Human bodies after the resurrection

  • Question from DH, Australia

    When Jesus returns to earth and raises the dead what form will they be in? This is a question given to me by an elderly man in a nursing home and I cannot come up with a suitable answer for him.

    The traditional Christian doctrine relating to the resurrection is that believers will receive new, immortal, perfect bodies when the dead are ‘raised’ (see 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verses 35-55). This emphasis on a physical body follows the Jewish holistic way of regarding the complete person as inseparable, in marked contrast to the Hellenistic Greek idea that the body and soul parted at death and only the soul survived.

    Paul makes it quite clear that whatever the eventual fate of the body, the believer has already been ‘buried with Christ’ through the rite of baptism (Romans 6, verse 4, see also Colossians 2, verse 12). This is the death that matters to Paul – the death of the ‘old self’. The resurrection, when it happens, will occur ‘in the twinkling of an eye’ when ‘the dead will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15, verse 52).

    In the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul notes that, as with seeds, there is a difference between what is ‘sown’ and what is ‘raised’ and there is also continuity. Wayne Grudem comments: “On this analogy we can say that whatever remains in the grave from our own physical bodies will be taken by God and transformed and used to make a new resurrection body.” [Grudem, Systematic Theology, IVP 1994, p.833] This explains how the sea will ‘give up the dead who are in it’ on judgment day, as described in Revelation chapter 20, verse 13.

    The Bible is quite aware that bodies decompose; dust returning to dust (Genesis 3, verse 19). Yet it would seem that is not a problem to God, who can take whatever remains and refashion the physical body in a perfect and incorruptible form, recognisably the same, yet different.

    Thanks for your question, DH.

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