I used to only think about the resurrection of the body when I woke up with a sore back or got tired playing soccer. But over time (and lots of Bible reading), I noticed Scripture rarely celebrates this kind of relief when it describes the resurrection. The relief is real, and we should anticipate having new bodies, free from the consequences of brokenness and sin. But the resurrection promises a lot more than the results of a heavenly Whole 30.
I was confronted by the promise most recently in Romans 8. I noticed Paul saw and felt something that I was missing. He saw how the promise of the resurrection helps us turn from wickedness to obedience, find hope in our suffering, and experience pleasures here as tiny foretastes of greater joys to come.
What we hope in for tomorrow always changes who we are today. If God has promised me fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore, I dare not flirt with death. Notice the “so then” in this passage:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:11–13)
God will give life to your mortal bodies after you die, so reject sin and all its promises before you die. How we live today should be governed by what is coming tomorrow.
Imagine an orphan who receives news that she has been adopted by a benevolent king and queen, but she must wait two weeks before they bring her home. The orphanage will look and feel dramatically different for those two weeks. She has a new home now, a kingdom even. She will begin to conduct herself in ways worthy of her kingdom. In the safety of being chosen and loved, she will put away habits she developed for survival as an orphan, and put on habits of a secure and prized daughter.
How much more, then, should we who have been given the Holy Spirit and made kings and queens of heaven, put to death the deeds of the body as we wait to be reunited with our God. The fact that the King of the universe is coming to bring me home makes me more diligent in killing sin. A truer, more abundant life is coming soon, so I will flee death like the plague now (Romans 8:6–7).
Long Road of Suffering
God has tailor-made our future resurrection to help overcome last week’s tribulation and next week’s distress. The promise that I will rise after death radically reshapes my sorrow over my friends’ recent miscarriage, or the pain I felt when my aunt died too young. If God is preparing us to live with him forever, none of our suffering is meaningless.
Paul says, in Romans 8:17, “And if [we are] children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” God may be doing ten thousand different things for you through your suffering, but the one that mattered most to Paul in Romans 8 is that your suffering in this world is preparing you to enjoy another world.
Our suffering is something we endure today so that we will be ready for glory. Every trial is another mile-marker we must pass on our way to our final, greater destination. I cannot explain why my friend’s mom got cancer, but I know that in God’s mysterious and loving plan, his children need awful sorrows like these in order to make it safely home.
The sum of everything we suffer here will not even be worth comparing to the glory around us (Romans 8:18). Our future resurrection fills our current suffering with meaning and purpose. Great destinations make long car rides worth the labor.
More to Come
The promise of more to come means God made us for more joy than we can ever experience in this life. One day we will join God in a city without sin and without sorrow. But we are not there yet.
Right now, we live in a world darkened by sin that specializes in draining our joy. But God gives us tastes of heaven. His Spirit allows us to see and experience in part what we will enjoy in full, face to face with our Savior. God wants us to long for more than what we have here. He wants us to see all our joys here as an appetizer for the full course.
Paul says it this way,
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:22–25)
We have not experienced a fraction of the joy we will one day. Every sweet joy you have in communion with God today, every longing that you know is fulfilled in worship, every delight you encounter in the word of God, every memory you make with those you love, are each a foretaste of something better. The resurrection promises us more than this life.
Every morning my alarm clock signals that Jesus has not come back yet. Each morning means another day of shuffling around doing my “daily chores” because the promised day has not dawned yet. But it is coming. That transforms the burdens before me today into opportunities to experience and long for more of God.
Paul loved that we will wear a new body as our robe in a new heavens and new earth, and it gave him hope to endure his own hardships. He leaned on the promise for far more than a cure for a creaky back. The resurrection helps us reject the promises of sin, endure the pain that comes with suffering, and anticipate greater, fuller joy in God’s presence.