By teaching the doctrine of the bodily resurrection, local churches will be casting a more accurate vision of future life. Better than going away to heaven is being raised to dwell forever with the Lord in a new creation. The new creation will be material, not just spiritual, so a life of embodied immortality fits with the future consummation.
Biblical doctrine is not just for the head but for the heart, for daily life as a disciple of Jesus. So it is, too, with the doctrine of bodily resurrection. Thinking about the future will help us here and now. In local churches that are pursuing faithfulness to Christ, we will want to connect the importance of sound doctrine to the lives of our church members.
How, then, does the doctrine of bodily resurrection shape the life of the local church? Let’s reflect on four ways.
Preparing to Die
First, the doctrine of the bodily resurrection confronts us with the reality of death. Our local churches are filled with people heading toward the grave. Memorial services are held for the young and old. By giving attention to the Bible’s teaching on the bodily resurrection, local churches face the truth that our earthly lives will come to an end. After all, something won’t rise unless it has first died. The writer of Ecclesiastes is right: “All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return” (Eccl. 3:20).
Humans have an invincibility problem, especially when we’re young. We know people die, but we don’t imagine it will one day be true of us. Facing the truth of our mortality will sober our minds, and we need that effect often. A responsibility for local churches is preparing people to die. Our sermons and Bible studies, our catechisms and songs, must operate from an awareness of our perishable frame.
As people reflect on their coming death, fear is a normal and understandable response. People fear the fact of death, the process of death, the timing of death, and what their death will mean for those left behind. By teaching about the bodily resurrection, churches are arming and aiding their members who may be tempted to fear what is to come. Death is the end of earthly life, but local churches must preach and teach and exhort one another with the good news that earthly death will end as well.
Pointing Beyond Disembodiment
Second, the doctrine of the bodily resurrection aims our hope beyond the disembodiment of heaven. What are some popular conceptions about the life to come? Playing harps on clouds, becoming angels with wings, living forever away from this creation, or dwelling in some kind of ghostly or ethereal existence. These notions aren’t just believed by people outside the church. These are common notions among church attenders. Local churches have a responsibility to educate their people about what exactly our future hope entails.
Disembodiment is not the best thing about what is to come. At death, the believer goes to heaven. Death disrupts the union of soul and body.