Adventures in Athens – A Bodily Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was physical, not just spiritual. Likewise, Christians do not live eternally as disembodied spirits, we will have perfect physical bodies.

During our recent trip to Athens, Anna and I wanted to see some of the key Greek places mentioned in the Bible. Philippi and Thessalonica were too far to travel during our stay, at least a six hour drive each way, but Corinth was close, just over one hour by auto.  About 12 miles west of Athens on the road to Corinth, however, lies another important Greek religious site, Eleusius and the site of one of the most renowned mystery cults.

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Third Date Sex?

Sex outside marriage devalues sex, harms men and women, splits families, reduces the number of children, and weakens society. Sex outside marriage feeds the illusion that sex is the only thing, or at least the most important thing, in life. 

“The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.” C.S. Lewis, the Screwtape Letters

As family physician, minister, father, or friend, I am privileged to talk to a wide variety of people. I recently met a young woman, not long divorced, who is struggling with past abuse, present poverty, and future fear. We talked many times about the challenges she faced. Shortly after her divorce, she began dating another man. This young woman hoped for a future with him, but worried that he didn’t seem interested in her work and other key parts of her life.

In 2010, I was the team physician for the US military women’s soccer team at an international championship. One of the players came to me for a gynecological exam, concerned that she might have contracted something from her new boyfriend. We had long and personal discussions about her and about their relationship. She gave him her body, but dared not offer her thoughts, her hopes, her fears, and her heart. She was terrified of losing him.

In both cases intelligent, successful, and attractive young women went to bed with men within weeks of starting a new relationship. They freely offered themselves in the height of physical intimacy without intimacy in emotion, commitment, or trust. In my research for this article, I discovered the phrase, “third date sex.”

Ancient gnostics believed that matter is evil and the body is no more than a tent enclosing, and limiting, the human spirit. They felt that what one does with the body doesn’t matter. Some people believe that sex is only for pleasure, that no one should deny themselves pleasure, and that having sex without limits is good. Some women believe that since many men push for sex without commitment, they should have that right also. They may see no need for other forms of intimacy to coincide with physical intimacy. Yet none of the women with whom I have spoken wanted sex without love.  Physical intimacy, without any other intimacy, was a trap.

The word “intimacy” suggests closeness, attachment, affection, and confidence. In human life, there is no greater expression of physical intimacy than sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. This intimacy is unique because it alone can result in the ultimate human creative act, the creation of children. This intimacy is binding because with children comes responsibility, a responsibility that lasts until death.

There are many kinds of intimacy between people. To have mental intimacy is to share information but also to share and enjoy thoughts: scary thoughts, unique thoughts, crazy thoughts, and incorrect thoughts. To have social intimacy is to recognize each other as special, and you as a couple, in the presence of others. To have spiritual intimacy is to agree on the most profound questions in life, including the source, purpose, and end of life, to rejoice in the answers to those questions, and to understand and accept each other on lesser questions. To have emotional intimacy is to cry together, to laugh together, and even more to cry and laugh at the things that make your beloved cry and laugh. To have physical intimacy is to enjoy physical touch with your partner, first non-sexual and later sexual. Sex without non-sexual touch is not physical intimacy. All intimacy presupposes trust between the partners; that the bonds of love which create intimacy will not be broken, whether by the inevitable conflict, insensitivity, misunderstanding, or the intentional slight. Even betrayal, once repented, can be forgiven.

The love which supports intimacy, however, is not a feeling, fleeting as dry leaves in an autumn breeze. Rather it is a commitment, firm like a tree with deep roots planted by streams of water.

God brings all people together. His plan is that, at the proper time, a man and a woman will meet, and like the oak tree, their intimacy will grow. They will share thoughts and emotions, hopes and dreams, fears and trials, and innocent touch. The man and the woman will talk of ultimate things, such as purpose in life, and begin to see their role, together, in these things. They will become a couple in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Their feelings will grow as their commitment does, and they will decide to love. In the presence of the most important people in their lives, they will commit to one another for a lifetime. Finally, in the ultimate physical expression of their love, their intimacy, and their lifelong promise, they will share sex, the ultimate physical experience. If they are blessed in this way, children will come, and a new generation will be born.

How many people, in their heart of hearts, do not long for such a relationship? How many used to long for it, but in their disappointment at the vicissitudes of life, have given up in anger and despair? How many are bitter? How many are resigned, settling for far less than their best? Imperfect people cannot have a perfect relationship, but imperfect people can align their intimacies with their commitment and have a more wonderful marriage than they ever thought possible.

Ultimately, it is “not good that man (or woman) should be alone”, and a person’s relationship in marriage, as with their other relationships, reflects their relationship with God.

“Third date sex” may be the best Western culture in its current state can offer, but our Creator intends for us to have so much more. The fault lies with both men and women. So often in relationships, men demand more than the women they say they love are willing to give…and yet these women comply.

Society bears a large part of the blame. We discourage marriage, which we say oppresses women. We call on people to marry late, preferably after age 25, and tempt them ceaselessly with stories and images during their teen and early adult years. We tolerate or even encourage pre-marital sex. We eliminate men’s and women’s roles and rules for building relationships and are surprised when people don’t know what to do.  Anything that makes one partner uncomfortable is punishable by breaking the relationship, or worse. If the societal standard is sex on the third date, many couples will follow.

Perhaps one day we will understand that maturity, not age, is the key to marital success, help the young to be mature, and encourage couples to marry when they are ready. Perhaps families and friends will help each young couple put boundaries around their physical intimacy. Perhaps older people will teach the truth and exemplify it. Perhaps men, young and old, will treat women with the love and respect of a husband, not a chattel. On that day “Third date sex” will be a memory, like many ill-advised flings, which we try to forget.

 

 

Do We Hate Our Bodies?

Our Lord loves us and He gave us our bodies, however they may be, for our enjoyment and His glory. Christians do not hate the material world… we love it. 

The other day I read an article written by a hospice chaplain from South Carolina entitled “What the dying really regret.” The author interviewed an elderly woman who was dying of cancer, who said:

“I know I’m supposed to hate my body…Everyone told me — my family, my school, my church. When I got older, magazines and salesgirls and boyfriends (told me), even if they didn’t say so out loud. The world’s been telling me for 75 years that my body is bad. First for being female, then for being fat and then for being sick…But the one thing I never did understand is, why does everyone else want me to hate my body? What does it matter to them?” Kerry Egan, CNN, 17 Oct 2014

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What Happens When a Person Dies?

A Christian perspective on what happens to a person’s spirit when they die. 

Our family enjoyed Christmas vacation 2011 in Cordova Alaska with my mother in law, Susan.  She serves in the Cordova Community Baptist Church, the place where her late husband Richard pastored for 25 years and her son John pastored for 10 years.  She is deeply loved and respected and provides Bible knowledge and compassion to the Christians there.  Many people recently have asked her “what happens when a person dies?” and she posed the question to me.  Operating from the Christian context and under the assumption of the reliability of the Bible as the word of God, I will address it.

The evidence of what happens after death is sparse in the Old Testament and more complete in the New Testament.  The first question is what is the nature of man?  Biologically it is clear that the body deteriorates after death and its elements are taken up to be used by other living organisms.  If humans are merely physical it is hard to deny the fact that after death we simply cease to exist.  There is no other option.  Some may argue that we are reincarnated, but reincarnation presupposes that there is something in us besides the matter and energy that forms our bodies.  If we are nothing more than the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and other elements that are our building blocks, there is nothing to reincarnate.

If humans are a combination of physical and spiritual (material and immaterial) elements then while the body recycles to be used by another, the spiritual part either dies with the body or remains somewhere.

The Nature of Man – a hybrid of Material and Immaterial

Passage Notes
Genesis 2:7 God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him and he became a living soul (נפש nephesh – life, person, mind, living being).  This “breath of God” suggests that man has a non-material element
Job 32:8 There is a spirit (רוח ruwach – breath, wind, spirit) in man
Matthew 10:28 Do not fear him who can only kill the body but fear Him who can cast the soul into hell
Luke 1:46-47 In Mary’s Magnificat, she mentioned her soul (ψυχή psychē) and spirit (πνεῦμα pneuma)
Romans 8:16 The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Spirit (πνεῦμα pneuma), soul (ψυχή psychē) and body (σῶμα sōma) be preserved blameless
Hebrews 4:12 Word of God separates body and soul

The Old Testament passages suggest that the Hebrews seemed to have a vague concept of man having material and immaterial parts but saw man as essentially inseparable, with the body residing in Sheol (the grave) after death until it finally deteriorated into nothing.  Until late in the OT there is little concept of a bodily resurrection.  The fate of the immaterial part of man is not clear in the OT.  The New Testament Scriptures clearly describe the material and immaterial aspects of the man. Even the words of Jesus Himself teach that man has a body and a soul.

What Happens After Death

Passage Notes
Job 19:25-26 After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh (בשר basar) I will see God
Psalm 16:9-11 God will not let His Holy One rot in the grave
Psalm 49:13-15 God will redeem His people from the realm of the dead
Isaiah 26:19 Your people have died but they will live again
Ezekiel 37:1-14 God took Ezekiel to the valley of dry bones and made the men live again.  This directly referred to the restoration of Israel but also implied the resurrection of the body.
Daniel 12:2 Many people who have already died will live again
Hosea 6:1-2 The people will be raised after two days.  This was also a prophecy of Christ.
Matthew 25:31-46 At the final judgment both the sheep and the goats will stand before God.
Mark 9:2-9 The Transfiguration
Luke 16:19-31 A rich man and a poor man (Lazarus) both die.  The rich man went to hell (ᾅδης hadēs) and saw Lazarus in heaven.
Luke 23:32-43 Jesus told the thief on the cross “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
John 20, 21
1 Corinthians 15:12-58 One of the longest Bible passages on resurrection
2 Corinthians 5:8 To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord
Philippians 1:23 I desire to depart and be with Christ
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The resurrection of the dead in rapture
Hebrews 9:27 It is appointed for a man once to die and then comes judgment

Both the Old and New Testament teach that the dead will be raised again, both the righteous and the unrighteous, but the NT teaching is much clearer.  The clearest proof that our bodies will be raised again is that Jesus’ body was raised again.  Therefore we may conclude that man is composed of both material and immaterial parts (body and spirit/soul).  He may have body, spirit and soul (three parts) but that question is not the focus of this work.  After the body dies it will eventually be reconstituted and raised again to eternal life, either with the Lord (which is Paradise) or without Him.  According to the Scriptures, reincarnation is not an option.

But what of the immaterial part of man?  Based on the Scriptures above we can be confident that the immaterial part of man is not destroyed with the body; it is immortal.  After physical death the immaterial part of each follower of Jesus goes immediately to be with the Lord and await the reunification with its body at the resurrection.  The immaterial part of those who do not know the Lord will be separated from the Lord and await the reunification with its body at the resurrection.  When the material and immaterial parts are reunited, each man will stand complete (body and spirit) before God to undergo judgment.  Those who accepted the Lord in this life will get their wish.  They will go into eternity with God. Those who rejected the Lord in this life will also get their wish.  They will go into eternity without Him.

One other note.  There seems to be a rumor circulating that people will be unrecognizable in heaven; therefore family members and spouses will not even know each other.  This is not biblical.  Peter recognized Moses and Elijah at the mount of the Transfiguration, the rich man recognized Lazarus and the disciples recognized Jesus after His resurrection.