Jul 17, 2012

New Bodies For Old - Part 2

Salvation cleanses and renews man in the core of his being--in his spirit. The soul (mind, emotions, will) are also renewed, washed, reconstructed and refreshed completely by the recreating workings of the Holy Spirit. Over time the Christian continues to experience a process which the Bible calls "sanctification." Technically the word in Greek or Hebrew means "set aside for the purposes of God, "or "put to the proper use intended by the Creator." However Ray Stedman notes that a better meaning we can readily understand is the term "to make whole."
Thomas touching Jesus side

Sin is a violation of God's intention for humanity. It is a destructive force that wrecks and ruins the full glory and beauty of humanity as God intended it to be. A mere glance at what is happening in society will convince you how true this is. I firmly believe that the Bay Area is the most beautiful, most enviable place on earth. I have traveled all over this globe and I have never found any place more desirable than this area. It has a marvelous climate -- neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter. Spring comes in February, winter does not come until the middle of December, and even then it is very mild. The Peninsula, we are told, has the highest per capita income of any place in the world. Unemployment is relatively low. There is freedom here to follow any lifestyle you want. Yet people in this area are just as hurting, lonely, and miserable inside; life is just as empty and as painful as it is anywhere on earth. Why is that? It is because of sin. But they do not know that. They do not understand what causes all the pain, hurt, and loneliness. They ascribe it to a lot of different sources, but when those are corrected the same pain, the same emptiness remains.

So what do they learn from watching transformed people in the church? They learn that the reason for their pain is that they are out of touch with basic reality. They are trying to play the game of life without any reference to the One who sets the rules. The first thing they learn when they see people who have been inwardly transformed by the presence of the Spirit releasing to them the life of Jesus is that here are people who have found the secret of life. Here are people who like themselves have suffered all the hurt and the loneliness of life who now have found the secret of calmness, peace, and forgiveness. They discover for the first time that the nature of sin is to ignore the One in charge of life. "They sin because they do not believe in me," Jesus declares. The secret to life, therefore, is to believe in and come to the Lord Jesus.

The second thing the world will learn, Jesus says, is the source of the gift of wholeness. "Righteousness," he calls it, but righteousness is a term for what the Old Testament calls "holiness."

I confess I have never liked the word "holiness." When I was growing up I likened holiness to grimness. Holy people never smiled and never enjoyed anything. In fact, if they did enjoy anything, they felt guilty about it! I never liked this word until I learned to substitute for it another word that says exactly what holiness is, and that is the word "wholeness."

I have never met anybody who does not want to be a whole person. What do we mean when we sing "Holy, holy, holy"? God is "whole," he is perfect. There is nothing out of balance or eccentric about him. That is what he is seeking to produce in this world -- "whole" persons. That is what the word "righteousness" means.

The good news of the gospel is that we do not have to make ourselves whole. Everybody is born into this world with the idea that the way to be "whole" is to work at it until all the pieces fit and he finally gets himself together. Have you ever said to yourself, "I'm going to get myself together!" That is an expression of a desire for wholeness. What the world will learn from Christians is that the only way to find that wholeness is to come to Jesus. That is the first thing he gives you, an inner gift of wholeness. You are made righteous. Here is how Paul describes it in his second Corinthian letter. "He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," {cf, 2 Cor 5:21 KJV}. That is it. The world will discover that the way to wholeness is to come to Jesus. This is done by means of the Spirit. That is what Jesus means when he says here, "because I go unto the Father and you see me no more." All along he has been saying that when he goes to the Father he will send the Spirit, and the first work of the Spirit is to give us what we could never earn -- righteousness, inner wholeness before God.

The Old Testament has a wonderful term for that: "The beauty of holiness." We are talking about inner beauty. One of my favorite psalms says, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us," {Psalm 90:17a KJV}. There is something beautiful about whole people. They attract us, they capture our attention. The truly beautiful people, therefore, says Jesus, will be those who, despite all the failure and the weakness and the stumbling folly of their lives, have, by faith in Jesus, been made whole inwardly, and that inner wholeness then begins to transform, in a process, all of the outer life until they gradually reflect it in their behavior. That is what the world will learn. (Ray C. Stedman, Expository sermons on the Gospel of John)
"The Body is Dead Because of Sin, But Your Spirits are Alive..."
It is through the sense organs of the physical body that we are aware of the physical world in which we live. The bodies we now have are mortal bodies--the Bible calls them "natural bodies." If in fact we now possessed our new spiritual bodies which will be given to us at the coming resurrection, we would see that we are already in the midst of heaven. We are surrounded by angels, and in fact we are also now "seated in Christ Jesus in the heavenly places"! (Ephesians 2, quoted above),
"... you have [already] come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24)
It takes a bit of getting used to--the nature of time and eternity. We are connected to the old creation and the present fallen world system through eyes, ears, touch, taste, smell and contact with planet earth and people around us--through our old sinful, unredeemed bodies. We are also prisoners in a one-dimensional time frame. Our present natural, or mortal bodies, (because of the Fall) allow us to experience a flow of time from the future through the present and into the past--only. This kind of time is known as "linear time" and we can not escape this imprisonment in time as long as we still inhabit our fallen present bodies.

It is true that in spirit and soul, regenerated people already are in touch with eternity, we already possess eternal life and are aware of qualities of time in the heavenly places they we were not aware of before coming to know God. Arthur Custance eloquently discusses the many dimensions of time in his books "Journey out of Time" and "Time and Eternity".

Now for the interesting part of resurrection. A number of passages in the Bible tell us exactly what happens we a Christian dies. One key passage is 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 which says this:
"For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, [Greek: skenos, a tent] is destroyed, we have [present tense] a building {Greek: oikos, a permanent building] from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him."
The apostle likens our present bodies to tents used for camping purposes. They are flimsy and easily torn. They are subject to mildew. The winds blows easily through the cracks, the floor is rocky and uncomfortable. The best of tents are too cold in winter, too hot in summer. and the rain finds a way to get in no matter what. They are not very durable. They are for temporary use, not intended as permanent dwellings!

Paul tells tells us in the above passage that our new spiritual (resurrection) bodies (solid, substantial oikos) are already in existence! These bodies are waiting to be put on as a man would put on a new suit of clothes. Using the different Greek word oikos he tells us that the new body is solid, substantial and permanent, unlike a camping tent.
To assure us that no intermediate state awaits us when we die, he alludes to the fact that we are usually uncomfortable when we are naked. We would likewise be uncomfortable if we stepped out of our present bodies and walked around as mere naked spirits. Instead , he tells us in this passage, that we are immediately "clothed" upon by our new resurrection bodies. We will not be found naked at death, we will step immediately out of time into eternity and immediately put on our "space suits"--marvelous resurrection bodies which will never wear out nor grow old!

When we die we step out of time and enter eternity--"to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord"--that is clear. Our immediate experience is to arrive at point in the heavenly dimension where eternity invades time--an event we call the resurrection of the righteous dead. It is described for us in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. We believers from the age of the church all arrive together and we all put on your new bodies as if there a set of fine clothes and we were dressing for a magnificent wedding (which is the actual situation).
Jesus Christ on the Road to Emmaus

I Corinthians Chapter 15 contains the most complete description we have in the Bible concerning the nature of resurrection of believers and resurrection bodies. The late Scottish Bible scholar William Barclay offers helpful comments about what we know and do not know about the life which is to come. He writes as follows,
I CORINTHIANS 15, to which we now turn, is at one and the same time one of the greatest and one of the most difficult chapters in the New Testament. Not only is it in itself difficult, but it has also given to the creed a phrase which many people have grave difficulty in affirming, for It is from this chapter that we mainly derive the idea of the resurrection of the body. The chapter will be far less difficult if we study it against its background, and even that troublesome phrase will become quite clear and quite acceptable when we realize what Paul really meant by it. So then before we study this chapter there are certain things we would do well to have in our minds.

(i) It is a point of very great importance to remember that the Corinthians were not denying the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; what they were denying is the resurrection of the body; and what Paul is insistent upon is that If a man denies the possibility of the resurrection of the body he has thereby denied the possibility of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and has therefore emptied the Christian message of its truth and the Christian life of its reality.
(ii) In any early Christian Church there must have been two backgrounds, for in all Churches there were Jews and Greeks. At these two backgrounds we must now look. First, there was the Jewish background. To the end of the day the Sadducees denied that there was any life after death at all. There was therefore one line of Jewish thought which completely denied both the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. (Acts 23: 8). In the Old Testament itself there is very little hope of anything that can be called life after death. According to the general Old Testament belief all men, without distinction, went to Sheol after death. Often Sheol is wrongly translated Hell. Sheol was the abode of all the dead. It was a gray land, beneath the world, where the dead lived a shadowy and a ghostly existence, without strength, without light, cut off alike from men and from God. The Old Testament is full of this bleak, grim pessimism regarding what is to happen after death.
For in death there is no remembrance of Thee: In the grave who shall give Thee thanks? (Psalm 6: 5).
What profit is there In my blood when I go down Into the pit? Shall the dust praise Thee? Shall it declare Thy truth? (Psalm 30: 9).
Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee? Shall Thy loving kindness be declared in the grave? Or Thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall Thy wonders be known in the dark? And Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10-12).
Sheol - Hades
Sheol was the land of the dark and of the forgotten dead,
The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. (Psalm 115:17).
The grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. (Isaiah 38:18).
O spare me that I may recover strength, before I go hence and be no more. (Psalm 39: 13).
To him that is joined to all the living there is a hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything...Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither Thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9: 4, 5, 10).
Who shall give praise to the Most High in the grave? Ecclesiasticus 17: 27).
The dead that are in the grave, whose breath is taken from their bodies, will give unto the Lord neither glory nor righteousnesss. (Baruch 2: 17).
J. E. McFadyen, the great Old Testament scholar, has said that this lack of a belief In immortality in the Old Testament is due "to the power with which those men apprehended God in this world." He goes on to say, "There are few more wonderful things than this in the long story of religion, that for centuries men lived the noblest lives, doing their duties and bearing their sorrows, without hope of future reward; and they did this because in all their going out and coming in they were very sure of God."
It Is true that In the Old Testament there are some few, some very few, glimpses of a real life to come. There were times when a man felt that, if God be God at all, there must be something which would reverse the incomprehensible verdicts of this world. So Job cries out,
Still, I know One to champion me at last, to stand up for me upon earth. This body may break up, but even then my life shall have a sight of God. (Job 19: 25-27. Moffatt).
The real feeling of the saint was that even In this life a man might enter into a relationship with God, so close, so precious and so intimate that not even death could break It.
My flesh shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol; neither wilt Thou surfer Thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is foulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16: 9-11).
Thou hast holden me by Thy right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. (Psalm 73: 24).
It is true that in Israel the immortal hope did develop. Two things helped that development. (a) Israel was the chosen people, and yet her history was one continued tale of disaster. Men began to feel that it required another world to redress the balance. (b) For many centuries it is true to say that the individual hardly existed. God was the God of the nation, but the individual was an unimportant unit. But as the centuries went on religion became more and more personal. God became not the God of the nation but the God who was the friend of every individual man; and so men began, not certainly, but dimly and instinctively, to feel that once a man knows God and is known by God, a relationship has happened which not even death can break.

(iii) Now we turn to the Greek world. When we do we must firmly grasp one thing, which indeed is at the back of this whole chapter. On the whole the Greek did believe in the immortality of the soul, but the Greek would never have dreamed of believing in the resurrection of the body. It is true that the Greek had an instinctive fear of death. Euripides wrote, "Yet mortals, burdened with countless ills, still love life. They long for each coming day, glad to bear the thing they know, rather than face death the unknown." (Fragment 813). But on the whole the Greek, and that part of the world influenced by Greek thought, did believe in the immortality of the soul. But--and here is the difference--the immortality of the soul involved for the Greek the obliteration, the extinction, the complete dissolution of the body. The Greeks had a proverb, "The body is a tomb." " I am a poor soul," said one of them, "shackled to a corpse." " It pleased me," said Seneca, "to inquire into the eternity of the soul--nay! to believe in it. I surrendered myself to that great hope." But he also says, "When the day shall come which shall part this mixture of divine and human, here, where I found It, I will leave my body, myself I will give back to the gods." Epictetus writes, "When God does not supply what is necessary, He is sounding the signal for retreat. He has opened the door and says to you 'Come!' But whither? To nothing terrible, but to whence you came, to the things which are dear and kin to you, to the elements. What in you was fire shall go to fire, earth to earth, water to water." Seneca talks about things at death " being resolved into their ancient elements." For Plato "the body is the antithesis of the soul, as the source of all weaknesses as opposed to what alone is capable of independence and goodness." We can see this best in the Stoic belief. To the Stoic God was fiery spirit, purer than anything on earth.

That which gave men life was that a spark of this divine fire came and dwelt in a man's body, a spark of God. When a man died, his body simply dissolved into the elements of which it was made, but the divine spark returned to God and was absorbed in the divinity of which it was a part. So, for the Greek, immortality lay precisely in getting rid of the body. For him the resurrection of the body was unthinkable. Personal immortality did not really exist because the life which gave men life was absorbed again in God the source of all life.

(iv) Paul's view was quite different. If we begin with one immense fact the rest will become clear. The Christian belief is that after death Individuality will survive, that you will still be you and I will still be I. Beside that we have to set another immense fact. To the Greek the body could not be consecrated. The body was matter, the source of all evil, the shackle, the handicap, the prison house of the soul. But to the Christian the body was not evil. It could not be after the incarnation. Jesus, the Son of God, had taken this human body upon him and therefore the body is not despicable and contemptible because it had been inhabited by God. To the Christian therefore the life to come involves the total man, body and soul. Now it is easy to misinterpret and to caricature the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. Celsus, who lived about A.D. 220 and who was one of the first to attack Christianity, did it long ago. How can those who died rise with their identical bodies? he demands. " Really it is the hope of worms! For what soul of a man would any longer wish for a body that had rotted?" It is easy to produce the case of a person smashed up In an accident, dying of cancer, maimed, disfigured, broken. But Paul never said that we would rise with the body with which we died. He insisted that we would have a spiritual body. What Paul really meant was that a man's personality would survive. It is almost impossible to conceive of personality without a body, because it is through the body that the personality expresses itself and is recognized. What Paul is contending for is that after death there Is no absorption in some vague deity; there is no loss of the self or of the personality; the individual remains. He did not inherit the Greek contempt of the body. He believed In the resurrection of the whole man. What that life will be like no one can say. But the Christian belief is that not part of the man, but the whole man will rise again. He will still be himself; he will survive as a person. That is what Paul means by the resurrection of the body. Everything of the body and of the soul that is necessary to make a man a person will survive, but, at the same time, all things will be new, and body and spirit will alike be very different from earthly things, for they will alike be divine,

THE RISEN LORD I Corinthians 15:1-11
Brothers, I want to make clear to you the nature of the good news that I preached to you, that gospel which you also received, and in which you stand, and through which you are saved. I want to make clear to you what account I gave you of the good news, an account which can save you if you hold fast to it, unless your belief is a random and haphazard thing. In the very forefront of it I handed on to you what I myself received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was laid in the tomb, and that He was raised up on the third day according to the scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas and then by The Twelve, and that then He was seen by more than five hundred brothers all at the one time, of whom the majority are still alive, although some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, and then by all the apostles, and last of all, as if by the abortion of the apostolic family, He was seen by me too. For I am the least of the apostles; In fact I am not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. It Is by the grace of God that I am what I am, and His grace to me has not proved ineffective, but I have toiled more exceedingly than all of them; but it was not I who achieved anything but God's grace working with me. So then, whether I be the preacher or they, this is what we preach and this is what we have believed.
HERE Paul is recapitulating the good news which he first brought to the Corinthians. It was not news which he had invented. It was news which had first been delivered to him, and it was news of a Risen Lord.
In verses I and 2 Paul says an extremely interesting series of things about the good news.

(i) It was something which the Corinthians had received, The good news is always something which comes to us from someone who already possesses it. No man ever invented the gospel for himself; in a sense no man ever discovered it for himself. It is something which he receives. Therein indeed Is the very function of the Church. The Church is the repository and the transmitter of the good news. As one of the old fathers had It, "No man can have God for his Father, unless he has the Church for his mother." The good news is something that is received within a fellow-ship.

(ii) It was something in which the Corinthians stood. The very first function of the good news was to give a man stability. In a dangerous and a slippery world it kept him on his feet. In a tempting and a seducing world it gave him resistance power. In a hurting world it gave him power to withstand a broken heart or an agonized body and not to give in. Moffatt finely translates Job 4: 4, "Your words have kept men on their feet." That is precisely what the word of the gospel does.

(iii) It was something in which they were being saved. It is interesting to note that in the Greek this is a present tense, and not a past tense. It would be strictly correct to translate it not, "in which you have been saved," but, in which you are being saved." The very glory of salvation is that it goes from glory to glory. It is not something which is ever completed In this world. It takes another world to open to any man the full treasures of salvation. One of the greatest characteristics of the Christian life is just its limitlessness. There are so many things in this life which we can exhaust, but the meaning of salvation is something which a man can never exhaust.

(iv) It was something to which a man had to hold tenaciously. Life makes many an attempt to take away our faith. Things happen to us and happen to others which baffle our understanding; life has its problems to which there seems to be no solution and its questions to which there seems to be no answer; life has its dark places where there seems to be nothing to do but to hold on. Faith is always a victory, the victory of the soul which tenaciously maintains its clutch on God.

(v) It was something which must not be held haphazardly and at random. The faith which collapses is the faith which has not thought things out and thought them through. For so many of us our faith, our belief, is a superficial thing. We tend to accept things because we were told them, to possess them merely at secondhand. If we follow out the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really and truly and inalienably ours, in such a way that nothing can ever take it from us.
In the list of appearances of the Risen Lord which Paul quotes there are two which are specially interesting.

(i) There is the appearance to Peter. In the very earliest account of the Resurrection story, the word of the messenger in the empty tomb is, " Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter." (Mark 16: 7). In Luke 24: 34 the disciples say, "The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon." It is an amazing thing that one of the first appearances of the Risen Lord was to the disciple who had denied Him. There is all the wonder of the love and grace of Jesus Christ here. Others might have hated Peter forever, but the one desire of Jesus was to set this erratic disciple of His upon his feet. Peter had wronged Jesus and Peter had wept his heart out; and the one desire of this amazing Jesus was to comfort Peter in the pain of his disloyalty. Love can go no further than to think more of the heartbreak of the man who wronged it than of the hurt that it itself has received.

(ii) There is the appearance to James. Without doubt the James who is referred to is the brother of our Lord. Now it is quite clear from the gospel narrative that Jesus' own family did not understand Him and were even actively hostile to Him. Mark 3: 21 tells us that they actually sought to restrain Him because they believed Him to be mad. John 7: 5 tells us that His brothers did not believe in Him. One of the earliest of all the gospels which did not succeed in getting into the New Testament is the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Only fragments of it remain. One fragment preserved by Jerome reads like this, "Now the Lord, when He had given the linen cloth unto the servant of the priest, went unto James and appeared unto him (for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour wherein he had drunk the Lord's cup until he should see Him risen again from among them that sleep)." So, the story runs, "Jesus went to James and said, 'Bring ye a table and bread.' And He took bread and blessed it and break it and gave it unto James the Just and said unto him, 'My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from among them that sleep.'" We can only conjecture what lies behind this. It may well be that the last days turned the contempt of James into wondering admiration, and that then when the end had come, James was so torn with remorse for the way in which he had treated his brother that he swore that he would starve unless his brother came back to forgive him. Here once again we have the amazing grace and love of Christ. He came to bring peace to the troubled soul of the man who had called Him mad and who had been His enemy and opponent.

It is one of the most heart-moving things in all the story of Jesus that two of His first appearances when He rose from the tomb, were to men who had hurt Him cruelly and who were sorry for it. Jesus meets the penitent and the contrite heart far more than halfway.

Finally, In this passage we have a vivid light thrown on the character of Paul himself. To Paul it was the most precious thing in the world that Jesus had appeared also to him. That was at one and the same time the turning point and the dynamic moment of his life. But verses 9~II tell us much about Paul.

(i) They tell us of his utter humility. He is the least of the apostles; he has been glorified with an office for which he felt he was not worthy. The one thing Paul would never have claimed to be is a self-made man. It was by the grace of God that he was what he was. He even takes what may well have been a taunt against him. It would seem that Paul was a little and an unhandsome man (2 Corinthians 10: 10). It may well be that the Jews, after his conversion to Christianity, referred to him contemptuously as that abortion of a man." It may be that the Jewish Christians who wished to impose the law and circumcision upon Christian converts, and who hated Paul's doctrine of free grace, declared that, so far from being born again, Paul was an abortion. Paul was so conscious of his own unworthiness that he felt that no one could say anything too bad about him. Charles Gore once said, " On a general review of life we can seldom feel that we are suffering unmerited wrong." Paul felt like that. His was not the pride which resents the criticisms and the taunts of men; it was the humility which felt that it deserved them.

(ii) They tell us at the same time of the consciousness of his own worth. He was well aware that he had labored beyond them all. Paul's modesty was not a false modesty. But even at that, he spoke always, not of what he had done, but of what God had enabled him to do.

(iii) They tell of his sense of fellowship. He did not regard himself as an isolated phenomenon with a message that was unique. He and the other apostles preached the same gospel. His was the greatness which bound him closer to the Christian fellowship. There is always something lacking in the greatness which divides a man from his fellow men.