The Centerpiece of Easter

I hesitate to use the word Easter, and do so only because in the English-speaking world it is by far the word most used when speaking of the resurrection of Jesus’ body and the celebration thereof. Hereafter, I will use “Jesus’ Resurrection” for the event and “Resurrection Day” for the annual celebration.

Tomorrow, April 16, 2017, is Resurrection Day (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox), which is nine days before my ninety-seventh birthday.

So why this essay on the human body? I suppose because I think about the human body (mine) more and more as I grow older. This is not (I hope) that I am getting more ego-centric, but that my body is slowing down and demands more of my attention to cope with these changes. The chorus of the old hymn, “Zion’s Hill,” describes my situation:

Some day beyond the reach of mortal ken,
Some day God only knows just where and when,
The wheels of mortal life shall all stand still
And I shall go to dwell on Zion’s hill.

In other words, my revolutions per minute are slowing down gradually until at last they will stop. Hey! That is a good thing – “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 5:8. My prayer is that when l can no longer take care of myself the wheels will stop.

As I have to think more about my body, my focus is not on what I can no longer do, but is on the continual marvel on (and gratitude for) what I can still do, and how the diminished capabilities could have lasted so long. Truly, we can all say with David, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well,” Psalm 139:14.

Before Genesis 1:1, so far as we can know, there were no beings or creatures with bodies. The uncreated, eternal being we call God existed in three persons:

  • God, spoken of by Jesus as the Father and described as Spirit. John 4:23, 24, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
  • The Word, a spirit being Who would later take on a body and be called Jesus and The Son of God. John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
  • The Holy Spirit.

Some time before “the beginning” of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, the eternal, uncreated Being we call God created a huge population of spirit beings including seraphim, cherubim, archangels and ordinary angels. They had no bodies in their natural state in heaven, but when on a mission to humans for God could appear in human form (as though they had bodies). These creatures were animate (alive) but had no bodies.

In the creation account in Genesis, chapter one, the first nineteen verses describe the creation of the inanimate universe and vegetation during the first four creation days.

Verses 20-25 describe the creation of all the forms of animal life, living creatures having some form of body, during the fifth and part of the sixth creation days.

Verses 1:26-2:1 describe God’s final creation, mankind (human beings), on the last part of the sixth creation day.

Verses 2:4-25 give more details on the creation of mankind, the pinnacle, the masterpiece, of God’s creation.

At this point we need to fast-forward from Genesis to the New Testament. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul writes, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow (body), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

From these Scriptures we know that humans are tri-partite beings, consisting of:

  • The human spirit – The spirit is the element in humanity which gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God. Whenever the word “spirit” is used, it refers to the immaterial part of humanity that “connects” with God, who Himself is spirit (John 4:24).
  • The human soul – The soul is the essence of humanity’s being; it is who we are. It is will, intellect and emotion, the components of personhood. God is a person, having will, intellect and emotion. We are created in His image, as persons with will, intellect and emotion.
  • The human body – The body is the vehicle by which the spirit and soul are able to accomplish that which is God’s intention for each human person to do. It is the most complicated and capable machine ever invented, making every inanimate machine totally insignificant by comparison.

So, we are ready to discuss this incredible living machine, the human body, and then how it is the centerpiece of Easter.

As we have seen, humans were the last product of God’s six creative days. God’s decision to create man was recorded in Genesis 1:26a, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness,’”
Then in Genesis 1:27 that creation was recorded, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” They were each created as a mature adult, pre-programmed with an adult vocabulary and ability to speak and understand each word, and all the other capabilities needed for an adult life.

The first words they heard were from God and are recorded in Genesis 1:26a, “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.’” After blessing them, the very first commandment God gave them was to be fruitful and multiply, so as to fill the earth. Amazing! This most complicated and capable machine is able to reproduce itself. From early adulthood to middle age it is capable of reproducing itself by intercourse with another human of the opposite sex. This sacred, wonderful process is itself an incredibly complicated operation of these marvelous machines, the product of which is a single cell consisting of an egg, contributed by the female, fertilized by a sperm, contributed by the male called a zygote. It is barely visible to the unaided human eye, being only 6 to 8 thousandths of an inch in diameter. When this cell is implanted into the mother’s womb, which process is called conception, a new life begins. The mother’s body supplies the oxygen and food and maintains the temperature needed for that single cell to grow into a baby that can live in the outside world over a period of nine months, but otherwise that single cell and its splits are on their own. Can you imagine? According to the Smithsonian Magazine, by the time this new life becomes an adult it consists of 32.7 trillion cells!

After only 18 days from conception the heart starts to beat and continues beating until the death of the body. Think of it! The adult heart:

  • Weighs only 6-10 oz (.50-.625 pounds);
  • Beats 100,000 times a day;
  • Pumps 1.4 gallons of blood per minute;
  • Pumps 2000 gallons of blood a day;
  • Beats 2.5 plus billion times per lifetime. For me it is already 3.68 billion;
  • Pumps 1 million barrels of blood per lifetime.
  • God sure knew what He was doing when He designed the human heart;
  • Unbelievable!

When the heart started beating eighteen days after conception, it was told to do so by the brain, which also had to cause each beat to happen at the proper rate. As each new organ or bodily function appears in the process of growth, the growing brain takes over control of that organ or bodily function. Before birth, this control is almost totally automatic. No conscious act of the will is involved. By the time the baby is born, its body has become a living chemical plant more complicated and capable than any inanimate chemical plant. From the air breathed, the food eaten, and the water drunk it can create every kind of tissue that makes up the body! All this creativity and organization thereof is controlled by the brain through an incredibly complex and capable electro/chemical communication network, called the nervous system. Motor nerves carry command information out of the brain and toward effectors, (muscles or glands) that will execute the commands, conscious or unconscious. All of the conscious, voluntary, physical movements of the body are thus controlled by the brain. Of all the organs in the human body, that “most complicated and capable machine,” the human brain is the most complicated and capable organ. Mankind has studied the brain enough to know that the previous sentence is true, but is still relatively ignorant of the wonders of the human brain.

For instance, we humans, like many non-human animals, have five senses which enable us to be aware of what is going on with us and around us (in our environment). Those senses are sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The first four senses are local in nature, in that their sensors deal with very specific stimuli, and are all located in the head. They do, however, all have touch sensors for self protection. The eye reacts to such touch stimuli as heat and cold, any significant touching of the eyeball by a solid object, irritants or harmful chemicals. The ear reacts to heat and cold, the slightest touch of any object on the eardrum and itches at the slightest provocation. The nose reacts to heat and cold, and to abuse it receives by sticking out in such a vulnerable way. The tongue is very sensitive to heat and is very unhappy about being bitten.

The sense of touch is much more universal. Touch sensors are located from top to bottom, side to side, internal and surface. Depending upon the stimulus (i)
touch sensors can detect too hot, too cold, it itches, it aches, the pain,I can’t sit or lie still, that’s wonderful (expert back-scratching), that relaxation is great (lying down in bed after a hard day or expert massage), or ecstasy (various phases of love-making). With all the wonder associated with our senses, all the sensors can do is send a signal along a nerve which connects them to the brain. If the nerve connection to the brain is severed or disabled by unconsciousness or chemicals, there is no sight, hearing, smell, taste or touch. The brain receives and interprets all the sensory signals.

Take my hearing for example. The portion of my brain that handles sound has degenerated with age until I can’t hear even very loud sounds if they are high pitched. My granddaughter Stehpanie came over to my apartment one day to check my smoke alarm. She had been going through their house next door to see if any of their detectors needed new batteries. She asked me to push the test button, which I did. Since I didn’t hear a thing, I turned around to tell her that it needed a new battery. She was in agony, hands clasped over both ears waiting for the test blast to stop.

No one really knows how the brain does this interpretive task. One day when I was working on a church construction project, a two by four fell from ceiling height in an almost vertical orientation and landed on my big toe. I have never felt any worse pain. Now the significant damage was to my toe, but the pain was in my brain. My brain then somehow convinced me that it was my toe that was hurting. I know the medical profession has an explanation of how that can happen, but it has never satisfied me. Give the magnificent body credit, though. It rejected the damaged toenail, healed up the mangled flesh and (eventually) grew a new toenail.

I could go on and on about the mysteries and marvels of the human body. But you get the drift, I hope. We need to get back on the subject of resurrection.

The first human body was that of Adam. The second one was that of Eve, created later on the same sixth creative day. Together they were the culmination of God’s creation. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good,” Genesis 1:31a. We don’t know how long their bodies would have lasted if they had remained in their innocent state in the garden of Eden, but after they sinned their bodies began aging towards death. For a number of generations the lifespan of the human body was almost a thousand years. After the flood, lifespan quickly diminished to the Biblical norm mentioned in Psalm 9:10, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
The Old Testament records one resurrection by Elijah and two by Elisha:

  • Elijah resurrected the son of the widow of Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:18, 19, 21, 22, “So she said to Elijah, ‘What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?’ And he said to her, ‘Give me your son.’ So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’ Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.”
  • The resurrection of the son of the Shunammite woman by Elisha, 2 Kings 4:35, “He (Elisha) returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him (the son) then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
  • A dead man was resurrected when he came into contact with Elisha’s bones, 2 Kings 13:21, “So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.”

Jesus resurrected several individuals during is earthly ministry;

  • The widow of Nain’s son, Luke 7:13-15, “ When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.”
  • Jairus’ daughter, Luke 8:54, 55a, “But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, ‘Little girl, arise.’ Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately.”
  • And, of course, Lazarus.

After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles were used to raise the dead:

  • Peter raised Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43);
  • Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12).

All the above resurrections were not to bodies they would have in heaven (or hell), but back to earthly bodies, just healed from whatever killed them. In due time they would die again.

Since we are looking at the human body, we need to look at Jesus’ body, for it was human. So why did Jesus have a human body? Let’s look at some Bible verses that may help answer that question:

  • 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
  • Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

From the above verses we see some (but by no means all) of the reasons Jesus had to have a human body:

  • As eternal Creator-God He could not die. Only by inhabiting a mortal, human body would He be able to die.
  • Only in a human body could He experience human temptations.
  • Only by refusing to sin could he be free of sin Himself so as to be the innocent “Lamb of God,” qualified to bear the punishment for the sins of humanity.
  • In the process of dying on the cross, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Cor. 5:21). Whereupon Jesus “cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46).
  • After this unimaginable ordeal, “Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, – – – – – said, ‘It is finished!’ and bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19,:28, 30b.

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” 1 Cor. 15:20-23. HALLELUJAH!

Note that in this passage resurrection of an earthly body back into an earthly body is ignored. The primary meaning of resurrection is from a dead earthly body to a live heavenly body. In this sense Jesus is the only person (the firstfruits) who has been resurrected to date.

The next ones will be the dead in Christ who are resurrected at Jesus’ coming for His bride, the Church. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thes. 4:16-18.

Oddly enough, “those (Christians) who are alive and remain,” won’t be resurrected in the sense dead-earthly-bodies into live-heavenly-bodies, but in the sense live-earthly-bodies into live-heavenly-bodies. In other words, they won’t die. This scenario is clearly set forth in 1 Cor. 15:51-54, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we (who are alive) shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”

Jesus’ goal for our resurrection is beautifully stated in Phil. 3:20, 21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

So what is Jesus’ body like now, which is what our bodies will be like in heaven? There is no attempt to prioritize or otherwise order this list:

  • At least some material barriers no longer apply. When He was resurrected: his grave clothes collapsed and lay in perfect order; he exited the tomb through solid rock (the stone door was rolled away not to let Him out, but so his disciples could see that the tomb was empty); He was able to enter a room undeterred by walls, ceiling, floors and locked doors.
  • He is able to move about in ways and at speeds we cannot comprehend.
  • Jesus’ battered and bloody body was 33 years old when he died and was resurrected with a glorious body that looked like a 33 year old. Isn’t it likely that our appearance will be like we were a glorious 33 year-old?
  • It is immortal (cannot die).
  • It is holy (cannot sin).
  • It will be perfect (its sight, hearing, and all other functions will be perfect).
  • For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 1 Cor. 13:12.
  • We will be able to worship in an absolutely holy place with no sin in us or anyone else, seeing and hearing God!
  • We will be able to sing the songs of heaven with perfect pitch and tempo.
  • And on and on.

On earth in our present human bodies we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. We wonder whether we will need to sleep in heaven. Jesus slept in his earthly body, but now in heaven, He is Almighty God in a body. In Psalm 121:4 we read, “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” I’m afraid there is not enough Biblical evidence to go on. My personal expectation is that we won’t need to sleep.

On earth in our present human bodies we also spend a lot of time (and money) eating and drinking, which is not only essential for life, but can be very enjoyable. Thus we ask, will there be food in heaven? Will we eat in heaven? Even if it is not necessary for life, will we eat because it is enjoyable? What does the Bible teach?

  • In Mark 14:25 Jesus stated that He would one day eat again with His followers, “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
  • In Luke 24:42, 43, Jesus ate in his resurrected body, “So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.”
  • That there will be food available in heaven is shown by Rev. 22:2a, “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.”
  • Revelation 19:9a states, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” It is hard to believe that there could be a wedding supper without eating.
  • While we are on this earth, Christians are instructed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If eating and drinking on earth have this purpose, certainly any eating and drinking in heaven will merit an even greater devotion to God’s glory!
  • Yet it is hard to imagine heaven having restrooms for billions of people and a sewage treatment plant sufficient for them.

So, what can we conclude? It seems to me it might be something like this:

  • There will be food in heaven. It will likely be different from earthly food, suited to our resurrected bodies.
  • We will eat and drink, not to sustain our life, but for enjoyment of the food and drink, for the fellowship with other believers and with God Himself, all to His glory!
  • There will be no waste products in our new bodily functions.

On earth, in our present human bodies, we spend a lot of time, energy and money in the process of obeying God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (through marriage and the family).

One day the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection, were trying to discredit the teaching. In the course of the argument Jesus spoke these words, recorded in Matt. 22:30, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

FOUL! FOUL! cry out most of the men and even some of the women. This reminds me of an incident when we were taking a team to the Stockton Rescue Mission once a month. We had lots of time to talk going and coming. On one of our trips a discussion about heaven was going on. A younger man was imagining what his married life might be like in heaven. A godly older woman quoted the above verse to him. His instant response was, “If there’s no sex in heaven, I don’t want to go there!” We all got a good laugh. He was a solid Christian who wrote love songs to Jesus, and led us in singing them with his guitar. He was later killed in a truck accident, after which his widow remarried. I’m sure that when he got to heaven he realized his rash statement was unwarranted and he was glad Jesus hadn’t taken it seriously. When my dear wife, Alva, departed for heaven four years ago, my rejoicing for her promotion gradually turned into longing, as so many routine activities reminded me of her. I talked to Jesus about it, which helped for a while. Then one day as I was talking to him He brought me up short. He didn’t speak in an audible voice, but suddenly in my mind was a very plain communication, “Why are you looking backward to a marriage that, though good, is now over? Why aren’t you looking forward to the marriage of the lamb?” I was shocked, and ashamed. Why did Jesus have to remind me? I repented of my obtuseness and rejoiced over the prospect. The marriage which Alva and I enjoyed was only a shadow of that greater heavenly marriage to come, when every Christian who has ever lived will be, collectively, the bride of Christ, our heavenly bridegroom forever!

My mindset was drastically changed and if something reminds me of the old marriage, I can redirect my thoughts to the new one ahead. What a blessing!

It seems likely that our resurrection bodies will thus be different, having no or a vastly different digestive system, and no reproductive system. In any event, they will be perfectly suited to our eternal environment and destiny.

At first mention, resurrection has a positive connotation. There is, however, a dark side to the word. John 5:28, 29, “”Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good*, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” *(John 6:28, 29, “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’”)

Compare with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish (be resurrected to condemnation) but have everlasting life (be resurrected to life).”

Now consider this word from the Apostle Paul regarding those who refuse to believe. Romans 1:18-20, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (the highest example of which is the human body), even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”