15. The Cauldron of the Resurrection II
Why, then, did God make man different? Why are we the union of God's Spirit and dirt? Was dirt evil in the day that God created it? Quite the contrary, the only evil upon the earth was the evil found in the heavenly creatures, spirit beings, one of whom materialized into a physical form. In fact, the extraordinary thing is that in the day that Adam was created, evil was found in heaven only, in the realm of spirit only, there was no evil on the physical side of the creation.
15. The Cauldron of the Resurrection II
The testimony of the Bible is that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The accusation that the realms of physical matter are low or “down-pulling” or a hindrance to achieving a knowledge of God, this is simply not found anywhere in the Bible (1 John 1:1-2), rather it is imposed on the Bible from outside. Nowhere does Paul say that the flesh is our problem or that God wants us to “get rid of the flesh”; he says that walking according to the flesh is our problem. There is a huge difference between those two things. In fact the whole plan of God is found in the extraordinary difference between those two ideas. The victory of Christ in us is Christ revealed in the flesh, not Christ revealed in spirit only. John says that it is the spirit of anti-Christ that claims that Christ is spirit only.
We know that the terms ‘eternal’ and ‘eternity’ were absent from the thinking and context out of which Jesus and the Apostles wrote and spoke. Those concepts came into the church hundreds of years later. Then we have the ridiculous mistranslation which the King James has too many of, “Time shall be no more.” Time is the measurement of the movement of matter through space. Hence, no time means no physical matter in God’s re-created universe, no planets spinning, no water flowing, no wind blowing, no children playing happily, no family sitting around the table together enjoying the abundant harvest of the earth.
It is clear that John wrote, There shall be no more delay, but that when the right time is come, the mystery of God – God manifest in the flesh – will be completed. Revelation 10 (My paraphrase.)
Jesus and the Apostles wrote continually out of the concepts and understandings of a series of future ages of time. That is, an unending succession of distinct periods of time, ages that have a beginning and an end. Everything they said and wrote came out of that understanding of the future.
Let me blow us away with this thought. God is eternal. That means He is. To say “God was before His creation,” or to say, “God will be after His creation,” is to speak blither. God is and nothing else. Time words have no meaning when describing God.
God is normal. Eternal is normal. Time, then, is possibly the most fantastically bizarre thing that God ever invented. If eternal is normal, how on earth could something begin or end? The creation of time is a far greater demonstration of God’s incredible abilities than the simple extension of normal eternality.
Eternal is easy for God. The creation of time is one of the greatest proofs of His ability to do the impossible!
In other words, I do not see the purpose of banishing any physical matter moving through space from God’s re-created universe. Are we to be offended if God likes both sides of His universe, if He likes the physical side just as much as He likes the spiritual side? Does not God love animals and the earth as much as He loves angels and the heavens? Do not God’s bowels yearn over all the works of His hands? Is it not His intent to bring victory and resolution and the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ into every part of His creation – into all things?
Let us assume that God does, in fact, recreate a fully restored physical side to the universe, stars and planets, rivers and hills, plants and animals, fire and air, all functioning in perfect harmony according to the laws of physics instituted by God, without the presence of sin.
If the resurrection is spirit and heaven only, with no reference to physical matter, as an overcoming son of God (I speak that by faith), I am forever banned from that side of God’s creation. I will not, in fact, inherit the earth, walk its gardens, or explore its mountain streams. I will never taste its fruit. By that belief, I am cut off from half of my inheritance. More than that, God can never reveal Himself through me to any part of His creation on the physical plane.
In fact, the idea that God would reduce His creative exuberance by eliminating time, His most bizarre and incredible invention, and physical matter and thus eliminating all the many types of created beings He could form in those realms just does not speak to me of the God I know and see.
Let me bring in another defining verse from Isaiah. Of the increase of His government there shall be no end.
I do not take this to mean, “of the increase of His control over us there shall be no end,” that is the very opposite of God’s nature. He does not “control” us; He walks in harmony with us and we with Him. It means that God is as He shows Himself to be, reckless in His exuberance to create. God loves to create, to fill the universe with created beings of all kinds, sizes, shapes, and functions. To increase the number of His children without end. Any “sane” creature would cry “Stop - enough,” when God is just getting started creating. He is always too much.
Now, by the belief that the resurrection places us in the heavenly realms of spirit only, as I reveal God to creation, I can do that only in heaven. My ministry in future ages will be only on the heaven side of God’s creation. I will never walk the planets or minister Christ to those whom God creates in the physical realms. I will never be able to give a cup of cold water, to place my hand on someone’s shoulder, to take them by the hand and show them Christ.
No, that belief has banished me from half of God’s creation and from half of my inheritance.
But if God wanted to show Himself through His image in heaven only and not within the physical parts of His creation, why on earth did He create us as His image as humans? Why did He create us perfect with a physical body through which we could reveal God to all the physical creation and with a spiritual body through which we could reveal God to all the heavenly creation? Why, then, did God make man different? Why are we the union of God’s Spirit and dirt?
Was dirt evil in the day that God created it? Quite the contrary, the only evil upon the earth was the evil found in the heavenly creatures, spirit beings, one of whom materialized into a physical form. In fact, the extraordinary thing is that in the day that Adam was created, evil was found in heaven only, in the realm of spirit only, there was no evil on the physical side of the creation.
So the idea that the spirit side of the creation is “better” than the material side of the creation clearly does not hold up. The truth that “flesh” is passing away refers to that which comes out of the tree of knowledge, man anointed by demons, not to that which is made of physical atoms and moves through space.
God intends to reveal Himself in the earth; Jesus will win in this age on this earth in my body. God is proving His glory within the physical part of His creation. This is Christ. Anti-Christ is that which limits Jesus to heaven, that is, to spirit form only, and denies His appearing in physical matter.
The driving point of the mystery of all that is God in creation is God manifest in the flesh, that is, in the focal point of all physical matter – the human body. To walk in heaven, I must have a heavenly body. I do. To walk in the realms of physical matter, I must have a physical body. I do.
I walk in both bodies at the same time. I am human; I am the revelation and image of God on earth and in heaven, both at the same time – and forever! This earth is my inheritance; I will not be robbed of it. In the same way, heaven is my inheritance, and it belongs to me fully. I own it and more, as Paul says.
Having laid this basis of understanding, let’s return to your original question concerning this statement of Paul to the Thessalonian church.
God centers the entire gospel of Jesus Christ around the redemption of the physical body, that it will be transformed into one just like the glorious body of Jesus after His resurrection. God says in so many ways that this is the goal of the gospel – the defeat of death and the resurrection of the physical body. As far as I am concerned, to cut the resurrection of the physical body out of the New Testament is to engage in the prolific practice of almost all Christians – gleefully cutting as many verses out of the New Testament in as many ways as they can.
But I will concede this point. There is one passage that supports the understanding of the resurrection as a “spiritual” body only. It is this passage in 1 Corinthians 15, plus a few more verses either side of these.
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies . . . for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Verse 44, – it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body – does support the understanding of the resurrection being a spiritual body against the limited physical view of historical Christianity.
This brings us to our definition of God. I am discovering a critical truth about God more and more in recent months. God is contradiction. Let me explain.
The human mind in its present state, particularly the Christian religious mind, cannot stand contradiction. We reject it and do not allow it into our theology. We demand a “summa theologica,” that is, a clear, easy-to-understand, easy-to-grasp explanation of everything with no inconsistencies or obvious contradictions. We do not allow God to say things that oppose each other to our minds.
It is God’s order for His church that each of us should give that portion to the church that He has given us; it is not a “fault” to stay within those things God has made real to us personally. But when the motive for refusing to teach certain things God does say is control over the congregation, that is evil working in the church. And that control thing works all too much in “deeper truth” circles.
Here is how we reject God’s prerogative to say things that we have decided God ought not to have said. We accuse our brother of heresy.
And this is the problem with following the revelations of the Spirit we receive apart from the Word God speaks that was written down upon the page. We are so limited and earthy in our understanding that we can’t stand the idea that God would say two things that to us completely oppose each other. Jeopardy and assurance is one such contradiction that I have explained elsewhere.
Here’s how it works. Some, receiving a revelation of the Spirit of God through these statements of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, then find it impossible to receive or accept other statements God makes that speak of an actual transformation of our physical body, that we will continue forever in a body that corresponds to the physical side of God’s creation, that we will be sent by God to reveal Him to all the physical realms He will yet create – as well as to be sent by God to reveal Him to all the heavenly realms He will yet create.
At some point along the road, we decide which side of contradictory verses we intend to take. Then we spend the rest of our lives twisting and pushing and making all those other verses say something other than what they actually say, something that agrees with the contradictory verses we chose. And we call our brothers “heretics,” who have chosen the other verses and who twist and push and force the verses we have embraced, trying to make them say something other than what they actually say.
This is a game. It is religion. And I have stopped doing it. I used to do it. I hated it like hell even while I was doing it. I made a firm decision never to twist what God says again, by God’s grace. To understand it as He means it, yes, but never to force it to fit my view of what God ought to have said.
God does not make sense. To want a God who makes sense is to want a god who is not God, a god who is created in our image, not the other way around.
I believe what God says as He says it. I know that some passages are mistranslated and misconstrued. I also know how God uses symbols and metaphors. But I have no need to practice mental strangulation to force a verse that does not fit my “revelation” to say what I want it to say. I will not do that to these verses in 1 Corinthians 15 that fully support a spiritual take on the resurrection, and I will not do it to 1 Thessalonians 4.
But I will point this out. Paul was dealing with questions that deeply concerned new Christians then and now. What is the resurrection? What will happen to us? How does it work? What will we look like? Today’s church, however, has mostly abandoned the resurrection, replacing it with the rapture – everyone going to heaven at once. Paul gave answer to those questions that brought the thinking of the Corinthian church out of the carnal limitation of life as it is known in this present age and into a grasp of the power of the Spirit and how God actually works, by sowing Christ into weakness, that is, by Jesus living as us in this world, He would transform us from the inside out.
I can embrace this truth that Paul shares here with all of my heart as he speaks it, without needing, at the same time, to exclude the resurrection from the physical side of God’s universe, whether in the next two ages of time, that are the ages of the ages, the greatest of all the ages, when salvation and the ministry of Christ come to their full completion, or whether in the ages to come after that when all of creation is made brand new, a new heavens and a new earth.
There is also a claim that the new heavens and the new earth have already happened. This is true – as a seed, but only as a seed. Jesus, the Lamb slain before the beginning of creation, did not save us until the red blood cells of a human Christ mixed with the dirt of this earth. Just as with all things that God does, the new heavens and the new earth begin with the planting of a seed. But the planting of the seed must never be confused with the completion of the finished state.
This teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 also refutes completely the idea that the new heavens and the new earth are already as completely manifested as they ever will be. On the contrary, they are planted as a seed, and that seed does its work in our lives, pressing up out of the soil, transforming the dirt into living tissue, and bearing the full fruit, all that was in that original seed. But it is the plant, the life of the church in the present age, that has a different body to the original seed. The fruit that comes out of the completion of the plant is identical in every way to the seed that was planted, just many more of them.
Also in this passage, Paul says that the LAST enemy to be defeated is death. Death is not “spiritual” only, it is first physical. Physical death was the condemnation of God against sin.
Gnosticism wants to claim that all that God speaks is proven in spirit only, that it makes no difference what is manifest visibly upon this earth in the flesh. That the death and sorrow and cruelty and emptiness of this earth will just go on until all that is physical and therefore “bad” just vanishes.
It is this belief, spirit only, that John opposed all through His epistles. It is anti-Christ, and I oppose it as well. I oppose the idea that I presently know all that God meant by the resurrection. I hate that whole way of thinking.
I will not rest until I see God manifested in all of His fullness in my human body of flesh right here on this earth. I will not rest until I see God move through me in mighty rivers of living water that actually and permanently heals and transforms this physical planet, that bring all that is upon it into the glory and experience of God. I will not rest until I see the curse lifted from off this planet, the animals free, the plants shining His glory, the rocks singing His praises without restraint or shadow. I will not rest until I see Hades empty and heaven clean and all the evil of the spirit realms bowing under the love and kindness of Jesus, and all creation free and rejoicing in the proof that God’s Word wins, that He triumphs over all who oppose Him, and that Jesus, gathering all that exists into Himself, turns and gives all things back to the Father.
So let’s get back to this verse in 1 Thessalonians that you are asking about. First, what do I do with this verse? There are clearly metaphors here, but I will not spiritualize it. I will do the only thing God wants us to do with every word He speaks. I will believe it – as God says it, regardless of my understanding.
God says it; I believe what God says with all my heart. The Word God speaks is planted in my heart by the Holy Spirit and the power and genetic code of my Father that is in that Word brings forth all the fulfillment of everything God meant when He spoke it into my experience upon this earth. This word is spoken into the earth and into this age, it must be fulfilled in this earth and in this age.
But I am convinced of this. Those who have died, who have lost their physical bodies and who exist in the heavenly realms, in their spirit body only, are not complete. They are in Christ, but they areDEAD! They are not all there; they are missing part of themselves. The writer of Hebrews tells us that they are waiting for their completion upon us who are here walking this thing out upon the earth. I believe that they will, once again, walk upon this earth in bodies that are compatible with physical phenomena.
Though many sons of God in the resurrection will prefer to walk mostly in the heavens, as they wish, yet when they come upon the earth, they will be perfectly normal and compatible with the earth. Other sons of God may wish to walk mostly upon the planets and within the physical side of God’s creation, yet when they visit the heavens, they will be perfectly normal and compatible with heaven. And all will walk in the Spirit, in the heavens, all the time, whether they are upon the earth or wherever they find themselves in God’s exuberant unlimited-ness.
I believe that I will live in heaven in my spiritual body and upon the earth in a body compatible to the earth, that I will go everywhere and anywhere in all of God’s creation as I wish and God wills (what I wish and what God wills are always the same). I believe that all the glory and fruit of the new heavens, after God through us cleans all the darkness and evil out of heaven and out of that which is spirit by bringing it into submission to Jesus, belong to me. I believe that all the glory and fruit of the new earth, after God through us cleans all the darkness and evil out of the earth and out of that which is physical matter by bringing it into submission to Jesus, belong to me.
I believe that God sends me forever into all the heavens that we create together and fill with beings – as His glory and revelation. I believe that God sends me forever into all the realms of physical matter, upon all the planets we create together and fill with beings – as His glory and revelation. All the creatures of the spiritual realms will know God by knowing me, and all the creatures of the physical realms will know God by knowing me.
That is the glory of man, the glory of Christ. That is what human means.
You see, the future is utterly fascinating, mind-blowing to the extreme. God is never dull. He is adventure beyond measure.
But those new heavens and new earth, the age that is to come, all the purpose and victory of God in Christ will come out of a single point, a “pinch,” when all the contradiction is met here upon this planet, in a final showdown, a final answer to everything that opposes God and to every voice that questions what He says.
It is the point where the Lamb overcomes the Beast, where Christ proves anti-Christ false, where love trumps hate, where light banishes darkness, where the mystery of godliness overturns the mystery of iniquity, where undeserved forgiveness is extended to the basest of cruelty. It is the love of God and the wrath of God ever entwined, the absolute purity and the deepest compassion, judgment and mercy met together. It is the revelation of God through us.
It is the resurrection from the dead. It is God proving Himself in our mortal bodies. It is God filling His temple with all of Himself.
What that looks like, I do not fully know, but I believe it with all of my heart.