I do not have access to my Bibleworks right now, so my blog post about this morning’s church service will not be as precise when it comes to biblical references. Essentially, my pastor this morning was preaching about the passage in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus shows his disciples his flesh and his bones, dismissing the idea that he is some sort of ghost.
My pastor drew two lessons from this:
1. My Presbyterian pastor said that the hope of the believer is
material: it does not end with the soul going to heaven but entails the
resurrection of the body. My pastor was quoting an Anglican clergyman
on this, and N.T. Wright also has made this point. The religious
movement in which I grew up, Armstrongism, did not believe in the
immoral soul but thought that people were unconscious until the
resurrection of the dead, which will occur after Jesus comes back.
While Armstrongism believed that the resurrection is the believer’s
hope, however, it did not entirely regard that hope as physical and
material, for it maintained that believers would be resurrected as
spirit beings, who would rule a material world.
In terms of what I believe the Bible teaches, well, I would say that
we see various things. There are passages (Daniel, Matthew) about the
righteous shining as stars or the sun. There are passages in which
Jesus states that people in the resurrection will be like angels in
heaven. Paul refers to a spiritual resurrection, denies that flesh and
blood will enter the Kingdom of God, and seems to imply in I Corinthians
that people in their resurrected bodies will not have a stomach. On
the other hand, there is a passage in which Jesus appears to present
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob eating in the Kingdom of God. I would also
say that, in Hebrews, Jesus is depicted as a glorified man. Both
Hebrews and Paul seem to me to present Jesus as a prototype of a new
humanity. The image that I got in a Seventh-Day Adventist church that I
attended a while back was that Jesus, right now in heaven, has
glorified human flesh. Hebrews may lean in that direction.
While I’m on the topic of soul sleep (the belief that people are
unconscious until the resurrection), I was listening recently to atheist
biblical scholar Robert Price’s “Bible Geek” podcast, and someone asked
him about soul sleep. Price replied that we may see something like
that in the New Testament, but that there are also passages about being
absent from the body and present with the Lord, and Paul’s openness to
departing to be with Christ rather than staying behind on earth. Price
speculated that Paul may have believed martyrs went straight to heaven
after death, whereas others were unconscious until the resurrection (or
so I understood Price). There may be something to that. The thing is,
however, that Paul does seem to include himself among those who will
sleep until the resurrection in I Corinthians 15. Many believers in
soul sleep try to harmonize all this: perhaps Paul was talking about
being away from his corruptible body and being with Christ after the
resurrection, when he would receive a new body; after all, Paul’s next
conscious moment after death, they say, would be at the resurrection.
I think that believers in soul sleep do well to point out that death
in the New Testament is presented as a sleep. My question would be: Was
it possible in ancient literature to call death a sleep, while also
believing that the dead could be conscious? I would not be surprised if
such were the case.
2. The other lesson my pastor taught from the passage is that our
faith should be real. Jesus, after all, was not a flickering spirit but
a resurrected human being or tangible flesh and bone. My pastor may
also have been arguing that tangible experiences of God can be
significant in Christian spirituality. His overall point, though, was
that we should have a real faith, not go to church out of habit or
obligation. I agree with him on that, in a sense, even though I am not
always firm in my faith, and even though I cannot point to indisputable
examples of God’s activity in my life—-though I do pray and believe that
God has answered my prayers and has helped me and people I know through
challenges. I do not go to church just out of habit, but to worship
God and to be transformed.
"No one is good but God"
9 hours ago