Let’s start with a couple familiar verses.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. – I Thess 4:16
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. – I Cor 15:51-52
These are the primary Scriptures used to communicate an event called, the resurrection from the dead. Generally, we’ve interpreted these Scriptures to mean that there is going to be an upheaval of tons of dirt as bodies come back to life and suddenly erupt up out of the ground. We experience some of our strongest religious sentimentalities as we rally around artists’ depictions of this epic event.
But let’s dissect this concept and see if this picture still stands.
Fact: Since Adam, all people except two, have died… and after death all of the bodies decomposed back into their original state – from dust to dust (Gen 3:19; Eccl 3:20; including verses in Job, Psalms and Isaiah).
Fact: Before caskets and vaults became popular in the middle 1800s, most people were buried about 3 feet under the ground. This allowed nature to re-purpose all the elemental components of the body. Those elements were assimilated back into the soil or surrounding matter (ocean, air, etc). The human body, which is mostly water (65%), dissipates into the air or the earth… and the remaining 50 elements (35%) which are minerals and some inert elements, are assimilated into the cyclical life processes of nature.
Question 1: Where are the remains of the bodies that died 200 years ago? 4000 years ago? Without a doubt, most or all of the elements of that body are not in their original resting place, due to: worms, birds, trees, flowers, grass, funeral pyres, burned at the stake, eaten by animals, cremation, burial at sea, promession, cryopreservation, etc. Suffice it to say that most, or all, of that body is not where it was last laid to rest. And it would also be fair to say that most… or all, of the DNA is gone, too.
Question 2: So if the dead in Christ are to resurrect, where will they resurrect from, if there are no body parts or residual DNA, in that location?
Some people hold the view that some part of the person’s DNA is still there in the ground, then God miraculously reconstructs the body from that miniscule DNA. But if we hold to that view, we’re still saying that most of what happens is an outstanding miracle. And if it’s a miracle, why do we even need a ‘seed’ portion of DNA for the miracle to happen?
Question 3: Is the picture of dead people coming out of the ground an accurate concept? What if we don’t actually resurrect out of the dirt?
So let’s take a look at the “glorified body”. We don’t know exactly what it means, what it looks like or the physical properties of it. But it is most certainly not the same substance as our bodies… they’re “glorified”.
… who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. – Phil 3:21
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. – I Cor 15:42-44
Jesus, and maybe Moses and Elijah on the Mt of Transfiguration, are the only ones we know who have manifested in a glorified body. And Jesus’ body could do things our bodies can’t. It could eat… or not. It was ethereal enough to pass through walls… or solid enough for Thomas to put his hand in Jesus’ scars. It was able to manifest in a “different form” (Mark 16:12) to the two men on their way to Emmaus.
Question 4: Does God need a whole body… or even particles of DNA for a resurrection and glorified body? Maybe resurrection has more to do with God creating a glorified body for our spirit man to live in for eternity, than it does with trying to reconstruct what used to be our temporary ‘tent’ that housed our soul and spirit man for those few years on earth. He’s creating a facility for our spirit man that has physical properties which surpass, even our wildest creative imagination.
And if it’s too much to think that God doesn’t need at least some physical DNA to create a glorified body, then where do angel appearances come from… they never had a pre-existent physical body on this earth! And where did the “sons of God” get a substantive body sufficient to co-habit with the “daughters of men” in order to procreate Nephilim on the earth (Gen 6:4)? Those “sons of God” never had human bodies before their ‘appearance’ upon the earth, but somehow were able to manifest in physical form.
What if coming out of the ground is just a man-thought… a concept that we’ve invented to try to make some verses fit within our ‘known world’? Doesn’t it sound at least a little like a man-thought? In fact, it sounds a lot like how we made up our now fast fading rapture theory that involves blue skies and puffy clouds – which BTW was only invented back in the 1800s. What if God has a completely different idea about resurrection from the dead? Could we be OK with that? If He does have a different plan, then it would just be another tribute to God’s miraculous and mysterious ability to do the impossible without having to be fully understood by our brains?
What if the historical timing of this whole concept and the meaning of these metaphors is completely different than our modern pulpit-speak? Selah!
So what if we just let the happy worms eat their fill of dead men’s carcasses? And what if the happy fat worms (and happy birds who ate the happy fat worms) don’t have to explode to let out all of the dead men’s DNA when it comes resurrection time?
Conclusion: I say, “God bless the worms!”