The Christian’s hope at death is that he won’t have to cross Jordan alone. Christ by his Spirit will be with him every step of the way. The Christian’s hope after death is twofold. Death brings an end to evil and misery and is the door to a far better life with Christ in heaven. But what hope do we have after that? Life in heaven, as good as it will be, is not our final hope. God has something much greater in store for those who are in Christ Jesus. What is that? What is the Christian’s hope for all eternity?
One aspect of our hope is the resurrection of our bodies. The personal pronoun “our” is key here. Our body will be raised from the dead, not some other body. The very concept of resurrection presupposes this. If we were given a different body, then it wouldn’t be a resurrection. A new creation, perhaps, but not a resurrection. Paul says that the Spirit will give life to your mortal body and that we wait for the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:11, 23). Thomas Case rightly wrote in his book Mount Pisgah that “the saints shall rise with the very same body they lay down with in the graves.”
Since our bodies will disintegrate completely, we might well wonder how this is possible. We might even begin to doubt the resurrection when we think that when our bodies turn to dust, that dust will be, as Thomas Case noted, “possibly, mixed with the dust of wicked men, or of the brute creatures; it may be, dispersed into the remotest parts of the world.” Eusebius wrote that the Romans would mock the Christian hope in the resurrection by burning the bodies of Christians and scattering their ashes in the Rhone river so that all trace of them would be gone forever.
How then can we receive again that which has been so thoroughly destroyed? The answer is, of course, God. God who made all things is certainly able to re-assemble all things. God who made us from the dust is certainly able to raise our bodies from the dust. As Paul said in his defense before Agrippa, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raised the dead (Acts 26:8)?” Case wrote, “Christ by his mighty power shall command the bodies of his saints to come forth, shall unite dust to dust, every dust in its own proper place and form it into the same body it was when it was dissolved and laid down in the grace.” Don’t, therefore, let the destruction of our bodies diminish your hope in the resurrection of your own body or of the bodies of your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Trust in the power and promise of Almighty God.
Although it will be our body that we will receive at the resurrection, it will be a new and improved version. It will be glorious, spiritual, immortal and incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:35-49). Indeed, it will be like Christ’s resurrected body. Paul proclaimed that Jesus will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body (Phil. 3:21).” Thomas Case said that our new body will be “made up into a beautiful structure, more beautiful than ever it was in its first creation.”
One of the enormous benefits of our new bodies is that they will be free of all defects and blemishes. Case put it this way: “The infant shall rise a man of perfect age, the lame shall rise sound, the blind shall rise seeing, the deaf shall hear, the dumb shall be able to speak, the resurrection shall take away all defects and excesses of nature, the deformities of the saints shall not be raised together with their bodies; yea, deformities shall be turned into comelinesses and beauties.”
Case was also quick to point out that these differences do not substantially change the person or his body. He wrote: “and yet all these alterations do no more change or destroy the individuality of person, than youth doth make the person numerically different from what it was in infancy, or old age from what it was in youth; or as it was in the persons of all sorts, which Christ healed in the day of his flesh; they were the same individuals after cure, as they were before; cure makes not another individual man of a cripple nor health of the sick; so shall it be in the resurrection, the bodies of the saints, shall be the same for substance and matter; but wonderfully changed for form and supernatural endowments and qualities.”
One aspect of the Christian’s hope for eternity is that his body will be raised from the dead and it will be beautiful, glorious, incorruptible and immortal. In the next article, Lord willing, we will explore the life that Christians will enjoy with their resurrected bodies.