This past week at Fellowship of the Parks, our teaching pastors addressed what I consider one of the most difficult teachings of the Bible. If you’ve never known anything other than Sundays in church, the promise that our bodies will be risen from the dead might go by as hardly a blip on your “Say What?!” radar, but this is actually tough stuff if you start asking some basic questions.
“What about people who are cremated?”
“What about people who died like a thousand years ago?”
“What about organ donors?”
“And what the heck is a glorified body, anyway?”
I don’t fault anyone for asking those questions, or any of the others that come along the rabbit hole of trying to answer them.
At my LIFEGroup this week, we had an interesting discussion about what a glorified body really meant. One of the guys joked, “What if my glorified body isn’t the size or shape I want it to be?”
Despite it being a joke, he raised a good point. Tall, short, thin, plump, muscular, lean, hairy, smooth, tan, pale… the definition of “beauty” has changed with every generation. So what will it be in the end?
That line of thinking is essentially what all of these tough questions come out of. As created beings, we are very limited in our understanding of the things that center on the ability of our Creator. Since we live in a created system of things, that system is often all we can imagine with.
It’s not easy to accept that maybe our definition of a perfect, glorified body is different from God’s definition. Just like it’s not easy to admit that maybe our definition of a successful life in following Jesus might actually include persecution rather than avoid it. That doesn’t make sense to us, especially in America. But over and over, Jesus seemed to turn our expectations made from our perspectives upside down, leaving us wondering, “Wait… what?!”
The very morning of my LIFEGroup, I found myself in chapter 16 of Matthew over breakfast. Nothing special per say; just where I left off the day before. But what I read turned out to be exactly what I needed to think about (don’t you love when that happens?).
Peter has just declared his belief that Jesus is not only the Messiah, but also the Son of the living God (vs 15-16). This is widely considered to be the climax of the entire book of Matthew–when the disciples start to really understand who their Master is. Further, it’s important to note that Peter also seemed to make the connection that the Messiah was connected to deity Himself rather than just a man of political or military stature, which was the common belief back then.
In the very next paragraph, Jesus begins telling His disciples more plainly about what must happen to Him regarding His torture and execution in Jerusalem. Peter hears this and he goes off the deep end. This is not what he was expecting the life of his Messiah, the Son of God, to look like. The Bible actually says that Peter rebuked Jesus, telling Him “This shall never happen to you!” (vs 22).
Not exactly how a disciple was supposed to act toward his lord back in that day. Their role was to follow, remember, and document.
Jesus replied with what has become one of the most often-used phrases regarding temptation among Christians: “Get behind me Satan!”
“You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (vs 23)
This is where the light bulb blinked on for me. All of our curiosities surrounding how this “resurrection and judgment” thing is supposed to happen when so many scientific factors stand in the way are interesting to think about, but when we start acting out because these go against our own understanding of how the world works, we’re crossing a very dangerous line.
Short answer, and I know it doesn’t help much, but I don’t know how it happens. No one can draw a diagram about how it’s going to work, exactly. Science is important and all, but there are certain things it was never meant to describe. Science is purely for the natural world, which means anything not pertaining to the natural world is immediately outside the realm of scientific law. And that’s awesome. It means God really can do anything and He isn’t bound by the system He created. That’s great news!
In the Bible, we seem to be given all the details God wants us to know. With our quest for knowledge, that becomes a problem sometimes. Case in point: Genesis 2:7. “…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.”
Teams of scientists have been trying to figure out the natural, scientific, God-not-present origin of life for centuries. We’re obsessed with wanting to know the supernatural details and yet God inspired one measly sentence about it. Meanwhile, He inspired hundreds of prophecies and then four books centered on the Way of His Son. That’s important, especially considering in Jewish grammar, repetition was how you showed importance, and repeating a word three times was the equivalent of the schoolyard game-ender of “times infinity.” Makes you think differently about Isaiah 6:3, where the six-winged seraphs were declaring to each other that God is “holy, holy, holy.”
I think this is very important to understand. As the six-year-old church kid would say, “God is holy times infinity.” In a biblical sense, holy means “separated” or “apart from.”
At the same time, we have only a single chapter dedicated to the creation of the universe, a single sentence to describe how the life of man began, and yet four agreeable books of the Gospel of Jesus included in our scriptures.
I’m no expert, but it seems to me like God wants us to focus on His ability apart of our own, and on how we can follow Jesus as closely as we possibly can. When the resurrection happens, however that might look, we can trust that it will all make perfect sense and be even more amazing than we imagined.