From May 19, 2013
So there is this crazy guy named N.T. Wright, with whom every reasonably well-read theology student will be somewhat familiar. However, for the rest of us laypeople who do not daydream of election and Arminianism in our spare time, his may be somewhat of a foreign name. N. T. Wright is by far one of the smartest people you will ever encounter. He is the Bishop of Durham, and simply one of the most well-read, most brilliant theologists/Christian leaders alive today.
Recently, I was lying in bed, falling asleep to a sermon, as I am wont to do, though this was the first time I had ever listened to Wright’s british accent chopping through what I expected to be an average, hoity-toity sermon on some overused theological word. I was pleasantly surprised when, about an hour later, I was still awake and amazed by his astonishingly interesting dialogue on resurrection. This began several weeks of intentional observation of our bodies which are breaking down, and what the Bible actually says about the afterlife.
If you asked the majority of Christians today what they thought happened after death, they would probably tell you that we “go” and live with God in “heaven.” This is all great sounding, if not a little boring to be doing for all of eternity, but is it biblical? The Bible talks less about going to heaven when we die, and more about God making a New Earth and a New Heaven (1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 3:21). In fact, the word “heaven” in the Bible tends to simply be talking about the sky, and what the people alive in those times could see in it: stars, sun, clouds, etc. The idea of death is not that of our bodies lying in the ground while our souls go marching on, but that we join Christ in His resurrection!
Now, most scientists are in agreement that when someone dies, they do not live again.
Most people tend to stay dead.
So, why all this talk about resurrection? What of questions about organ donation, cremation, or corpse deterioration? Well, that’s where this awesome concept sets in of Biblical resurrection, or, as Wright calls it, “life after life after death.” We know from Luke 23:43 that upon death, a believer is with God in spirit, as Jesus tells the thief next to Him on the cross “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” However, this is not the end of the road for us. There is repeated imagery in the Bible regarding the New Jerusalem, and the Mountain of the Lord (Micah 4, Revelation 21). Spirits do not live on mountains or in cities, but people do!
Think back to where you were seven years ago. Scientifically, you are not the same person you were then. According to scientists, it takes about seven to ten years for every cell and molecule in your body to be replaced by new cells. In other words, the body you had seven years ago is scattered all over the world, as molecules come and go and move on to other places and people. Can you point at your finger and say confidently “this is ME!” Can you consider your ear and say of it, “this is definitively ME!”? Can you do this with any body part?
Apparently, you cannot. Since it will be a different finger or ear in a few years.
So, what does all this have to do with resurrection? Wright argues for the conclusive relationship between the two. When we are given our “resurrection bodies” in the new earth, they will be one hundred percent US! My body will be me; every square inch of it! Your body will be your own! Is that a weird thought or what? Without the regeneration and replacement of cells, as in our earthly bodies now, we will not only be 100% ourselves physically, but we will be that way forever! Nothing will have to be replaced or regenerated, because our bodies will be permanently our own, and never anyone else’s.
God does not create things just so He can throw them away in a little while, when they wear out. He is no IKEA shopper, who simply gets the latest thing, however cheap and temporary, and throws it away with the passing style’s demise. He created the earth, and everything in it, and called it “good.” This means it, and we, will be restored and redeemed! Jesus has already made the way for resurrection by conquering death! He is still in His resurrected body, wherever He is now (Acts 1), and one day, we will join Him with our very own resurrection bodies. This is the hope that we have as Christians. We do not look forward to some slapdash harp strumming on a cloud somewhere, but we look forward to doing all the things we enjoy doing on earth now, only perfected on the New Earth. We will follow in Jesus’ footsteps by dying, being with God for a time, and in the future, we will rise again into our perfected, individual, and permanent bodies on the New Earth.
There are dozens of avenues down which this philosophy leads, such as environmentalism, or taking care of our bodies, but I don’t want to conclude on any one point. I simply hope to get you thinking more about this, your eternity, and how great it will be, as well as what a cool concept God has laid out for us.
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