Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A World of Love

A couple of weeks ago I received the following query from a dear, Christian reader:
Can you enlighten me on afterlife? Will our bodies look the same but without defects? Jesus scars were shown so am wondering. Will our relationships with the ones we knew in earthly life be as brothers and sisters in Christ or what. I know there were be no marriages, etc. but not sure about what the relationships will be like. Thanks for any info and references to back it up.

Her questions are quite common. We all wonder about existence after death, and the Bible gives us much information to contemplate.

What follows is my reply to these questions. May God add His blessing to your reading.

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Let’s begin with the “London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.” I think you will find its teaching and multiple Bible verses quite helpful.

CHAPTER 31; OF THE STATE OF MAN AFTER DEATH, AND OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

Paragraph 1. The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption;1 but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them.2 The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies;3 and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell; where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day;4 besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.
1 Gen. 3:19; Acts 13:36
2 Eccles. 12:7
3 Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:1,6,8; Phil. 1:23; Heb. 12:23
4 Jude 6, 7; 1 Peter 3:19; Luke 16:23,24

Paragraph 2. At the last day, such of the saints as are found alive, shall not sleep, but be changed;5 and all the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other;6 although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.7
5 1 Cor. 15:51,52; 1 Thess. 4:17
6 Job 19:26,27
7 1 Cor. 15:42,43

Paragraph 3. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.8
8 Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29; Phil. 3:21

Against this backdrop of scripture and the confession, let us proceed to address your specific questions. It does seem that our bodies will look the same but without the effects of sin upon them. As Paul teaches, what we sow in death we do not reap in life. That is, we sow in death the physical, natural body and we reap in resurrected life the physical, glorified body (1Cor 15:37-38).

Thus, the body of Jesus, which was placed in the tomb, is the same body which came out of the tomb—but glorified. It was the same—but different! Hence, in the resurrection of the dead we see both continuity and discontinuity (the physical natural has been transformed into the physical glorified).

Indeed, we see Jesus’ scars in His physical, glorified body. However, I would not read too much into this. His scars have an eternally unique purpose and meaning, whereas our scars do not. Suffice it to say, and I repeat, I think our bodies will look the same but without the effects of sin.

As for our relations in heaven and how they compare to our relations now: I find it helpful to think of heaven as more, not less; superior, not inferior. In heaven, our relations—like our bodies—will no longer be plagued by the effects of sin. Our best relations now will pale in comparison to our relations then. I will not be in a marital relationship with Shelly, per se; yet I will know her for who she is and she will know me for who I am.

We will not lose our personhood or individuality, only our sin. We will know better and more intimately. So, we will know our relations then, as now, but far better. Therefore, I think we will know our spouses for who they were and are; we will know our parents for who they were and are, etc.

(Think of the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease. Those who suffer from it no longer know their relations, and consequently they no longer know themselves. To lose the knowledge or awareness of all our relations is to lose the knowledge and awareness of ourselves. Heaven is the OPPOSITE of this.)

C.S. Lewis likens the unimaginable superiority of heaven to earth to a baby who has his baby-food taken from him. The baby can’t imagine anything being better than his baby-food until he has his first bite of real food. Once he experiences the taste explosion of real food, he’ll never again be satisfied with baby-food.

That’s how I think of heaven. Though I can’t imagine anything better than loving and being loved by my family now, in heaven these relations will be elevated to such a degree that our joys on earth cannot even begin to compare. And so, we and those we love in Christ, along with the saints of all the ages, will—as human individuals—bask together in the glory of our Christ forever and ever. To God be the glory. 

2 comments:

  1. Steve,this was really good. I can't think of anyone of the elect who hasn't thought about this. I believe we will actually see the work that the Lord has completed in each and everyone who belongs to Him...

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading and for all your enouragement.

      Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
      And to present you faultless
      Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
      To God our Savior,
      Who alone is wise,
      Be glory and majesty,
      Dominion and power,
      Both now and forever.
      Amen (Jude 24-25).

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