Resurrection, Part 3: We Are Risen; We Will Rise

Christ is risen. Next comes a truth echoed by heroes such as The Iron Giant and Iron Man: human resurrection, which comes in at least two stages.
on Mar 28, 2013 · No comments
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The stone is gone. The earthquake has ceased. Guards have fainted at the sight. Into the dawn the Son strides forth to spread the news — and to share His Resurrection.

Jesus does not keep His Resurrection to Himself.

And based on almost all fantasy, science fiction, space operas, and blockbuster superhero adventure films, humans also love to share the concept, regardless of whether they know it.

Which of course first leads to the question: did The Avengers steal from The Iron Giant?

Hero’s rebirth

theirongiant_superman(Spoilers ahoy.) In Brad Bird’s 1999 animated film, a huge metal outer-space invader robot ultimately refuses to follow his own created-nature as a weapon. “No Atomo,” he firmly says, referencing the evil villain of his child friend’s comic books. Then, fetching an old sign piece from a junkyard, the Iron Giant sticks its letter “S” on his chest. “Superman.” At the film’s climax, an accidentally launched nuclear missile is streaking toward the boy’s village. Now knowing his destiny, the Iron Giant launches himself into the sky, both arms thrust forward. Into the missile and its explosion he goes, after contentedly intoning, Superman.

theavengers_tonystarksacrificeNext in The Avengers, another launched nuclear missile is streaking toward New York City. Now knowing his destiny, Tony Stark launches himself into the sky — in this case snatching the missile — then to save the city, throws it and himself into a space portal. Iron Man.

Ah, a late arrival to the comparison! In The Dark Knight Rises, a nuclear bomb is about to destroy Gotham City. Bruce Wayne has the only nearby aerial craft, (supposedly) only able to be flown manually. He jumps in, tows the bomb across the city and over the ocean, and (presumably) sacrifices himself in yet another massive nuclear explosion. Batman.

An idea steal? Oh yes, but not from The Iron Giant 1. Rather the idea traces back:

Batman <— Iron Man <— The Iron Giant <— Superman <— Jesus Christ: God-Man.

Just as those fun fictitious heroes seem to “share in” His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, so they attain an imitation “resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:9-10). Do I mean these superheroes’ creators mean them to reflect Christ 2? No. But such heroes do reflect His people.

And, per the very meaning of the word Christian, His people reflect Him.

Shared Resurrection

serieslogo_resurrectionLike God Himself (was this reference intentional?), Resurrection comes in three parts:

Christ Is Risen —> We Are Risen; We Will Rise —> Creation Will Rise.

Yet one of these is not like the other.

  1. Jesus came back from death, His first Resurrection, all at once, in the past.
  2. Creation’s resurrection will also come all at once, in the future.
  3. Our resurrection is the only one split into two or even three: past/present/future.

I wonder why He chose to split our resurrection two or even three ways? Perhaps like this:

1. Spiritual resurrection.

God resurrects people from spiritual death 3 (Ephesians 2). For them, spiritual resurrection is in the past.4

2. Resurrection realization (or sanctification).

God’s spiritually resurrected people live out the results of resurrection, growing to be like Him (Phil. 3:8-11).  For them, these fruits of resurrection-realization are in the present.

3. Physical resurrection.

God’s spiritually resurrected people, after they live out resurrection’s results, must die and go to the present-day Heaven (Phil. 1:23). Yet physical resurrection is in the future.

Even in the current Heaven they await this, “that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed” (2 Cor. 5:4) — not unclothed, a disembodied spirit, but further clothed, made more physical and solid and pure than before, a body like Christ’s (Romans 6:5; Phil. 3:21). But now we groan as we await the new bodies He will give (2 Cor. 5:2; cf. Romans 8).

Resurrection questions

Also, if physical(?) Resurrection is at a “Rapture,” it must be the first of multiple “resurrection” sets.

Also, if physical(?) Resurrection is at a “Rapture,” it must become the first of multiple “resurrection” sets.

Physical bodies like Christ’s. What does that mean?5 Will we have all His powers? Surely not, such as His abilities to “apparate” and ascend. But some people do think that yes, after the resurrection we’ll have powers such as omniscience.

For example, in the final Left Behind series prequel, The Rapture, human “resurrection” comes at the Rapture, and then everyone flies away to heaven. Once there, you are floating in an ethereal void, and suddenly have telepathic-like understanding of all the mysteries of God’s eternal plan (including mysteries such as His Trinitarian nature?), and have no time or spatial limits. Really, does that sound like a resurrected body to you? Does the Bible say our bodies will be “spread out” like a spirit’s, knowing all things? Not once. Never.

Really, those concepts are not only beyond Scripture, but contradictory to 1) God’s unique omni-everything nature, 2) Christ’s right to have a still-“upgraded” resurrection body with unique powers, 3) plain good sense of logic and fun. Would you prefer knowing everything all at once (if that were possible)? Or spend eternity asking, talking, learning, adventuring?

Of course, it helps to know that resurrected people will dwell in a resurrected creation. …

  1. Which was, coincidentally enough, based on a book called The Iron Man.
  2. My sarcastic/serious Twitter hashtag for this is #yayitsachristianstory.
  3. Not just “sickness” but death; not “mostly dead” but “all dead.”
  4. If you’re not sure you’re among His people, but want to love Christ more than other things, spiritual resurrection must come in your future. We definitely want to hear from you.
  5. More is in 1 Cor. 15.
E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Mickey says:

    Right on! 
    One of my old profs called cemeteries ‘Resurrection Grounds.’ I visit a certain cemetery every year at Easter, knowing that one of these years will be my last because the body I’m visiting will get up from that grave.
    Here’s how Pete Townshend put it in his musical version of Iron Man (the Iron Man written by his friend Ted Hughes):
    What we want is a brand new life/
    For every brother and sister – husband and wife/
    For the single and lonely, living in fear/
    What we want is a brand new year

  2. Bonnie Doran says:

    I believe a similar “resurrection” occurred in Captain America. The character flew a plane into a bomb or something. In The Avengers, he’s chipped out of a block of ice and returns to life.

  3. Galadriel says:

    That’s so exciting–thinking about what it will really mean to have a resurrection body, how we all we get that moment of glory…

  4. If our resurrection is divided, perhaps it’s because human death likewise came in stages when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. God told them if they ate of it, they would die, but their first death was spiritual (corresponding with your #1 above); they didn’t physically die (corresponding with #3) for several hundred years. Perhaps the middle step might be the awareness of their sin and the severing of their relationship with Jehovah, evidenced by their hiding from Him when they heard Him walking in the garden.
    What our resurrection will be like, I have no idea; but I expect it will be unlike anything we can imagine or fathom.

    • My imagination is fueled simply by having a good idea of where we in our resurrected bodies will dwell forever — I look around, see Earth’s beauties, groan over the sin, and picture a world without sin. That’s a fantastic start. We await a New Heavens and New Earth where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13), and so will we, made righteous.

      But of course I’m getting ahead of myself to a favorite topic, in part 4 next week. 😀

What do you think?