Theology 101

Christ’s Bodily Resurrection—the Surprising Significance

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I bet you’ve wondered. Whether you wait tables each day, help patients at the hospital, fix cars, juggle kids plus your in-home office—or whatever you do—I bet you wonder: Does anything I do in my daily work have truly lasting, eternal significance?

The answer to this question is surprisingly, inextricably linked to Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

People readily anticipate that Michelangelo’s marvelous Sistine ceiling might last into Christ’s final kingdom. I was first introduced to the concept of future redemption for creative works in my fine arts course in college. I shrugged. I am no Michelangelo. In recent years, more scholars have posited that redemption’s reach might not be exclusively for the artists. What if your own daily work could have lasting significance, even a literal lasting, based on Creation’s “groaning for glory” and the cosmic redemption foretold in God’s grand story (Rom. 8)?

Revelation 21-22 paints amazing frescoes of the eternal kingdom. Sin, death, pain, disease, tears, and all that perpetuated the curse are wiped away so all things become new. The thorns and thistles, germs and disease, ravages of war and violence, less-than-stellar work outcomes, what was done for selfish, greedy, and idolatrous reasons instead of aiming to bring him glory—all of it will be wiped clean, making way for the transformed, new creation.

The prophetic prequel in Isaiah 65:17-25 speaks of very tangible, ongoing work. Houses will be built; vineyards will flourish; financial portfolios will show great gains. There will be very earthy, ordinary stuff in this new, eternal kingdom.

Resurrection’s Long-term Significance

You’re probably still wondering: Really? And what in the world does this have to do with the Resurrection? Consider this: Jesus’ bodily resurrection presents a foretaste, a sneak peek at what is yet to come. Here’s why. 

After Christ was raised, he had a glorified body—a fully redeemed physical body. Scenes from Luke’s record note that it was still very tangible. His followers recognized him; he ate broiled fish; he showed scars; he could be touched; he worked to teach and enlighten, producing changed insight in others; he built a fire and cooked breakfast on the beach (John 21). These are all very typical, earthy expressions. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul argues that Christ is the first in the line-up of resurrection and redemption, and we will someday follow in that same train of redemptive resurrection. Our bodies will be raised up and redeemed. 

A number of heavy-hitter scholars like Darrell Cosden have seriously suggested this concept: Since we will have glorified bodies, and since all of Creation will be redeemed as Paul declares in Romans 8 (after such a long-time groaning for glory), doesn’t it make sense this must include certain outcomes of our work? Perhaps this is why Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 15 with verses 57-58: “Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

What If?

People have postulated that musical scores such as Handel’s Messiah, hymns like Amazing Grace, and some colossal architecture that stands the test of time—like the Winchester Cathedral—might pass through the cleansing, revealing fire (2 Peter 3). Such great works might hold redeemed, lasting significance to the glory of God. 

But what about the house you constructed with solid craftsmanship? Or the real estate deal you worked with amazing care and energy—to serve both God and that family who needed to move into a safer home? What if those labors might also last? 

What about the financial management performed for our family by a faithful accountant across twenty plus years? Or what if the life-skills counsel you’ve supplied for that troubled teen finally comes to beautiful, full-blown fruition? 

Or what if ________? 

Go ahead. Fill in the blank with your own best, Jesus-honoring dreams you’ve aimed to accomplish. Those endeavors, both grand and small, you have labored to accomplish with a full heart, for Christ’s glory. What if they’re fully, finally, masterfully revealed, imbued with his eternal glory in the glorious New Creation? 

Some of you are probably saying, “Wow, that’s out there; I don’t know. Seems too good to be true.” Okay, I invite you to simply contemplate. Dare to ask: What if redemption might reach even further than we think? What if there really is more to the story?

The Eternal Kingdom

Remember how God’s kingdom work is ever-expansive, and he likely has some amazing surprises in store for us. New heavens and earth, complete with the Garden City, appear to have dimensions that already exceed our normal comprehension of distance and capacity (Rev. 21-22). What if the eventual kingdom is actually more down-to-earth than our all-too-common, Star Wars-like plastic fantasies? You know the ones where everyone is dressed in white, zooming around in heavenly outer space. What if our new existence includes more lasting, eternal physical work and outcomes, even more beautiful than we have ever imagined? 

Christ’s bodily resurrection supplied a foretaste of glory divine. Perhaps we might gain greater, more far-reaching perspective by reflecting on Moses’ deeply eternal heart cry:

Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Ps. 90:16-17)

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