The Nature of the Resurrection Body
Open Your Bible
1 Corinthians 15:35-49, 2 Corinthians 5:1-15, Philippians 3:20-21, Job 19:25-27, Isaiah 26:19, 1 Corinthians 13:12
This past summer, I learned a lot about physical suffering. I was in the end stages of a very difficult pregnancy, and at the same time, a beloved member of my family was dying of a terrible type of cancer. I knew there would be joy at the end of my suffering, and I knew there would be grief at the end of his, at least for those of us left on earth. But we shared, for very different reasons, the feeling of our breaking bodies. Every part of my body groaned with the weight of life; every aspect of his body sighed with the slow creep of death. And yet, he was a believer—which means that as we watched his journey toward death, he was also journeying toward life everlasting.
When he crossed to the other side, he experienced complete restoration and joy in the presence of his Savior, Jesus. And that restoration, while for now it is spiritual, will one day be physical. Paul explains that when believers die they are “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2Corinthians 5:8), but at the final resurrection, we will receive new bodies fit for eternity with Christ in the new heavens and new earth (1Corinthians 15:53–55). Our readings for today remind us of this promise.
This is, I think, the thing that tethers me to Jesus in my moments of deepest grief and when I wrestle with my many doubts—that there is an answer to death. Suffering is temporary, not permanent. It is not meaningless. Death is wrong; it isn’t supposed to be this way, and there’s a plan already in motion to redeem it. We believe, as people of hope, that the beauty of the earth, the feelings of love and joy, and the aching for healing we experience are signposts of God’s promise to restore all things.
When I was in seminary, a professor was speaking to the class on a day when a child in the seminary community had died. People in that room were in unspeakable pain. And pastorally, my professor said, “every death is a mercy.” I’ll carry that phrase with me forever because it captures the hope—the living hope—that only followers of Jesus have. Death means the end of bodily suffering but not of our hope. It is a mercy to shed our broken bodies and be joined with the Lord. And it is okay to hope for that. To even long for it, as Job did.
Even after my skin has been destroyed,
yet I will see God in my flesh.
I will see him myself;
my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger.
My heart longs within me.