Hye Sung Francis
The doctrine of the resurrection is undoubtedly the doctrine I have wrestled with most over the years. It always seemed foolish and I could not understand why Christians were so adamant about this strange doctrine. It was certainly not in line with my upbringing, which was quite critical of Evangelicalism and Christianity as a whole.
Emanuel Swedenborg is adored by my parents, as they confidently hail him as a genuine mystic, saint, prophet, and theologian. He apparently journaled through his mystical experiences of traveling through the lands of the afterlife, in both Heaven and Hell. In his accounts of his travels, he claimed to have encountered those of all beliefs find their home in the pleasant regions of the spirit world, or the ‘Three Heavens’ because of their ‘charity’.1 Swedenborg’s eschatological hope came as soon as one passed on from this life and entered the next. The state of man brings one to where they belong in the spirit world, and progression is possible.
Young Oon Kim, a theologian in my parents’ church, expanded on Swedenborg’s view of the resurrection of both Christ and believers to be purely spiritual and non-physical. She claimed that “man does not stay in the grave until some far distant day of judgement and resurrection of the body. A man enters the spirit world as soon as he dies.”2 She pointed back to Genesis to prove that the resurrection was purely spiritual, nothing that “[t]here was no change in the physical appearance of Adam and Eve after their fall. Likewise, there is no outward change as one experiences resurrection; but there does occur a vast spiritual change which alters the character of one’s life.” 3
The idea of a physical resurrection was a doctrine I was taught to mock—almost as much as the doctrine of the Trinity. For several years I was tormented by the conviction of Christ being ‘Lord’ but had no idea what that meant. The resurrection, though, seemed like nonsense and was my greatest stumbling block. I could not accept such goofy dogma. Over time, though, this ‘nonsense’ began seeming glorious. The purely ethereal interpretation of this magnificent work of God seemed deficient. I began to see the grace and glory found in the resurrection, despite how silly it all seemed.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of my faith, and the Apostle Paul found it just as necessary when he said, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”4
So what is the point of the resurrection of Christ?
The resurrection of Christ makes it possible that those in Christ may not perish but have everlasting life. Everlasting life is not just an existence that continues in spirit but shall truly prove that both spiritual and physical death is abolished. Like him, those in the grace of Christ shall rise in their bodies, glorified by God, when delivered into the new heavens, new earth.5 This reality has often been skewed by the eschatology provided by pop culture, where people come to live eternally in some up-in-the-sky paradise as angelic creatures. Our eternal lives shall very much be physical, as we will be able to enjoy the Earth restored in heavenly glory. Christians shall rise from the dead just like Christ already has (and because of what Christ has done), with physical bodies in glorious condition.
The resurrection does not just give us a future hope but brings us a completely new identity in this life. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ killed the old man of sin and destroyed the bondage humankind had to the kingdom of darkness. Through the resurrection, Christians are able to “walk in the newness of life.”6 Power is released into believers to live righteously as the victory of Christ fully permeates into their lives. In this resurrection power, Christians can rejoice in their weakness for the God who same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead now lives in them.7
As people who have the living God now dwelling in them—that same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead—Christians may do the same works as Jesus. The power of the resurrection not only infests the character of a Christian and creates fruitfulness in his or her life, but also gives them the authority to perform the same works as Jesus, and even greater, which includes the miraculous.8 This belief is what makes charismatics distinct from Evangelicals when discussing the blessings and outcomes of the resurrection of Christ.
Richard Foster notes that this ‘spiritual authority’ is marked by “both compassion and power”.9 Unlike the power of Satan, the power of God is practiced only in love, which is revealed by Paul’s writings on the spiritual gifts10 as well as in the life of Christ, as he was moved with compassion to heal the leper.11 This authority is given to Christians to reveal the Kingdom of God, filled with both power and love. This is the same charismatic power and spiritual authority given to the apostles and the Seventy who were sent out,12 as this was was a foretaste of what all Christians would be endowed with in the new covenant.
The authority of Christ’s being given to Christians is made clear when the risen Jesus approached the eleven disciples on the mountain in Galilee, he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”13 In this powerful commissioning of the disciples, they were able to ‘therefore go’ because of Christ’s authority. As the Father sent Christ, now Christians are sent out.14 Through the resurrection of Christ, followers of Christ are “seated in heavenly places”15, are given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world”16, and can walk in pentecostal power.
The resurrection of Christ is a Christian’s victory and their hope, for Christ is the firstfruits of the Resurrection, and all in him shall experience this same glory. This victory gives us not just a hope in the distant future, but gives us the power to be conformed into the image of Christ and walk in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation here on Earth.
And something to keep mind is that resurrection is not just an event, but he is a person: Jesus. He is the promised resurrection, he is the abundant life, and he is fully ours.17
1. “Heaven and Hell” by Emanuel Swedenborg (p. 15-19)
4. 1 Corinthians 15:14
5. Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 25:8, Acts 2:27, 1 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, Romans 6:5-6, 8:11, 10:9, Philippians 3:21
6. Romans 6:4
7. 2 Corinthians 12:10, Romans 8:11
8. John 14:12
9. “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster (p. 108)
10. 1 Corinthians 13
11. Mark 1:41
12. Matthew 10, Luke 10
13. Matthew 28:16-20
14. John 20:21
15. Ephesians 2:6
16. Ephesians 1:3
17. John 1:4, John 10:10, John 11:25, John 14:6, Colossians 3:14