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04/20/2014

The Resurrection Body

“Thou art gone, our precious darling, Never more can thou return,

But to sleep, a peaceful slumber, Till the resurrection morn.”

Today is Resurrection Sunday, the Festival of Easter, when we celebrate the raising of Christ from the dead for the sake of the redemption of humanity.  Certainly, the Resurrection is about the sacrificial Lamb of God, His purchase of redemption from sin, and His conquest of death.  However, regarding medical ethics, the Resurrection marks the inauguration of hope for men and women of a future resurrection body.  Jesus’s coming out of the grave was not only a death knell for death but was also the first fruits of the resurrection for humanity, a preliminary harvest indicating what is to come (1 Cor. 15:23).

Anthony Hoekema, in his “The Resurrection of the Body” in The Bible and the Future, provides an

The Two Disciples at the Tomb

The Two Disciples at the Tomb by Henry Ossawa Tanner

excellent discussion of this important theological concept.  I first became acquainted with Hoekema’s work in his Christian anthropology, Created in God’s Image, an excellent medical ethics resource in its own right.  In The Bible and the Future, he shows us that a Christian view of the human being corrects a Greek philosophical idea which views the body and soul as in conflict:

The Bible, on the contrary, teaches that God created man body and soul, and that man is not complete apart from his body.  Both the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of Christ prove that the body is not evil but good.  Because Christ arose from the dead, all who are Christ’s shall also arise with glorified bodies. (239)

1 Corinthians 15 appears to be written by the apostle Paul to answer questions believers in Corinth had about the Resurrection.  Hoekema proposes that Paul was not addressing their doubts about Christ’s resurrection but about the resurrection of men and women.  Greek philosophy viewing the body as a prison from which the soul must escape might very well lead to a misunderstanding of the future state of humanity (though not of the risen Son of God).  It is clear that Scripture’s view of the human body is a positive one:  that it is to be redeemed along with the rest of creation.

In turn, this is good news for medicine.  A physician might view his practice as a failed profession, since all patients eventually meet the same fate (a mortal one).  The Resurrection states that there is more to the story.  While the grave may look like a final end (indeed Christ was put in a tomb a lifeless corpse), Resurrection Day gives us a taste of a new day when the crippled and infirm, the diseased and deformed, i.e. all of us will be restored and made whole in Christ.

For Further Study

The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema (Eerdmans).

The Two Disciples at the Tomb by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Art Institute of Chicago.

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