5 Meaning of the Resurrection for Believers

This is a message I gave several years ago at a staff devotional when I worked at Desiring God and Bethlehem Baptist Church. I’m in the process of posting a lot of my messages and articles online, and thought you might find this one helpful and relevant on the doctrine of the resurrection and the completion of the Great Commission.

Philippians 3:20:

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.”

The purpose of these Tuesday fasts is to express our longing for the return of Christ. When Christ returns, he will raise the dead. All of the dead will be raised. I want to focus on what this resurrection means for believers.

Here is the guiding principle that we see from this passage: Jesus will transform our body to be like his glorious body. This tells us four things about the coming resurrection.

The Resurrection will be Physical

First, the resurrection will be physical. We will not be ethereal spirits throughout eternity, but will be raised with physical bodies forever. We know this because, first of all, that’s the meaning of the term resurrection. More significantly, we know this because Jesus was raised physically from the dead, and this passage tells us that our bodies will be like his. Since his resurrection was physical, so will ours be as well.

And here is a side note on this: Note that Jesus still has his body, and will have it forever. Speaking of his return – a time in the future – the text says that he will transform our body “to be like his glorious body.” Jesus still has his body now and will have it when he returns and forever. When I was a kid, I thought that when Jesus ascended into heaven he shed his body and that it went into a vault or something. If that had been God’s plan, he wouldn’t have raised Jesus physically at all. Jesus rose physically, ascended into heaven physically, and will have his body forever.

The Body that Dies Gets Raised

Second, the body that dies is the body that gets raised. We often talk of getting “new bodies.” Which does get at a truth – which I’ll cover next – but we shouldn’t understand that to mean that God ditches our bodies that we have now and starts from scratch. Our bodies will be raised, not abandoned. That’s the meaning of the term resurrection. We believe in the resurrection of the dead. The body that dies, rises.

This follows, once again, not only from the meaning of the term “resurrection,” but also from the fact that Christ’s resurrection is the pattern of our resurrection. Christ was raised in the same body that died. We will therefore also be raised in the same body that dies.

The Body that Dies Gets Raised and Transformed

Third, our bodies will be transformed. The same body that dies rises, but not to the same state. Right now our bodies are in a “lowly” state. They will be raised to a glorious state – just like Jesus’ body. Our bodies will be glorious. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, our current bodies are perishable, lowly, and weak. Our resurrected bodies will be imperishable, glorious, and powerful. And, they will be spiritual, which means fully directed and empowered by the Spirit.

After the Resurrection, We Will Always be With the Lord

Last, once we are raised, we shall always be with the Lord. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And sthe dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be tcaught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

But the Great Commission Must be Fulfilled First

The Call to Complete the Great Commission Requires Intentionality and Organization

But before this: The Great Commission must be finished. I think there is a sense in which we must be able to say that the coming of the Lord is imminent—it can happen at any time. Yet at the same time, Jesus does say that “this gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Some say that that was fulfilled in a sense prior to AD 70, and Jesus was referring to the fall of Jerusalem. Maybe. But I still think that the fact is: Jesus gave us the Great Commission and we need to finish it.

This means that we need to be intentional and organized. We should not just look at that command and expect it to be fulfilled on its own. We need to be intentional, planned, and organized.

Praying for the Completion of the Great Commission

And this leads to what I would encourage you to pray about. Pray that:

God would bring about the completion of the Great Commission.
That, to do this, he would bring about the intentionality, planning, and organization in His church to do this – that is, to plant a reproducing church in every people group.

That he would also raise up laborers.
And that he would not wait too long to send Christ back to earth to raise the dead and be with us fully – physically and spiritually – forever.

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