As we look forward to a “new heaven and a new earth,” we look forward as well to a new creation body… one that can live without disease clinging to it… and death awaiting. Tears will not flow unless they are tears of joy.
Joni Eareckson Tada speaks with those tears flowing when she wrote:
Can you imagine the hope this gives someone spinal-cord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has MS? Imagine the hope this gives to someone who is manic depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.
And our bodies will be busy in Heaven! We are not purposelessly floating around looking for something to do. With resurrected strength, bodies, minds and abilities, we will literally reign and rule with the King! We will not be His messengers. He already has plenty of those… they’re called angels. No… we will rule alongside Him… making decisions… serving as priests and kings forever. Our crowns will not be decoration… they denote the authority given us by our Creator!
So many questions will remain unanswered until we get there:
- Will we be male and female there? Of course. God made us that way before sin came. Gender is not sinful. It will endure.
- How old will we be? Don’t know exactly… some theologians have spilled a lot of ink arguing the ideal age. Most agree about 30-33 for various reasons. But I think we will be… ageless.
- And our bodies? Untainted by sin, beautiful beyond anything we have ever seen! The most beautiful person you have ever encountered is tainted by sin’s blow.
- Will we wear clothes? Yes! Jesus did after the resurrection. Robes perhaps… some in Heaven are portrayed that way. But for some, Heaven requires an old pair of well-fitting jeans and a T-shirt to be really at home! (No Scripture on that however!!)
- Will marriage exist? The symbol of marriage becomes reality in Heaven. The purpose of marriage for procreation is no longer necessary. That does not mean a relationship between husband and wife on earth that continues into eternity does not or cannot exist. I believe it can… death doesn’t end it. Same… but different. The Bible implies an enduring relationship between husband and wife when they are called “heirs together” of life (1 Peter 3:1-8).
Again, much speculation could be added to expand this conversation but let’s end by saying many of these things are now seen “through a glass darkly.” But the days are coming when we will know as we are known. Until then we rest in faith… and hope.
FOR MEMORIZATION: But we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth…. 2 Peter 3:13
FOR REFLECTION: How does knowing more about Heaven change how you are living your life today?
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul encounters one of the most pressing questions of his day: “What about our resurrection?” He stood between two streams of thought that deeply influenced the first urban believers. Those with Jewish influence in their backgrounds, the belief in resurrection was tied to “the end of the age.” When the Lord comes back, resurrection will occur. This was repeated by Mary and Martha to Jesus when He came to the tomb of Lazarus to bring him back to life. “We know he will rise again at the resurrection of the dead.” But no resurrection was possible before that… it would mean the world was ending as far as they were concerned.
On the other side, the Greek Hellenistic influence over the Roman Empire brought to the argument that, since matter was evil and bodies are made of matter therefore, bodies are evil. How then, could God take a ‘body’ to Heaven if it’s evil? It was normally believed that death was the release from this prison of a body.
Oddly this spawned two different and opposing reactions from the Greek-influenced people of Paul’s day… one group taught that the body didn’t matter since it was going to be destroyed anyway. So do what you like while you’re in it… since it really doesn’t matter. The other reaction was that since the body was evil, it needed to be constantly brought into restraint and control… therefore, deny it and don’t give it rein.
Against these arguments, Paul brought the truth of 1 Corinthians 15, that there will be a resurrection of the body; that Christ had already been raised in a glorified body that is like the one we will receive at our resurrection… and that death was necessary before resurrection could occur.
He taught the contrast of heavenly and earthly bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:35-56. After telling us in verse 20 that Christ is the “firstfruits” (meaning that we are the remainder of the harvest) we know that our resurrection body will be like His. The first tenth of a harvest doesn’t differ in kind from the other 90 percent but only in order. “There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, ” we read, “as there is one glory of the sun, one of the moon, another of stars.” The resurrection body is powerful, the earthly is weak. The resurrection body is imperishable, while the earthly one is perishable. The resurrection body is glorious while the earthly one is dishonorable.
All of this to say, IT WILL BE DIFFERENT and yet in many respects the same. We do not become angels in our resurrected form. That is another class of created beings. Since we will rule with Christ, we will have responsibility for leading them as well. So wings won’t spout and halos won’t grow on our resurrected bodies.
We will however, be like Christ… “for we will see Him as He is!” (1 John 3:2)
FOR MEMORIZATION: Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 1 Cor 15:50
FOR REFLECTION: Death, disease, decay will be no more in our new bodies. Pain will have passed away and all things become new. All of this will happen “in a moment… in the twinkling of an eye.” The day is coming. In this our hope is secure.
So if we have a new, resurrected Heaven and Earth and a New Jerusalem to live in, what will we look like? What will we do? The last blogs in this series will try to answer those two significant questions.
Actually the question, “what kind of body will we have eternally?” was one of the earliest questions the church wrestled with. First Corinthians is, by most scholars’ agreement, the oldest (first) document written for the New Testament. That means that probably within two or at the most, three decades after Jesus ascended to Heaven, these questions were circulating among believers as the first Christians went to their deaths instead of being “taken up” into the clouds as Jesus was.
What we know from the answer Paul gave and gathering from other biblical sources, in Heaven we will:
- Have a unique, individual identity just as we did on earth. In Luke 24:39, after the resurrection, Jesus said to His followers, “It is I myself.” He remained who He was after the resurrection. We do not become part of the “All” as Buddhism asserts or part of the collective as Gene Roddenberry envisioned.
- Our personal history, actions and identity will endure the transition from old earth to eternal Heaven. Isaiah said “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your name and descendants endure.'” (Isaiah 66:22) We will continue to be… ourselves!
- This is a long answer to a question that has plagued many… “Will I know my loved one in Heaven?” The answer is YES.
Dave Roeder, a veteran whose face and body were severely burned in an explosion, shared the story of a wife who came to the burn unit of an army hospital when her husband was first brought home from the war. She was told where the ward was… but not which bed her husband was in. Every man in the ward was bandaged and burned beyond easy recognition. Most were unconscious or simply groaning. There were at least twenty beds in the open ward. And yet without being told she walked to the bedside of her husband. And while his face was burned beyond recognition, she knew where her husband lay… because the connection we have is deeper than facial recognition. Much deeper.
We recognize the spirit of the person to whom we relate. And even if faces are different in Heaven we will still “know as we are known.” So will we know Mom or Dad, wife or husband or child in Heaven? Yes, as you knew them on earth.
But “better by far.”
FOR MEMORIZATION: “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 ESV
FOR REFLECTION: Next time you look in a mirror at your reflection remember that there will be something about how you look that will last eternally. It will probably not be that thing you like least about yourself… but eternal life is not in a disembodied state. If God loves your face enough to keep it on you forever, maybe you need to love it too!
The debt 18-year-olds get into today to attend their dream school or just “go away to college” – will keep them from living for the glory of God.
Today, the average 18-year-old will go into major debt to attend college away from home just to get “the college experience.” This “experience” could cost them more in the long-run than they ever imagined.
Let me share with you a common story of today’s 18-year-olds. Today, an 18-year-old will get into a college that takes them away from home. This young person will take out college loans for living expenses, food, books, and probably classes as well. This will not include the credit card they carry that buys them Chick-fil-A and new shoes when they don’t have the cash they need to get it.
After year 1, they will be in debt to the tune of about $10,000. That’s one year in, and one year of college courses under their belt. Don’t forget that credit card they are carrying.
After year 2, (still no degree) they will be over $20,000 in debt with no job and no degree. Oh yeah, that credit card they carry is almost maxed out and they are just paying the minimum balance.
After year 3, they have declared a major have an associate’s degree and are excited about the future they are planning towards. At the end of year 3 they are $30,000 in debt. They are on track to get a degree in communication (because truthfully they don’t know what they want to do). They also now have 2 credit cards. The first one is now maxed out.
After year 4 they feel a call to the mission field. They are excited about this calling, and need only one more semester to get their degree. So after four-and-a-half years of college they have a degree in communications, over $45,000 in student loans, and 2 credit cards nearly maxed out. Oh yeah, and they want to be a missionary.
5 years after high school, with a college degree and a calling to the mission field they are now stuck working a 9-to-5 job just pay off that school loan. Now the plan is in 13 years to head to the mission field- because that is how long it will take to pay off the school loan. They will then be 35 years old…
The point is, the decisions an 18-year-old makes about college now, is going to impact their future and the future plans the Lord has for them more than they will ever know.
The average school loan debt is $30,000, for an undergraduate degree.
The average school loan debt is $57,000 for a master’s degree.
1-in-4 students with a master’s degree have debt of more than $100,000.
1-in-10 students with a master’s degree have debt of more than $150,000.
Years ago Pastor John Piper claimed that the very thing that keeps young people from going to the mission field is the guilt that comes from sexual sin. While this may still be true, there is now something else creeping in, preventing missionaries from heading to the mission field, student loan debt.
Parents, you will be held accountable along with your 18-year-old.
Josh Glymph is the Pastor to High School Students at Fruit Cove Baptist Church. You can reach him at email@example.com.
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain writes of an encounter between the Christian spinster, Miss Watson lecturing Huck about the error of his fun loving spirit. According to Huck, “She went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it…. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.”
Clemens and his character Huck Finn, unfortunately entertained a notion about our Christian picture of Heaven that is far more commonplace than we might imagine… even today. It is a picture we must refocus, first inside ourselves and then in how we communicate it to a lost world.
Our world needs a new vision to live for, a Heaven to anticipate, an end to life that is truly not an end. Just this morning, I read that the CDC has released statistics showing an alarming an unexplained increase in suicide among white, middle-aged Americans. We need hope that is robust and sturdy for this kind of world!
In his book simply entitled Heaven, author Peter Kreeft offers this critique:
Our pictures of Heaven simply do not move us… it is… our pictures of Heaven and of God that most potently threaten our faith today. Our pictures of Heaven are dull, platitudinous, syrupy; therefore so is our faith, our hope, and our love of Heaven.
It is surely a satanic triumph of the first order to have taken the fascination out of a doctrine that must either be a fascinating fact or a fascinating lie… If it’s dull, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a dull truth or a dull lie. Dullness, no doubt, is the strongest enemy of faith.
Sadly, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) himself died believing this “dull, platitudinous, and syrupy” picture of the afterlife that left him cold and wanting none of it.
And if that’s what I believed, I could understand why.
FOR MEMORIZATION: You have come to Mt Zion….and thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful celebration…..” Hebrews 12:22
FOR REFLECTION: If you’re low on hope today, meditate upon your heavenly home. God wants us to take time to do just that… and refill our hope as we do.
Many of our questions about Heaven fall into categories that are very speculative. “Will my pet be with me in Heaven? It wouldn’t be Heaven if (Fill Your Pet’s Name in Here) isn’t there with me.” Don’t know. It would partially be necessary for animals to have eternal spirits which the Bible does not teach. If they did, we should never eat them! But then we know there will at least be a horse. Jesus will return riding a white one! And what about your neighbor’s teen-aged son who has a 12 foot boa constrictor he keeps as a pet in his bedroom? Should Slinky the Snake get to go since Fluffy the Kitty does?
You see how ridiculously the reasoning could go on. I know it’s an important subject to many on an emotional level. The Bible seems to be silent on the answer. And what about Starbucks? Can it really be Heaven without really pricey coffee to drink during fellowship time? (And yes, I was actually asked that once).
For some, our thinking about and envisioning of Heaven is limited to blowing up the things we enjoy on earth to eternal proportions. In other words, if you really love to eat, you get to eat all you want and not gain weight. If you like to drink, the drinks flow freely in Heaven. You get the point: any pleasure you knew on earth gets magnified exponentially in intensity times eternity.
And yet we forget something important. While the joys of earth are in large measure, “good and perfect gifts,” that have come from the hand and heart of a loving Father, they can only hint at a larger but probably very different experience awaiting us in Heaven. There is continuity but also disconnect from life in the physical world.
This is what Paul taught us. If you can imagine it then it isn’t even close! Even the picture of the New Jerusalem is a hint at the reality but describing it strains human language. To literalize that description is to minimize the reality.
A greater existence awaits us in Heaven. What it will be we truly can’t even imagine!
FOR MEMORIZATION: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard nor has it entered the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
FOR REFLECTION: Are your mental images of heaven too “earthbound”? As you meditate on what the Bible reveals to us, ask God to help you see what He wants you to see about your eternal home.
So where exactly is Heaven? Is it “up there” somewhere or “out there” in a place we cannot reach? Or is it a place at all… maybe just a “state of mind” or another dimension of reality we don’t know how to think about.
One thing we know for sure about Heaven: it is a literal place. When Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” the translators, led by the Holy Spirit, inserted the Greek word “topos” to translate what Jesus was talking about.
It is a literal place. A point of geographical existence. “Topos” emphasizes that reality. Revelation 21-22 point to the concrete reality of the “heavenly city” with dimensions such as a wall that is 740,000 stories tall. The city can literally be broken into square feet, occupying a space half the size of the United States. That’s a big city and yet still the Bible says, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
So even though it is literal and we are given specific dimensions and building materials, we are still only seeing a pale reflection of the reality in Revelation. We are not going to spend eternity in a formless, cloudy void. We will be in a real place, with real people around us.
It is a literal place. It is a place where the glory of God lights the world day and night with His Presence. It is more real and more enduring than anything else we can know today.
And it is a joyful, festive place. Hebrews 12:22-24 says,
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
It will be a joyful, festive city… filled with living souls and angels, and at the center of it all… Jesus Christ Himself. We are looking for a city… a country… and a kingdom who’s builder is God Himself. Where ever it will be, it will be real… and it will be glorious.
You won’t want to miss it!
FOR MEMORIZATION: “But you have come to Mt Zion, to the city of the living God….” Hebrews 12:22
FOR REFLECTION: Who have you recently invited to join you in that city?
In the Middle East, a fable is told of a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to the marketplace on an errand. While the servant was there, he turned a corner and unexpectedly encountered the specter of Death.
Terrified at the look on the dark figure’s face as it looked at him, he hurried home and told his master what had happened. He asked for his fastest horse so he could get as far away from Death as possible… a horse that could run all the way to Sumeria.
The master granted his request and later that day the merchant himself encountered the dark specter in the marketplace. “Why did you startle my servant early this morning?” the master asked. “I didn’t intend to startle your servant… it was he who startled me! I was surprised to see your servant this morning because I had an appointment with him tonight… in Sumeria.”
The Bible makes it clear. “It is appointed unto man once to die… and then comes the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) There will be no second chance to change our minds… as we die so shall we be… forever.
As I finish this article, the news has just released a report that the musician, Prince has died at age 57. For some, that age may seem too old for a man to wear makeup and garish clothing. But then again there’s Alice Cooper. But Prince certainly didn’t die at an old age. Actually 57 is pretty young for a person to pass away. Prince died in an elevator in his home… little knowing that the last thing he would do in life was to watch those doors close on his life. I don’t know what Prince believed. I hope he was ready for the appointment.
For the one who has trusted Christ as Savior, the transition from this life to eternity will be no more difficult than walking from one room of your house into the next. But for the one who rejected Christ… who lived the entirety of their life impenitently, without repentance… eternal punishment awaits.
One appointment. For every person. As one friendly undertaker used to sign on all of his correspondence, “Eventually Yours.” Death will come one day for us all. And when it comes, make sure your appointment leads you to a glorious eternity!
FOR MEMORIZATION: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23
FOR REFLECTION: If you have never repented and trusted Christ, pray a prayer like this:
“Dear Heavenly Father, I know I have sinned against You and Your Holiness. I turn from my disobedience and ask Jesus Christ to enter my life and occupy the throne of my heart. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying in my place and for my sin. I bow before You as my Savior.”
Now follow Jesus. Find a body of believers to worship with. God has given you new life that is ETERNAL! Rejoice in that always.
Browsing the internet for volumes about Heaven and the afterlife, I came across an interesting little book written by a lady named Yvette LeBlanc. In her book she asserts that she has done “astral projection” many times into heaven and comes back to report that “there are many heavens and many hells and they are still evolving.” And even beyond that, “we help create them.”
With that last statement I will cautiously have to agree. She has indeed created her own picture and image of the afterlife where she believes she is going to go. Of course, she’s wrong… and one second after she dies she’ll find out the truth. Many others do the very same thing. I hear it all the time. So will we all.
Heaven and Hell as concepts and destinations, are places that we take by faith as existing. We trust what the Bible tells us and we trust the only one who has truly been there and done that; seeing both the reality of Heaven and the reality of Hell. Jesus Christ describes a literal, joyful place that is awaiting those who die in Him. And He sought with the cross, to show us the extent His love would reach to keep us from going to an eternal destination separated from God forever in Hell.
And yet, people insist on filling in blanks that Jesus left. We have a curiosity about these eternal matters. Yet we can walk past the clear teaching of God’s Word about it as though it has no more authority than Ms. Leblanc’s strange adventures in astral projection.
In Heaven is for Real, the little boy who is said to have gone to heaven for a visit, mentions being fitted for wings because he needed a new set that was smaller. And when he encountered his grandfather, he had “really big wings.” What amazes me is that we can read right past a statement like that and no one catch the fact that this little boy was having an experience in direct conflict with biblical teaching. We do not “get fitted for wings” anywhere but in cartoons we have seen on earth. As spiritual beings, we don’t become angels… we rule them! If Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning with wings, then I’d say bring them on! But that did not happen. And yet we turn such nonsense into best selling books and movies because we don’t know the Scriptures’ clear teaching about the afterlife.
So you might ask: Dr. Smarty Pastor, how do you know Ms. Leblanc didn’t visit the afterlife in astral projection?
Simple. I looked at her photograph on the back of the book.
FOR MEMORIZATION: For our citizenship is in heaven…. Philippians 3:20
FOR REFLECTION: As you carefully consider your eternal destiny, are your thoughts more informed by popular culture or God’s Word?
It has been the intention of the Father, since man disobeyed in the Garden of Eden… to redeem all that He had created. The extent of His purpose goes far beyond simply the redemption of our immortal and eternal souls. It extends to the very planet on which we now live (Genesis 3:17)… to the universe in which we now exist.
Everything is impacted (see Colossians 1:20-21).
We sometimes miss that in our preaching and teaching and in our Scripture reading. God intends to bring everything back to Himself in perfect harmony. That was how He intended it to be from before the beginning: “The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world.” (1 Peter 1:20)
When mankind fell, creation fell with him. Adam was the intended ruler of everything God had made. Since he was the representative head (Psalm 8:5-8), everything followed him in death, decay and destruction because of his disobedience. (Romans 8:22) The world fell into chaos; death and disease began to rule. Man lost his place of headship and the right to rule over creation.
We forget sometimes how far-reaching the effects of sin can be. All of creation was affected. And when we look at a world that is so broken, so in turmoil between people and nations… we too can easily lose sight of what Eden used to be.
But God never has. In the Bible God has revealed His intent to redeem and restore what was once pristine and perfect; spotless and sinless; back to its original state and see man walk in it as only Adam has done. (Romans 8:18-21)
The schemes of Satan will not stop this… the sin of mankind will not delay this… the brokenness of our lives will not defeat this plan. God has promised. It will happen. He sealed that promise through the blood of His only begotten Son.
One interesting way we see the promise reflected in Scripture is through the presence of the onyx stone. We are shown in Genesis 2, that one of the four rivers flowing out of the Garden of Eden before The Fall of man was the Pishon. It flowed through the land of Havilah where “the gold was good, and onyx was there.” (Genesis 2:12)
The onyx reappears in one of the most vivid pictures of God’s redemption in the Old Testament on the breastplate of the High Priest; a foreshadowing of Christ’s office as our High Priest. On his breastplate were stones that reminded God of His promises to His people Israel. (Exodus 28:9-12) The two onyx stones were on the shoulders of the breast piece; a reminder of the perfection of Eden.
And the last place we encounter this beautiful onyx stone in the Bible is in the book of Revelation where it will be a foundation stone in the wall of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem… forever. (Revelation 21:20) The onyx has been a continual reminder of what man lost… and what God has and will restore.
The New Jerusalem, Heaven come down to earth, will be the final part of God’s plan of redemption in place… forever. In one of the oldest books in the Bible, we read, “And I know that my redeemer lives and will stand on the earth at the last day.” (Job 19:25) And in that place, eternally… the perfection of Eden will be restored and “the dwelling of God will be with man” (Revelation 21:3).
FOR MEMORIZATION: “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things…..” Colossians 1:19-20a
FOR REFLECTION: In Colossians 1:20a listed above, what is the significance of the phrase “all things” rather than the phrase “all people?”