Christ’s resurrection, the people of God have the same hope:
"Christ has been raised from the dead, [he is] the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ." (1 Cor. 15:20-23)
If this is such a vital part of our faith, why do so few Christian authorities proclaim it? Why do so few Christians talk about it? When Easter comes around, why do we only focus on Jesus’ victory over death rather than the reality of the bodily resurrection?
To be honest, it is embarrassing, and to believe that a decomposing corpse will one day be rejuvenated and somehow weasel out of the grave is easily mockable. It simply does not happen to dead bodies. It is not scientific and there is no way to experimentally test it. Further, funerals only cast doubt on such a belief. Still, Christians are called to adhere to such a belief.
It is vital to our faith in the sense that Christians are called the body of Jesus Christ, in which he is the “head” of “his body” (1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 4:15-16; Col. 1:18; 2:19) in the sense that everyone who believes that he is the son of God is considered to be a “part” of him (cf., Acts 30:31). The natural result of being a part of Christ is to partake in the benefits which he provides (Rom. 6:3-11; 1 Cor. 15:20-23), which is fully manifested in the resurrection of the body.
Understanding the Resurrection of the Body Inhibits Sin
Without the hope of the resurrection, the abstinence from earthly pleasures would be pointless. Indeed, the abstinence from sinful, corruptive pleasures is perhaps the most pragmatic tenet of the Christian faith, and the ignorance of the resurrection is perhaps the most severe hindrance to Christians abstaining from sins.
To live as a part of Christ, Christians are called to focus on what it means to be a part of his body (Col. 3:1-3) and live like it (Eph. 4:1-3, 17-23; Col. 3:5-17) because we essentially are living a "new life" (Rom. 6:4; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). If we neglect the resurrection, the new life in Jesus is null and being his body is pointless since our new life was established with Jesus' resurrection.
Despite still living in this world, Christians have the opportunity to experience part of Heaven. The new life we are able to live now in Christ is a taste for what is to come in Heaven. Understanding the implications of Heaven and its satisfying pleasures is the undergirding motivation behind withholding ourselves from the corruptive activities of humanity. If Christians would truly cling to the hope of the resurrection and what it implies, then the sinful pleasures that corrupt humanity would be cast aside as transient and pitiful compared to what awaits in Heaven. Life in Heaven is a renewed life. It is a new Eden that allows us to live the life we've only dreamed of. It is called a "New Heaven and New Earth" for a reason (Rev. 21:1-7). Everything we want from this life will be there in its proper form.
As Paul said, Christians are a people to be most pitied if all we live for is this world (1 Cor. 15:19). If we abstain from sinning simply because it is the “right thing to do,” we miss the point. Being resurrected to live a flawless, all-satisfying life in Heaven with God is the answer to all our desires, and realizing that is to hold the key to diminishing sin in our lives.
© 2014 Alex Aili