“There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.” Johnny Cash
One theme in the writings of Dorothy Sayers is that the core Christian doctrines are not musty and stale, but alive and beautiful. One of those core doctrines is the belief in the bodily resurrection of all believers. As far as I can remember I have only been in the presence of one dead person. In a culture saturated with depictions of death in movies and television, being physically near a dead person is still an odd experience. There is no movement, no life. Even when a person is sleeping you can sense that their body is animated and warm, but with a person who is dead the experience is totally different and final.
Even more limited is my experience of being present at a resurrection. All common experience for thousands of years has taught that death is the end. Once the river is crossed there is no going back, a concept sometimes so hard to grasp for us mortals. The dead stay dead and there is no peaking past that veil.
A belief in bodily resurrection stands out like a zit in the middle of your face on a first date. In contrast to what we know by experience there will be a resurrection from the dead. In resurrection death is turned back and the veil is torn. Many cultures in the past were willing to accept a spiritual resurrection, the soul of a person rising up to be with God, but a bodily resurrection is truly counter-cultural.
Of course this brings up the question, what our resurrected bodies will be like. Will they look as they did when we die? The ancient Greeks held that when a person was killed their spirit or “shade” descended into the underworld and assumed for eternity their appearance on death, in whatever frightening form in may have been. What about those whose organs are donated or who are cremated. How will they rise? Paul answers questions about bodily resurrection to some degree in 1 Corinthians 15. He describes it like a seed which is planted and then springs forth as a plant. The resurrection will be like the putting of a shriveled seed in the dirt which will burst forth in something unimaginable and awesome. Don’t know what it will be except for something good, very good.
The only other picture we get is also our guarantee of a resurrection. Jesus is described as the firstfruits from the dead. He could walk through walls, yet eat food. He still had the nail marks and the spear wound in the side. Of course this was all that could be seen in a world limited by the five senses. More importantly is that he did rise from the dead. It is our assurance they we too will die, yet be raised back to life. Read 1 Corinthians 15 and see how much Paul expounds this. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead than there is no resurrection for anyone. If resurrection doesn’t occur then our faith is meaningless, a worthless waste of time.
Resurrection is an odd thing to believe in our naturalistic world. This is a culture that either fears death as the worst evil or has an obsession with zombies and vampires. For Christians death is no longer the terror it was. If we only belonged to one world then it would be logical to either be a hedonist or a Stoic. Instead we have a home in two worlds, knowing that they are connected. While everyone around us is living as for one world, we live as having two. When our residence ends in the first world, our stay will have only just begun in the second.