“I believe in . . . the resurrection of the body.”
For centuries, Christians have confessed this belief when reciting the Apostles’ Creed. While it is possible for many of us to gloss over the belief statements in the Creed, the belief in the resurrection of the body is difficult to comprehend.
How can our earthly bodies, decayed and disintegrated as they might be, be raised and glorified at the final judgment? Aren’t we really hoping for some spiritual existence after death?
The resurrection of the body is an essential doctrine. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15 that our faith in Jesus Christ is useless if there is no resurrection of the dead. For if there is no resurrection, then Christ himself could not rise from the dead. Our faith is built on this foundation.
The importance of the doctrine, however, does not make it easy to accept. John Calvin understood our doubt. He discussed the resurrection of the flesh in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
[W]e are assured of the resurrection of the flesh, through which we enter into possession of eternal life . . . . This is something which is not only hard to believe but is utterly incredible when judged by human reason. Hence although many philosophers were not by any means ignorant of the immortality of the soul, not one of them had the slightest idea of the resurrection of the flesh. For who could possibly imagine that the bodies we have—of which some decay in the ground, some are devoured by worms, birds or other animals, and still others are burned to ashes—must at last be wholly restored?
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1541 edition, translated by Robert White, 287 (The Banner of Truth Trust 2014).
To help our unbelief, Calvin points us to the example of Christ.
The Lord, however, has very carefully averted this difficulty both by bearing very definite witness to the coming resurrection, and also by providing visible assurance of it in Jesus Christ. So what might otherwise appear incredible has been made plain for us to see.
Christ rose from the dead. Donald J. Trump is the president of the United State of America. These are statements of fact. Our doctrine springs from historical events. Christ’s death and resurrection actually occurred in the first century A.D. It is reasonable, therefore, to believe in our own bodily resurrection because we know that Christ rose from the dead. We can believe it because he did it.
According to the Heidelberg Catechism, Christ’s resurrection benefits us in three ways:
First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he won for us by his death.
Second, by his power we too are already now resurrected to a new life.
Third, Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.
The resurrection of the body is a difficult doctrine. It is dishonest to state otherwise. In times of doubt, look to Christ. His resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection. He is risen!