What are you looking forward to? Of course, we get excited about weekends, vacations, and holidays. We also anticipate graduation, job promotions, and the Super Bowl. But what is your ultimate hope and what is that hope based on?
Christian hope is centered on the body. For many people that might sound strange. After all, our present bodies are subject to disease, decay, and death. And for that reason, some believe salvation can only be attained by escaping our bodies. But what if we could experience life in an imperishable and powerful body? Would we want to escape from that kind of body?
A Body Like Ours
Jesus’ resurrection introduces us to the reality of a transformed, imperishable body. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he said, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Lk. 24:39, ESV). After showing his hands and feet, Jesus ate a piece of fish as his followers looked on (Lk. 24:40-43). Jesus was raised from the dead with a body and that body functioned in ways similar to our bodies.
A Body Unlike Ours
But Jesus’ resurrected body also had supernatural qualities. He appeared suddenly in a room with locked doors (Jn. 20:19) and he also vanished suddenly (Lk. 24:31). The greatest difference between Jesus’ resurrected body and every other body is Jesus’ immortality. “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom. 6:9). Conquering death doesn’t simply mean that Jesus returned from the dead, it means he broke death’s power so that he will never die again. As Jesus said, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18). Since Jesus’ body is no longer subject to death, it’s also no longer subject to the decay which leads to death. Jesus’ body is therefore, imperishable.
Referring to the resurrection, Paul writes, “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Where did Paul get that information? After all, Paul was still in his perishable body when he wrote that statement. Paul learned it from reflecting on Jesus’ resurrection and applying that resurrection to Jesus’ followers.
Since Jesus’ followers are predestined to be conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:49), when he returns he will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Our bodies, therefore, won’t be destroyed, but rather transformed. Why would God annihilate something that he created and called good (Gen. 1:31)? Our bodies are essentially good, but infected with sin and death, so instead of obliterating them, God is going to transform and renew them.
The only decent analogy I can think of is a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It’s the same creature, but it goes through a death-like experience in a cacoon, then transforms into a butterfly. If Paul’s teaching is correct, we are currently in our caterpillar stage. But because of Jesus’ resurrection, we live in the hope of our transformation. “For in this hope we were saved” (Rom. 8:24).
[This post is part of a series on Paul.]