Beckett: 3rd Article of the Creed – The Resurrection of the Body

“…On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ” (SC, The Third Article: Sanctification).

As St. Paul writes, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

“I’m but a stranger here, / Heav’n is my home,” we sing in the hymn (LSB #748). What nonsense! Heaven is not our home. Man was not created in Heaven; he was created from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:5-8), and our bodies will return to dust (Genesis 3:19). He was placed in it to work it and to till it, not Heaven. Therefore, Earth is our home. Heaven is not the final goal of the Christian either. It is true that Christians have the blessed hope and comfort of going to Heaven when they die, such as what Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Even Paul desired to depart the struggles of this world and be with Christ in Heaven (Philippians 1:23). But Heaven is not the ultimate hope of the Christian. Just as we confess in this article of the Creed, our ultimate hope is in the resurrection of the body—the new creation, that is, the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21).

Jesus speaks of the resurrection of the dead (John 6:40). Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth and Thessalonica with this blessed promise (1 Corinthians 15:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), just as he did to the Romans above. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35), meaning the current heavens and earth will pass away, so you better hope you’re still not in Heaven when it passes away!

The Book of Revelation is about many things, but the main thing it’s about is not that you go to Heaven when you die, but the new heavens and the new earth in the new creation. Right at the end of the prophecy, we read about the angels rejoicing in Heaven, which is the Heaven we typically speak about (chapters 19-20). Then in chapter 21, John begins, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (v. 1). As he continues, he describes the holy city of New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” (v. 2), etc.

We therefore look forward to the resurrection of the body as the new heavens and the new earth come down to us. Our hope is not that we remain in some nebulous, ethereal state of existence in Heaven. Our hope is that Jesus raises our bodies from the dead—body and soul reunited, perfect and glorified—as the new creation and the holy city of New Jerusalem descend to us. We have no idea what this will exactly look like. What we do know is that our hope is to walk in the new heavens and the new earth, seeing Jesus face to face, perfect and glorified without sin or suffering for all eternity.

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