Questions about Death and the Christian Hope, Part 3
Living With a View to the Resurrection
In two previous posts I attempted to summarize the biblical witness about death and the hope we have in Christ. In the first post, I wrote about grief and about what we can say about what happens to the Christian immediately after we die. In the second post, I wrote about the resurrection body and shared some thoughts on how the promises God makes about individuals' future hope relates to his promises about the whole world.
We might wonder whether we need to grasp all of this. But it isn’t to satisfy our curiosity that the Bible tells us about these future matters. The Bible doesn’t speak about resurrection as an unnecessary speculative exercise. Rather, what we expect and hope for in the future makes a difference to who we are and how we live now.
If we believe the physical world is one day going to be destroyed and discarded by God, we might see that as license not to care about the environment in which we live, the climate concerns which are increasingly on our minds. But if we understand that God’s goal is to restore and heal creation, we will know that none of our efforts to treat this world with care and respect will be wasted.
If we believe that one day we will escape our bodies and live in an idealized “spiritual” state, we might consider that it doesn’t much matter what we do now with our bodies. This seems to have been the problem in Corinth, where Paul found there were Christians who were behaving badly, in terms of both sexuality and food. They needed to be reminded that their bodies were the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and that they would one day be raised up (6:14). In other words, he was telling them that because of God’s plans for their bodies in the future they should use them well now.
What we hope for the future affects what we invest ourselves in now. This, in fact, is the point behind the great conclusion to Paul’s long and complex discussion about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Because of the promise of resurrected bodies, a renewed heavens and earth, the end of sin, and the fulfilment of all of God’s good intentions for humanity, we can find meaning in all God-pleasing work we do now. When we give ourselves to things that resonate with God’s great song of renewal, we know that we are not wasting our energy or our time. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58)