Sunday, February 15, 2015

When Do Christians Who Die Receive Their New Resurrection Bodies?

It's quite common to hear people say, when a loved one dies, that "they now have their new body." 

It's a nice sentiment, but it's not true.

The Bible is quite clear about the fact that people do not receive their new resurrection bodies until the time at which Jesus returns from heaven to earth.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-17 ESV)
 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Cor 15:21-23 ESV)

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29 ESV) 

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. (2 Tim 2:16-18 ESV) 
So what is the state, then, of those who have died in Christ? They are in the presence of Christ, to be sure. Paul makes this clear when he says

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:8 ESV)

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:23 ESV)
 To the thief on the cross as well, Jesus said,

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 ESV)
So, if those who have died in Christ are with Him, but have not received their new bodies, what is their state exactly? That is a mystery on which the Scripture does not shed a great deal of light. It is enough to say that it is a blessed state:

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev 14:13 ESV)
So why is it then, that Christians ought not to say that people have received their new bodies? The real reason is that it takes away from the anticipation of the great Day of Resurrection. On that day, the whole of God's people will inherit together the great blessing of eternal life in resurrection bodies that Jesus has earned for them:

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb 11:39-40 ESV) 
It is our resurrection to life on the Last Day which is God's final vindication of those who are His. On that day, the entire Temple of God's people (Ephesians 2:19-22) will be complete, and will take visible, glorified form in a new heaven and a new earth. There shall not be a single one missing from this Temple, and all shall inherit together. This is the great, living hope of the Christian which should motivate and encourage all of us.

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