From one of our readers we received the question:
“At the resurrection can our flesh and blood body be raised a glorified flesh and blood body that is fit for the kingdom of heaven?”
It is usually during the season in which we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, or at the time of the loss of a dear one, that questions of this nature arise. This is only natural, for by faith we look forward to the day when we will be with Christ in heavenly perfection, both in body and soul.
Yet in this respect also we still see in a glass dimly. There are many questions that remain unanswered as long as we are in this temporal and mortal body. But the Scriptures do give us an insight into the glory that awaits us.
Our reader understands, according to the letter, that “flesh and blood do not inherit the kingdom of God”; but that only adds to the problem as to how this flesh and blood, this earthly, natural body can be changed into a glorious, heavenly body.
First of all; our attention is drawn to Philippians 3:21: “Who (the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ) shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.”
One thing that becomes evident from this passage is that the resurrection of Christ gives us directives toward understanding our own resurrection.
Our Lord’s resurrection was a bodily resurrection. The tomb was vacated. The grave clothes that had been wrapped around Christ’s body lay still in the same position, but were now an empty mass of cloth. The earthly body was no longer present. It was raised.
Our Lord arose in the same body in which He had died. We must bear in mind that no one could see the resurrection body of Jesus, for it had become spiritual and heavenly. In order to help us to understand the resurrection, our Lord appeared at various times and in different forms. Each appearance served to explain something of the wonder of the resurrection. Jesus appeared to His disciples in a bodily form that showed the nail holes in His hands and the wound of the spear thrust in His side. This does not mean that Christ’s glorified body still has these wounds, but it does show us that Jesus arose in the same body in which He died. Jesus ate in the presence of His disciples. This does not mean that a heavenly body can partake of earthly food, or can digest earthly food. But it does show that Jesus arose in the body in which His disciples had formerly known Him and had eaten with Him.
Our Lord’s body had changed. It was still a material substance, a real body. Jesus allowed the women to touch Him. He showed to the disciples that He had hands and feet. Yet He did not allow Mary Magdalene to cling to Him, for He had not returned in an earthly body, but had gone through the grave and was risen in a new, heavenly body. He did not need to have the stone rolled away to come forth from the grave. He could enter the room where the disciples were gathered even though the door was closed and locked. He was suddenly seen as standing among them. Likewise, when He had finished speaking to them He faded from sight. They saw Him no more. Jesus was not bound to time or place, nor to any earthly bonds as we are. He was risen from the dead as conqueror over death.
Jesus looked the same as He did before, and yet He was different. When the disciples saw Him they could say, “It is the Lord.” Yet John explains this wonder best when he says, “And none durst ask Him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord” (John 21:12).
From this we can conclude that at the resurrection we shall arise in the same body that we now have, even though this body has returned to the dust of the earth. This body will be changed from an earthly body to a heavenly body.
Paul explains this to us in I Corinthians 15:42-44: “So also is the resurrection from the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. 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. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.”
Beginning with the last statement, we find that we now have a natural body, but that this natural body will be changed into a spiritual body. According to the original, the natural body is a psychical, a soul-body. This is of the earth, earthy. We see earthly things. We hear earthly sounds. We eat earthly food and breathe earthly air. We are now completely bound to this earth. We cannot see angels, nor can we see heaven. Even Jesus had to appear to us in some form that we could see, because we could not see His resurrection body. When God speaks to us in Scripture of the spiritual and the heavenly He uses all kinds of earthly figures, and addresses us in an earthly language. God even makes the entire earthly creation a picture (a parable) of the spiritual and the heavenly. For eye cannot see and ear cannot hear the things that are still in store for us beyond the grave.
That will all be changed. We will receive a real, heavenly body. We will see with heavenly eyes, hear with heavenly ears, and we will eat the spiritual Bread and the spiritual Drink, Christ Jesus. We will be fit to live our heavenly life in everlasting perfection.
Thus it will also be the same body. When God brought us into being at the time of our conception, He gave us our own person, our own individuality, our own nature, gifts, and talents. He did so even with a view to eternity. Not only the same body arises from the grave, but with it our own individual nature, our own gifts and talents. I have an idea that many talents that God has given to us never come to manifestation here in this life, but will be fully developed in our resurrection bodies.
We will be the same person, yet changed from the earthly to the heavenly and the spiritual. This body is like a seed that is planted in the earth and grows into a plant, just as a tulip bulb produces a tulip and a grain of wheat produces wheat. This body is sown in weakness and is raised in power. Now we still bear the weaknesses and imperfections that result from sin. At best, this weak and frail body can exist for 70 or 80 years. We are like the grass that withers and the flower that fades. Our strength is limited. We grow weary and need rest. Our plans are never fully realized, for ultimately we are cut off, as it were, by the cold hand of death. This life is but a journey, a pilgrimage that serves as a preparation for the real life that is still to come. But when this mortal body is raised in the last day it will be raised in power. Notice, we will still be human beings. We will still be dependent creatures. Yet we will receive power to live with our whole being, body and soul, to the glory of God. No earthly weaknesses or imperfections will hinder us from giving full expression to all the gifts and talents God has given us, that in our own individual and unique way we may serve God’s purpose in the new creation among all the saints. The lame will walk, the blind will see, the deaf will hear. There will be no semblance of death there.
Our earthly bodies are sown in corruption and will be raised in incorruption. As a result of sin and the curse we lie in the midst of death. How thoroughly we are reminded of this every moment of our earthly existence. A mother hovers over her infant child concerned whether it is too warm or too cold, is fed too little or too much, is threatened with this ailment or that infirmity. A thousand anxieties and cares flood our weary souls. For death lurks round about us in the form of accidents, diseases, heart attacks, cancer or some other danger. The earthly tent of this body is breaking down, until finally it is completely destroyed by death. But in heaven all that is now corruptible will be changed to incorruption. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Finally, this present body is sown in dishonor and is raised in glory. In Philippians 3:21 Paul speaks of this present body as a vile body, a body that belongs to our present humiliation. We think of Adam and Eve in paradise, as they came forth from the hand of their Creator, the most exalted of all the earthly creatures, formed in the image and likeness of God. What a splendid picture of manhood and kingship Adam displayed with his strong, erect body, his muscular arms and skillful hands! What a masterpiece of feminine beauty and devotion Eve must have been when God brought her to Adam! How perfectly fitted they were to serve God with their whole being in love! How shameful when, after the fall, they cover their nakedness with fig leaves! Our bodies now often control and direct our spirit, instead of our spirit finding a ready servant in the body. Our bodies often stand in the way, hinder us in our spiritual activities. Our faults and weaknesses become evident in all that we do and say. We are even forced to bear with one another’s weaknesses. Only grace gives us the victory over this body of sin and death. How comforting to read, “Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed!” We will be raised in glory. Imagine that! No more sin. No more weaknesses resulting from sin. No more hindrances from having full and intimate communion of life with God through our Lord Jesus Christ! Our resurrection bodies will be like the glorious body of Christ, fit to devote ourselves with our whole being, in the company of all the saints, and in the midst of the new creation to the praise of the glory of God’s grace in the Beloved! We will drink from the Fountain of life and eat of the Manna of life, Christ Jesus. Our youth will be renewed every day, like an eagle’s to lose ourselves completely in covenant fellowship with our God! That will be glory, glory no end.
True, there are many questions that remain unanswered. But even these questions cannot deprive us of the blessed hope of the saints, for we live by faith and not by sight. Our Lord Jesus Christ is able to subdue all things unto Himself, that all glory may be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, world without end! Hallelujah!