When facing the reality of ongoing physical suffering, whether by disease or crippling disability, one of the distinct wellsprings of hope that believers in Jesus Christ have is the future resurrection of our body unto new life. Certainly this is part of “the glory that is to be revealed to us” that makes “the sufferings of this present time” not worthy of comparison (Romans 8:17-18). The true believer joyfully embraces bodily suffering since he has a completely different mindset than the unregenerate person who is void of the Spirit of God and, therefore, is without the inner resources necessary to respond in a God-centered manner. A true Christian is an heir of God and fellow heir of Christ and, though he suffers with Jesus, his soul is confident of the day in which he will “also be glorified with Him.” This immovable, unquenchable hope fuels a godly response to suffering that dethrones self by exalting Christ and all the promises of God that, in Him, are “Amen” to us (2 Cor 1:20).
One very specific promise yet to be realized is the totally new physical body that will be given to us when we are ultimately glorified with Christ. The Apostle Paul describes this body in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Here we learn of four characteristics of our resurrection body, which will one day replace the body of death that our spirit now calls home.
- It will be imperishable. Our present body “is sown…perishable,” that is, continually subject to corruption and decay. But our resurrection body will be “an imperishable” one, no longer subject to disease, aging, or death. Of this, Wayne Grudem writes in his systematic theology: “The fact that our bodies will be ‘imperishable’ means that they will never grow old or ever be subject to any kind of sickness or disease.” They will be completely healthy and strong forever. Moreover, since the gradual process of aging is part of the process by which our bodies now are subject to ‘corruption,’ it is appropriate to think that our resurrection bodies will have no sign of aging, but will have the characteristics of youthful but mature manhood or womanhood forever…Our resurrection bodies will show the fulfillment of God’s perfect wisdom in creating us as human beings who are the pinnacle of his creation and the appropriate bearers of his likeness and image. In these resurrection bodies we will clearly see humanity as God intended it to be.” At the final resurrection the effects of sin will finally be no more. As sin naturally leads to death, and death results in decay, so the resurrection will instantly reverse this process forever.
- It will be glorious. Our present body “is sown in dishonor.” This is another way of saying it is common. But our future body will be “raised in glory.” It will be glorious. This seems to indicate that there will be a brightness of splendor about our resurrected bodies. In Daniel’s vision of the final resurrection, believers “shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). When speaking of believers after the final judgment, Jesus said, “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:43). When the disciples witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2). There will be something gloriously beautiful about our resurrection body.
- It will be powerful. Our present body “is sown in weakness.” It is without strength. It easily succumbs to suffering. In 2 Corinthians 13:4 the same word is used to refer to the physical sufferings of Jesus. But our future body will be “raised in power.” It will be filled with ability and might from God. Twice, Jesus visited the disciples at their particular gathering place, first on the evening of that first resurrection day and then again eight days later. On both occasions, without explaining how Jesus physically got into the room (For example, it does not say something like “He walked through the wall”), John makes it clear that He stood in their midst, while on both occasions “the doors were shut” (John 20:19, 26). No matter how He did this it seems His resurrected body no longer had any limitations of physical weakness.
- It will be spiritual. Our present body “is sown a natural body.” It is under the control of the flesh. But our future body will be “spiritual.” This is not spiritual in contrast with physical for Jesus’s resurrected body was indeed physical. His wounds were visible and touchable (Luke 24:39). He walked, talked, and ate breakfast with His disciples (Luke 24:43). Likewise, our resurrected bodies will be physical, but instead of being under the influence of sinful flesh, they will be completely under the control of the Holy Spirit. In our resurrected bodies the command be controlled by the Holy Spirit will be a constant reality.
As we endure physical suffering, as part of living in a fallen world, let us who truly know Christ keep a laser-beamed focus on the future hope of the resurrection. This is one of the profound blessings that—in the regenerate and God-centered heart—grows from living with long-term disease and physical disability. Physical suffering is unique in its ability to pry our eyes off of the here-and-now and redirect them to the hereafter. And this is good.