NEW BODIES IN HEAVEN?
In a recent memorial, my mind was jogged by my mother’s fear. She had nightmares about an operation because she wanted a complete body in heaven. She had worse nightmares when I had to have twenty surgeries because of a fire. It was no simple task to assure her that we shall not have to look upon our physical appearance in heaven.
The memorial service, of course was well orchestrated, proper respect to the departed was rendered and the minister personified the Apostle Paul on the resurrection. There was no crowning of the saint except some twinkling of a star in heaven. The knowledge of Paul was overwhelming and my mind strayed into asking, “Did he know more than Jesus?” He did on the road to Damascus encounter a light and a voice, but when did he sit down with Jesus and together they decided what kind of a body we shall receive in the resurrection. That precisely is the problem because Jesus gave us a direct answer by declaring that we shall be like angels (Lk.20: 36). We shall recognize each other across two worlds and encounter bliss or sorrow (Lk.16: 19-31): but God being Spirit (Jn.4: 24) and Breath of life (Gen.2: 7), there shall be no need for any kind of a body to imprison the soul again.
Where did Paul get his insight? He was a Pharisee and his predecessors were Apocalyptics. In Babylon, they adopted the Persian-Hellenistic concept of a more perfect world and lasting human existence and modified it into a physical resurrection. The Hebrews believed that man came from the earth and shall return to dust (Gen.3: 19). Man would see God without the flesh (Job.19: 26). Daniel, the father of the Hebrew Apocalyptics, envisioned a starry glimmer in the future kingdom (Dan.12: 1-4). His imagery is present in Paul and the Book of Revelation. Like the Apocalyptics, Paul believed that the Messiah would return instantly and give the saints new bodies for the millennial kingdom (I Thes.4: 13-5: 11). When his prediction did not occur, he redefined his view in I Corinthians 15. The resurrection was essential. Otherwise, Christ could not have risen from the dead and our faith would be in vain. As far as the new bodies in heaven were concerned they would be imperishable and glorious. No form or shape of any kind is depicted and neither is there any claim that the Apostle was assisted like elsewhere by the Holy Spirit (I Cor.7: 40). Progressive revelation appears to be more or less progressive imagination. For that reason, I stopped speculating and trust Jesus for my final form.