When Christ returns, he will raise the dead. All of the dead will be raised (Acts 24:15). What does this resurrection mean for believers?
One of the most helpful passages on this is Philippians 3:20-21:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.
This passage is so helpful because it gives us a guiding principle for how to think about the resurrection: Jesus will transform our body to be like his glorious body (see also 1 Corinthians 15:48-49).
This tells us at least four things about the coming resurrection.
1. The Resurrection Will Be Physical.
We will not be ethereal spirits throughout eternity, but will be raised with physical bodies forever.
We know this because, first of all, that’s the meaning of the term resurrection. More significantly, we know this because Jesus was raised physically from the dead (see, for example, Luke 24:2; 39-43), and this passage here tells us that our bodies will be like his. Since his resurrection was physical, ours will be as well.
As a side note here, it is worth noting: Jesus still has his body and will have it forever. When speaking of Christ’s return— a time in the future— the text says that he will transform our body “to be like his glorious body.” Jesus still has his body now; he will have it when he returns; and he will have it forever.
2. The Same Body that Dies, Gets Raised
We often talk of getting “new bodies” at the resurrection. And that does get at a truth (which I’ll cover next), but we shouldn’t understand that to mean that God ditches our bodies that we have now and starts from scratch.
Our bodies will be raised, not abandoned. That’s the meaning of the term resurrection. We believe in the resurrection of the dead. The body that dies, rises.
This follows, once again, not only from the meaning of the term “resurrection,” but also from the fact that Christ was raised in the same body that died. That’s what the empty tomb shows, as well as the scars (John 20:27). Since Christ’s resurrection is the pattern of our resurrection, we will therefore also be raised in the same body that dies.
3. Our Bodies Will be Transformed
The same body that dies rises, but not to the same state. Right now our bodies are in a “lowly” state. They will be raised to a glorious state—just like Jesus’ body.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, our current bodies are perishable, lowly, and weak. Our resurrected bodies will be imperishable, glorious, and powerful. And, they will be spiritual, which means fully directed and empowered by the Spirit.
4. We Will Be With Christ Forever
Last is the best news of all: Once we are raised, we shall always be with the Lord. Paul brings this all together well in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.