Have you ever watched someone die? Have you ever seen or touched a cold, lifeless corpse? It’s not fun or comfortable to talk about death; morbid is the term people use to describe this kind of talk. But many people have witnessed death firsthand and some have handled bodies after their life has left them. Some do this professionally, but it doesn’t take an advanced degree to recognize when a person is dead. There is no breathing, no movement, no beating heart; there is simply no life. The single most notable and terrifying attribute of death is its finality. Everybody knows that death is final and irreversible. There are no second chances, no do-overs, and no going back. When a person is pronounced dead, they are dead and are no longer living life as we know it. (By the way, zombies aren’t real in case you were wondering).
When Jesus was crucified on a cross, some of His disciples watched Him die. At least one saw a soldier drive a spear into Jesus’ side as a proof of his death. Two men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, took Jesus’ body and prepared it for burial according to customs, and placed it in a tomb. The tomb was then closed and sealed shut. Jesus was dead and everyone knew it, especially His followers and closest friends.
Therefore, as you could imagine, when His disciples saw Jesus alive again—walking, talking, even eating and drinking—they were completely astonished. Some didn’t recognize Him at first, while others doubted and needed to see physical proof (holes in His hands and side) to believe He was really Jesus. (see John 20). Can you even begin to fathom the joy they must have felt when they saw Him? The raw emotion that flowed from their hearts and their eyes must surely have been spectacular. To lose someone so dearly loved and so innocent in such a violent manner was absolutely devastating. The voices of fear and doubt and hopelessness likely rang loudly in their ears. But then to suddenly have this loved one restored to life and returned to His friends and family—that had to instantly shatter those voices! The tears of joy surely overflowed and overshadowed their former tears of grief.
Do you think Jesus’ disciples treated Him differently and even lived differently after His resurrection? I’ll bet they did. I’m sure they had a tremendous increase in faith and hope for the future. Their fear and doubts melted away as they looked forward to the promise of God’s kingdom. They probably appreciated every minute they had with Jesus all the more because they actually knew what it was like to lose Him. I can also guarantee they listened more attentively than ever before when Jesus talked. I’m sure they obeyed His teaching and commands far more passionately after seeing Him literally raised from the dead. But what about the rest of us? As Jesus said to Thomas, “have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29 ESV).
Jesus didn’t just raise Himself from the dead to prove something; He overcame the power of sin and death in this world and thereby gave us the opportunity to be given life—real life with Him—that will never end. Jesus has often been referred to as the new Adam, meaning that He is the first of a new generation or a new kind of human. As sin and death entered the world through one man (Adam), so salvation and new life entered the world through Jesus. His resurrected body gives us a glimpse of what our resurrected bodies will be like. Notice that He didn’t burst out of the grave with a pair of newly grown wings and a halo over his head, flying off into the sunset like a corny John Travolta movie.
He walked. He talked. He ate and drank. He taught and had conversations. He did many of the same things He did before His death, yet He also seemed to circumvent some physical barriers like showing up in a house with locked doors and ascending into Heaven.
For those who put their faith in Jesus, we have real, improved, resurrected bodies to look forward to after we die. We don’t become angels and surely we won’t morph into some kind of half-bird, half-human creature with ridiculously large, feathered wings. (I also hope I don’t have to learn to play the harp). We will have bodies that resemble our present bodies, but without all the blemishes and flaws. We will walk but without limps, sore feet, or other impediments. We will eat food, but not too much and we won’t have to worry about carbs and sugars and calories. We will live without the fear of bacteria, disease, injury and death.
You see, Heaven is like the very best things of this world without the corruption of sin and evil. After all, every good thing comes from God who created it. Imagine spending your entire life in the presence of God, living in harmony with Him and everyone and everything else in a redeemed body. For the redeemed sinner, death has lost its sting. It is no longer a tragic end of existence to be feared and avoided, but a welcome gateway into the beginning of a new life in a new world spent with the Creator of the universe. This life will be familiar, yet so different from our current lives in this corrupt and sinful world.
Question: What do you think we will look like in Heaven? What will we do when we get there?
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For more on this topic, see Heaven by Randy Alcorn.