'O Death, where is your sting, O Hades, where is your victory?'
This past Sunday was that day on which many throughout the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Naturally, I had the privilege of preaching on that topic, mainly from 1 Corinthians 15. We looked at the 'Fact' and 'Significance' of Christ's resurrection. One trail I was tempted to go down was Paul's discussion about the Christian's resurrected body, later in that chapter. Allow me to list briefly what is in store for every child of God on that glorious day, when 'this mortal puts on immortality.'
1. Our resurrected body will be like Jesus's resurrected body. As was discussed this past Lord's Day, the risen Christ has become the 'firstfruits' of those Christians who have 'fallen asleep' (1 Cor. 15:21). Just as farmers can forecast the coming harvest based on the crops that appear first, so too can we forecast what type of resurrected body Christians will receive on that day. Jesus's resurrected body is a pledge of our resurrection, guaranteeing that it will happen, and indicating as to what type of resurrected body the Christian will receive at the last day.
2. Our resurrected bodies will be incorruptible. The word 'incorruptible' in verse 53 literally means 'imperishable,' while the word 'immortality' means 'exempt from death.' The bodies we all have now will see decay after they die. Like the items in your kitchen pantry, our present bodies have a shelf life and expiration date. Not so with the Christian's resurrected body. Just as we have a soul that can never die, we shall receive a body that will never die. Christians whose bodies are alive at the time of the resurrection will be transformed into this glorious state (v.51). The 19th Century Southern Presbyterian, Robert Alexander Webb, made the following comparison between the current and resurrected bodies of believers:
'His best powers begin to wane when he is grown; he totters in old age; lies down in the limpness of death; he is carted to his grave; the future body on the other hand, will be instinct with strength and energy, inexhaustible in its resources and clothed with undreamed capacities, possessing the immortalities of youth; the pleroma of endurance and the powers of unimagined achievement.'
Even those dear saints who've had disabilities and deformities in this life will have such glorious bodies! Psalm 103:3 says that God 'forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases!' The stammering tongue will sing his praises, the deaf will hear the Savior's voice, and the lame will jump for joy!
3. Our resurrected bodies will be recognizable. If in fact we may look at the resurrected Jesus in Scripture and make inferences about our resurrected bodies as Christians since he is the 'firstfruits' of the resurrection, then we will be able to recognize each other in our resurrected bodies. (See Mt. 28:9, 17.) This ought to bring joy to the Christian, because he will be reunited with those beloved believers who have gone to glory before him! As a pastor, I look forward to seeing not only Christian relatives who have already died, but also those beloved saints I've pastored over the years who've also gone to heaven before me. I also look forward to meeting other Christians for the first time. I'm hoping to meet saints such as King David, Rahab, the Apostle Paul, and of course, seeing Jesus himself, face to face!
4. Our resurrected bodies will be similar to our present bodies, but gloriously better. Cornelius Venema wrote that there will be 'substantial continuity' between the two. Take Jesus's resurrected body, for instance. It was in a 'pristine condition' and at a 'higher level,' notes Louis Berkhof. J.I. Packer says that it was 'fully glorified and deathless.' How can I believe this about the Christian's future body? I can simply look at the resurrected Jesus on the pages of the gospels, and at Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:20. Jesus was recognized by his disciples (Mt. 28:9,17), enjoyed a meal with them (John 21:15), and had flesh and bones (John 20:27-28). Yet, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:42-49, our resurrected bodies will be glorious, powerful, spiritual and heavenly! When one reads the gospels, he will not only find that there was something different about Jesus's glorified body, but that it was also similar to his pre-resurrected body.
As I mentioned this past Sunday, even unbelievers will be raised from the dead (John 5:28-29). Their bodies, however, will be suited to endure the fires of hell forever. So the message is to flee to Jesus, who has become 'a life-giving spirit' (1 Cor. 15:45). Flee to the one 'who lives and was dead, and is alive forevermore!' Flee to the one who 'has the keys of Hades and Death!' (Rev. 1:18)
Christian, as your present body ages, and you feel its pains and limits, hope in the resurrection! Are you suffering from cancer, from deformities, from pain? Hope in the resurrection! Christian, do you struggle with sin? Hope in the one who will deliver you from 'this body of death!' (Romans 7:24) For in the New Heavens and New Earth, in which righteousness dwells, there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things, (which are our present things), will pass away! (See Rev. 21:4)