Isaiah 26:19 But your dead will live;
their bodies will rise.
You who dwell in the dust,
wake up and shout for joy.
Your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.
This is about as clear a declaration of resurrection as you could ask for, and it was given hundreds of years before Jesus demonstrated that death was conquered. My first thought in reading the NIV was that it wasn’t clear whether this was Isaiah speaking or perhaps the Lord speaking directly through Isaiah, but in the Japanese, where the NIV says “their bodies will rise,” it says, “my corpse will rise,” making it very clear that the whole thing is Isaiah’s declaration. However, he could never have made such a declaration without a revelation from the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit speaks this into our hearts we really can be fearless. Natural man is naturally afraid of death, but with this assurance, we can understand that death is no more than a temporary inconvenience. On this note, some people are against cremation because of the promise of resurrection, but that shows how little understanding they have. We are not resurrected as zombies, with the old body; we are given new bodies, and that is no more difficult for God after cremation than it is for people who were martyred by being fed to lions, not to mention the Christians who were vaporized by the atomic bomb in Nagasaki. Paul discussed this in 1 Corinthians 15, and specifies that “the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:53) Bodily resurrection is a very real promise, but we won’t be stuck with the bodies we have now.
Growing up in Japan, cremation has always seemed very natural to me, and having lived in Nagasaki Prefecture for 35 years I’ve certainly thought about vaporized Christians. (The hypo-center of the bomb was right over a Catholic girls school, and very close to a Protestant boys school.) My parents both chose cremation, which was certainly convenient when they died in the US and wanted to be buried in Japan. The whole matter of bodily resurrection seems a little bit of a mystery to me, because my wife and others have had glimpses of heaven, and once there, why would we want to return to the earth? Jesus certainly rose physically, and his resurrected body obviously had abilities, like walking through locked doors, that our bodies don’t currently have. When physics tells us that solid matter is mostly empty space, such an ability would come very naturally if we were in perfect harmony with everything else, and that is certainly something we might expect in the resurrection. Until I experience it personally, I’m not going to be anxious about it. Rather, I am to minister hope to those who fear death, whether that means talking about resurrection or simply eternity with our Lord and Savior.
Father, many people are freaked out by my lack of fear of death. May I indeed “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [me] to give the reason for the hope that [I] have,” (1 Peter 3:15) so that as many as possible may be brought from death to life, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!