Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Christian hope and the resurrection of the body

A talk given at the Christian Arts Exhibition on the Resurrection, April 2010

In the creed we say, ‘We believe in the resurrection of the body’.

This is something that has excited me, partly as a result of reading Tom Wright’s, Surprised by Hope, and I hope that you will be able to share a bit of that vision. 


1.      Death
Our society is very confused about death. We treat death either by pushing it away, by denying it, or by becoming sentimental.

The lie of Satan to Eve in the garden, ‘You will not die .. you will be like God’. It is a lie we continue to believe. And as a result we have a very confusing set of beliefs about death. 

-         reincarnation (remarkably meaningless, because even if I am reincarnated, my consciousness dies)

-         blending into cosmic spirituality (poem by Mary Frye):

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

-         denial of pain of death

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?

-         sentimentality (film: Ghost)
-         float up and live on some cloud

Heaven ‘is somewhere you believe in .. it’s a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk to other people who are there. At night you can sit next to the stars, which are the brightest of anywhere in the universe .. If you’re good throughout your life, then you get to go to heaven .. when your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you up to Heaven to be with him … [And Grandma is] alive in me .. Most important, she taught me to believe in myself … She’s in a safe place, with the stars, with God and the angels .. she is watching over us from up there …  ‘I want you to know’ [says the heroine to her great-grandma] ‘that even though you are no longer here, your spirit will always be alive in me’. (Maria Shriver)

-       we say that memories will live on. Good Night Mister Tom - ‘He’ll live on, in here’.  Not true:  Memorial to Norwegian commandos in village on Southern coast of Britain. It read, ‘We will never forget what you have done’. But no one could remember what they had done.

I have a great respect for humanists: they face up to the reality of death, even if it is pretty bleak. Having said that, even they will read poems such as … ‘Do not stand at my grave and weep’.

Death is ghastly – if this is all that there is, it is absolutely final.
It makes a mockery of our achievements, battles, successes, failures, loves, life.
In the same sermon that Henry Scott Holland preached when he talked about ‘Death is nothing at all’, (on the occasion of the death of King Edward VII) , he spoke of other feelings associated with death:
“so inexplicable, so ruthless, so blundering  ... the cruel ambush into which we are snared  ... it makes its horrible breach in our gladness with careless and inhuman disregard of us ... beyond the darkness hides its impenetrable secret ... dumb as the night, that terrifying silence!”

But someone said to me, ‘But death is a good thing. It can come as a friend. People often welcome death.’
I agree, but in a sense that only compounds the deceit of death. The death principal takes someone who is strong and active and turns them into someone incredibly frail and vulnerable: into someone who longs for death.
It takes that which is strong and capable and creative and beautiful and turns it into dust.

If we do not weep in the face of death, then we have not seen what death does, we have not faced up to the reality of death.

We live in a world where so much is said to be relative. Values, beauty, ugliness, goodness, evil, harmony, discord is all said to be relative. What we say is beautiful, another in another time and space will say is ugly. But there is no relativity about death

It is the ultimate statistic. We will all die.
The greatest empires will crumble
Even the solar system, the galaxy, the universe will succumb to an eternal nothingness/coldness.

The second law of thermodynamics

(my science comes from the Flanders and Swann song:
And all because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which lays down:
That you can't pass heat from the cooler to the hotter
Try it if you like but you far better notter
'Cos the cold in the cooler will get hotter as a ruler
'Cos the hotter body's heat will pass to the cooler
Oh, you can't pass heat from the cooler to the hotter
You can try it if you like but you'll only look a fooler
'Cos the cold in the cooler will get hotter as a ruler
That's a physical Law!)

It is entropy.

Professor Brian Cox presented a brilliant set of programmes about the Solar System. Talked about the sun. It gives off astonishing heat. But one day it will burn out. And then other suns and finally – it will all be a vast expanse of coldness and darkness

Ecclesiastes: ‘Everything is meaningless’. It is profoundly depressing. On this basis we really should just live life for the immediate. Live for ourselves, for the people we love, and for the immediate. ‘Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die’. If you can get away with something that is great. There is no accountability, no ultimate justice, no ultimate value (a human life is of no more intrinsic worth than the life of an ant), no ultimate hope. 

So in the face of such a reality, how can we talk of any hope beyond death? On what basis does our hope lie?

1.      Near death experiences – both positive and distressing. The only thing that near death experiences tell us is that people who are near death have near death experiences.

2.      Spiritualism – people who claim to encounter people who have died. The problem is that you just do not know who is speaking: the medium, a reality that cannot be seen, the spirit of someone departed.

3.      Visions – problem is, again, how can someone else’s vision be authoritative for me?

4.      Wishful thinking – pie in the sky when we die. Marx said that that is precisely what religion is. It offers a future non-existent hope, to keep people from making any changes here and now.

The basis of the Christian hope lies in a completely different place.

It depends on the resurrection of Jesus Christ

The claim of the first Christians is that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples on many and different occasions, and he did not die again. The gospels tell us that Jesus brought back three people from the dead: the widow of Nain’s son, Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus. They had died; they were raised, but they all had to die again. But Jesus did not die again.  Like Enoch (‘who walked with God and was not’) or Elijah (taken up in a chariot of fire), he was taken away. A cloud hid him from sight. I am not sure that the technicalities are important.

I am not this evening going to give an apologetic for the resurrection. Many people have done that. I like the quote from Wolfhart Pannenberg who said, ‘The evidence for Jesus resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: first it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live’ 

What I do wish to do is to point out that the belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is absolutely central to the Christian faith.

1 Corinthians 15 is vital here:
Paul begins by summarising the gospel: ‘that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures’
He goes on to talk about the appearances of Jesus, and his, Paul’s, personal encounter with the risen Jesus

But he then goes on to challenge those people who are saying that there is no resurrection. ‘If that is the case’, he says, ‘then Christ has not been raised’. They are arguing from the general to the particular: People do not rise from the dead so Christ is not raised.
And Paul follows up the consequences of saying, ‘Christ has not been raised’:
  • Our preaching is in vain
  • Our faith is in vain.
  • We are liars, because we are claiming that God raised Jesus from the dead
  • We are still in our sins
  • Our sufferings for Christ are pointless
  • There is no hope for those who have died, or for ourselves
  • We are to be pitied more than all people’.

But then he declares, v20: ‘But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’.
In other words, he is saying, ‘Don’t start with the general: dead people do not live again. Start with the particular – Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and he is the first one’ – and derive the general from the particular.

The Christian faith depends on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus.

But what kind of resurrection?
There was a period when theologians argued that what was important was the ‘meaning’ of the resurrection. It doesn’t matter what happened with Jesus’ bones; what is much more important is that his ideas, or his Spirit, lived on.

Tom Wright has pointed out that this option was not available to the gospel writers. They were people who were steeped in the Jewish hope of the resurrection of the body and the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The vision of the prophets is of the coming Kingdom of God:
There would come a day when God would intervene in human history: decisively and finally: when there would be an end to idolatry, a time of judgement, and God’s glory would be shown.

It would be a time when the covenant was renewed, that is the promise that God made to Israel that they would be his people, and he would be their God. There are many references to that: Jeremiah 31:22, 33; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 34:31; 37:23; Hosea 1:10

God’s ruler, the Messiah, would come. Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2-5

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.

Jerusalem would be restored, the exiles would return, the land would be fruitful and at peace, old men and women would sit in the streets while children played around them. There would be healing and righteousness. Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 60:17-22

“Instead of bronze I will bring gold, instead of iron I will bring silver; instead of wood, bronze, instead of stones, iron. I will appoint Peace as your overseer and Righteousness as your taskmaster.
Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever.

But this vision was not just for Israel. The nations would come to Israel. Zephaniah 3:9-10

At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech,
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, my scattered ones, shall bring my offering.

A river would flow out of the temple which would give life to all. Zechariah 14:5-9

“Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall not be either cold or frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the Lord), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter.
And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one.”

And creation itself will be transformed. There will be a reversal of the law of the survival of the fittest. Isaiah 11:6-9, The wolf and the lamb will sit down together; the infant will play with the cobra and the little child with the viper (there is even a place for snakes in this new Kingdom of God)

No longer will my survival depend upon the non-survival of something or someone else. Instead my welfare will depend fully on the welfare of the other.

And there will be the reversal of death itselfIsaiah 26:19; Isaiah 25:6-8 (NRSV)

‘On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.’

Or in Daniel 12:2-4

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

And this was a hope that was developed in the inter-testamental period

2 Maccabbees 7: 10-14 [7 brothers brought before Antiochus and commanded to eat pork].

“After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put out his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words: "It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again." Even the king and his attendants marvelled at the young man's courage, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing. After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way. When he was near death, he said, "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life."

This was the Jewish hope. It was not some hope that when they died they might go off to heaven. Their hope was that heaven would come to earth: that the Messiah would come and that this world of space and time would be transformed.

There hope was that two fundamental laws of today would be reversed: the law of sin (of self-centredness, dog-eat-dog), and the law of death would be destroyed.

So it is not surprising, that having put their trust in Jesus, having decided that he was the Messiah of God, the disciples behave as they do.

James and John asked for the leading posts in the new Kingdom, Matthew 20:20-21

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

And is it surprising that they are totally and utterly devastated when Jesus is crucified. As the man on the road to Emmaus says to Jesus, without realising it was Jesus, ‘We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel’ (Luke 24:21)

And after the resurrection, as the risen Jesus stands in front of them, is it surprising that they say: ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)

So what is the Christian hope?

For many of us this belief in the resurrection of the body has been watered down: we preach instead a message that says, ‘Believe and repent, and you will be saved and go to heaven’.

Heaven is somewhere else, not here.

There is a green hill far away:
“He died that we might be forgiven;
he died to make us good;
that we might go at last to heaven,
saved by his precious blood”.

Away in a manger:
“and take us to heaven to live with thee there”

And we interpret bible passages in the light of that false theology: eg. We think of ‘My Father’s house’ as somewhere else.

But the Christian hope, the hope that is in the NT, that is spoken of in the creed, is the hope of the resurrection of the body.

The heaven that is ‘up there’, is simply the waiting room before the Son of Man returns in power to this earth, before heaven comes down to earth.

The Christian hope is not just some personal salvation that sees you being whipped up from this world to some floaty space ‘up there’. It is the hope of the resurrection of the body, of the establishment of God’s Kingdom. It is why the image of ‘sleeping’ is used so much in the New Testament of people who have died. They’re sleeping here – they’re with the Lord there – but one day, they are going to wake up again.

And so Revelation takes up the theme of the prophets: Revelation 21:1-4

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:22-27

“I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

It is the same hope that the prophets had – although slightly transformed. Their hope was, and many current Jewish hopes are, still tied to an exclusively Jewish city of Jerusalem and to the land of Israel. It is that vision which compels many conservatives to bulldoze Palestinian homes and replace them with Jewish settlements. But the vision of the new Jerusalem is of something similar, but quite different - a truly international city, a home for all people, centred not on the temple but on Jesus Christ.

The great prayer of the church was ‘Come, Lord Jesus’. Not ‘Come and take us out of this mess’, but ‘Come and transform this mess’.

And the Christian hope involves the whole of creation. Romans 8:18-21 states:

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

And so, for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, ‘Meet the Lord in the air’ – it is not about us going up there to meet him and be taken away, but about us going up to meet him as he returns.

Now I am aware that there are passages in scripture which talk about us being taken out of this world:

-Matthew 24:40-41 (NRSV) “Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.” (cf. Luke 17:26-27, Luke 17:34-36).
- 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NRSV)  “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
- 2 Peter 3:10-12 (NRSV) “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?”

But 2 Peter 3 continues, verse 13:
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.

So what is the relationship between this heaven and earth and that heaven and earth, between this body and that body?

Take the resurrection body of Jesus. He is described as the first fruits of the resurrection.

  1. There was both continuity and discontinuity.
There was continuity: his new body could only be there when the old body had gone. It was not a question of him floating around as some spirit while his old body was still lying in the tomb. His new body bore the marks of his love and his victory, the marks of the scars. His new body was recognisable.

But there was also discontinuity: he was recognisable but also different. He could appear and disappear. It seems that he was not subject to the laws of gravity, or time or space.

  1. Our current bodies are earthly (‘fleshly’) bodies. Our resurrection bodies will be spiritual bodies

This does not mean that our future bodies will be non-material.

In the great chapter on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15, Paul speaks of the resurrection body, and he writes, vv 44-49

“It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

In other words, our current bodies are controlled by the physical.
Our resurrection bodies will be controlled by the spiritual.

And what is true of the resurrection body of Jesus, and what is true of our bodies, will be true of creation.

Orthodox theology speaks the language of transfiguration: that as Jesus was transfigured and shone, and as Elijah and Moses both shine with him, so – when the new heaven and the new earth combine – we will shine and creation will shine.

The doctrine of the resurrection of the body has enormous implications

  1. We have a great hope: 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NRSV): “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”

Challenge to us about living in the now:

“large numbers of men and women, perhaps the majority, no longer believe that their innermost souls are known intimately by a caring God. So … far more of them than ever before seek for their ‘authentic’ selves in cherished landscapes, or family history, or the cultural artefacts of their kind … And, of course, once they cease believing that eternity is their future and only significant heritage, men and women will place more emphasis not just on striving to enjoy themselves in the present, but also on revivifying the past. Because what else do they have?”
[David Lowenthal, quoted by Graham Howes, The Art of the Sacred, p87]

  1. It means that your body matters – immense dignity. Why burial was practiced by first Christians (over against cremation in wider community).  The early Christians called the places where they buried their dead, ‘Coemeterium’ (‘place of rest, dormitory, cemetery’) in contrast to the pagan ‘Necropoli’ (‘cities of the dead’)

  1. It means that creation matters: not just jumping on the ecological bandwagon. (If this is true, I don’t have to see everything now! 100 things to see before you die) It means that your work matters, your gardening matters, your painting and creativity matters.

And that really was part of my challenge to the Christian Arts Society in putting on the resurrection festival.
Many images show us the gospel stories of the resurrection
Many use abstract impressionism to talk of resurrection – and one understands why.
But few go further: Spencer’s ‘Resurrection in Cookham’ is a notable exception.

But I think that, because we are talking about a bodily resurrection, we can go some way to ‘imag-ing’ the resurrection.
  


The New Testament does. It speaks of:
Feast and banquet (Jesus speaks of the future Kingdom of God as a banquet (Luke 14:15–24)
A wedding: both a wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14; Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 19:9), and a wedding between Christ and the church, his bride (Revelation 19:7; 21:2,9)
A glorious city, the new Jerusalem  (Revelation 21:10-22:2), through which flows the river of life. The bible starts in a garden and ends in a city.

And Jesus gives us another hint of what the resurrection will be like:

In Matthew 22:23-33, he talks about marriage in the resurrection. He says,

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.”

And the bible talks about us reigning with Christ (Revelation 22:5), sitting on thrones with him (Luke 22:30), having responsibility in the Kingdom (Luke 19:17,19).

I know that we are talking here about a reality that is beyond imagination:  1 Corinthians 2:9,

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”

Paul is asked the question about what kind of body we will have in the resurrection: He answers ‘you foolish person’ (1 Corinthians 15:35-37)

The story of the acorn and the oak tree: it is like two acorns discussing what it will be like to be an oak tree. It is beyond our understanding

But that does not mean we should not try.

Socialist reality paintings – paint reality not as it is, but as it should be. It is compelled by a vision of the future. Are not we?

So, for instance, “Hans Kung, although primarily focused on art as the expression of estrangement, also claims that art functions eschatologically, so that the tree painted beautifully on canvas ‘is not sealed in its reality, but rouses the hope … that the world as it ought to be will at some time actually arise’ – a hope, in short, for a new heaven and a new earth”. (The art of the sacred, Graham Howes, p161)

cf. Peter Wenzel, 1745-1829, Adam and Eve in Paradise – looking back rather than looking forward, but still a vision of creation as it could be.













Icons depict people not as they were, but as they are, in transfigured glory – radiant and whole.

CS Lewis does something like this in literature:

On the body: The Great Divorce
“I saw people coming to meet us. Because they were bright I saw them while they were still very distant, and at first I did not know that they were people at all …. The earth shook under their tread as their strong feet sank into the wet turf. A tiny haze and a sweet smell went up where they crushed the grass and scattered the dew. Some were naked, some robed. But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of flesh. Some were bearded but no one in that company struck me as being of any particular age. One gets glimpses, even in our country, of that which is ageless—heavy thought in the face of an infant, and a frolicking childhood in that of a very old man. Here it was all like that.”

On creation: The Last Battle
The company have come through the stable. The last judgement has taken place, and the old Narnia has been consumed by fire. They are sad because of that. But it is hard to be sad in this new land for very long. And as they look at the mountains, they remind them of the mountains in Narnia.
'"And yet they're not like," said Lucy. "They're different. They have more colours on them and they look further away than I remembered and they're more... more... oh, I don't know..."
 "More like the real thing," said the Lord Digory softly.'


'It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time there were somehow different -- deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.
     The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.
     It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:
     "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!"'


So if the resurrection is physical, there is a place for the imag-ing of the resurrection, even if we recognise that all our images are completely provisional.

I’ve spoken about the resurrection of the body. It is something that is crucial to our faith. We have a great hope – which needs to impact on how we treat our bodies and how we treat this creation.

However, the really important thing about the Kingdom is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen, will be there and so will God the Father. And the great hope of the New Testament is that we will be with him, we will see him and we will become like him.

2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

1 John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”.

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