We now come directly to the consideration of the question asked above, viz.: Has the body of any saint dying now [for we claim this only of the body of Christ—"in the Lord"] disappeared at death, as our Lord's did? No, we answer; nor have we any reason so to expect.
In the case of our Lord's resurrection, we must remember that the circumstances were peculiar and different from those of our resurrection. First, he wanted his disciples to realize that he was no longer dead; secondly, that he was changed, and no longer the human Jesus, but a spirit being; thirdly, that he had paid our ransom price and had not taken it back, yet, was alive and able to bestow upon all the blessings purchased with His own blood. Added to this comprehensive [R853 : page 4] object of proving his resurrection, was the difficulty that those to whom he must prove all this, were still only natural men, not yet begotten of the spirit; for "the Holy Spirit was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39), and "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Hence in giving natural men a first lesson relating to spiritual things, it was needful to make the lesson so plain that the least of them might be fully convinced.
Accordingly it was necessary, not only that Jesus should show himself alive by many infallible proofs after his resurrection (Acts 1:3), but that this should be shown in such a way as to convince them that he had been "changed," and was of a higher nature than before; and it was also needful to remove his body from Joseph's tomb, as its presence there, would to them as natural men, have been a serious obstacle to implicit faith. It was for this reason that the body of Jesus was removed from the tomb, and not because the atoms of matter contained in it were needed or used in the organization of his spirit body. And the fact that the body would vanish, be dissipated or dissolved without corrupting or decaying, was mentioned by the prophet—"His flesh saw not corruption."
A very common mistake in reference to the resurrection as expressed in the words of the various creeds is, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." This is a serious mistake; the Scriptures never teach the resurrection of the body, but of the individual—the being. A body is necessary to existence or being, but the body and atoms once used in that capacity are not essential. Science tells us on seemingly good authority that the matter composing our bodies is constantly changing, and that a complete change of every part is effected in seven years. Consequently a man of seventy years would have ten bodies if all the atoms which ever composed his flesh were restored.
But not so, one atom is no better than another; and so even in the case of the world who will be restored to existence as human flesh-beings, we must not expect that necessarily the same atoms will be used again in restoring them to being. Consequently though God could and might make some outward demonstration, such as opening of tombs for the purpose of showing to the world his power, yet we must not conclude that such a demonstration is necessary, nor that the old and scattered and transformed dust, is needful to God as a basis on which to work in restoring or resurrecting mankind. It requires equally creative power to resurrect or recreate a man from one heap of dust as from another.
And if the same dust is not needful in the case of restoring humanity, how much less needful for the "new creatures," the church, no longer human, no longer flesh, but spirit—a new nature, not of the dust, not of the earth earthly, but heavenly. And consequently we need neither expect an opening of tombs for those that sleep, nor a transforming of present fleshly bodies for the living in their "change."
Consequently the non-disappearance of bodies is not a valid objection, if the Scriptures prove and events corroborate the fact that we are now in the day of the Lord, and in consequence that those members of the body of Christ who slept are now due to be awakened, and that those members yet alive should not sleep, but be blessed in the instant of dying by being "changed." Rather, it is in harmony, as we shall show, with Paul's statements regarding this subject, as stated below.