I recently started a series on heaven, but the title is a little deceiving. It’s actually a series about the bodily resurrection. I didn’t title it that because I figured no one would be interested. Everyone talks of heaven. Few talk of resurrection. Yet, in my opinion, heaven is defined by resurrection.
It wasn’t always that way. I grew up with the notion that heaven is the place our spirits go when we die. I don’t think this was preached as much as sung. Our hymns spoke of “flying away” to a place “beyond the blue” where our souls would dwell forever. The body decays and the spirit rises. This is true, temporarily, but the key word is temporarily. The Scriptures teach that eventually the body will rise as well. We will be physically resurrected just as Jesus was physically resurrected.
It sounds odd but it’s actually orthodox. The more I read on this subject the more I see the unity of Christian thought. To quote one of my elders, “there is a clear historical record” concerning belief in the resurrection of the body. Here’s a few examples from the creeds…
“…and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” Nicene Creed (AD 325)
“I believe in…the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.” -Apostles’ Creed (3rd-4th century)
“At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.” Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-46)
“According to his promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised;…the righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in heaven with the Lord.” Baptist Faith & Message (1925)
And while the Church of Christ doesn’t have a written creed we did think pretty highly of Alexander Campbell. He said, “By the word of his power he created the heavens and the earth; by the word of his grace he reanimates the soul of man; and by the word of his power he will again form our bodies anew, and reunite the spirit and the body in the bonds of an incorruptible and everlasting union.” -The Christian System (1835)
Of course, it’s not just the creeds. The creeds were informed by the Scriptures and they speak of resurrection in numerous places. Jesus spoke of it in John 5:28-29, 6:39-40 and when he was asked about marriage at the resurrection. Luke spoke of it in Acts 23-26 when he quotes Paul as being on trial for “his hope in the resurrection of the dead.” And Paul talks about it more than anyone! Some of my favorites are Romans 8:10-25, Phillippians 3:20-21 and all of 1st Corinthians 15.
So the question is if there was so much teaching and unity on the doctrine then what happened? Why did we stop talking about resurrection? And why did we stop teaching it and believing it? In reading the early Christians it seems to be the one belief that fueled their faith. Should it not fuel our as well?
We won’t be reincarnated or annihilated or live as disembodied spirits. We will be resurrected. This is the hope of the Christian faith. I know it sounds odd to modern ears but that’s only because we’re living in the wrong century. Any other time it wouldn’t sound odd. It would just sound orthodox.