For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)
Christianity has a strong sense in which our bodies are that which enclothes our self, or as in the quote from St Paul above, our bodies are the tent or home which our selves occupy. This idea is found in the theology of the incarnation: Christ the Word of God is first clothed in the Old Testament Scriptures and then is clothed in a body at the Annunciation. The body both conceals and reveals the self and the Word. Hinduism has a sense in which the body is clothing as well, but with its ideas of re-incarnation, the body is reduced to disposable clothes which we gladly shed when we die. On the other hand, for St Paul and the Christian tradition we are not trying to escape our bodies because they are created by God to be part of who we are and are saved by God. As Paul says we are not trying to shed our clothes (our bodies) and become naked, rather we are trying to be further clothed in immortality – in the glorious garment of salvation. Our bodies too will be saved and glorified as they too are God’s creation which God loves. The great biblical scholar of the 3rd Century, Origen, writes:
“If it is certain that we are to make use of bodies, and if those bodies which have fallen are proclaimed to rise again (for to rise again cannot be properly said except of that which has previously fallen), it is, on this account, a matter of doubt to no one that they rise again, that we may be clothed with them once more at the resurrection. The one thing, therefore, is bound with the other. For if bodies rise again, without doubt they rise as clothing for us; and if it is necessary, as it certainly is necessary, for us to be in bodies, we ought to be in no other bodies than our own. But if it is true that they rise again and they rise as spiritual, there is no doubt that they are said to rise from the dead, having castaway corruption and having laid aside mortality; otherwise it will appear vain and superfluous for anyone to rise from the dead [only] in order to die again.”
[Origen is clear that the resurrection involves our bodies, however, he holds to St Paul’s teaching that what dies and is buried are our natural, physical bodies; what rises with Christ are our transfigured, spiritual bodies. We are transformed by the resurrection and our bodies will no longer be subject to sickness, corruption and death. Origen is critical of those who think life in eternity is simply an endless continuation of life in this world as he thinks this thinking is far too worldly focused and denies the spiritual dimension of the Scriptures and of human life.]
Certain persons, then, rejecting the labor of thinking and following the superficial view of the letter of the law, or yielding, rather, in some way to their own desires and lusts, being disciples of the letter alone, reckoned that the promises of the future are to be looked for in the pleasure and luxury of the body; and especially because of this they desire to have again, after the resurrection, flesh of such a kind that never lacks the ability to eat and drink and to do all things that pertain to flesh and blood, not following the teaching of the Apostle Paul regarding the resurrection of a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:54). And consequently they say there will be contracts of marriages and procreation of children even after the resurrection, picturing for themselves the rebuilding of the earthly city of Jerusalem, with precious stones laid down for its foundations and its walls constructed of Jasper and its battlements adorned with crystal… (ON FIRST PRINCIPLES, pp 131-132, 138)
Some envision eternal life as simply being an endless version of what we have now. The Christian Tradition rejected this idea based on the teachings of Christ. The resurrected life is a transfigured life in which we no longer are subject to the conditions of this world but then will have spiritual bodies, experiencing union with God, rejoicing in the divine life and love.
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:29-33)