The ‘so what’ of Easter: Part 3 – We shall all be changed

Easter really happened! We spend a lot of time affirming the historical truth of Jesus’ resurrection. But what about the theological significance? And what does Easter mean for you, for me and for our world?

This five-part series looks at some of the answers to this question. Here in part 3 we think about how Jesus’ resurrection foreshadows our bodily resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection really was bodily: Thomas was able to observe and touch Jesus’ hands and side (John 20:27); Jesus himself declared that he was “flesh and bones” and not some ghost (Luke 24:39); and Jesus was even able to eat (Luke 24:43). Also, let’s not forget that the tomb itself was empty.

In a world that has always been sceptical about the resurrection, this great truth must continue to be proclaimed. The temptation to alter what the Scriptures say must be resisted just as strongly. And so even though most find it absurd to think that Jesus rose from his tomb, attempts to make the message more palatable should be rejected; Jesus rose bodily! And one day we will too.

Who wouldn’t love a new body! It seems that most of the world today is in search of a newer, better, stronger, younger-looking body. From the latest CrossFit seminar to yoga paddle boarding (yes, yoga paddle boarding!) to mums and bubs work-out groups, most of us are trying to stop the natural ageing process of our bodies. The problem is, we’ll never be able to stop our perishable bodies from doing exactly that: perishing. But what if someone was to guarantee us a body that was not only perfect, but also immortal? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But this is exactly what Paul claims in 1 Corinthians 15.

In verses 42-44, Paul declares that our perishable bodies will be raised imperishable and changed from dishonoured to glorious—from weak to powerful. Our natural bodies will be raised as spiritual bodies. Furthermore, in verses 52-53, Paul tells us that when the dead are raised, our mortal bodies must put on immortality. Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? But Paul insists that on the day of our resurrection, our bodies will be perfected and made immortal. Just as a seed becomes a plant, so will our current bodies change (vv. 36-39).

It is important to notice that it is our current bodies that will be transformed; we won’t be some new creation. This means that our eternal state will be a physical, bodily affair. We will not be in some fluffy spiritual existence, but rather a perfected bodily existence. As Michael Horton puts it, Paul’s point here is “not disembodiment versus embodiment, but this body in its mortality versus this body in its immortality”.[1] Our decrepit, decaying, wrinkly bodies (well, wrinkly, depending on how old you are!) will be perfected and made immortal!

Now, what gives Paul the confidence to make such a bold claim? Well, it’s because of Jesus’ bodily resurrection: it is because Jesus is risen that we can be confident of our resurrection to come. Jesus’ resurrection is the firstfruits of our resurrection (1 Cor 15:20). That is, just as the firstfruits of the harvest guarantee the rest of the harvest, so too does Jesus’ resurrection guarantee our resurrection to come. Jesus’ resurrection begins our resurrection: it is not that there are two resurrections; there is only one. Jesus’ bodily resurrection marks the beginning of the great end-time general resurrection.

We get hints of this general resurrection in Old Testament texts like Job 19:25-27 and Daniel 12:2. Job tells us that at the last, the Redeemer will stand upon the earth: “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (19:26). Daniel also declares that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (12:2). Furthermore in the New Testament, John 11:24 indicates that people expected there to be an end-time general resurrection.

What we have in Jesus, then, is the arrival of this end-time expectation. His resurrection marks the coming of the last days. Thus the resurrection has now begun with Jesus. As BB Warfield puts it, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead “drags ours in its train”.[2]

This article was originally published in issue 4 of Vine Journal and is re-published here with the kind permission of Visit GoThereFor for a range of ministry ideas and resources.

[1] Michael Scott Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2011, p. 707.

[2] Fred G Zasper, p. 323.