"But someone will say: 'How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" (1 Cor. 15:35).
As we approach Easter, the resurrection of the dead is preached from Christian pulpits across the world. It is the single most important promise of our faith -- resurrection into eternal life.
But how this occurs, when, and what kind of body (if any) we receive is hotly debated even among Christians.
Paul gave us some good hints in 1 Cor 15:37-44, ending with the promise in verse 44: "it [our body] is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."
Notice he uses the word "body," not "ethereal wisp" not "disembodied consciousness," but "body."
He also states we receive this new spiritual body immediately upon death (2 Cor 5:8).
Philippians 3:21 tells us our new body will be "fashioned like unto His glorious (resurrected) body."
In His new/resurrected body Jesus could be touched by Thomas; He could appear and disappear at will and walk through walls; and He ate and drank. (See Luke 24.) So that's what our spiritual bodies will be like.
This should give us great comfort and peace. Yet I find that even some of the most stalwart of believers still fear death -- the great Unknown.
Faith is good, but knowledge ends doubt.
Is is possible for the living to have actual evidence of what happens after death? I believe it is. Circumstantial evidence at least.
I've been at the bedsides of people in hospice who were still able to communicate. Each of them reported seeing into the next world.
One saw angels around her bed and felt great peace.
One saw beautiful flowers of such intense colors that he'd never seen before.
Another saw her departed husband waiting at her bedside.
Another saw her cherished dog leaping excitedly as if she'd just come home from work.
An elderly man also saw his dog sitting at his bedside, not knowing the dog had died the day before.
Not all of these folk were Christians. Yet each of them glimpsed into the next world where life continues.
Over the years, I've seen a great deal of that realm through dreams and visions.
I've also briefly seen departed folk putting in an appearance when I officiated at their funerals. They always had something to impart to their loved ones to give them comfort and confirmation.
And many, many people have reported seeing, sensing or hearing their departed loved ones.
One of the most memorable reports came from a Jewish orthodontist who told me he awoke on the evening of his father's funeral to see him standing at the foot of his bed -- fully clothed and looking quite solid (not transparent). Then he faded out and was gone.
He asked me what I thought that meant since his father had not given him a message. But clearly he had!
"He gave you the most powerful message he could," I replied. "He's still alive, still has a body, and there is no death."
And this is what I constantly tell my church: There is no death. Our bodies are not who we are. Our spirits and personality (mind, will, emotions, memories), remain intact as we exit our bodies. (Solomon describes it as the silver cord that holds the real person in our bodies becoming broken allowing the real us to leave our bodies and return to God (Ecc. 12:6-7).
For those of you grieving a loved one who has died, I encourage you to ask God to give you dreams or visions or signs of your loved one, so that you may know for yourself they still exist, and be comforted.
The Rev. Anne Barber, is pastor of My Father's House, 7215 U.S. 301 N., Ellenton. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.