The problem of Easter


This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series The problem of ...

Has the Easter Bunny messed up our concept of Easter so much that even Christians don’t really know what it’s about?

Apparently, the answer, in too many cases, is an astounding YES!

The quote below totally shocked me when I read it.
I often write about the difference between believing in and believing God.
I also write, maybe not often enough, about picking and choosing what we want to believe.

Maybe that’s what is happening here – it’s hard to say.
But clearly, as the author concludes – this kind of thinking draws into question whether we really believe in anything at all.

“The major Christian creeds state,“I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

 

But I have found in many conversations that Christians tend to spiritualize the resurrection of the dead, effectively denying it. They don’t reject it as a doctrine, but they deny its essential meaning: a permanent return to a physical existence in a physical universe. Of Americans who believe in a resurrection of the dead, two-thirds believe they will not have bodies after the resurrection.

 

But this is self-contradictory.

 

A non-physical resurrection is like a sunless sunrise. There’s no such thing. Resurrection means that we will have bodies.If we didn’t have bodies, we wouldn’t be resurrected!”

          from “Heaven and Hell: Are They Real?” by Christopher D. Hudson

 

That last point deserves repetition – and emphasis!

A non-physical resurrection is like a sunless sunrise.

There’s no such thing.

Resurrection means that we will have bodies.

If we didn’t have bodies, we wouldn’t be resurrected!”

 

In the beginning

To see why this kind of thinking is wrong, we go all the way back to the beginning.  
The beginning of us.  
The beginning of humans, given the breath of life by God.

Adam and Eve

Ge 2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens— 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground— 7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Ge 2:8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Ge 2:10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
Ge 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Ge 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Ge 2:19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
Ge 2:23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

Ge 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Ge 2:25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Please note – as we are told in verse 17 – this is before the fall.  Adam and Eve had not yet eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Therefore, they were not yet subject to death.  They had immortal bodies.

Here’s the dictionary.com definition of resurrection –

  1.  the act of rising from the dead.
  2. (initial capital letter) the rising of Christ after His death and burial.
  3. (initial capital letter) the rising of the dead on Judgment Day.
  4. the state of those risen from the dead.
  5. a rising again, as from decay, disuse, etc.; revival.
  6. Christian Science. a rising above mortality through the understanding of spiritual life as demonstrated by Jesus Christ.

If you happen to be a follower of Christian Science – then I guess you’re happy with this definition.
Unfortunately, all too many “Christians” also are happy with this definition.

The problem is – it’s not what the Bible says!

First, here’s the Biblical definition of resurrection – along with some historical and cultural background –

RESURRECTION. The most startling characteristic of the first Christian preaching is its emphasis on the resurrection. The first preachers were sure that Christ had risen, and sure, in consequence, that believers would in due course rise also. This set them off from all the other teachers of the ancient world. There are resurrections elsewhere, but none of them is like that of Christ. They are mostly mythological tales connected with the change of the season and the annual miracle of spring. The Gospels tell of an individual who truly died but overcame death by rising again. And if it is true that Christ’s resurrection bears no resemblance to anything in paganism it is also true that the attitude of believers to their own resurrection, the corollary of their Lord’s, is radically different from anything in the heathen world. Nothing is more characteristic of even the best thought of the day than its hopelessness in the face of death. Clearly the resurrection is of the very first importance for the Christian faith.

The Christian idea of resurrection is to be distinguished from both Greek and Jewish ideas. The Greeks thought of the body as a hindrance to true life and they looked for the time when the soul would be free from its shackles. They conceived of life after death in terms of the immortality of the soul, but they firmly rejected all ideas of resurrection (cf. the mockery of Paul’s preaching in Acts 17:32). The Jews were firmly persuaded of the values of the body, and thought these would not be lost. They thus looked for the body to be raised. But they thought it would be exactly the same body (Apocalypse of Baruch 1:2). The Christians thought of the body as being raised, but also transformed so as to be a suitable vehicle for the very different life of the age to come (1 Cor. 15:42ff.). The Christian idea is thus distinctive.  1)Morris, L. L. (1996). Resurrection. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 1010). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Also, here’s one with a note on the importance of the Christian meaning of resurrection –

RESURRECTION From the Latin resurrectio, meaning “rising again.” A return to life after having died. Mainly refers to the resurrection of Christ—the central event of the Christian faith. Also refers to the Christian doctrine of corporate resurrection, which is connected to the judgment of both the living and the dead.

Introduction
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the New Testament and foundational for the theology of the Church. These events have been acknowledged as paramount from the early church to the present. For example, Paul argues that if Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead as the firstfruit of believers, biblical faith is fallacious and ineffective, preaching is useless, apostolic witnesses were false, sin remains unforgiven, and believers have died without hope (1 Cor 15:12–19). He also asserts that Christians are misguided without this distinctive doctrine (1 Cor 15:32).  2)Burns, J. L. (2016). Resurrection. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Some key points from the Christian definition that differentiate our belief in what that word means –

  • We are to rise again – just as Jesus did.
    As we’ll see in a moment, there are indicators given to show that Jesus did have a physical body after His resurrection.  The fact that these things are included in the Bible should tell us that they are important.
  • The Christian definition of resurrection was different from the way others used the words thousands of years ago.  Therefore, it should not be a surprise – and should in fact be expected – that we have a different interpretation of the word today.
  • While others thought the body was a hindrance to the soul – Christians do not hold to that belief.  Well – not exactly.
    You see – others looked at the body the way it was while they were alive – and concluded they would be better off without a body.
    Christians have (or should have) a different perspective of the body.  We saw that in the Genesis passages above.  The bodies that Adam and Eve initially had were not subject to death.  UNTIL they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  THEN, and ONLY THEN, were their bodies subject to death.  And decay.  And sickness.  In other words – the bodies they had before the fall would not have been a hindrance to them.  Those bodies would have lasted forever.
    So, the Christian expectation is that after we are resurrected – we will again have bodies that are not a hindrance.  Bodies like Adam and Eve had before the fall.  Bodies that will last forever.
  • Going back to Jesus’ resurrection – if you remember – there was a lot of emphasis placed on “He is Risen”.  On the body not being in the grave anymore.  And those followers who were so depressed and demoralized after His crucifixion were all of a sudden more excited than ever after seeing Jesus in His risen body.  If the body was no big deal – or was even something we expected to no longer have – then there would be no emphasis on Jesus being risen again, in His visible / physical body.  In fact – no matter what happened after the crucifixion – they could have claimed that His Spirit was still alive.  
    It would have been so much easier!  Why all that emphasis on something that seemed so impossible – that others didn’t even want – unless the resurrected physical body was of tremendous importance!
  • Looking at the reference to what Paul wrote – he went as far as to say that if there was no physical resurrection then “we are to be pitied more than all men“.

How are you feeling about a non-bodily resurrection now?

We’ve seen a lot of evidence that a spiritual resurrection – without a body – is not Biblical.

But, as I said above, there’s more.
We have the example of Jesus Himself.

Even the Jewish leaders knew that a physical resurrection was important to the followers of Jesus, as we see here –

The Guard at the Tomb

Mt 27:62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
Mt 27:65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

As I said earlier – if the physical resurrection wasn’t important – then it certainly didn’t need to be part of the promise.  Physical resurrection is the one thing that absolutely had to be proved!  One cannot begin to prove a spiritual only resurrection.  There’s nothing to point to and say, “See – there’s the proof”.  Only the resurrection of a physical body requires proof.

And the Jewish leaders at the time knew this.  That’s why they went to the trouble of going to the hated Romans and asked for protection of the tomb – so there could be no possibility of Jesus’ followers pulling some kind of trick with Jesus’ dead body and falsely claiming that He was risen.

If the Jewish leaders of the time knew this – how is it that so many Christians don’t know this today?
That’s a truly sad state of affairs for those who claim to be Christian, but don’t believe in a physical resurrection.

After the women who went to check Jesus’ tomb on Sunday found it empty, Jesus met them –

Mt 28:8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them.“Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Jesus wanted to be seen by His followers.

More proof of the physical resurrection.
And also a chance to show us a bit of Jesus’ resurrection body.

Later, when Jesus appeared to His disciples, we see –

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

Lk 24:36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Lk 24:37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
Lk 24:40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Lk 24:44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Lk 24:45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

OK – Jesus appeared to even more people.

But did you notice verses 41 to 43?

41 … he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

There is a lot in here.  Jesus tells them they are witnesses.  He reminds them of what He had taught them before – and that He has fulfilled everything.

And then – Luke – the doctor, the one who was involved more heavily than the others in things of the body – records the fact that Jesus ate fish in the presence of the disciples.  The disciples were also witnesses to the fact that Jesus, with His resurrection body, ate fish!

I love to eat fish – especially sushi and sashimi. Reading that Jesus ate fish, to me, is awesome.  The prospect of getting the best fish ever in Heaven is something to look forward to.  The fact that not only will it be better than any I’ve ever had before is amazing.  I can’t imagine live Uni being better than some of what I’ve already had, but I’m ready and waiting.  Add to that the fact that so many other things will make Heaven’s live Uni look like “nothing” – there aren’t even words to describe what it would be like.

Conclusion

These are the kinds of things we see with our resurrection bodies.

Why would anyone consider them a hindrance?

Why would someone not want one?

Even more importantly – since the Bible, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, tells us that we will have a resurrection body –
how can we possibly not believe that it’s true?
How can we be so led astray by the ways of this world that we refuse to believe the promises of the One we claim to want to spend eternity with?

Or – are we so focused on this world, and the way it is right now, that we think God can’t really make all things new again – make them right?
If that’s the case – do we even know God?

I totally believe what the Bible says about a resurrection body.
And I look forward to it.
I look at life the way it is in the world today – and I don’t like it.  I’d hate to spend forever like this.
But I also believe God when He says He will make all things new –

The New Jerusalem

Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Rev 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Do we – or do we not – believe the words that the Bible says are trustworthy and true?

Let’s look at that quote one more time –

“The major Christian creeds state,“I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

But I have found in many conversations that Christians tend to spiritualize the resurrection of the dead, effectively denying it. They don’t reject it as a doctrine, but they deny its essential meaning: a permanent return to a physical existence in a physical universe. Of Americans who believe in a resurrection of the dead, two-thirds believe they will not have bodies after the resurrection.

But this is self-contradictory.

A non-physical resurrection is like a sunless sunrise. There’s no such thing. Resurrection means that we will have bodies.If we didn’t have bodies, we wouldn’t be resurrected!”

Now – consider that “Easter Bunny” in the image.

That bunny is you.

What are you looking for, off on the horizon?

Are you looking for a spirit that was resurrected?  Is that what you hope for?  Is that all you believe of what the Bible says?
It’s important to know – because that spirit isn’t coming.  That bunny is going to be very disappointed.  

Are you looking for a resurrected body?  Is that what you hope for?  Do you really believe what God has promised us in the Bible?
It’s important to know – because that’s what’s coming.  You are going to be happier than you could ever imagine.

So – what do you believe?

Or maybe the better question is –  Do you believe?

 


the quote and details on the book are at amazon.com — http://amzn.to/2bue7sR

Series NavigationThe problem of “church words” >>

References   [ + ]

1. Morris, L. L. (1996). Resurrection. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 1010). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
2. Burns, J. L. (2016). Resurrection. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Please leave a comment - it's nice to hear from you