Is the resurrection physical or spiritual?
Alan M. commented on the article Confidence in the face of death:
If our loving Creator God meant for humans to live on earth forever without death ever happening does this not mean that, because of the geographical size of our planet, very few people would ever actually experience the gift of life? Does not the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ reveal another, non-physical, dimension to which we move when physical death occurs thus allowing others to experience life on earth after us? I am reminded of the Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin, who said “we are not human beings on a spiritual journey but spiritual beings on a human journey.”
Lita Sanders, CMI-US, responds:
Thanks for writing in. I believe your question reveals a misunderstanding some people have about God’s purpose for creation and what we can look forward to in the Resurrection.
God’s original, pre-Fall creation reveals His fundamental purposes for the world and humanity. God created the world to be a perfect home for humanity, and He created us to live in fellowship with Him. Adam’s sin resulted in the Fall, which distorted both creation and us, meaning that earth is no longer the perfect home that it once was, and our fellowship with God was broken by sin.
But God never gave up on that original ‘very good’ plan. Even in Genesis 3, He revealed the plan for the “Seed of the Woman” to defeat the Serpent. The rest of the Old Testament tells us about God’s preparation of a people through whom the Messiah would come into the world.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, His body was transformed into a resurrection body that could never die again. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells us that we can look forward to the exact same type of resurrection. In other words, Jesus experienced a human resurrection. This is a physical body, that differs from our fallen mortal bodies in that it will never age, suffer disease, or die.
We know that God is Spirit, and angels are spirits. While in the Old Testament, both God and angels took on physical forms that could eat and otherwise interact with the environment, in the spiritual realm they have no need of a physical body. Humans are beings composed of both body and spirit; we were created to exist in the physical realm. So Paul says that we don’t long to be unclothed (i.e. to be disembodied spirits) but to be further clothed (i.e. to receive a better body 2 Corinthians 5:4).
When Christ comes back, the earth will be restored to the original ‘very good’ state that God always intended. Furthermore, the dead will be raised and will experience the final judgment. Those who have trusted in Christ will live forever on the restored earth, with perfect resurrection bodies that will never experience sickness, suffering, or death. We will be in perfect fellowship with our God.
There are 7.7 billion people alive on earth today, and the earth could still support more people. Technology and advanced farming techniques are making food production more and more efficient. So limiting the future population of the New Heavens and Earth to the amount of people who could be supported by the planet would still mean a possible population much larger than the population of today’s earth—indefinitely larger, because we have no idea (for example) how food will be produced, or how much more efficient it could be, even before adding in the possibility of processes we would currently consider miraculous.
Revelation is clear that the population of the New Heavens and Earth will be a vast multitude. And that doesn’t require God to ‘give up’ on the earth He created to be our home.