Sunday, March 15, 2009

Body and Soul, Part 2

I've been thinking through the thought experiment I started in my earlier post about whether humans have any part of immortality other than that which God chooses to imbue to them as a part of eternal life.

The ramifications of the idea seem endless to me.

Doing some amateur word studies through my concordance, I found something interesting. The term Spirit, as far as a specific thing/person is used almost exclusively to refer to God. It is occasionally used to refer to demons or angelic beings--unclean spirits. When used while speaking about humans, it is usually in a generic sense; congregations having a spirit of unity, a spirit of love, etc. In that meaning spirit is more a descriptor of a general attitude, not a descriptor of an ethereal thing.

This makes for an interesting idea......God, specifically God's Spirit, as the only source of immortality. That has the appearance of being quite an obvious statement.  Of course God is the only source of immortality and eternal life. What I am aiming at is a very literal understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." 

He was making more than just a passing allusion to salvation. He is declaring that God's immortal Spirit is the only thing capable of raising the dead to life.

Today's reading in church was John 2:13-22:

13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.14In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

 17His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." [a]

 18Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"

 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."

 20The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body.22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

The lesson concerned the moneychangers, but my mind was elsewhere.  I was thinking about the Israelites worship of God, and their belief in the validity of temple worship.  To make a proper sacrifice, one had to go to the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was the abode of God's Spirit.  It was the place where people went to meet God, fulfill their oaths, asks for answers to prayer and take part in the official religious life of Israel.

One could pray to God anywhere, but there were many rituals which could only be performed at the Temple.  It was considered a Holy Place.  

Realizing these facts makes sense of Jesus tirade, but I think the most interesting part comes afterwards when he refers to himself as the temple.  It's more than a euphemism, more than a picture, and more than an analogy.  Jesus is quite literally the temple of God's Spirit, not tied to a physical location but walking about with the people, eating meals with the locals, fishing with Peter, and walking dusty roads, carrying the Spirit and Glory of God throughout the land instead having it tucked away in the Holy of Holies.

The eternal and the immortal Spirit of God has pierced into the physical world through Jesus' incarnation.

That incarnation continues in the life of believers.  The person who believes in Christ becomes indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  They have been granted, through God's grace, eternal life, immortality, victory over death's finality.

Everything I'm writing is pretty standard Christian theology, but I'm looking at things through a slightly different lens which grants a newness to my mind.

Considering Heaven vs. Hell is very abstract.  We can sometimes emote about what either of those places might be like, but it still very imaginative and inaccessible to our sense of reality.

If I think about salvation in terms of Life vs. Death, a continuation of myself in a true, physical reality vs. ceasing to exist, living by having a small piece of God's immortal Spirit placed within me vs. my existence being left to take it's natural course of death and decay....all of a sudden things seem more real to me.

I don't know.  There's still much for me to think about.  Maybe this all seems crazy or extraneous, but there is something in it that is calling for exploration.

more later.

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