The Resurrection Of The Body From The Dead
1. A poet in The Old Testament expressed life for a human being as follows. "When morning comes, it lets the flowers bloom, but soon, they are hollow, at evening they wither and dry," (Psalm 90:6). Certainly we are born and live a limited number of days, then we're off to die. Some people live long, some live not so long, but either way we will surely die. The psalmist also said, "The length of one's days is about seventy years. A robust person may count up eighty years, but what they get is toil and trouble. Time passes in an instant and we fly away," (Psalm 90:10). In the journey of a person's life, he or she may ask himself or herself a certain question numerous times, which is, "Does my life mean anything after it's all over?"
2. When a person is saving up something with so much energy, that question might be the last thing on his or her mind to think about. But, the one who did the saving will fall. And their savings will fall too. Each generation in a sense is a repetition of that. Not long but within view to it, when the inevitable fact of "death" comes flying in our way like it or not, a complete destruction will take place within our flesh. We'll fall with a thump of some kind. In regard to that time, everyone will have to ask themselves this question before too long. Will my life have any meaning to it when it's all over?
3. Yet we, as ones also who cannot avoid asking that question, have a word from our faith that God has given to us. It is the words from when we recite The Apostles' Creed of "I believe in the resurrection of the body from the dead" which we say though often confused about it. Today we want to contemplate these words that we say each week.
We Believe In The Resurrection Of The Body From The Dead
4. But, I mentioned already, "though often confused about it." Isn't that true? When it comes to the words, "I believe in the immortality of the soul," how easily we say that! At funerals there are people who offer their condolences towards the deceased. Though people may not say it verbally yet in their hearts they will say, "I believe in the immortality of the soul." There are quite few who do that.
5. In regard to that point, even in the Greco-Roman world in which the early church was placed, the situation was not much different. For most people it was the plainest of truths that the soul was the true being of the person, it was good, and never died but was immortal. But, even among people like that the church still though has expressed the faith with the words "I believe in the resurrection of the body from the dead," and not "I believe in the immortality of the soul." The church still to this day has arrived saying it like that though people might feel resistant to it and feel some confusion about it. Why is that? Because there is a big decisive difference in what they both mean. Without the words "resurrection of the body from the dead," the main elements of our faith could not be expressed.
6. Whenever we say "I believe in the resurrection of the body from the dead," what do we mean by "the body?" It is but the same "body", the very same [bodies] in which each one of us has been living his or her unique individual lives. It is that "body" in which we live our lifetime, [that "body"] in which we ask the question, "Does my life have any meaning?" That very same body rises from the dead. Put more accurately, it will be raised from the dead by God. What does that mean? It means that God will put his complete approval on that life which has lived with that body. It means that God acknowledges the value in that life and that God will reward that life.
7. It is certainly impossible to explain the resurrection of the body. We can't state accurately the condition of the resurrected body for sure. In response to "How will the dead be resurrected?," Paul said a lot and explained a lot, but I'll tell you straight out, what's there (beginning with First Corinthians 15:35), I don't understand it so well. But, even still I will make the following statement: Since God will raise the body from the dead, then it is utterly impossible for the body to be a meaningless thing to God. Therefore, it means that it is also impossible for the lives that we have lived with our bodies to be meaningless before God.
The Resurrection Of The Body Of Christ From The Dead
8. So now, where did the church get this belief that "I believe in the resurrection of the body from the dead." It goes without saying that it got it from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because the risen Christ appeared to his disciples. Without the resurrection of Christ, it would have been impossible for the disciples' faith in the resurrection, and of course our own hopes in the resurrection wouldn't be around either. Today's passage of scripture tells us about the circumstances around it.
9. We ought to take notice of the words of Jesus in verse thirty-eight. "Why are you bewildered? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. It's really me. Touch me and see for yourself. A ghost doesn't have flesh or bones, but as you can see, I have them," (verses thirty-eight and thirty-nine).
10. The point of emphasis is clearly that the resurrection of Christ was "a resurrection of the body from the dead." It was not that though Jesus died, his soul continues to live. The Lord said, "A ghost doesn't have flesh or bones, but as you can see, I have them." Though those words sound so strange, they are put in the scriptures in order to tell forth the resurrection of the body of Christ from the dead.
11. The main thing there is the words just before them that "It's really me." "It's really me," that is, the one who rose from the dead and was appearing to them was Jesus, the same Jesus they knew during his life. Going a step further, to prove this fact to them, the Lord says, "look at my hands and my feet."
12. We don't usually put things like that [when we meet someone]. To prove who we are, we'll say "Look at my face." We say look at our face because everyone has hands and feet and they pretty much look all the same. But, Jesus told them to "Look at my hands and my feet." Because Jesus' hands and feet are different from other peoples. He has nail scars on them. They are a sign that he died on the cross. To sum it up, the resurrection of the body of Christ from the dead is a resurrection of "a body that died on the cross." It is the resurrection of a body which had lived a life that had ended upon a cross.
13. Please give it some thought. If the end of his whole life was the cross and that was it, then for that reason we could not help but ask the question, "Was there really any meaning in the life of this man?" He did live his life loving people. He loved people to the fullest that could be. But, when it was over, his love was defeated. It was defeated by the power of this world. He lost to the power of sin. In the end, nothing changed. His death on the cross was but nothing but a death in defeat. Through his death [so full] of defeat, everything went back to the dust. If that was all, what sense can we find in the life he had I wonder ...
14. But, his death on the cross was not the end. God was gracious to raise Jesus, to raise his body, which had died by means of the cross, up from the dead. In a sense, by [God's] raising that body of his, he raised a life in which the body used to be alive, he brought back from the dead a life that we expected would go back to the dust [to stay]. God put his complete approval upon the life of this [man]. God himself rewarded this life as a truly meaningful one. The resurrection of the body of Christ is the very basis of the belief that we have in the resurrection of the body from the dead; it is the cornerstone of our faith.
The Seal Of Jesus Applied By Design
15. But, one more thing still needs to be said here, which is that the resurrection of Christ does not simply lead to our resurrection. Why is that? Because we are different from Christ. The decisive difference is that Christ did not have any sin, but we sinners do. The fact is that Christ lived unto God with perfect obedience, but we have lived in frequent rebellion against God both in our minds and in our deeds. Though we know why God would raise Christ from the dead, we don't know why he would raise us sinners.
16. Earlier I said that God rewards our lives. But, the meaning of "God's rewarding our lives" is not simple at all. Were God to justly "reward us" for our lives as the sinners that we are, how would things turn out for us then? Wouldn't that instead just mean judgment and destruction for us? So, the resurrection of Christ is not simply an automatic lead-in to a hope for our own resurrection.
17. But, we need to recount once again here that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the resurrection of his body that was crucified and died on the cross. Christ rose from the dead and said, "Look at my hands and my feet. It's really me." Showing them the nail scars of the cross, he said, "It's really me." His death on the cross wasn't just to point to a different kind of death in society. His death on the cross was a death in order to redeem our sin and but the death of the suffering messiah.
18. Along with the nail scars God resurrected the body of him who died in our place to redeem our sin. God totally approved of the messiah's life and his death for the atonement. He completely accepted him. A British scholar expressed this point as follows: "For the Christian the resurrection is the seal of God that was stamped on Jesus by design while on the cross." Thus, the resurrection of the body of Christ from the dead is showing us the fact that the work of redemption for sin by Christ is completely 'effective & efficacious.'
19. Therefore, opening the hearts of the disciples to enlighten them of the scriptures, Christ said to them, "Thus, says the scriptures. 'The messiah will experience suffering, and he will be raised from the dead on the third day. And a repentance that can bring the forgiveness of sin will be proclaimed in my name to all peoples of every nation.'," (verses forty-six and forty-seven). Christ's cross and resurrection is indeed the foundation for "the repentance that can bring the forgiveness of sin." And "the forgiveness of sin" given unto us this way is indeed the foundation for our having any ultimate hope in the resurrection of our bodies from the dead. Thus, even in The Apostles' Creed we do not just say "I believe in the resurrection of the body from the dead," we also say, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body from the dead, and life everlasting."
20. Since we are given forgiveness of sin, we no longer need to ask ourselves in regard to the life we are living in our bodies, "Will my life have any meaning to it when it's all over?" God will raise our bodies from the dead. And this life too will live, the life that we have lived with our bodies. How ever it may look to others, even if one has a life of "what we get is no more than toil and trouble" [as the Psalmist described it], that life will be regarded in the sight of God as truly meaningful.