June 9, 2014
I Corinthians 15:20
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Over the 42 years of being a pastor, I have been asked many times, “What Will Heaven Be Like?” Christians – especially when they have either lost a loved one or are facing death themselves – are curious where the believer goes upon death, and what he or she might then be doing. One of the main questions is “What will I be like in heaven?” Some might answer that we will have to wait to see, but I say we can know a great deal about heaven now by what the Bible says about it.
This series of blogs that we are starting is entitled, What Will Heaven Be Like? Let me say at the beginning that we will have to wait and see to completely understand heaven in its fulness. For Paul writes in I Corinthians 2:9 (quoting Isaiah 64:4), “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ” We have never seen anything like heaven! We have never heard of anything like heaven! We have never even imagined anything like heaven! But God has given us some wonderful hints concerning the place where we will spend eternity with Him.
One of the most important hints that God gives us is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. We will start with I Corinthians 15:20: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Notice first that the believing one who dies is referred to as having “…fallen asleep.” That’s because death is not the final state for the Christian. We are fully conscious upon physical death and with the Lord. And our bodies will rise again!
What are firstfruits? The Hebrew uses two different words, both of which can mean the first ripened fruit given as an offering – and these two words occur 49 times in the Old Testament. The New Testament uses just one Greek word with the same meaning as in the Old – and occurs 8 times. The Israelites would bring the first bundle of grain or the first loaf of bread baked made with that first grain, or the first honey gathered or olive oil squeezed – and all were offered to the Lord in anticipation of a much larger crop to follow – firstfuits!
Now apply this concept to Jesus. He – rising from the dead – is the firstfruit of those who have died believing in Him. They also will rise from death! And it says in I John 3:2,
Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed
what we shall be, but we know that when He [Jesus] is revealed, we shall be
like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.
It is beyond our understanding to completely know what Jesus was like after He rose from the dead. But there are some deductions we can make:
• He went into the tomb a tortured, beaten and crucified mess! It says in Isaiah 52:14
(NIV), “…His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness….” He didn’t even look like a human being after the Romans and Jews were done with Him! But when He came out of the grave three days later, Jesus Christ was whole and perfect – and vibrantly alive!
We also – we who have put our faith in the Son of God as our Savior – will be whole, perfect and vibrantly alive, just like Jesus! It does not matter how sick or incapacitated you might be. It says in Revelation 21:4 that “…God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
• Upon being resurrected, the Lord had a physical body, but one adapted perfectly for spiritual living. That He was physical is shown in Luke 24:39, when Jesus told Thomas, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” We too will have physical bodies perfectly adapted for spiritual living.
Now, upon death, the human body goes into the ground (or is burned to ashes if cremation is chosen), but the soul enters either into the presence of God, for the Christian, or into hades – the place where the unbeliever waits for the final judgment (see Luke 16:19 through 31). Upon resurrection, the soul and body will be reunited to either enjoy the eternal presence of the Lord or suffer forever in hell!
• Jesus was not limited by the physical restraints that we know now in this life. For
instance, He appeared in the midst of His followers in the upper room, the doors being locked! (see John 20:19 through 29). He also disappeared from the presence of two followers in Luke 24: 30 through 32. He could withhold Himself from being recognized by those who knew Him (see Luke24:15 and 16, John 20:14 through 16). One more thing – gravity seemed to have no hold on His resurrection body as He ascended up into heaven (see Acts 1:9).
We will not be limited in heaven in ways we are upon earth. Jesus seemed to travel as if just by thought, so we will be able to do the same in our resurrected bodies.
This is only a bit of what is to come for us. Even if we dedicated a hundred blogs to What Will Heaven Be Like? – we will not exhaust the glories of what is to come for the followers of Jesus Christ! But we will continue on Wednesday with What Will Heaven Be Like? – II.