If after death we are already in the joy of God's presence, what exactly do we gain from a bodily resurrection?
The world in which Christianity arose affirmed the immortality of the soul, a cornerstone of Greek philosophy. Platonic arguments for the soul's innate immortality have influenced views about life after death from Gnosticism to the New Age movement today. The soul's immortality was a central tenet in Kant's philosophy and this was echoed in the triad of Protestant liberalism—the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the immortality of the soul.
But biblical faith has always insisted on something very different. God's ultimate purpose for all his human creatures, for the lost as well as for the redeemed (John 5:29; Acts 24:15), is not an eternal, incorporeal existence but rather the resurrection of the body. This concept has been offensive to human reason from the beginning, as Paul found out when he preached about Jesus and the Resurrection to the philosophers of Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-34).
Yet belief in the bodily resurrection is so basic that it was included in the Apostles' Creed.
Why make such a fuss about the body? Because of three key moments in the history of salvation: Creation, Incarnation, and Redemption.
When God first created the material world, and human beings within it from the dust of the earth, he pronounced his work "very good." God did not create human beings as ghost-like creatures but as embodied souls. The resurrection of the body affirms the goodness of God's original creation, and recognizes that the basic human problem is not finitude but fallenness. It also declares that God will make good and bring to perfection the human project he began in the Garden of Eden.
The Incarnation teaches ...1