Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Knowing Others in Heaven: Answering a Question from a Younger Brother

To Nolan, my younger brother in Christ:

On Sunday evening your mother asked me a question which she said you wanted to ask me.  I’m very grateful you have questions.  That’s a good indication that God’s Spirit is at work within you as you grow each day to be more like your Savior. 

I tried to answer the question which led to related questions and, afterward, decided I would write this post to put my answers in writing.  So here are my thoughts on what we will look like when we are resurrected and whether we will know one another.

God created us as beings having both a physical (our body) and a spiritual (our soul or spirit) component (Genesis 2:7).  He intends for us to live eternally in that form.  At death our soul goes to be with Christ while our body goes to the grave.  But there will be a future resurrection in which Christ will raise (and change) our physical body and reunite it with our soul and that will be our resurrected body (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  Such a resurrection is found in both the Old and New Testaments in numerous passages.  Probably the best single passage to review concerning the resurrection body is 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

Scripture indicates we will be given a resurrected body which is like Christ’s resurrected body.  Based on the Bible’s description of Jesus’ resurrected body as well as other passages in the New Testament which describes this future body, we may say that:

1.  Our resurrection body will have flesh.
2.  Our resurrection body will be able to eat food.
3.  Our resurrection body has speech capability.
4.  Our resurrection body is capable of normal, human activities.
5.  Our resurrection body may appear and disappear.
6.  Our resurrection body has a recognizable appearance.
7.  Our resurrection body will not actually be fully new.
8.  Our resurrection body will be incorruptible (no decay, no sickness, no death).
9.  Our resurrection body will be glorious.
10.  Our resurrection body will be powerful.
11. Our resurrection body will be a spiritual body (controlled totally by the spirit).
12.  Our resurrected body will be a heavenly body, one designed for its eternal environment.  In other words, we will be “right at home” in it.

The truth of our future resurrection often leads to the question:  “Will we recognize others in heaven?”  Scripture does not directly answer this question but I believe there is enough evidence to conclude that the correct answer is “Yes”.  Here is some of that evidence.

1.  At the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17), Jesus is transformed before the eyes of Peter, James, and John.  Suddenly Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain with him.  There is no indication in Scripture that anyone introduced Peter to these two men yet he recognized them.  There were no photographs or videos or trading cards containing Moses’ and Elijah’s image so someone must have told Peter who they were.  The Bible does not say how he knew who they were but, based on Peter’s confession in Matthew 16, I believe the Father revealed their identities to him.

If God the Father can suddenly reveal to Peter the identities of two men he has never met, could He not do the same for us in heaven?

2.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), the rich man in Hades recognizes both Lazarus and Abraham.  While he may have known Lazarus in life, he had never met Abraham.  Again, someone must have revealed Abraham’s identity to him.

3.  When Jesus was raised from the dead and given a resurrection body (remember, our resurrection body will be like His), Jesus recognized others.  Of course, Jesus was God in the flesh so He possessed omniscience and knew all things.  Nevertheless, I think the fact He did recognize others after His death and resurrection, is evidence that we will too.

4.  In the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus said “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29).  Jesus indicates there will be a day in glory when He sits down with His followers and they drink together (which also indicates our resurrection body will be able to drink!).  Drinking together is a form of fellowship and to fellowship with one another you need some knowledge of who they are.

Again, the Bible is very silent on this subject.  A related matter on which Scripture says little is the topic concerning what will we look like in heaven?  In other words, will my resurrected body be my body at age 2 or age 10 or age 30 or age 65?  Will those who know me see me at an age in which they remembered me?  In other words will my parents see me as a young boy while me church friends see me as an adult? 

I can’t find much in the Scripture on this specific matter.  But I have drawn some conclusions which I want to share with you.  I challenge you to do your own study of God’s Word and see what you think.

1.  Jesus, whose resurrection body is our model, was seen as an adult of the same age He had at his death.  Everyone who saw the resurrected Lord saw Him as an adult.  Remember, His resurrection body even contained the marks of His crucifixion.

2.  Moses and Elijah at the Mount of Transfiguration also appeared as adults.

3.  I cannot recall any Scripture which describes resurrected saints as looking like children.

4.  Nothing in Scripture leads me to believe that our appearance, in terms of age, varies between individuals.  Our resurrection body is a physical body, not a body which morphs.

So I believe we will appear as adults to everyone.  But I can also tell you that our resurrected body will NOT age.  We will NOT grow older in appearance.  Such aging is a mark of sin.  Our present body breaks down over time.  Our resurrected bodies, however, will have no sin and, therefore, will not age in appearance.  It will never get sick and it will never die.

After I explain to folks why I believe we will appear as adults in our resurrected bodies, usually the next question asked is “How old of an adult?  20, 30, 40, 50?”  Well, once again, Scripture does not reveal this to us.

But I do have a sense of what we might find when we finally receive our resurrection bodies.  When God created this universe and made man in His image, He created man as an adult in the Garden of Eden.  Furthermore, Adam was created without sin or a sin nature.  His body, therefore, would not age in terms of appearance.  The aging process began when he sinned and his physical body began to die.  I think our resurrected bodies will be like that of Adam at creation.  No more sin, no more aging, no more death.  We will appear to one another as adults “in the prime of life”.  And we will know one another.   

I hope this helps you better understand the Scripture, Nolan.  I suspect it will raise even more questions for you.  Don’t be afraid to ask other Christians (for example, your parents or me) for answers.  Asking questions is a great way to grow in Jesus.

Pastor Bruce

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