Q.57. How does “the resurrection of the body” comfort you?
A. Not only my soul will be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ, will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.
The resurrection is a wonderful doctrine of great hope. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians tells them that without the resurrection there is no gospel. Have you ever thought about the necessity of the resurrection of Christ and what that means to the believer? Some say that only the soul will experience heaven. Others affirm there is no resurrection at all. While the Bible affirms that both our physical body and our soul will be reunited and glorified in the presence of God. This is wonderful news, for it assures the believer that every vestige of death has been conquered in Christ and victory is available and ensured. Read 1Corinthians 15:42-54.
The catechism assures us that the soul enters the presence of God upon death. From where does it get such a thought? Read Luke 23:32-43. As Jesus hung dying on the cross, he spoke amazingly comforting words to a sinner. He told him that after the agony of death, paradise awaited him. The very presence of God, communion, perfect love and peace are awaiting every believer upon their death. Though their body my dies and become cold, eventually decaying into the earth, their spirit would be wrapped in the warmth of the light of God’s love as they stand in the presence of Jesus. For the believer there is no fear of punishment, hell, purgatory or other such notions of purification by fire, rather we are purified by the blood of Christ and at the point of death, we enjoy that truth to the fullest degree. Rejoice; your soul will never taste death.
Read Luke 16:19-31. While the parable primarily teaches about the validity of the Scriptures to affect salvation, there are also powerful details given about the nature of life after death. The wicked are immediately taken to the fires of torment but the child of God is immediately found in the presence of great and bountiful blessing. As children of the King, we are forever united to our head Christ and enjoy every spiritual blessing in life and in death. What a wonderful gift God has made available.
But not only will the soul enter the presence of God but the body will also be resurrected and stand before God forever. The very body we have in the present will be re-made and perfected. At the resurrection of Jesus, his physical body was nowhere to be found and when he stood among the disciples, he showed them the wounds he had sustained on the cross and he ate food. Read Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:24-27. Souls don’t feast on food and neither do they have physical scars. But Jesus’ resurrection is an example for the believer of what to expect ultimately. There will be a body and a soul reunited, able to eat and feast and be recognized, and yet wonderfully perfected and without sin.
How can we be assured that our bodies will be resurrected? Paul refers to Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits. First fruit offerings were given to the Lord in the complete trust that more was to come. If nothing else grew on the vine or in the field, then the offerer was left in a state of death, but since God instructed the Israelites to make first fruit offerings we can be sure that he intended to always provide for more of the same – more corn, more wheat, more grapes. In calling Christ’s resurrection a first fruit, Paul assures us that there will be more resurrections that unite body and soul. Christ’s was the first, but it is certainly not the last. Read 1 Corinthians 15:20.
How can this happen? How can a body, which has decayed to the point of non-existence, be reformed? How can someone whose body died in a fire and completely consuming his or her flesh and bones be remade? How can those bodies consumed by wild animals be reconstituted? While things like this would be impossible, like trying to take a building that had been demolished and setting explosives in just the right fashion to re-erect a stable structure, for the human, we must remember that nothing is impossible for God. He is all-powerful. In fact it is this power which Christ draws upon in order to transform our earthly material bodies in the eternal spiritual bodies. Read Philippians 3:20-21.
As the catechism so aptly reminds us, we can be comforted in our death and the death of our loved ones, for life eternal awaits all those in Christ. And oh what a glorious life it will be, full of feasting and dancing and blessing. Amen.