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Is the resurrection physical or spiritual?

Published: 1 December 2018 (GMT+10)

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 Cosner, 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.

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Readers’ comments

Kirk P.
The disciples touched his body after the resurrection. It was a body complete with real wounds. He ate food, physical food with a physical body.
Human beings were created very good in body and soul; the redemption is not partial as spiritual only, but rather spiritual and physical-body and soul. God has no problem supporting as many people as he cares to have in the resurrection world. He can bring about whatever he determines whether we understand it our not.
John M.
How many people would fill up the whole universe?
Lita Cosner
Take the volume of the universe, and the average volume of a person. Divide one by the other, and you've got your answer. But then you'd have to take into account the compression that would take place because of the combined gravitational pull of the people, which would at some point create a black hole (killing the people), and making the entire thing moot at that point. But by then you would have run out of material to make people anyway. I'm not sure how this is relevant to the article.
Bill P.
"Who is like The Lord from everlasting to everlasting He is God and there is no other". It has been 40 yrs. since The Lord had mercy on me and saved me and yet I'm still in total awe that The Creator of heaven and earth willingly made Himself a servant to ALL mankind (for a short time) to redeem ALL who trust Him. The TRUTH of Him doing that still blows me away (for lack of a better term) to this very day. Truly His mercies are without number and I know from scripture (God's Word) that The Same Holy Spirit of God that raised Him from the dead will one day soon change ALL who trust Him. Just think, seeing Him with our eyes, talking and walking w/Him, touching Him with our hands, learning His Ways (which in itself I believe will take an eternity Thank God). I yearn for those days to come yet I know to wait, because, He still has a few more to show mercy to and save. One Day Soon.
Until then keep up the good work guys.
Mitch C.
Thank you, Lita, for a Biblically-based, well reasoned and documented defense of the position that we will have physical, glorified bodies in eternity. It appears to me that any other position is based more on speculative reasoning than on Biblical teaching--just as Evolution and Deep Time are.
Lester V.
Another factor is that the population of the earth has been steadily increasing due to new babies being born. That will not be the case in an eternal heaven. The God-given purpose for marriage was reproduction, or multiplication. According to Jesus, the resurrected saints will "neither marry, nor are given in marriage" (see Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, and Luke 20:35). In other words, the total population of heaven will be static and unchanging. Those who will "live" there will be limited to those who have been adopted into the Family of God, through the new birth in Jesus' name, during their lives on earth. Therefore, the available space, or room, in the "refurbished" earth will be perfect for those who will occupy it.
Denise E.
I suggest "Those who have their names written in the Lamb's book of life..." (Rev 21:27) over "Those who have trusted in Christ..."because the Revelation reference could be more easily used in some Christian denominations.
Gunnel B.
Will there be any children on the new earth?
Lita Cosner
Jesus said that there will be no marriage, so one would assume no procreation. At that time, procreation and childbearing will have served its purpose of creating the entire people of God to worship and be in relationship with Him.
Peter H.
This is very good. I would like, however, to add the observation that Jesus did say that in the resurrection there will be no marriage (and one would assume, no procreation) therefore the population would no longer grow.
Shane R.
I so look forward to reading Lita's commentaries. Honouring of the scriptures and their context with plain speaking explanations that give evidence of the great esteem she accords the Scriptures. I am blessed by her work and challenged too.
Nick R.
I had not thought about 2 Cor 5:4 that way before today. I wonder if there should be some balance however to this statement? "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." To be fair to all readers, perhaps it is worth mentioning, or linking to a related article, what happens to those who have not trusted in Christ.
Lita Cosner
I have previously written Why would a loving God send people to Hell?, which should cover it sufficiently.
Rolland H.
I've always thought that since God created the heavens and earth he knows how much space is required due to his omnipotence. if the earth became too small to support a resurrected population in its current physical size then he'd already know the required dimensions of the new earth even if it needed to have a larger diameter than the current earth. It wouldn't be an issue for him. Given the current size though I'd say that it is likely to be the same circumference as this fallen world. alongside the fact that this place was created perfect originally.
God would have just halted human population growrh at a point where it we had fulfilled his command to spread out across the earth much like he did with incestuous relationships when they fufilled there purpose after Adam and Noahs lines were large enough. Also due to accumulation of mutations too. Being in a fallen world has no effect on how God recreates the heavens and Earth.

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