Recalling the Reality of the Resurrection
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:3–6, 17-21
The first death expels the soul from the body against its will. The second death holds the soul in the body against its will. The two deaths have the common fact that the soul suffers against its will because of its connexion with the body.
City of God, XXI.3, Augustine
I don’t know about you, but it is easy to forget basic things. When I was a kid, I know I once told someone who was babysitting me (and I was in tears), ‘I don’t remember what my mom looks like.’ If you are a Christian, you were once baptized, and this baptism symbolized that you were participating in the death of Christ, and you put your faith in the resurrection of Christ and so were anticipating the resurrection life. But through the thick and thin we can neglect our basic convictions. When I’ve done marriage counseling, the young couple has sometimes had a hard time explaining the basic gospel. I don’t think they would have denied the death and resurrection of Christ, it’s just that their baptism was feels like a long time ago, and there is so much in the world screaming, ‘I’m important too!’ whether that included loving others, or going to college or saving the world. This is why we confess basic creeds and study the Orthodox Catechism (a Baptist Heidelberg): it reminds us of what is of the utmost importance, and what the basics of the Christian faith are.
Now there are so many things that drag us down and toss our doctrinal boat about. You’ve perhaps heard of Critical Race Theory and all the additional things that go along with that. Of course, basic Minnesota Passive-Aggressive is a parallel problem (and just as bad). Both pump up the pride in a person. We could become distracted with charity (you know at one point Millennials were famous for wanting to support good causes), well that has regularly supplanted the gospel in the church for over 100 years. I don’t particularly like those who like to scream at all the problems in the world without realizing that these things affect me and you. Each of us must reflect on our own hearts and consider where we’ve left the tracks. We must always, by God’s Spirit, be reforming ourselves.
And so we come to the topic I’d like to focus on: our faith. We must trust in someone besides ourselves and our minds. And as Christians, we put our trust in God, and we come to know what he desires for us from his word. We must patiently wait on what he has said and promised. For me, it is still easy to forget the importance of the faith. Between changing a poopy diaper, cooking dinner, and getting my normal work done, even as a pastor, the reality of the resurrection becomes hazy. But, it is the most consoling thing. I just taught on the resurrection story, and each person whether the women or Peter or the other disciples in the story must come to the realization that Jesus Christ is truly risen. And we too must come to this realization that he is risen. Paul hammers home the importance of Christ’s resurrection: if Christ is not raised, then our faith is nothing! But because Christ is raised, we can hope in the resurrection of the dead whether I’m thinking of a Christian brother I know who has died or I am anticipating my own demise. And yet it isn’t a demise if you’re in Christ. This is why as Christians we normally bury our dead (vs. cremation or something else): we bury in the hope of a resurrection. It is a sign that just as I died to sin and was raised to new life, so also, though I physically died, I will raise to new life.
Now Augustine in book 21 of City of God says something that helped me consider this resurrection business some more. He’s talking about the eternal state (mostly of the condemned), and he mentions how the first death expels the body from the soul against its will. Death separates the two parts of human existence: soul from body (it is not Christian tradition that teaches that we have three parts to our self). When we die, this is what is happening, and when those who are in Christ die, they will meet our Lord and Savior face to face just like the thief on the cross. But we will not be whole since we’ll be missing our bodies. It is only at the resurrection of the just that we will regain our bodies and our soul and body will be united forever as we were created and redeemed to be. In other words, we’ll on the one hand resemble Adam-like humanity, but we’ll also resemble new Adam-like or Christ-ish humanity. Created…Recreated and glorified. In our trials and tribulations, this is our hope that because Christ died and rose again, so will we. Now Augustine also mentioned the state of the condemned which mirrors the eternal state of his glorified people. They will forever be in torment, body and soul, but their souls will forever be longing to be separate from their bodies to experience some kind of peace. But for those who rejected the God of the universe, their souls won’t be satisfied.
And these future things, we can forget that they are imminent and real things- just like the women and disciples forgot that Jesus said that he must go to Jerusalem to be crucified and buried. We can get so caught up in things that are even good, that we reorder our values so that our eternal hope isn’t what we are most hoping for. When I was young, I know I really wanted to have kids. I guess I used to say I wanted 12 kids, but when you’re young, you can have these desires that are quite strong and forget that there is a meaning to this life that God has given us even if we don’t have our hopes and dreams fulfilled. Ami tells me I’m doing the math wrong, and we unfortunately won’t get to 12 kids, but I think I’ve grown to be ok with that as time has gone on. And at different times, we have other hopes that cloud our vision of our heavenly hope: where we will experience, with our whole selves, life with God. The end of it all then would be this; Take what God has given as a gift, plan for the future with an open hand and wait for our final salvation.