Monday, October 17, 2016

What kind of bodies will we have when Christ returns?

An interesting question, for I often hear people comparing the resurrected body of Christ to the body that they will one day have. “See,” they say, “Jesus appeared in different forms, went through walls, and floated in the air. That means, especially since the Bible plainly says we shall become like him for we shall see him as he is, that we ourselves will be able to appear in different forms, walk through walls, and float around heaven.” But not so fast. The Bible does indeed say we will become like him, but is that “like” in nature, or in abilities? Most scholars seem to think it is the former that is being promised, and are not nearly so sure about the second. We will be like, or similar to, Jesus in nature. What we will be like otherwise mostly remains to be seen.

Thinking about a bit more may prove a help. Jesus was definitely born a man, like unto us, but he also was God, and exemplified many gifts that were not commonly bestowed upon men. He exhibited many of the characteristics of being God during his lifetime. For instance, he exhibits omniscience when he tells Nathaniel that he saw him under the fig tree, long before he and Nathaniel met. Nathaniel, knowing that he was alone under the fig tree responded to Jesus saying, “My Lord, and my God.”, thus recognizing that none but God alone could know about that event. But Jesus healed the blind, claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, and raised the dead. Some of these miracles were indeed imitated by the disciples later, but I cannot find anywhere where gifted Christians exhibited omniscience. It is a power evidently set aside for God alone. Similarly, we know that Christ had omnipotence, as the Bible claims he was there at creation, and brought this whole world into being. Just before going to the cross, does he not remind the disciples that he could but ask and receive a legion of angels to help him escape that cross. Does he not tell us clearly in John that he lays his life down willingly, and no man takes it from him? I know of no case where anyone else exhibits such power, and even if I limit this short piece to just these two godly characteristics, we clearly see that Jesus was unlike us in every way.

Yes, you may say, he was different than us, but didn’t he come to make us so that we would be like him? Yes, we will indeed be like him, and part of that likeness will be the removal of our sin nature. No longer tempted with every passing sin, we will be “in tune” with our God, and willingly follow him for the rest of eternity. Like Jesus, we will be free for the first time, no longer bound by our sins, but free to follow and associate with our Creator God. That is quite a big change!

As to what else will change, we do not yet know. One thing I often wonder about is man’s advancements with technology. Will those all be ignored as the deeds of sinful men or will some of them sift through the coming of a new world? I do not know the answer to that question, but I am prepared to be astonished and delighted. On the one hand, I think that if we are allowed to be with God, and see him as he is, would that not make us totally able to understand our world in a new way? Perhaps it would open new vistas, unimaginable for now, as man finally is able to reach the potential for which God created them. But, on the other hand, so much of the world we see now is built by sinful man, totally depraved and beyond saving. How can I possibly think anything will survive into that time when Christ rules the earth?

And yet, even after all of judgment settles, there will be a remnant of men left to face this world. Not you or me, for we will be forever changed and by the side of our Lord. The Bible declares “so shall we ever remain with the Lord”. But natural man will remain, in tattered remnants, and will under the leadership of Christ will build a new world, perhaps better than ever attained before. But even with all the blessings of the presence of Christ himself, the Bible still tells us that many men of this new age will fail yet again, after the thousand years has passed away.

It occurs to me that we draw parallels with the resurrected body of Christ when the comparison does not even match. Christ was sinless in all his ways, until the sins of the whole world were poured out on him while he was on the cross. His cry to his Father, to forgive them for they know not what they do, is often felt to be the point at which he received the sins of the world, breaking his fellowship with the Father, a fellowship that had existed through all of eternity past. However, sin could not keep him buried, and the third day he was raised again, triumphing forever over sin.

But did he have a new body? Thomas, not believing, is shown the very holes in his hands. The evidence is clear, unlike us, he did not receive a new body, but was resurrected in his old body. Interesting, in his appearance to the disciples, and the 500, he often disguised himself, so that he would not be noticed right at first. He evidently had the power to look differently, and yet, before the end of his appearance the disciples would see through that disguise. Nothing in scripture ever accord us in our new bodies with the same ability.

In fact, we are said to receive new bodies (which is a relief to me as this body is getting rather worn out), bodies that will last throughout eternity. I think that people often forget the first part of the verse that says we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Does not the apostle begin by stating, “it does not yet appear what we shall be?” We are not to know exactly what we are to be, and I think looking at Christ’s body is not the best way of discerning what we shall be. If you are like me, you probably cannot seem to quit thinking about it, and that is fine, for we are told to always be looking for his return.

A last objection. The thinking Christian might indeed say that is not enough for me. I can hardly figure out what God intends for me, and now I do not even get to know what life is going to be like when I get there? I suppose that if my own curiosity is any indication, people tend to have lots of questions, many wonderings. But God, in his wisdom, has not deemed to tell us so very much. We know that we will get new bodies, not corruptible, and we know that Christ says he has gone to prepare a place for us. We know that Jerusalem will have “streets of gold”, and the wealth of all the nations shall be poured out upon the city of Christ. We know that when the old world changes to the new world, one thing will not change—we will ever be with the Lord, at his feet.

I liken it to great expectations, if I may borrow an allusion from the wonderful Dickens. We have great expectations indeed, but at this point we are unsure how it is all going to work out. God has asked us to have faith, to trust him that the expectations will prove worth waiting for. We certainly know enough about the personal love of God to take the rest on faith. Do we not?

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