Most Christians think that Jesus’ personal victory over death involved his physical body rising from a physical grave somewhere outside the city of Jerusalem, and that, as a result, Jesus must in the future resurrect all physical bodies, thereby eventually achieving the ultimate victory over death. The exact meaning of this victory gets a little confused in the church’s teachings. Most believe that physical demise resulted from sin back there in the Garden. Victory over physical death would require a physical body resurrection. At the same time many see another form of death which resulted in some sort of alienation from God and has a spiritual/eternal aspect, separate from the physical body. With this duality in mind, the resurrection of Jesus must be a precursor to a victory over two different deaths. Exactly why a physical resurrection, without the promise of ensuing eternal physical life, is necessary has never been explained by the church. It remains simply one of those things they say we must accept as true because that is what they think the Bible says.
I would suggest that physical demise was not the result of sin but rather was always a necessity in God’s creative plan. For one thing the lack of this death would have caused an early overpopulation of the planet. Additionally, the laws of physics say that life as we know it within the created universe cannot exist eternally. It might last a very long time but eternal physical life is not written in the stars. Finally, it is relatively easy to conclude that God’s plan for mankind must involve much more than an endless physical existence within the confines of the universe as we know it.
If the ultimate victory over death does not involve the elimination of physical death, then we seek another definition. I believe that Jesus taught that men could be alive physically and yet dead in a very real sense. Jesus furthermore taught the possibility of eternal life or abundant living. I believe that both terms apply to the same thing, a new way of thinking and believing, with a resulting new mode of living. With this assumption, I conclude that Jesus sought a victory over a form of death which was representative of a loss of consciousness to spiritual reality. Jesus achieved this victory by teaching new concepts of God, His purpose for mankind, and man’s role in achieving that purpose. His physical death and resurrection were therefore a symbol of a life renewal of a non-physical sort. This amounted to a resurrection which has nothing to do with our physical bodies. The projected resurrection to abundant living was a promise of here and now benefits. It was not designed to eliminate physical death then or in our physical world future. It was an event of infinitely more significance. A resurrection of a solely spiritual nature, for me, makes a lot more sense than the traditional idea that physical bodies must be raised to somehow achieve what is generally acknowledged to be a spiritual purpose.