Resurrection of the Dead or Immortality of the Soul?

In 1st Corinthians 15, St. Paul says that Jesus Christ “died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. That he was buried.  That he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” That is resurrection. God raised Jesus from death.

Later in the same chapter Paul says that Jesus is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (in death).”  In using the term “first fruits,” he implies that a great harvest will follow. He concludes the chapter saying:

Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 

The Bible teaches that the universal Resurrection to life and judgment will take place when Christ comes back for his church on earth. You see, the Christ who appeared for the first time on the plane of human history in humility and hiddenness, his true identity known to only a select few witnesses, and to faith, must of necessity appear a second time, at the end of history, in power and in glory, his true identity known to faith and unbelief alike. Jesus’s identity, his Lordship, demands it.

The Bible teaches that it is when Christ comes back in glory that the dead will be raised “imperishable,” and those who are still alive will be “changed.”  Some will say, “Worth, raised to what, and changed into what?” Paul answers that question in Romans 8 when he says:

When we cry “Abba! Father, it is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirts that we are the children of God, and if Children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” 

Now remember: Christ is the first fruits, we are the harvest. Christ is the heir of God’s glory, and we too are heirs of God’s glory. Christ has received his share of the inheritance. We wait for ours. Likewise, 1st John 3:2 the apostle answers that question of what we shall be when he says:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. :

Christ is the first fruits. We are the harvest. We shall be like him. Are you starting to connect the dots?

Now what about the immortality of the soul? The Bible seems to teach immortality of the soul. In Luke 23, a dying Jesus speaks from the cross to a dying thief, saying, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Or, what about 2nd Corinthians 5:2 wherein St. Paul says, “If this earthly tent (this body) we dwell in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, (a new body) eternal in the heavens.” Don’t these passages teach the immortality of the soul?

Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. Some Greek thought makes its way into Scripture. However, I think the predominate witness of the Bible is that when our bodies are dead, we are dead. Therefore, what these passages really teach is the difference between time and eternity. Let me explain.

The principal difference between time and eternity is our individual relationship to each.  Suppose for instance, I die. Immediately, I leave time as we know it, and I am whisked away into God’s eternity. I find myself in God’s presence, raised from death, the recipient of a new, imperishable body, like the one that Jesus received when he was raised. And when I look around, I see all the people I love. They have joined me in eternity. For me, it is the last day of History and the first day of Eternity. I am with everyone I love. Meanwhile, back in time, all the people I love continue to live their lives, in time, until they, too, die, and are whisked away into eternity, where they join me. Our relationship to time and eternity is relative to where we are in time.

Do you follow this? If not, simply remember what our Moravian liturgy teaches. The liturgy teaches that our being called home to Christ in death and Christ coming back for his church on earth are but two sides of the same coin! It all amounts to the same thing. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

I hope this is meaningful for you. Stay safe! Pray for a quick end of the pandemic. Pray for a vaccine for Corvid 19. Pray for those who are ill. Pray for those who risk their lives for us. Pray for those who have experienced loss, that they may know the comfort of Christ. Pray for God’s church and God’s world.

Now, the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his Face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Green

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