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Discover The Secret Of Immotality

Discover The Secret Of Immortality

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The apostles proclaim their Lord not only as ' raised from the dead', but as 'exalted'and 'ascended' into heaven. That is in harmony with the picture of the universe which they shared with antiquity as a whole. I5ut whoever thinks it necessary to retain the bodily, physical idea in 'raised from the dead' ought to realize that he is bound to do the same with the expression ' exalted '. For that also conveys in its literal sense a spatial idea ; it presupposes the old notion that ' Ileaven ', God's eternal realm, is somewhere high above us in space. This notion was natural enough in antiquity ; but for us heaven and the eternal world of God is no more in space or time than God Himself is : it is in God's eternity, which is apart from space and time. This does not at all mean that the expressions ' resurrection ', ' raising from the dead', lose their meaning. In contrast to the idea of ' immortality', which properly is the denial of any state of real death, they affirm the restoration from real death to real life, or rather the admittance for the first time into plenary and genuine life. Nor have they in the Biblical view reference solely to the body. It is not the body merely, but the man that dies ; and it is as soul as well as body that he sinks into the state of death,1 the ' dread night of death ', from which he can only be delivered and

1 To die is to lose not be in 7 but lift. The fleshly body does not cease at first to be but to exercise the function we call ' living' And so the 60ul sin^s not into not-b> ing, nonentity, but into death, i.e. the cessation of its living function. This state is spoken of in Scripture as passing into ' Hades' .wrongly rendered ' Hell') and is compared to sleep, which is essentially life whose potentiality has been suspended. A closer analogy still to the state of' soul-death ' is that of cataleptic lethargy or impotence. We have to think of the condition of the soul sundered from the organ necessary to its essential natuie aa that of utter impotent,«, deprivation of life but not of being.

raised up by the power of God. If he is to live, man needs to be thus aivahened, brought up out of Hades and from the shadow of death, and raised again 'from the dead'. To be sure, according to Paul's idea, there is combined with this at the same time a bodily restoration. But, as is often noticed, this is for him not a raising up of the old body, a 'resurrection of the flesh '. Rather he would on his own presuppositions have emphatically rejected such a notion; for ' the flesh'—which is for him the essence of antagonism to God—is to pass away like the seed of corn sown in the earth, and the ' resurrection of the body' is for him rather the bestowal of a nno and quite other ' spiritual' body, provided and prepared of God. This is also the direction in which our thought must turn if we are to attempt to represent to ourselves the new life of the resurrection. We too are unable to think of the completed perfected life of the Spirit without ascribing to the Spirit some instrument or ' organ' whereby it realizes itself in practice. Now 'body' is the instrument of spirit, and the phrase ' spiritual body' affirms in an unambiguous manner that this instrument is not a fleshly body, not even ' transfigured flesh '—a contradiction in itself—but is itself spiritual in kind. And that implies that it is not bound up with any one point in space or time, and so is in no sense a physical body, which cannot be severed from material and spatial determination.

But whatever our thought may be upon this matter, one thing at any rate holds good: the meaning of the Christian knowledge that is by Faith lies in this, that Christ Himself who really died was brought again by God to real life and perfected unto the glory of the eternal life of God ; and that we live in expestation of the same with Ilira. This is a ' knowing ' which, for us to-day no less than for the apostles, can be born of the Spirit, but only of the Spirit. Whether the body belongs to the being of this Christ and to our own completed being is a physiological not a religious question, and one which pertains not at all to our confession of faith. But to any one who has to meet this issue we would say, the ' Risen Christ' is to be ' our comfort', not a source of trouble in our conscientious fidelity to truth ; and for a true understanding of the experiences bearing on the Resurrection we would refer him to the nature of spiritual revelation as recounted in Isaiah vi.

As regards the narratives of the ' Empty Tomb', we shall judge uf these as of the narratives of a later date which gathered about the birth of Jesus, appraising them as a holy legend, in which the supra-rational relation of the eternal to the temporal is mirrored in the medium of contemporary thought. They have an enduring value to us from the incomparable beauty and power with which they symbolize the essence of the 'mystery'. We would not be without thein in our Bible, nor yet in the pictorial art of the churches, nor in the hymns that express our devotion. And we can retain them thus without being false to the obligation of the most rigid honesty if we remain fully conscious of that other obligation, without fulfilling which we neither can nor indeed should have either Biblical instruction or Christian doctrine. And that is the obligation we are under to train ourselves and the mind of our time to a sincere and devout understanding of three things. In the first place we need to realize the fringe of legend that surrounds the entire narrative of Iloly Scripture and recurs as a constant problem from the first page of the Bible to the last. Secondly, we need to appreciate the signal value and beauty and the profound import which distinguish the Biblical narrative, even wdiere it is of the nature of legend ; and, finally, the fact that even in the holy saga and legend, shaped and fashioned unconsciously by the spirit of a people or a fellowship, there is present the vtry saine eternal Spirit of God, wdiich Hebrew prophecy and poetry and history also manifest, that Spirit which, in i very form of its expression, is the Spirit of revelation and truth.

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