Many today today who claim the Name will tell you that to partake in the likeness of His resurrection is to be restored, after biological death, as in Jesus' case, to biological life! If indeed, the likeness of His resurrection has reference to biology, then it is true that the Resurrection is yet future, we are not 'sons of the resurrection', and Jesus, Paul, and the apostles were mistaken concerning their expectations for Resurrection in the first century!
We, however, know that Jesus told Martha, when faced with her faithful ( but slightly misplaced ) hope, 'I am the Resurrection & the Life'! Martha, as a good & faithful Jew, had an eschatological hope that a Redeemer, a Messiah would appear at the end of all things, and raise His People from the grave. Jesus, not denying her hope, revealed to her that, not only was He the Messiah that she and Israel hoped for, He also embodied the Promised Resurrection!
One might ask the question, at this juncture, 'Then where are all the saints that were 'raised with Him' ( Matthew 27:52 ); where is Jesus Himself, if He was raised bodily?' Why is Lazarus not with us since Jesus told his sister that he would die no more ( forever )?
Those who believe that 'Heaven' is out there, might tell you that Jesus inhabits that 'realm' ( in His biological body, no less ), and that He will come, sometime in the future ( however near or far ), bringing His saints with Him, wreaking judgement & destruction upon those who do evil, and rendering a Judgement of Blessing & Resurrection to Life upon those who do good! Lazarus, we may assume, would be among those saints.
If we are yet to be resurrected, we have no hope prior to physical death, for how can one be raised from the dead unless he ( or she ) IS dead?! Paul talked about a 'change' ( I Corinthians 15: 51 & 52 ) that 'we who are alive' at His Parousia would experience. That 'change' presumably includes an incorruptible ( biological? ) body, one in which we will inhabit eternity in the Presence of our Heavenly Father!
Paul takes a slightly different tack, however, than those Christians who look for ( and teach ) a future biological resurrection of individual bodies! In the passage above, from his letter to the Romans, he tells us, in what should be very plain language, 'Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts' ( because of the Resurrection ) He is speaking to individuals, yes, but only as they are part of 'the body politic'. Later in this same letter ( 12:1 ), he tells us, 'present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God'.
Paul was not speaking, first, of 'going to 'Heaven' when you die', nor, secondly, was he speaking of a future resurrection of biological bodies; he was instructing them how they should live because of the Resurrection! This was the 'change' that Paul wrote about, not of a renewed biological body, but of a renewed spirit within that body, and more importantly, the fulfillment of the prayer of David in Psalm 51, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.'
Paul understood, as a true & faithful Israelite, and 'a Hebrew of the Hebrews' ( Philippians 3:5 ) that it was the Body of Israel that had died ( Matthew 24:28 ) and needed Resurrection; the history of Israel through the writings of the Law & the Prophets showed this deplorable fact quite well! Taken out of the context of the Story, or 'meta-narrative', one may well defend the position of a future & biological bodily resurrection, but taking Paul's writings as a whole in conjunction with the Story of Israel, it is plain to see that Paul taught, rather than a future, biological change, a change of heart, or a spiritual 'change' to the Body of Israel, and a move from 'Death to Life'!
How Shall We Then Live?
We, as the spiritual offspring of the 'Union of Heaven & Earth', as a dear friend stated the other day, should not, as some do, stand at the 'Wailing Wall', bemoaning the destruction of the Jewish temple and praying for its reconstitution; instead, we should live our lives in the realization that we ARE the Reconstituted Temple!
As Paul wrote to the Romans, we should present our bodies a living ( not dead ) sacrifice! He wrote to the Church at Colosse, 'If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.' Paul taught his 'congregation' that they had been raised, or resurrected; they had risen like a phoenix from the spiritual ash-heap of Israel! He taught them, not to look for a future resurrection of individual, biological bodies, but rather to accept the 'change' that had been made, and to live their Lives in thankfulness & praise for the Gift they had been given!
In the midst of his famous treatise on the Resurrection, Paul wrote 'Awake to righteousness, and do not sin' ( I Corinthians 15:34 ). The focus of the Resurrection was not receiving new biological bodies ( however tempting that might sound ); the point of the Resurrection was a 'changed' life, one lived in accordance with the Law of God, unlike Israel of old!
In the likeness of His Resurrection, let us live our Life in this Joyous Reality, seeking the advancement of His Kingdom, and rejoicing in His Blessings in our lives as we share these Joys with those around us!
Charles Haddon Shank