During these days in which we are watching for the Lord Jesus, the anticipation and excitement over his soon coming increases daily. We see the conflict in the middle east growing wider by the hour, and while we mourn for the destruction of life and property that is taking place before our eyes, we also believe that these events were prophesied. The nations are in place for the grand drama of the ages, the bombs and missiles are flying, and it appears to informed observers that the end times have begun.
To the pre-trib Christian, this means the Lord will very soon descend from heaven with a shout to remove his people from the earth. The rapture truly can happen at any moment. We want to see his face. We want to fall at his feet and worship him. We want to go to our home in the sky.
We are Christians by virtue of having believed and acted on the gospel, which is presented very succinctly in I Cor. 15, the great resurrection chapter. Verses1-4 state: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." We should understand that, even if we do not have a revelation of the reality of the matter, the depravity of man is such that it was necessary that Jesus die to pay the penalty for our sin, therefore it is incumbent upon us to accept the terms for our salvation set by God himself for our benefit.
Rom 10:9-10 says, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." The resurrection is an integral part of the gospel of our salvation.
I Cor. 15 goes on to present a very eloquent legal case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, including naming eyewitnesses who were still alive and could verify the facts at the time the passage was recorded, and it makes the case that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees our resurrection. Verses 19-20 say, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
The record of scripture is that all humans will be resurrected to live eternally, some to live in the presence of God, and some to live in a place of torment. Forever.
The scripture declares that Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, but his people will also be resurrected at his coming (I Cor. 15:23). For those who are alive on earth at that moment, our resurrection will occur at the rapture, without having died first.
1 John 3:2 says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." According to this verse we do not yet have detailed knowledge about the glorified resurrection bodies we will soon inhabit, but we do know that those bodies will be like Jesus’ body and scripture does give us some hints about what is to come.
The gospel of Luke presents Jesus as man and it gives us some very interesting information regarding the physical aspects of the resurrection. On the day of his resurrection, two of the disciples were on their way to Emmaus when they were joined by a third man who they did not recognize because their eyes were ‘holden.’ As they walked and talked he explained how the scriptures had to be fulfilled. They stopped for the night and asked the third man to stay with them, which he did, and when he blessed and broke the bread at the meal, their eyes were opened and they knew that they were with Jesus. At that, he vanished out of their sight. Jesus did not change to a different form, he disappeared. One explanation is that the resurrection body may have the ability to travel at or near the speed of light (I John 1:5). Another is that it is not limited to the four-dimensional world that we inhabit and is actually able to step outside the space-time continuum.
That evening the disciples were in the upper room, and according to John 21:19, the "doors were shut for fear of the Jews." It appears that the disciples were concerned that they might be next to hang on crosses, so they ‘shut’ the doors. It would seem that those doors were locked. Security was tight. Then something awesome happened.
Luke 24:36-43 "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them."
Three days before this incident the disciples had seen Jesus die on the cross. Even though he had told him that he would rise from the dead, they didn’t have the understanding of what was to come. Thus, when he appeared, they thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus took care to prove to them that he had risen from the dead in the same physical body that they had seen hang on the cross. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see..." He told them to touch him to prove to their satisfaction that he was a real, physical person.
Given the fact that the "doors were shut for fear of the Jews," we should understand that Jesus, in a resurrected flesh and bone body, surprised the disciples by entering that room without using the door or a window. His physical, substance body passed right through the physical substance used in the construction of the building. From time to time I have seen internet writings that instruct people to head outside or toward a window if they start to hear the rapture trumpet, and most of us have probably seen artwork that depicts graves literally burst open at that moment. Based on this passage in Luke, I don’t believe a glorified resurrection body will be inhibited in the least by physical constraints. According to Matt. 28:1-7 a group of women went to the tomb early on resurrection day and were present when the angel removed the stone. They did not see Jesus at that time, and the angel told them (Matt 28:6) "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." Jesus had already left the tomb. The angels did not remove the stone from the tomb to let Jesus OUT, they removed the stone to let the disciples IN. Over the next day or two all of the disciples would see the resurrected Jesus. The tomb was opened to prove that it was Jesus himself who had been resurrected, not some spiritual imposter, and the resurrection was of his literal physical body.
Jesus stated his body was "flesh and bone," not flesh and blood. He had shed his blood on the cross. Scripture states that the life of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11, 14; Deu. 12:23). Twice I have been present at the death of a loved one, and I found it most revealing that the death was not confirmed by taking the pulse, it was done by taking the blood pressure. When it is necessary to establish the paternity of a child, the doctors do not check fingerprints or skin, hair or eye color, they check blood type because the blood of a pregnant woman never comes in contact with the blood of her unborn baby. While a woman’s body produces eggs every month, those eggs never develop into a baby, or are made alive, unless they are fertilized by the father’s sperm. The blood type, then, of the developing unborn child is determined by the father. All of mankind has inherited our blood from our father Adam (Acts 17:26) but Jesus received his blood from his Father, which was God. Therefore the sin nature which all humans struggle with is contained in our blood, when that blood stops circulating through the human body, the person is said to be dead, and the person stops sinning at that moment. In order for us to become heavenly creatures, fit to live in God’s perfect, holy heaven, that sin nature, which is in our blood, will need to be destroyed. For living believers, this will happen at the rapture. At that moment our bodies will become like His body and we will be free forever from the sin that so easily besets.
I love what happened next. He asked if they had any food. He did not say he was hungry. He couldn’t have been hungry because he was raised in his eternal immortal body. He was no longer subject to death. Hunger is a signal that the body needs food, and if it does not receive food within a certain period of time, the body will die. Jesus could not have been hungry. But he did eat the fish and honeycomb that were given to him.
Now this raises some interesting thoughts. He ate protein and dessert, and in the doing proved that the resurrection body could ingest food, and he ate something that tastes better than matzo. In the mortal human body, eating food results in the elimination of waste. This is something that I never, ever thought I would address in a Bible study, but God does speak to the matter in Deut. 23:12-14 and Mark 7:14-23. From these two passages of scripture we can see that human waste is unclean because it is a picture of what comes out of the heart of man. Since a glorified resurrection body will have no sin nature, thus no sin, it would seem that this particular illustration found in creation will no longer be necessary. I think it might be possible that the resurrection body may be different on the inside: I think it might process food in a totally efficient manner.
Forty days after his resurrection Jesus led the disciples out to the Mount of Olives where he gave them (and us) the great commission. Acts 1:9 says, "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." The Greek word translated as ‘taken up’ is epairo, and one of the ways it can be translated is: to sail away, i.e. weigh anchor. At the rapture the believers will be literally seized from the earth, but we will still be making the same journey to the Father’s house. Since heaven is outside of creation, we can understand that the resurrection body is not subject to freezing, it will not need air, and it will not require rockets and boosters. We will travel through outer space without the necessity of a life support system. No space suit - just a beautiful white robe.
1 Cor 15:35-38 tells us this: "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body."
Later in the chapter we read that some believers will be resurrected without having died, but in these verses we are given the concept of resurrection, and it is the simple fact of planting a seed and the growth that comes from it. If you have ever planted anything you know that the seed is actually dead, but that dry shriveled up thing will sprout into a beautiful plant, or tree, or resurrection body. It does not look at all like the seed that went into the ground, instead it is gloriously alive, growing and bearing fruit.
My favorite analogy is the black cherry tree that was in the yard of a former house. In the spring that tree would burst into bloom and be literally covered with the most beautiful pink and white blossoms. It was beautifully shaped, and strong, and it would produce excellent cherries. When I think about that tree, I understand that my mortal human body is like the single cherry pit from which that tree grew. You know, the little uninspiring thing you spit out and throw away. But in the resurrection, I will be like the blooming tree. The same kind of life, but in a vastly superior form and with a huge difference in ability. Forever.
Rom 8:11 says, "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." There are two very interesting words in this verse. The word ‘quicken’ is the Greek word zoopoeio and it is defined as: make alive. The word ‘mortal’ is the Greek word thnetos and it is defined as: liable to die. Mortal does not mean dead, it means subject to death. According to this verse, these human bodies that we have currently are not fully alive, but we are promised that if the Holy Spirit dwells in us he will make these bodies fully alive. Here is the seed that is resurrected without having died first.
Ours is the generation that will experience the blessed hope of the church, and given the news reports this week (7/18/06), I believe that we will see our Lord Jesus face to face at any moment. When we do, we shall see him as he is and we shall be like him. Forever.
I can’t wait!! How about you?