Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
57. What comfort do you receive from “the resurrection of the body”?
That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head, but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like the glorious body of Christ.
Question 57 summarizes the biblical teaching concerning article 11 of the Apostles’ Creed, “the resurrection of the body.” We have already learned from Question 45 that Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection, which will occur when Christ returns to usher in new heavens and a new earth (John 6:44; 1 Thess. 4:15-16; 1 Pet. 3:10-13). Our resurrection will follow the same basic pattern as His. His human soul after He died went immediately to heaven (Luke 23:43), and then returned to His body and came forth from the grave. Our soul after we die “shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head.” Paul said, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8; cf. Phil. 1:23). The souls of believers go immediately to heaven; the souls of unbelievers go immediately to hell (Luke 16:22; Rev. 6:10). During the time between death and the resurrection [“the intermediate state”], “the soul does not sleep,” but “feels, and understands without the body… although the manner of its operation without the body is altogether unknown to us” (Ursinus, 310).
The resurrection is when our souls shall be reunited with our bodies–which will be raised from the dust by the Lord’s almighty power (Job 19:26; Ezek. 37:12; Acts 26:8; 1 Cor. 15:42-44). Our resurrected body will be just like Christ’s “glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Christ’s resurrected body was the very same body that was crucified (John 20:24-29). It was still “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), but adorned with immortality (Luke 24:31, 51; Rev. 1:14). Our resurrected bodies will be the same as those which we now have, only they will be immortal, incorruptible, imperishable, free from all defects and imperfections. Yes, we will recognize each other (Matt. 8:11)! The bodies of the wicked will also be raised but only to endure eternal punishment (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Matt. 25:30, 46).
58. What comfort do you receive from the article “life everlasting”?
That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, therein to praise God forever.
Since eternal life is a life in “fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3; cf. John 17:3), eternal life begins the moment God works truth faith in our hearts (John 5:24). As believers, we begin in this life to know what the unbelieving eyes and ears and hearts do not know, because “God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (see 1 Cor. 2:8-10). But we have only a beginning of eternal joy (Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:2). God’s image is only partially restored in us (Gal. 5:22-23). But when Christ returns, God’s image will be perfectly restored in us; and on a new earth in our resurrected bodies we will see Him face to face (1 John 3:2). “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). We can only imagine!