I’ve never had to arrange an exhumation. It’s a complicated procedure which would have me reaching for my copy of the NAFD Manual, a tome large enough to do serious damage to unprepared back muscles. Exhumation has a chapter to itself, and lists the many documents and procedures required to carry out this grim activity. Permission in written form is required from such organisations as the Ministry of Justice, the European War Graves Commission (if necessary) and woe betide you if the grave is on Church of England consecrated ground. A Faculty from the Bishop to do this is a rare thing.
Exhumation is usually carried out in the wee small hours of the morning within a floodlit tent usually in the presence of Someone In Authority. It’s also wise to let the local constabulary about the bright lights and furtive activity, otherwise you could be helping the boys in blue with their enquiries instead of tucking into a hearty cooked breakfast after a successful nights digging.
It costs the equivalent of a deposit on a small house, takes much legal procedure, hard work and preparation but importantly for the purposes and content of this blog, it doesn’t bring the person back.
Considering one of my questions regarding the relationship between the state of the body and the amount of ‘restoration’ work needed to resurrect to life…. Let’s put this into some kind of perspective. There must be millions of believers in the world at any one time. Praying to God. At the same time. We know from the Bible that God hears our prayers. I’m a bloke and us blokes cannot multitask; standing upright and making a cup of tea at the same time is about my limit. Imagine dealing with that number of earnest, sometimes urgent prayers, and acting on them in the best interests of the believer concerned. Millions of times a minute – it defies imagination. Yet talk to any believer about answered prayer and you’re in for a two-coffees-and-a-biscuit heart to heart session. So prayer is heard. Surely a God that powerful would know about the whereabouts of each son or daughter that he cares about alive or dead, and knows how much work needs to be done to restore those who have passed away?
Once physical resurrection has taken place how do we know that it will be the ‘us’ that everybody knows now and not some fresh creation riding on the back of our lives we live now. First of all remember that scripture tells us that the resurrected life is a gift by the grace of God and not some transactional reward. Secondly, my view is that the whole pattern of the life of a believer is not that death is its destination, something to aim for, a returning home, but rather the stage just before a birth. Taking this idea further, in the same way that you do not remember the period of life you spent in your mother’s womb, you will not easily ‘call to mind’ the life you lived before, this life, because amongst other things the life you live in the resurrected state will be so much better. You will have moved on.
As to the safe keeping of your personality and consciousness, there are passages in Revelation 20 that show us that being ‘raised to life’ also involves a restoration of the person that is you. Taking the ‘two creations’ idea to its logical conclusion, we are told that the re-created body (in Revelation 20) is judged on what it did in the previous life, therefore showing that there is no discontinuity: The resurrected life is answerable for the deeds done in the first life. The idea of an immortal soul is a convenient one and easily explains away the discontinuity argument, but so many passages describe the soul as having characteristics of mortality that I cannot take this as a viable suggestion. The traditional argument that the word ‘soul’ means just means ‘breath’ or ‘life’ still holds true.
As to what this second life will feel and be like, we are given a few clues in Jesus’ activities after Easter morning. For instance, his body was gone from the tomb. Remember that the tomb was being guarded by either the temple guard or Roman soldiers – neither group of which were friendly to Jesus’ cause. Therefore it was not removed by the disciples, but it also shows that the immortal body of Jesus is as a result of action on his mortal body, because the mortal body was not found. It was changed ‘in the twinkling on an eye’ 1 Corinthians 15 says. Jesus showed no signs aside from the scars of crucifixion of the horrific death he had suffered only a couple of days before. He was able to appear and disappear with ease. He was able to eat, be touched and at the end of his time on earth to demonstrate that he was finally leaving his disciples, he defied gravity. 1 Corinthians 15 describes how radically different the resurrected body will be from the body we have now. Taking this picture further, Isaiah 35 shows us that whatever health issues we suffered from in this life will be taken away from us in the resurrection. We will experience a new life beyond imagination. And that is just confining our thoughts to the act of resurrection itself.
So we are back to our point of departure, via a twinkling of an eye and a little application.
There’s a small country graveyard attached to a local Methodist church in the heart of the forest near where I live. Because it’s close to a Christadelphian Hall, they kindly let us have grave space when needed. One of our members at a recent funeral was leaning over the dry stone wall as the sexton started filling the grave. I wandered over to her and she said in a rich Forest accent ‘You know ole Butt’ this place’ll look like a ploughed-up field, one day.’
Aye, ‘appen it will, ‘appen it will.