The resurrection of our bodies
By Thurman Hayes
As I write this column, the state funeral of President George H.W. Bush is taking place. People have been standing for as long as four hours in the cold to view his body, before the funeral takes place.
State funerals are a big deal. They are basically reserved for presidents, with just a few exceptions. They are a big deal around the world as well.
Earlier this year, I spent a couple of weeks in the nation of Thailand. Everywhere — and I mean everywhere — there are still massive photos of the king, who died in October of 2016. His state funeral involved a cremation ceremony that cost $70 million.
The official reason for this was that, in accordance with Buddhism, the elaborate cremation was necessary for the king to be liberated from his body and advance to a higher state of consciousness in his next life. It was bound up with belief in reincarnation and karma.
The Christian worldview is completely different. The Bible does not teach reincarnation or karma. It does not teach that life is about recurring cycles. Rather, it teaches that those who have been saved through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with Him forever.
As 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 states, “So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, and not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” This is why the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
But what is being celebrated in these passages is not liberation from the body, but that we will be with Jesus. When a follower of Jesus dies, his or her soul goes immediately to be with the Lord, in heaven. But the Bible does not present a negative view of the body at all. When Jesus rose from the dead, he did so in a real, physical body. It was a glorified body, no longer subject to death, but it was physical.
One day, when Jesus returns, those who belong to Jesus will be raised with glorified bodies as well. Our future is not as disembodied souls. On that glorious day, we will no longer be “absent from the body,” but we will be raised with physical, glorified bodies, like the one with which Jesus walked out of the tomb.
1 Corinthians 15 tells us that our glorified bodies will be “imperishable.” That means they will no longer be subject to aging or disease or suffering or sin or death. Praise God, that is the certain future of those who belong to Jesus. As 1 John 3:2 says, “Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is.”
The resurrection of Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, his resurrection is the guarantee of the eventual resurrection of all who know Him.
Do you know Jesus? Have you trusted in his cross and resurrection for your salvation?
Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.