Lesson 11: The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting

the resurrection of the body and the life everlastingThe creed ends with the affirmation that we shall share Jesus’ resurrection. Although there is some concern about when this will take place, there is agreement that Jesus’ resurrection appearances, as recorded in the Bible, indicate what ours shall be like.

The gospels begin by anticipating our following Jesus in the near future. In fact, some texts claim it will happen before those hearing the good news are dead (Mark 13:30). However, when this does not take place, the early Christians stretched the time between Jesus’ and our resurrections. Paul overcomes the tension by saying it will seem like the twinkling of an eye after we die (I Corinthians 15: 51-57). He also claims the resurrection life begins with Baptism when we die and rise with Christ (Romans 6:4). Matthew and Luke try to say the same thing when they promise Jesus is already in our midst (Matthew 18: 25, Luke 17:21). And John says, “The hour is coming and now is here” (John 5:25, 4:23).

The traditional liturgy acknowledges this now and future sense of our resurrections when it prays “Come, Lord Jesus” as a plea for his return as food in the communion meal and as fully manifest in the future. It also recites weekly the mystery of faith, “ Christ is dead. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

The Church associates three poetic visions with our future resurrection. Most people think of the apocalyptic vision in Mark 13: 1- 39 when the resurrected Jesus returns to raise the dead, judge the nations, and establish God’s rule. Revelation pictures that rule taking place a huge ecological city with low walls and open gates. Unlike the pollution associated with our cities, a crystal river runs through this one, watering Trees of Life that line it on both sides. The boughs of these trees bear fruits of the month for its inhabitants and their leaves provide healing for the nations. Creation is healed. All enjoy peace and have enough.

The second vision is Isaiah’s beloved Peaceable Kingdom: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11: 6-10)

And the third is the Beloved Community, epitomized by a marriage feast. This is the one the Church has embraced down through the ages when she made a meal her main act of worship. It offers her a means to remember how Jesus ate with all sorts of people during his lifetime and in his resurrection appearances and how he shall eat with us face to face in the future. Each week the church declares her Eucharist is a “foretaste of the feast to come.”

All three visions presume a bodily resurrection. They assume our resurrection shall be like that the apostles’ experience when the Risen Jesus came among them. We shall be able to touch one another, share a meal, fish with one another, and speak face to face. We often mess up this wonderful picture by talking about souls flying to heaven and other rather silly notions. The biblical visions all feature Jesus returning to earth to share our lives once more. We shall recognize and relate to one another through our bodies as we always have. We shall be in the resurrected life as we have always known ourselves . John’s vision of the Ecological City captures this splendidly, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

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