Thursday, March 24, 2011

Eternity of indestructibility

It’s unusual for someone to comment on an older post, but the message below was left this week on “Thinking about the ascension,” which I wrote last May. It deserves a full response, especially on account of Lent being a time of reflection on Jesus Christ: his suffering and his sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection.

I have lately been dwelling on this topic as well, and I'd love to open up the floor for discussion.

Are you suggesting that Jesus literally ascended into... space? And kept going until he reached "heaven," which is in our physical realm, just really high up in the air?

The problem becomes more convoluted when we examine the words of Paul in 1 Cor 15:42:

"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

Spiritual bodies? Was the manifestation of the resurrected Jesus nothing but spiritual?

Of course, we know that this notion strays far from orthodoxy, but how then ought we interpret what Paul means by a spiritual resurrection, and how do we justify the idea that Jesus floated up into space and kept going until he reached heaven?

These thoughts trouble me! I'd love to hear what you think.
So here’s what I believe, based on my understanding of Scripture. The ascended Jesus is, indeed, in heaven. He is there in bodily form. For all I care, he could have arrived there by zooming into the sky wearing a jetpack. I’m satisfied knowing that he simply vanished from our time-space world to enter into that other dimension that is heaven. Regardless of what our bodies are like in this intermediate heaven (prior to the second coming), I believe we can safely say that there is at least one person in heaven with a human body: Jesus. I see no reason to think that the substance of who he was post-resurrection on earth should be any different now that he’s in heaven.

When Paul refers to “spiritual body” in that passage in 1 Corinthians, he’s not talking about a ghostly body. By definition, a body is corporeal: flesh and blood. A spiritual body is first and foremost a real body, or Paul wouldn’t have chosen to use the term. He could have said Jesus was raised as a spirit. Judging from the resurrected body of Jesus, a spiritual body appears most of the time to look and act like a regular body. Jesus exhibited some pretty amazing metaphysical powers after his resurrection, but he was definitely not a phantom or a zombie. He was still human.

Randy Alcorn has written: “When Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” he’s referring to our flesh and blood as they are now: cursed and under sin. Our present bodies are fallen and destructible, but our future bodies—though still bodies in the fullest sense—will be untouched by sin and indestructible. They will be like Christ’s resurrection body—both physical and indestructible.”

I, for one, am happy to think that I have been promised a spiritual body after I die. Simply knowing that I will be embodied is an enormous comfort. I will be who I am now, only new and improved—“spiritual” if you will. The same is true for all of creation. This is what is meant by Christian hope. It’s not just holding out for the sweet by and by where “we shall meet on that beautiful shore.” It’s way better than that. When God’s plan is complete, earth and heaven will be one and his children will live in this new creation with bodies serving and glorifying him and reveling in an eternity of indestructibility.

As was suggested above, does anyone else care to comment? What do you think happens to you when you die?

1 comment:

Steve said...

I agree with you and Alcorn. Like you have previously, I recommend that everyone read Alcorn's book "Heaven." He uses scripture to assert what Heaven may encompass and it's definitely good food for thought...