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Aspects of the Resurrection I

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Question:  Robert, I am so grateful that the Lord has made you available for me to talk to. Your quick response to questions is very helpful to me! If I may impose on you again, is there any scripture that describes how the body, soul, and spirit are reunited for the "Dead in Christ To rise". If they were cremated, lost at sea, dismembered, etc. I know that nothing is impossible for God! Yours in Christ,

Response:  It's no imposition - it's good to hear from you. On the issue of the resurrection in general, you may find helpful the detailed comments on this subject in Peter's Epistles #20. As to the specifics you mention in your note, the first thing I would wish to point out is that man, from the biblical viewpoint, is of two parts, spirit and body (sometimes called "dichotomous" to distinguish from the "trichotomous" view of body, soul, and spirit). "Soul" is a English word used to translate the Greek word psyche which, in the Bible, is a synonym for the [emotional, not physiological] heart, that is, for the whole inner-person, the "who we are on the inside" where our bodies and spirits commune. Right now, we are more in tune with the body than with the spirit, but in our eternal "resurrection" bodies, we will be perfectly in tune with the spirit (cf. 1Cor.15:44). So, if we are to think of ourselves in "parts", it is really two, not three. But, really, we were designed by God to be whole, and ever shall we be. There are no "disembodied spirits" - even those currently in heaven awaiting the resurrection (whose physical bodies have long since turned to dust) have an interim body, a fact made very clear in 2Cor.5:3, "because even when we are unclothed [physical death] we will not be found naked [i.e., we will have an interim "tent" in heaven] - unfortunately this is one of the half-dozen or so verses in the Bible that is consistently mistranslated in almost every English version because the translators didn't understand what was being said and so felt constrained to assume a problem in the Greek text and emend accordingly (cf. also Lk.16:23; Rev.6:9; 7:9ff.).

As to the process of the resurrection, let me say first of all that you are absolutely correct when you remark "nothing is impossible with God". If our resurrection depended upon the reconstruction of our actual, present body, there is no question but that our God, the God who created the entire universe in the blink of an eye and who has planned from the very beginning every single event in the history of the cosmos, could without any effort whatsoever track the course of every atom, every particle, every minute quantity of energy that ever constituted a part of our bodies. So that, no, it does not matter if a person's body was destroyed - in no way will this affect their resurrection. I believe it fair to say that Adam and Eve's bodies have surely long since turned to dust (a dust that has no doubt scattered completely around the world by now) but, rest assured, all the righteous will be resurrected (and the unrighteous as well!):

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Daniel 12:2 NIV

This does not mean that I am a fan of cremation (I am not). I believe that on this issue there are two extremes which are best avoided:

    1) the idea that the dead body is somehow the key to resurrection and so must be safeguarded at all costs (that is just not true - after all, the entire ancient Egyptian society came to be focused upon the erroneous and pagan idea of preservation of the physical body for immortality).

    2) the idea that the body is completely meaningless and so can be disposed of in any manner. This second point of view is also questionable. Throughout the Old Testament and the period of the early Church documented in scripture, burial was practiced by believers, and with some insistence (cf. Joseph's command: Gen.50:25). This is not because they believed that their resurrection was dependent upon proper care of the body after death, rather, simple respectful burial of the body is a sign and a witness in the midst of a pagan world that we have hope, genuine confidence, in the ultimate resurrection of our bodies (and those of our believing loved ones) through faith in Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and the Risen Lord. Simple, respectful burial shows (or should show) that we have complete faith in the promise of our God. So on the one hand, going to extremes in lavish burial is pointless - it will not save the unsaved after the fact and has no bearing on resurrection. But on the other hand Christians are responsible for everything they do, and cremation, or failure to attempt to recover bodies when it is perfectly possible to do so, or failure to bury in a simple, respectful way, are, in my view, not particularly good witnesses to a pagan world of our confidence in the resurrection.

Important passages on the resurrection, in addition to the 1Thes.4:13-18 passage you cite, include Jn.5:24-27; 1Cor.15 (analyzed and translated in the Peter #20 lesson cited above), 2Cor.5:1-10; 1Jn.3:2; Rev.20:4-15 in the New Testament, and Is.26:19; Ezek.37:1-14; Dan.12:1-3 in the Old Testament.

These passages give us good deal of information about the day of resurrection, when, at Christ's return, the bodies of living believers will be transformed into conformity with Christ, and the dead believers (be they dust or no) will be resurrected as well in the magnificent eternal body we all anticipate after the manner of our Lord.

You may also want to have a look at these links:

Aspects of the Resurrection II

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

Transmutation, Resuscitation, and Resurrection.

The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride (in Coming Tribulation part 5)

The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory

The Blessed Eternal State of the Saved (in CT 6)

The Nature of Life after Death

What does the Bible say about Heaven and Hell?

What is "heaven" like according to Christian teachings?

In anticipation of that day - yours in Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and the life,

Bob Luginbill

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