Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)
I’m not entirely sure why, but for the last year or so I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven, and with all this talk about resurrection (probably brought on by the New Year), I thought I’d share some random thoughts that have been rumbling around in my brain about the future “us”. I feel like people commonly ask what heaven will be like, but I rarely hear people talking about what they think we will be like in heaven. So, I thought that might make an interesting post (maybe even discussion?).
As eternal beings, we will not float on clouds in heaven. We won’t turn into angels. And we won’t have wings. Unless you played the harp in this life, you probably won’t play it in heaven either. Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to pick up, and eternity will provide the time, but I seriously doubt that halos and harps are standard issue at the pearly gates. Nor will we dance around as ethereal spirit-beings of some sort. Heaven isn’t about glowing clouds of sparkly soul light or warm fuzzy gooiness that lasts forever.
As in everything, Jesus is our example. He was the “firstborn from the dead” (Revelation 1:4), the prototype (first example) of what resurrection will be like. Jesus was fully human (and fully God). He died just the way you and I will (except more brutally, I’m sure), and God raised Him from the dead the same way He will raise us. When the apostles saw the resurrected Christ, they saw not only the “exact imprint” of God (Hebrews 1:3; c.f. John 1:18 and Colossians 1:15,19) but also exactly what we would someday be like as resurrected physical beings.
It’s about being bodily raised by the Lord to a new physical life that might surprise us by some of its similarities to our current existence.
Even now, Jesus Christ – God of very God, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah – sits enthroned in heaven at the Father’s right hand… as a physical person with a physical … resurrected … glorified … incorruptible … body. Just like ours will be. We will not float around in space with God and enjoy swirling ourselves into stardust inkblots for the amusement of the stary host. We will walk with God in the garden in the cool of the day. We will lift physical hands to God in worship, and with those same hands we will tend His garden. We will fall down on physical knees before the throne of heaven and Jesus, who physically sits on it. Where God the Father and the Holy Spirit are acorporeal (immaterial, not made of matter and energy), Jesus is corporeal (since the incarnation, straight through the resurrection, even today — He has a physical body) and so are we (both now and after our resurrection into heaven).
Here are a few ways I think we should consider heaven. Remember, this isn’t somehow out of Scripture, but what I believe to be true…
This vast universe…
In a million years of space travel, we would barely begin to take in the tremendous expanse God has created. All this was made for us to physically indwell. Someday, “a new heaven and a new earth” will form the same kind of context for us as re-created, resurrected beings. All the beauty and wonder … an endless playground of amazing for us to explore … to show God’s glory and His love for us. Everything with God is “abundance”, starting with the vastness of creation.
Our incredible bodies…
So intricate and wildly complex, even in our fallen state, God made us unique and wonderful. The Bible says we were “knit together” and “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). But our reconstituted physical bodies will be even better — perfectly suited to their task: full and unencumbered relationship with the God of the universe. All the effects of sin wiped away. No more separation from God. No more sickness or pain, aching joints or slow morning starts. And no more slow decline into death. Hugs and kisses, snuggle times and holding hands, working shoulder-to-shoulder and beautiful eyes and uniquely expressive hair styles … maybe even some tattoos (gasp!) … will all be a part of heaven.
And you will be you…
No robots. No clone army. No forced cookie-cutter, get-it-right-or-get-out worship marathons. No white robes designed to drain the color and uniqueness out of life. Oneness of heart and spirit, not of personality. New bodies and new names, but “renewed” and “regenerated” and “resurrected” — not “wiped and reformatted” or “commoditized”. Your uniqueness is a gift of God that He will not take back when He makes you (along with all things) new!
First step, taken. Next step, coming soon.
Heaven will be so much more than we can imagine, and it won’t be about me or you, but about the Great God who adopted us, and about His only begotten Son, our brother, who signed our adoption papers with His very blood. Much of what that all looks like we can’t possibly understand or imagine. But we know this… This life and world isn’t “throw away work”, or temporary in some meaningless way. Though racked with sin and broken, we still see God both in ourselves and in His creation. This world is a gift in so many ways, including providing a glimpse into the eternal reality of our lives with God. And that walk starts now, not “someday”. But I’m glad that even now in spirit and someday physically, God’s resurrection power will complete the good work He started in me … (re)making me perfectly able to physically be with God.
“The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)