Friday, May 29, 2009

Real Hope and Real Change

Today we celebrated the life of one of my wife's Cubbies, a little girl of 5 who died last Saturday of an asthma attack. She was a beautiful, spirited little girl, always eager to help and a strong little leader. She struggled with over 30 food allergies, but was always a bright spot in everyone's day.

During the funeral there was a lot of discussion of how happy she is now in Heaven. (She trusted Christ for salvation recently and then followed Him in Baptism only three weeks ago, on the same night my daughter was baptized.) It got me thinking about the Hope we have in Christ- and not just the hope of Heaven, because there is more!

You see, Heaven is a wonderful place, where God wipes every tear from our eyes and where we are finally free from sin, pain and sickness. We get to worship our Creator alongside the angels, and get to see our loved ones who have gone before us. We find incredible bliss and joy in the presence of the Trinity, and can finally know Jesus even as He knows us (1 Cor 13:12)! In Scripture God gives us these tantalizing glimpses of heaven, but then reveals that there is much, much more!

As wonderful as Heaven is, it is only temporary. Contrary to popular, unbiblical Christian mythology, believers will not spend eternity in Heaven, sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. (And we do not become angels, either!) God created us as both physical and spiritual beings,* and to be disembodied, floating around in Heaven, as wonderful as it is, is not how God created us or intended us to be! It's not natural! My friends, we were made for Resurrection!

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out an argument for the Resurrection of Christ and then begins to give us glimpses of our future. He says (v. 20) that Christ is the "first fruits" of the Resurrection, and that our glorified resurrection bodies will be infinitely different from our current bodies. With the imagery of a grain of wheat falling to the earth, dying, then coming back as a beautiful plant, he describes how our bodies will change to become imperishable, immortal, glorious, powerful and spiritual. When does this happen?** When Christ returns:
Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen,

“Death has been swallowed up in victory."
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Cor 15:51-55)
Now that my friends is Real Hope and Real Change! We will spend eternity in an amazing New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21-22)! We will have immortal Resurrection bodies like Christ's. Most importantly, we will see Him face to face and know Him and His love perfectly! That dear little girl is rejoicing with Christ in Heaven right now, but she has so much more to look forward to. And so do we!

* For the budding theologians out there: I hold a dichotomous/bipartite view of anthropology. We are ontologically one person with one nature having both physical and spiritual aspects. For my trichotomous friends, a word study of soul and spirit will show that the two terms are used interchangeably for the non-material aspect of man and are not distinct. (While you're at it, compare those terms with heart, conscience, mind, and will). Hebrews 4:12, 1 Thes. 5:23 and 1 Cor 2:14ff. need to be understood in light of the rest of Scripture. In perspective, however, the dichotomous / trichotomous discussion is an interesting in-house debate, but definitely not anything worth dividing over!

** 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 makes it almost sound like we receive our Resurrection bodies when we get to heaven, but 1) we need to understand it in light of all of Scripture, including the explicit timing provided in 1 Cor 15:52, 1 Thes 4:16; Rev 20:5, etc and 2) that the main idea in this passage is that we are struggling and have to live our lives in a way that pleases God, in light of the hope He gives us of a better future with Him!. Now another interesting topic is "How many Resurrections are there?"

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