Is it souls that need saving, or bodies?

A leopard seal only eats the breast meat of penguins, because that’s the only part worth eating, and it discards the rest. It’s like Christians who believe the only part of us worth saving is our soul, because at death our body is discarded. Souls are what count, they say, and especially if souls are immortal, because a fate much worse than death awaits a bad immortal soul. To many Christians, then, it is souls that desperately need saving, not bodies.

But what’s a soul without a body? Imagine being an artist commissioned to paint a picture of souls in heaven. What does a soul even look like? No one seems to know, because in every painting of heaven I’ve seen souls are always in bodies – which makes sense, because how can you play a harp without fingers? Or how do we wander the golden streets of the heavenly city without legs and without eyes to see where we’re going? Or how do you sing in a heavenly choir without a voice box?

Despite Christians thinking it’s only souls that count, then, the picture they paint of heaven is of souls with bodies. But how can that be, when surely it was only our souls that went to heaven when we died, and we left our bodies behind? Maybe we’re not so keen after all to get rid of our bodies – and Scripture supports that too, because in Romans 8:23 we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” It’s not the saving of our souls we’re groaning inwardly about, it’s the saving of our bodies.

We like our bodies – and, fortunately, so does God. He wants our bodies redeemed as much as we do, because he wants us ruling this earth alongside Jesus Christ as kings and priests (Revelation 5:10), and for that we need bodies, because how can a floaty thing like a soul rule people? And how can it rule on earth when it’s floating round heaven forever instead?

Clearly, then, it’s immortal bodies that count, not immortal souls. We need bodies that never decay or die, like the body of the resurrected Jesus, which is exactly what God intends to give us. That’s why the death of our bodies in the Garden of Eden was so disastrous, but Jesus solved that by taking the death of our bodies into his own body. That’s why he came in a body, because it’s our bodies that need saving, not our souls.

And that’s why Jesus one day “will transform our lowly bodies” to “be like his glorious body,” Philippians 3:21. It’s our bodies he wants to save.


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