When Jesus was resurrected, he was not in some far away place. In fact, Jesus kept pointing out to his disciples that he was flesh and blood. He ate with his disciples and let them touch his hands and feet. In the same way, our resurrection happens here on Earth, and God cares about the matter in the Universe.
There is a common misconception when it comes to the resurrection. It has been taught in recent history that there is a dichotomy, or a separation, between the heavenly and the earthly. The heavenly is about the spiritual, soul, good, eternal, and truth. The earthly is seen as physical, body, bad, temporal, and falsehood. It isn’t too uncommon for Christians to get caught up in this dichotomy when it comes to the resurrection.
A common view of death is that our spirit is transported to heaven and that this world will no longer matter. It makes sense, if this view is correct, that we shouldn’t worry about this earth and what we do on it. We can take advantage of the animals, and we can take advantage of the environment because one day we’ll be whisked away to the heavenly realm when we die. The goal is to die and go to heaven. And this is understandable, as sometimes this world doesn’t feel “good”, especially as we get older. The only problem is that it’s not biblical.
We see in Genesis 1 that God says creation is good. The garden was good, and the humans who lived in it were very good. It wasn’t until after the Fall that the world started looking bad because chaos began to reign. However, the earth isn’t bad because of this, and not everything physical is bad. In fact, in the Jewish worldview, the physical is considered good. And God does not abandon his creation.
God created physical things in this world as good, and he won’t abandon them when the world is thrown into chaos. We see throughout the Bible that God loves his creation, every aspect of it, and he will one day redeem it. In Romans 8:19-24, we see that all of creation “groans” for liberation and to be saved. Salvation isn’t merely meant for a human soul–it is meant for all of creation. Every aspect of creation, from the humans down to the lowliest insect, “groans” for the coming age when God redeems his creation. However, our job as Christians is to bring into this current world as much of the coming age as we can.
Our job isn’t to leave this earth one day and go to heaven. Rather, our job is to prepare ourselves for the day when heaven comes down to earth. Revelation 21:1-3 states that the new heaven and the new earth will come down to this earth. It also states that we will forever dwell with God, but it doesn’t say that will happen in some far off spiritual land. Rather, it says that we’ll dwell with God forever on this earth, only a transformed and renewed earth. This will be the redemption that all of matter groans to happen. Every molecule and every being waits for this day.
Jesus’ resurrection assures us that when we follow him, we are to receive our perfected, eternal bodies. Jesus is proof of the age to come. Jesus is proof that the resurrection and redemption of all of creation has begun. It will be of flesh and blood, and we can be a part of it right now. However, it’s difficult to conceive of what this looks like, because we don’t yet know what heaven feels like. It is like trying to explain sex to a young child, something they haven’t experienced. It’s like trying to imagine a lion and a lamb laying down together, because we always see the lion eat the lamb. The ecstasy of heaven is beyond our comprehension at this point in time, but it will be beautiful and stunning.
Getting the right view of the spiritual and earthly is important because God wants us to start acting like the new age has arrived. God wants us to live in the fullness of heaven, but he doesn’t want us to wait for the final resurrection to start living it. Our future heaven is the earth perfected, with God dwelling with us. We need to realize that we can live out small pieces of this perfected earth by following after Jesus’ teachings and life. He represented the perfect humanity, and when we follow in his footsteps, we usher in the future age of heaven on earth.
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