What Kind of Body Will We Have in Heaven
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2003|
|Dr. John Ankerberg and his guest, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, discuss: Will our body be the same in heaven as here on earth? Will Christians who die before the rapture have different bodies afterwards? Will we be angels? Dr. Lutzer provides answers to these and other questions.|
What Kind of Body Will We Have in Heaven?
Dr. John Ankerberg: One of the questions people often ask is, “What about the saints who are in heaven today: What kind of a body do they have?”
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: We know that the great emphasis in the New Testament is on the Resurrection, 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 tells us, “We shall be raised.” Paul anticipates that and it is so important to our theology. Well, if people in heaven today do not yet have a body, how do they communicate?
There are two different views that have been given about this. First of all, there are those who believe that we have an intermediate body; that is, that God creates a body that the saints in heaven can use until they get their permanent resurrected one. Now, that’s a plausible theory, but I have to wonder, “What happens to that body at the day of resurrection? Is it just thrown away, annihilated, discarded?”
Let me suggest that there might be a second explanation—and I want you to think about this. Quite possibly, after a person dies, his or her soul takes on the characteristics of a body. Now, that might seem implausible, but listen to this text from the Book of Revelation: “And when he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who have been slain… [Notice, “the souls of those who had been slain”] because of the Word of God and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Now, that’s what the text says: The souls were beneath the altar and look at what they were doing. They were crying out loud. They were speaking. They were clothed with white garments. So I can’t understand that mystery, but maybe God enables the souls of those who go to heaven to have those characteristics which they need to communicate. There needs to be communication with words and what have you. There needs to be some visual sight of these individuals so that they recognize one another and are in the presence of Christ. And just possibly, it is that the soul is able to do that.
But here’s the bottom line. Let’s not miss that which is most important. When you die as a Christian, you are immediately in the presence of Christ. You are immediately conscious. There is no break of consciousness. And, as a result of that, you know that all of the faculties that you had here on earth, all of your abilities carry over to the other side. Of that we can be certain.
D. L. Moody, before he died, said, “Soon you shall read in the newspapers that D. L. Moody has died. Do not believe it, for in that moment I shall be more alive than I have ever been.”
I like what Chet Bitterman said. You may have heard the story of how his son was martyred as a missionary. Chet said, “We have eight living children. Seven are on earth and one is in heaven.” It is really true that the moment you die, you are more alive than you have ever been.
Now, John, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the resurrection body because that’s the body that we shall have permanently. And in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the Apostle Paul makes four contrasts between this body and the one that we shall have. And by the way, before I get into those contrasts, there are some people who think that God is going to create these bodies ex nihilo, that is to say, “Out of nothing.” No! There is continuity between the body that you have today and the one that you will have. You see, when the disciples went to the tomb of Christ on Easter morning, when they went there, God didn’t just create a brand new body for the Lord Jesus Christ and leave His physical body in the tomb. No. There was continuity. That’s why they were able to recognize Him. He could even say to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless but believing.”
Everything that we know about the resurrection body of Jesus really applies to us. You know, as I think about this, not a one of us would like to die, but it is exciting, isn’t it? Because the Scripture says that eventually “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” What a fantastic hope God gives to us in the Scriptures!
Well, very quickly, let’s look at what these contrasts are. First of all, 1 Corinthians 15 says, “We are sown a perishable body; we are raised imperishable.” The experts tell us that the moment we are born, we begin to die. We have a perishable body.
Why don’t you come with me. Let’s do some hospital visitation. We go through the hallways and in this room there’s a young mother, 24 years old, two small children She’s dying of cancer. We go across the hall and we visit a man who has had a heart attack and the question is whether or not he is going to make it or whether or not he is going to die. We go down the hall and we discover that someone else is dying from a very rare disease and the doctors do not even know its cause.
All the way down, we see the deterioration of the body. And the Scripture says that just a kernel is put into the ground—and there is continuity between the kernel and the stalk, between the acorn and the tree—in the very same way a person is buried and then they are raised imperishable.
Paul also tells us that it is “sown in dishonor.” I know that the funeral industry today is able to do some marvelous things with bodies, but the fact of the matter is that every person who dies, we all know that there is that sense of hopelessness, of helplessness, and death is not pretty. And the Scripture says here, “It is sown in dishonor, but it is raised in glory.”
You take the most humble Christian you’ve ever met—maybe even someone you don’t like very much and they’re believers in Jesus Christ and they die. They are raised, they will receive a body that is a blaze, really, of glory—a body like that of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thing we have to look forward to.
It is “sown in weakness.” I don’t have to say anything about that because we all know that, don’t we? But it is “raised in power.” It is “sown a natural body,” the Scripture says “It is raised a spiritual body.”
Now, I need to clarify something here, John, because there are those who think that when we are in heaven we’re going to be angels. No, that’s not true. The angels have their separate existence. Some people also think that we’re going to be spirits. No, you’re not going to be a spirit. You’re going to be a spiritual body but there’s as big difference. Remember, after the Resurrection Jesus said to the disciples, “Touch me. Handle me. And see that a spirit does not have flesh and bones.” So you can see that we are going to have a body like that of Jesus Christ.
Now, mind you, it will be able to go through doors. It will not be subject to the limitations that we know in this life because our body is going to be like that of Jesus Christ. And the good news is, that when we believe on Him, “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
You know, John, as a pastor I have conducted many funerals and when you conduct the funeral of a Christian, it’s a mixed experience, isn’t it? Because on the one hand, you cry and you grieve; on the other hand, you’re delighted because you know that they are with the Lord Jesus Christ. I think of the words of Tony Evans who said, “Have a good time at my funeral because I’m not going to be there!” And I need to remind us that when we weep, we weep for ourselves, not for them, because they are in the presence of Christ.
My brother’s 16-year-old son was killed in a tragic car accident. Would you believe that he was memorizing verses of Scripture in the backseat of the car? He was on his way to a Scripture Bible Quiz. And he and young woman who was with him, also in the backseat memorizing that Scripture, were killed instantly. They hit some ice and a semi-truck came and smashed the car and that was the end of them. And my brother was weeping so much until my mother said to him, “Remember this, that your son Dallas would not come back even if he could, having seen the glories of heaven.” And that gave my brother some comfort knowing that he was weeping for himself, and that’s fine. We do weep. But we also have the certainty that those who have believed in Jesus are on the other side safely in the arms of Christ.
I like to point out at funerals that when we say that this person is in heaven, we’re not saying that just to make people feel better. Sometimes we are preachers, you know, are expected to say some wonderful things about those who have died. No, my friend, we say it because if they have believed in Jesus Christ, it is true! It is true! Because Christ is the Savior of the world: “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” And that means you can go from this life to the next and Christ carries you all the way through to the very throne room of God.