Looking Forward to the General Resurrection

Since we know our suffering will end when we die and our souls go to heaven, why should we look forward to the general resurrection?

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Christians have confessed for a very long time that, in various confessional statements, that we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We say that at the end of the Apostles' Creed, we say it at the end of the Nicene Creed. This is at the core of Christian confession: we believe in the resurrection of the dead. And that's a bodily resurrection for multiple reasons. We can look at Paul in 1 Corinthians, for example and see that Paul emphasizes the importance of the bodily resurrection. So there's a lot of dispute among theologians about what happens in that intermittent period when we die and our bodies go into the grave, and our souls evacuate our bodies and we have this intermediate period. And I think, for a long time in a certain pietistic strand of Christian belief, leaving our bodies and being disembodied spirits seems to be the ultimate goal of what Christian existence is about. And that's simply not the way the Bible emphasizes the resurrection and what the final day will be. It emphasizes that our bodies and our souls need to be combined one with the other; it's not right to be bodiless souls. So, our confession about the resurrection of the dead is a confession that sees bodies and souls together, and that's the ultimate goal. And our souls in the intermediate period are waiting for our bodies to be joined to them again, and that is the final moment of the resurrection of the dead.

Answer by Dr. Mark Gignilliat

Mark Gignilliat is the Associate Professor of Divinity Old Testament at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama and has published articles in Scottish Journal of Theology, Horizons in Biblical Theology, Westminster Theological Journal, Biblica, The Journal for Theological Interpretation, Zeitschrift fr die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, and International Journal of Systematic Theology.