Thursday, October 22, 2015

Heavenly bodies, and...

Chapter 5 in Scot McKnight's book 'The Heaven Promise' is short, but powerful. Wow. I thought I'd speed through it and jump into the next chapter. I ended up stopped in my tracks and weeping.

The title of this chapter is "The Christian Belief: We Will Have Bodies Like the Body of Jesus." He incorporates N.T. Wright's assertion that, for the Christian, we don't just believe in the afterlife, but in "life after life-after-death." What that means is that we will receive new Kingdom bodies for that "life."

Scot says Jesus' resurrection body is what all bodies will be like in heaven (life after life-after-death). This is what he believes the Bible says in regard to what our bodies will be like:
  • First, a body in heaven will be an ordinary, physical body, not some kind of luminescent glowing light. When the disciples met Jesus on the path to Emmaus, they did not observe anything weird about his body. He seemed ordinary.
  • Second, it will be a body that needs food. Yes, that's what Jesus's heavenly body "did" after his resurrection, so that is what our bodies will need to do.
  • Third, it will be a body with marks from our life now. One of my favorite verses about the resurrection body of Jesus is found in Luke's gospel: "Look," Jesus said to those who wondered if it really was Jesus, "at my hands and my feet." Why there? Because the wounds from the crucifixion were visible.
  • Fourth, our bodies will have powers we would classify today as supernatural. Further, our bodies may at times glow with the glory of God. Jesus, we are told, suddenly appeared in rooms without opening doors.
Scot quotes the Apostle Paul, who said of our resurrection bodies: "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."

As I mentioned in an earlier post on the book, the center of the Heaven Promise is that Jesus was raised from the dead. Scot says, "This is the heart of God's promise and our hope." By no means does this mean we will not have suffering or grief in this life though. The chapter ends with a story told by a pastor about his sister who died a tragic grueling death. It left them with many questions and much sadness. He shared this:
My dad tells the story of walking out of the hospital with my mom, knowing that at the age of fifty-three and fifty-two they had outlived their oldest child. They approached the sliding glass doors leading not just to a parking lot, but to a life they had never known before. There would not be a "normal" anymore. They each walked with a limp, because the lifelong journey of grief was setting in. My mom looked at my dad and said, "Remind me what we believe. What do we believe?"

After a few moments, my dad responded with these words: "The tomb is empty. The tomb is empty."

Gulp. Isn't that the way it is sometimes, though? We need to remind one another. As Scot writes on p.41:
"Everything about life and death and heaven depends on one momentous event, nearly two thousand years ago, when - to use the magnificent imagery of C.S. Lewis in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - the Stone Table cracked, death met its match, and one solitary figure, Son of God and Son of Man, got up and walked out of death's chilly fog on his own power, raised from the dead. The body of the resurrected Son of God is what heaven promises to each of us. In fact, each of us can learn to face death knowing that mists of that chilly fog are coming to an end."

Good stuff.