Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
[Cf. Duane Kelderman, “The Easter Promise – A Brand New Body” (The Banner, April 13, 1987)]
What a contrast we see when we look at those energetic and bright-eyed little children in our community, and then we compare them with the elderly in our community, or when we compare them with some of our parents or grandparents. When people are young, their bodies are normally smooth-skinned, strong and healthy. When we grow old, however, our bodies
begin to slow down. We get wrinkles and liver spots. Our muscles begin to sag. We may get a whole host of ailments, from hemorrhoids to hernias and from asthma to arthritis. Our bodies become subject to one ache and pain after another, it seems.
Little children don’t think much about getting a new body, unless, perhaps, they have some kind of special illness or handicap. But the older we get, and the more physical problems we begin to suffer, the more we begin to think about that day when we’ll finally get a brand new, glorious body. The older we get, the more we consider what Paul says in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from
there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
Awhile back, there was a children’s toy that was very popular. It was called a “transformer.” By rotating and moving around a few pieces, a soldier could be “transformed” into an army tank, or a fighter jet.
Well did you know that we’re all going to become sort of like “transformers” when our bodies are raised from the dead? No, we won’t turn into airplanes or tanks, or super-heroes, but Philippians 3:20-21 says that Jesus Christ will “transform” our lowly bodies so that they’ll be like His glorious body! And
that’ll be great, because our new bodies will be much, much nicer than the
bodies we have now. They’ll be perfect, glorified bodies!
When Christ rose from the dead, God called Him, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” [I Corinthians 15:20]
In Israel, the first grains of the harvest season were called the “firstfruits.” Once the firstfruits of the harvest were brought in, everybody knew that the rest of the harvest would soon follow. In the same way, Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead was the “firstfruits” of all the rest of those who’d be raised from the dead one day. Jesus Christ, as the firstfruits, was the guarantee of that promise of God that He “will transform our lowly bodies,” as Paul puts it in v. 21.
So let’s take a few minutes to consider the question today, “What will our glorified bodies be like?”
Will we be as strong as Superman or Hulk Hogan? Will we have a body like Arnold Schwartzeneger used to have when he was the bodybuilding champion of the world, before he became governor of Califooornia?
Will we be able to throw a pass like Payton Manning, or hit a ball like
Alex Rodriguez (back when he was still on the team)? Will we all be as smart or as talented as Leonardo Da Vinci? Will we be as beautiful as Julia Roberts or as handsome as George Clooney?
Well the Bible doesn’t give us exact answers to all our questions about our new bodies, but it does tell us enough to know some basics, at least.
First of all, our new bodies will be real, physical bodies.
Paul says in v. 21, “our lowly bodies…will be like his glorious body.”
That means that Jesus’ resurrected body is sort of a model or a proto-type of our resurrected bodies.
We know that, after His resurrection, Jesus, at times, seemed to appear out of nowhere. This caused His disciples to think He must be a ghost or a spirit.
[That’s all the word, “ghost,” means, by the way. It means a spirit of some kind, without a body. That’s why we sometimes refer to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. There’s no such thing as a haunting ghost. The spirits, or ghosts, of all dead people are either in hell or in heaven, and that’s where they’ll stay until the Judgment Day.]
So the disciples thought the resurrected Jesus was a ghost. But Jesus showed that His disciples were wrong to think that He was a ghost. They
were wrong to think that He was “a spirit without a body.” Luke 24:32-43 says that shortly after Jesus vanished from the table of the 2 disciples He met on the road to Emmaus, He suddenly appeared to His disciples back in Jerusalem. After Jesus vanished from the table in Emmaus, we read, “32 They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking
they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as
you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands
and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”
Ghosts don’t have physical hands and feet and bodies with flesh and bones that you can touch! Ghosts don’t eat fish! Jesus was not a ghost! Jesus had a resurrected physical body!
By the way, that’s a pretty good indication that we’ll eat and drink in the New Creation after Jesus returns as well. Our bodies will be real, physical, material bodies that you can see and touch. We won’t become angels or sprout wings or cease to be human beings, as some TV movies would want us to believe. Angels don’t have physical bodies, even though they sometimes appeared, in Biblical times, in bodily shapes and forms. But as glorified human beings, we’ll have real, glorified bodies just like our risen Lord has a real, glorified body which now resides in Heaven with the Father.
Second, our new bodies will be these self-same bodies we now have, only
In other words, God isn’t going to create a whole new race of people at the last day. He’s going to glorify us, making our own bodies new and glorified.
He’s going to raise these very same bodies from the dead on the last day. Even if we’ve completely returned to the dust or if we’ve been eaten by sharks or cremated and scattered in the ocean, we’ll still get these very same bodies back at the last day. Now I don’t know how God is going to do that.
But through some kind of special miracle, He’s going to glorify our old bodies and make them brand new.
I Corinthians 15:35-44 explains how this is going to be: “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come? How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
Paul says, “it,” the very same body that’s sown – that body – “it,” will be raised up. “The body that is sown…it is raised,” says Paul.
Now, for some of us, that may not be all that comforting!
“What? You mean I’m going to be stuck, through all eternity, with this body?”
Well don’t panic. V. 43 says, “it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory!”
So they’ll be our bodies all right. But they’ll be made glorious! It’s even quite possible that the very things we hate most about our present bodies now will be the source of the greatest glory in our new bodies. That’s what Paul seems to be implying in II Corinthians 4:16-17, when he says, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
You see, it’s those very troubles that plague us in our bodies now that will achieve for us an even greater glory later! So take heart, all sick, ugly, fat people! Take heart all disabled, mentally challenged, and vertically challenged people! God has some wonderful surprises in store for you!
So, first of all, Our new bodies will be real, physical bodies. And second, Our new bodies will be these self-same bodies we now have, only glorified.
Our third point is this: Our new, glorified bodies will also be very different from our present bodies.
I Corinthians 15:37-38 said, “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”
Jesus’ body was different after His resurrection. In John 20:13-16, Mary of Magdala looked right at Him and didn’t recognize Him until He spoke her name. Two angels in white were at the tomb, and the text says, “They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. ‘Woman,’ he said, ‘why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).”
In the very next chapter, in John 21:1-14, His own disciples didn’t recognize Him either when they saw him. They didn’t even recognize Him when He
spoke to them.
We read, “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea
of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were
unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the
water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
Why would the disciples even think about asking Him, “Who are you?”
He must have looked different, somehow.
Not only will our new bodies appear differently, they’ll also act differently.
Our present bodies, patterned after the 1st Adam, are subject to sin, like the 1st Adam. But our new bodies, patterned after the 2nd Adam, Christ, will be sinless! Think of it! Our new bodies will be unable to sin!
That’s why we’ll never die, by the way; because death is the wages of sin. No more sin equals no more death, and that also means no more sickness, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more cancer, no more clogged arteries, no more slipped discs, no more cavities, no more wasting away or dementia as we get older. Our spiritual bodies, our sinless, godly bodies, will be raised imperishable, in glory and in power!
Let me say just a few more words about the mistaken notion that people turn into angels when they die. This idea comes from Jesus’ words in Matthew
22:30, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
To be “like the angels” doesn’t mean we’ll become angels. We’ll be “like
the angels” in the specific way that Jesus mentioned. That is, we’ll “neither marry nor be given in marriage.” That’s a far cry from becoming angels.
Jesus doesn’t even say we’ll be like the angels in every respect. He says we’ll be like the angels, specifically in that we’ll “neither marry nor be given in marriage.” He’s only talking about marriage here. We’ll be like angels in that we won’t marry or have more children. We’ll still know and love our spouses, but no more new people will be created in glory.
Luke 20:36 also tells us that we’ll be like angels in that we won’t die. It says, “…they can no longer die; for they are like the angels.”
So there are certain things we’ll have in common with the angels, but we won’t become angels. We’ll still have bodies. Angels don’t have bodies.
We’ll still be men and women. Angels aren’t male or female.
The reason there’s no marriage in heaven is that the present family system will give way to the new family system, where we’ll all be part of the one family of God.
We’ll still know each other. We’ll still love our present loved ones just as much, even more than we do now.
That’s because there won’t be any more sin to diminish our love. But we’ll also love the whole family of God with a perfect and holy love. And we’ll live on the new, recreated earth, a recreated Paradise. And heaven won’t be separated from us like it is now, but heaven, the dwelling place of God, will be present, on the renewed earth, because God will be present, on earth, with His people, in a renewed creation, a renewed Paradise.
Romans 8:19-21 tells us, “19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
And Peter says, in II Peter 3:12-13, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
So there’ll be a continuity between the first heaven and earth and the new heaven and earth. But God’s renewed creation will be even more glorious than the original Paradise of God in the Garden of Eden, because even the possibility of sin will be done away!
Obviously the Bible doesn’t answer all the questions we might have about what our new bodies will be like. But we know enough now to be able to praise our Savior for that guaranteed hope we have of getting new, resurrected bodies. And we know enough now so that we can look forward to that resurrection with eager anticipation, like a little child looking forward to Christmas morning when he can open up all those gifts. He knows there’ll be some good things he expects, but he also knows there’ll probably be some wonderful surprises as well. So what’s wrong with God saving a few surprises for us at our resurrection?
But there’s one final point that needs to be made: Only those who believe in Jesus Christ will receive glorified bodies.
In Revelation 20:11-15 we read about the Final Judgment Day, when all those who’ve lived will be judged. John writes, “11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled
from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened [Those are the books in which God records everything you and I ever did, whether good or bad.]. Another book was opened, which is the book of life [That’s the book in which God records the names of all those who are saved.]. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
People of God, that’s not something anyone wants to experience. Our only hope of salvation from the everlasting punishment and wrath of God is to put our trust in Jesus Christ, Who arose as the firstfruits from the dead. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life for His people, so that they could have eternal life in that Paradise of God.
Jesus Christ was sinless. But we’re not. We’re all guilty sinners before the righteous judgment throne of God. We all deserve God’s wrath and eternal judgment in hell.
But here’s the Gospel of Good News for all men: Whoever believes on Jesus Christ and trusts in His righteous life, rather than his own goodness, will find forgiveness and eternal life. Whoever believes that Jesus Christ took the wrath of God upon Himself for their sins and that Jesus Christ offered up His perfect, sinless life unto God the Father in their place and on their behalf,
will find forgiveness for all their sins and will receive a perfect, glorified
body one day.
May God graciously grant all of us the ability to believe in Jesus Christ and to trust in Him to save us. May He help us not to trust in ourselves or in our own goodness to get to heaven. For then we know that we’ll be lost for sure!
And may God grant us the conviction of faith that we might enter into covenant with Jesus Christ, by joining His body, the church, where we may find all the means of grace necessary to teach us the truth and to bring us to that wonderful place of glory.
I hope, one day, to see all of you there in that glorious kingdom, with your glorious bodies, as together we bask forever in the faithful sunshine of God’s love and in the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ!