Jesus the Messiah truly died as any other person dies”. Three days later Jesus rose from the dead. The witnesses were many, beginning with the women who found the empty tomb. At one time He was seen by more than 500 of His followers.1
WHAT DID THEY SEE?
What does it mean that Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to the disciples? What did they experience? What happened to them in this experience that changed their lives? What did they see?
Was it a ghost? At first some of the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost and Jesus told them “touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”2 A ghost has no power. Ghosts do not transform lives. They don’t bring happiness. There is nothing victorious in a ghost, nothing triumphant. Certainly the people who saw Jesus were not experiencing a ghost!
What, then, did they see? Could it be a revived body? What would have been so transforming if Jesus’ physical body had merely resumed living? Jesus’ physical body had been so severely beaten that He had to have help carrying the cross. The body experienced the extreme trauma of crucifixion and loss of blood. After three days without food or water, a normal, battered and bruised body would not have inspired Thomas to believe.3
What they saw was something entirely new! Here was a physical body which was also a spiritual reality. It was the Familiar physical body of Jesus which they recognized, but it was filled with spiritual power.
The reality of the earth joined with the glory and power of heaven was revealed in the risen Messiah. This body appeared as a regular body of flesh and bones. It obeyed the laws of matter and the laws of the spirit. Jesus could eat a meal and have Thomas place his hand in His side – the wound from the spear which confirmed His death.4 Yet Jesus could disappear in a moment and later enter and reappear in spite of locked doors.5
The Messiah’s death for our sins could not give any hope for salvation if He remained in the-grave. But thanks to Almighty God, our crucified Lord rose from the dead! His life and ministry were not ended with His sacrificial death. The sealed tomb could not prevent the Messiah’s triumph over death. Believers have a living hope because Jesus is risen from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again. The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. By the resurrection, the finality of our death was destroyed. The curse of sin was broken.
But that isn’t the end of the story. The Apostle Paul declared, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”6 But, what is that life like? What kind of body will we have after our resurrection on the Day of Judgment?
THE RESURRECTION BODY
Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. They believe that everyone will be resurrected to be judged by God.
Because we have not experienced life after death, we usually explain the resurrection body in terms of an earthly body. Our questions are sometimes answered when we learn what the Bible has said, as well as what it has not said. Many questions however, will not be answered until the resurrection. God has not given us a detailed explanation of the resurrection body. Faith is content to accept what has been revealed, and to stop where the revelation stops.
Two questions are raised in 1 Corinthians 15:35, “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (a) How is it possible for the body which has turned to dust to be restored to life? (b) What is to be the nature of our future bodies? Some Corinthians questioned the resurrection thinking their future bodies were to be like their present ones. However, the future body is NOT to be just like the present body.
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR THERE TO BE A RESURRECTION?
The Apostle Paul answered the objection that the body cannot live again because it dies. “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.”7 The bare seed is placed in contrast to the beautiful plant. The resurrected body is like the new plants which appear after the dead seeds have been buried. God has the power to bring life from that which dies.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE RESURRECTION BODY?
If people are raised from the dead, changed as the grain of wheat is changed, will they have a different body and lose their identity? Paul answers the question, showing that there may be differences, and yet a common basis of identity. There are different forms of flesh, yet all these forms are flesh. There are different forms of bodies having different glories, yet they are all bodies. Even the glories may differ in splendour and yet have the common identity as glory. So is the resurrection of the dead. The flesh is changed, and yet it does not lose its identity. There may be great changes in the glory, yet the glory will still be glory.8
The resurrection body is a body and not just a spirit. Yet, it differs from the body we now have. Some of the differences are:
1. It will be IMPERISHABLE (15:42). The human body is perishable. It is subject to decay, disease and finally perishes in death. Yet, believers in Jesus the Messiah can have confidence that the raised body will be changed into an imperishable body, free from all impurity, and it will not decay.
2. It will be GLORIOUS (15:43). The body is buried because it is lifeless and beginning to decay. The dead body that .has lost its short-lived attractiveness, which it had while living, is buried. It is raised in brilliant glory, displaying light and awakening admiration. It is to become, like the glorious body of the risen Messiah.9
3. It will be POWERFUL (15:43). There is nothing more powerless than a dead body. It can do nothing and it can resist nothing. The future body will be full of energy and perhaps even abilities which are beyond our imagination.
4. It will be SPIRITUAL (15:44). The natural body is one which participates in human life on this earth. The spiritual body is one which participates in the spiritual world. In our present flesh-and-blood body our lower, natural desires are often in control. We will have a spiritual body in which the-higher and the spiritual are our natural desires.
5. It will be CHANGED (15:52). Our present flesh-and-blood body is mortal and cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus the Messiah returns, all believers will be changed.10 They will exchange their mortal physical bodies for immortal spiritual bodies.
A grain of wheat dies and life appears again. Does it mean that life in the human being will resume again? No! But it does mean that the resurrection is possible and reasonable. We live in a world full of tremendous transformations which suggest the possibility of resurrection into another type of life. The caterpillar changes into the butterfly. The cold winter changes into warm spring in some regions of the world and the people rejoice in its resurrection.
A NEW CREATION
We have connected two thoughts: a) In the resurrected body of Jesus we have a new creation, a new reality the uniting of the physical and the spiritual. b) We have looked at Paul’s description of our resurrected body after the Day of Judgment. There is, however, another resurrection that all believers must experience.
In the first century, Saul of Tarsus was radically changed by the glorified Messiah meeting him on the road to Damascus.11 Later, the Apostle Paul wrote in the letter of Romans that believers are joined with the Messiah in His crucifixion and resurrection. The beginning of the Christian life is a death to sin. In baptism the sinful” life is pictured as being buried. Then the believer, united with Christ, is raised (resurrected) to live a new life. “We died to sin … We were therefore buried with. Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.”12
You must not think that such experiences are limited to exceptional people of the past and present. The transforming touch of the risen Lord is possible for each believer who dies to sin; those who surrender their will and life to God through Jesus the Messiah. Those believers begin living as a “new creation.”13 They will experience changes in their life as they grow in faith. When they die, they will be raised in a new spiritual body on the Day of Judgment.
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1 Corinthians 15:1-8 ↩
Luke 24:37-38; New International Version ↩
John 20:28 ↩
John 19:34 ↩
John 20:19 ↩
1 Corinthians 15:19; NIV ↩
1 Corinthians 15:36-41 ↩
1 Corinthians 15:39-44 ↩
Philippians 3:2; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 13:43 ↩
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ↩
Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-16 ↩
Romans 6:2-5; NIV ↩
2 Corinthians 5:15-21 ↩