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The Redemption Of The Body

The Body of our Humiliation

One of the sad consequences of sin in human experience is the fact of bodily disease and deterioration with advancing age. Many lives are filled with pain and the deprivation that illness brings. Then comes death, followed by the decay and decomposition of the body as it returns to dust. It is little wonder that Paul described our body as "the body of our humiliation" (Phil. 3:21). God made man in His own image, and it is humiliation indeed that such a privileged creature should bear in his person the ravages of disease and the infirmity that accompanies old age. When the Lord Jesus was here in the days of His flesh, His heart must have been deeply grieved to see the devastation that sin had brought to mankind. He, as Creator, had given to man the blessing of full exercise of all the wonderful bodily functions divinely imparted when the first man was formed from the dust of the ground and received the breath of life. When Christ came into the world as Man, He encountered from day to day men with sightless eyes or speechless tongues, or maimed limbs or with bodies consumed with leprosy. He would presumably have shared in the acute sorrow of bereavement in His own family when Joseph the head of the household was taken. At the creation, "the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7), but during His time on earth the Son of God heard from close at hand the groaning of the whole creation in pain (Rom. 8:22).

In addition to these physical effects of the presence of sin in mankind there are also spiritual afflictions. Paul speaks of this in Romans chapter 7 when he deplores the operation of "the law of sin which is in my members" (v.23). Clearly this is a legacy of our fallen condition that is present even in the flesh of the believer. It is a sad propensity to failure which constantly besets the child of God and hampers him or her in the full discharge of service worthy of the King. What a disappointing and frustrating hindrance it is, besetting even the greatest of disciples in all their earthly experience!

The Unclothed

We know from Philippians 1:20-23 that believers in Christ who have departed this life are with Him and that "it is very far better." For them is the full joy of being in His presence after all the privations of their earthly journey. "Sorrow vanquished, labour ended, Jordan passed." Thus Paul wrote that "to die is gain." However, we also understand from 2 Cor. 4:16-5:8 that the believer who suffers death prior to the coming again of our Lord Jesus will remain unclothed in a bodily sense until His coming. The description of the bodily change at the Rapture of 2 Cor. 5 closely parallels that of 1 Cor. 15 which deals with the coming of the Lord for the dead and the living in Christ. Hence we conclude that meantime the dead in Christ, with living believers, await the day of the redemption of the body.

Resurrection and Transformation

The process of humiliation will be gloriously reversed for those who are Christ's at His coming to the air for His Church, when the dead in Christ will be raised. This must surely mean that bodies of the dead ones are reclaimed from death and restored to life, thus abruptly undoing all the damage of corruption and disintegration attendant on the state of physical death. We suggest that anything less would be inconsistent with the total supremacy of Christ over death and over him who had the power of death.

Furthermore, according to I Cor. 15:51-54 we shall all be changed. The resurrected dead must put on incorruption and the living must put on immortality. This will be the fulfilment of the Lord's own word to Martha in John 11:25, 26; "he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whatsoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die." He will be there Himself to honour His promise. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven . . . and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up" (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).

Paul wrote also in Philippians 3:21 of the powerful transformation carried out by the Saviour when He "shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory." The words imply both a change of form and of nature. All the effects of sin, both moral and physical will be for ever removed. He will recover in full the bodies that death has taken and will translate them to a state of glory that exceeds all human aspiration. What is sown in weakness will be raised in glory and power. Not only will bodily frailty be for ever past but there will be complete freedom from the dishonour occasioned by the law of sin in our members. Never again will the disciples' service to the Master be incomplete or blemished with failure.

The Trumpet Shall Sound

One of the important observances in the national life of God's ancient people Israel was the year of jubilee. It was the fiftieth year and in it liberty was to be proclaimed throughout the land. Servants went out free and poor men had their inherited possessions restored to them. The signal of this time of happy release was the sending abroad of the loud trumpet on the day of atonement in the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-10). That clear and ringing sound from the loud trumpet was heard throughout the land and for some it meant the end of many weary years of bondage. For others it meant the regaining of property they could never have become rich enough themselves to redeem. For many it meant homecoming. What a joyful note it must have been!

We too look forward to the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). Subject as we are to the hindrances and affliction inherent in our flesh we are waiting for the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23). The word translated "redemption" in these passages has in it the basic idea of deliverance. The price of this deliverance we could never have found. It was paid at Calvary where our great Redeemer gave Himself for us. He made us and He has bought us. The almighty Creator took a human body and in it He suffered and died, and that death has consequences for our bodily condition. He has purchased eternal release and restoration for us and we shall experience this reality when the trumpet shall sound in that coming day of heavenly jubilee (1 Cor. 15:52).

The Ultimate Triumph

We have already noted the Lord's word through Paul that the body of our humiliation will be conformed to the body of His glory. The apostle John wrote, "if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him" (I John 3:2).

In the beginning man was made in the likeness of God, but as a result of the activity of Satan disfigurement has taken place. The Adversary of God and men won a victory in Eden which has brought appalling devastation to mankind in life and in death. The process of corruption in dead bodies destroys all physical resemblance to the man that God made. In every case a noble and perfect work of God is reduced to formless dust. Those who belong to Christ are not exempt from this sad process. In our own experience we have frequently to say to the Lord, like the sisters in Bethany, "he whom Thou lovest is sick." The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.

In view of this, the Lord's victory will be all the sweeter when the waiting time is over and the sons of God are revealed (Rom. 8:19). Every one of the redeemed will stand in the perfection and glory that pertains to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour from heaven. Then will come to pass the saying, death is swallowed up in victory. That final and overwhelming triumph belongs to Him who was dead and is alive for evermore.