Devotional Word for Friday, May 7, 2020
As Christians we have great hope in verses like 1 Corinthians 15:52. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. Likewise, many of us take great encouragement from 1 Thessalonians 4:16. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
What do those verses mean? What do they teach that we ought to take note of? The first thing I would note is we have not thought through the role of the human body, particularly after death. When a fellow believer dies, we tend to say they have gone to heaven. And that is correct, to a certain degree. What we leave out is the fact that our bodies stay here on earth.
Did you notice that each of those verses refer to “the dead rising, or the dead being raised?” When we talk about someone dying and going to heaven, we think that’s it. The deal’s done. Hallelujah, they are among the redeemed. Maybe you’ve not thought that way, but I have.
Yesterday I mentioned my old friend Roger Bluhm. I mentioned he’s been dead for decades now. What I said in reference to him is that “Roger’s been enjoying the bliss of Paradise” since he died. I chose that term deliberately. It is the term Jesus used with the repentant thief on the cross: Today, you’ll be with Me in Paradise. [Luke 23:43] Jesus’ words assure us that after death believers will have no more sorrows or pains or tears. Perhaps “Paradise” is another term for “Abraham’s bosom” that Jesus mentions in his parable about Lazarus and the rich man.
The point is that after death, those who are the Lord’s are transferred from the Church militant – with all the spiritual warfare that entails – to the Church triumphant. As Paul wrote in Philippian 1:23, he had a desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better. That is, he would be transferred from the Church militant to the Church triumphant. We do not know all of what that is, but we know it is very much better.
But our bodies remain here on earth. That means the very much better is not the very best. It was in 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thess. 4:16 that Paul wrote about the very best. He says the very best is to be announced with the very trumpet of God and all will hear. At that time all the bodies of the dead will be raised. Those bodies will be reunited with their souls. They will be spiritual bodies, but still bodies, and with a localized presence. The Final Judgment will take place.
In the Apostles’ Creed, the next to last article of belief we confess is the resurrection of the body. That’s the reason Christians have sought to honor with burial the bodies of those who die. It is a statement about the reality that that specific body will be raised. It’s a statement that death is not the end. There is more coming. Just as Jesus’ body was raised, so shall our bodies be raised. To what shall they be raised? That’s the last article of the Creed, namely, they will be raised to everlasting life.
Why bother with all this? Because we have a great hope. That even after death, when we go to Paradise or Abraham’s bosom or whatever the presence of the Lord is designated, there is more to come. The completion of God’s redemptive work. Even our bodies, that part of us that causes us so much difficulty in this life, and requires so much care in this life, will be transformed. We are not Gnostics who want to do away with the body; we are Christians who understand that God knows we’re but dust, yet He is determined to make even that dust glorious. Here’s how Scripture speaks of this: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. [Phil. 3:20-21]
Roger Bluhm has more to look forward to, even as he blissfully enjoys Paradise. So does every believer who has ever lived. So do we, who are still alive. When we die, we are freed from our body. We look forward to that. The good news is we shall be joined to our body again when Christ returns, and it will no longer be a stumbling block of flesh, but a glorious part of our being, wholly devoted to glorifying Christ. Hallelujah! May the Lord help us remember with anticipation the great truth of the resurrection of the body.
Let us pray: O Lord God, Ruler of heaven and earth. We stand amazed at Your great power. We have a life-long struggle with our bodies. We are very thankful for them. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet, they cause us pain, they drag us down, they make temptations so real. Thank You for the assurance that You, Lord Jesus, will transform even our bodies. We do eagerly wait for that day. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.