by David Norris
These days, opinions about heaven abound. Some think that heaven will be populated with disembodied spirits, some think we will be angels, and some believe in eternal marriage. But there is really only one place where authoritative answers may be found: the Bible.
Recently, during a small group meeting at our church, a question came up about the hereafter; specifically,’ the questioner wanted to know about someone who had his spouse and what relationship he would have with her in heaven. This begs another question: if a relationship in heaven does not quite measure up to that same relationship on earth, would it not mean that heaven is lacking in some way?
These days, opinions about heaven abound. Some think that heaven will be populated with disembodied
spirits, some think we will be angels, and some believe in eternal marriage. But there is really only one place where authoritative answers may be found: the Bible.
First, let us be clear that the universal teaching of Scripture is that in the resurrection, we are not merely
spirit-beings. Hebrews 11:22 celebrates Joseph’s faith in a resurrection, a faith demonstrated by his charge for Israel to remove his remains from Egypt. While Joseph may not have understood everything regarding the resurrection, he did believe that his physical remains would be remade, and he did not want this to occur in Egypt.
Similar faith was exhibited by Job who he offered by faith, ”And though after my skin worms destroy this
body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). That is, even after Job’s body was destroyed, he believed that it was possible that in his flesh he would see God.
The corporal resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that the resurrection of the body is real, physical, and tangible. Further, such a resurrection was not unique with Jesus. In Corinthians 15, Paul links the literal resurrection of Jesus with a future hope. He insists that Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruit of what will happen to our bodies when the Lord returns (I Corinthians 15:20-23).
Some question the necessity of a bodily resurrection by pointing to Scriptures that insist that a person who dies is with the Lord, despite the fact their body is in the, grave. While the Bible does teach that, in fact, “to be absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8), this does not forego a future resurrection of the body. Indeed, the same Bible that celebrates our hope to be in the presence of the Lord when we die also anticipates the redemption of our physical bodies at the coming of the Lord.
Paul is very clear that in our resurrected state, our bodies will not decay or grow old. It is no accident that Paul utilizes words like “immortality” and “incorruptible” to describe this redemption (I Corinthians 15:51-2). John pronounces that at the second corning of Christ, “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
Further, the entire Bible teaches that the integrity of a person incorporates his physical body. The Old
Testament presentation of the makeup of a person is very holistic. Jewish understanding did not distinguish between a person’s body and the inner workings of that person. And although Old Testament writers understood that there was a separation of a person from their body at death, they also believed such a separation was temporary, and that an individual would ultimately be whole when their body was resurrected.
Sometimes people “over-read” Paul, forgetting that he had a Jewish conception of a person as a whole being and was not laden with Greek dualism with regard to the body, soul, and spirit. To overstate the Bible’s distinction of the body, soul, and spirit is to offer a caricature of biblical teaching. Certainly Paul could speak of sinful tendencies in opposition to those tendencies which are spiritual. But for Paul, the body (Greek soma) is not merely a prison to’ get beyond. It is part of integrated whole.
Again, while it is true that even when our bodies die, we live on, it would be wrong to think of our bodies as antithetic to our spiritual identities. There is nothing inherently sinful about our physical bodies. It was only in a sense of comparison of what will yet be that Paul could make the statement that the Lord will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
Death does not have final claim on our bodies. We will ultimately be changed, remade so that we will never be sick, grow old, or die. (Revelation 21:4.) Just as when the final article in the series devoted to examining the Book of Acts. Surveying the controversial history of Christian baptism amongst the early post-apostolic believers, Bell admitted that history supports the use of both singular and trine invocation, but he clearly believed Trinitarian baptism to be the default form. He explicitly railed against the “modern Los Angeles explanation” (a reference to the work of Frank Ewart and Glenn Cook): “But these new revelators have turned the table. They have reversed all history. They have done the new and unheard of thing.” Bell was clearly attempting to expose Ewart, Cook, and company as mere innovators, manufacturers of an extra-biblical doctrine.
In an apparent reversal of his early opinions, Eudorus Bell caused a great stir in the summer of 1915 when. after so vehemently opposing the “New Issue,” he was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ at the Third Interstate Encampment of the Assemblies of God in Jackson, Tennessee. The act made front page news in August 1915 Word and Witness. In September 19 Bell published a statement in the Weekly E” tellingly titled: “Who is Jesus Christ? Being as the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the True God of the New. A New Realization of Christ as God.” Though he claimed to retain his which he admitted he did not and could, the article is essentially an On the doctrine of Jesus Christ as God “I can say to-day [sic]. before His joy is rolling in my soul now never before. As I write His glory convulses my e physical frame. and I have to stop now and then and say ‘Glory’ or ‘Oh Glory’ to let some of it escape before last.. as I lay on my bed, I heard in the S it the sweetest, most soul- thrilling song of the wonderful name of Jesus I ever heard since I was born. people knew what God is putting in my soul by a d new vision of Jesus and the mighty and glorious name they was slain who’ now beginning to receive some honor and praise, b who will eventually make the whole universe-sea, and sky, reverberate with the universal praise Q honor to His great name. Hallelujah to His Name forever and ever.”
He continues throughout the piece to expound on Christ as Jehovah, Father and Creator revealed, and uses a collection of traditionally Oneness references to bu’t- his arguments (Isaiah 9:6; John 10:30; Colossians 2:9; Revelation 1:17). Bell ultimately never disconnected himself from the Trinitarian Assemblies of God, but this interesting episode clearly wrecks his nascent, stalwart stand against the Jesus Name formula. Another function of the Pentecostal circulars was to keep a clear roster of who was aligned with whom. Ewart who viewed Bell’s rebaptism as a victory for the Oneness camp, printed an expanded version of Bell’s Weekly Evangel article in his own Oneness publication, Meat in Due Season. In fa ,Ewart proposed in his history, “Phenomenon of Pentecost,” that the Word and tied to the point of mutilation, omitting some of th stronger Oneness statements made by Bell (Ewart 1 cast his lot with the Oneness subject re-erupted in the Trinitarian press. Bell made the announcement of ‘s defection in the Christian Evangel in an article, – Andrew lrshan’s New Stand. A Bit of Sad _- Citing Andrew Urshan’s strong confession of in the mighty God in Christ as published in his own periodical. Witness of God, Bell indicated that Urshan was willing to forfeit credentials with the Assemblies of God. He concluded the article with heartfelt concern for Urshan: “The above is given with deep. loving concern for Bro. Urshan and with no prejudice or ill will [sic] against him, only as new to the saints. Pray for God to guide Bro. Urshan.”
After the clear division of the Oneness and camps with the withdrawal of Oneness ministers in 1916, the heated controversies subsided. Today, however, we recognize the role of these periodicals in making up the ranks. The attacks on “New Issue” doctrine and believers played a significant role in controlling the impact of the Oneness movement on the Assemblies of God but surely stoked the fires of Oneness zeal and indignation as well. Undoubtedly, Flower and Bell believed that they were defending orthodoxy and protecting their fellowship from grievous wolves. The articles do evidence the sharp division ultimately caused by the propagation of the truth. In the days before email announcements and online discussion forums, even before widespread interstate telephone networks or broadcast stations, Pentecostal circulars were the neural system of the movement. Despite efforts to disinherit and discredit the Oneness movement, the power of the pen could not thwart the sovereign move of the Spirit as many leaders and congregations within the Assemblies of God accepted the Bible message of salvation and the apostolic teaching of the mighty God in Christ.
Jesus Christ was resurrected. He was the same person as He was before He died. albeit with a glorified body, so we too will be the same person as we are now when we receive our glorified body.
As we have begun to suggest, the Bible does tell us that there will be differences between our bodies now
and in the world to come. It is these differences that are sometimes the cause of concern. Consider in particular the statement of Jesus, where He taught the difference between earthly and heavenly relationships: “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).
Let us now briefly consider what the Bible did not mean by this Scripture verse. Jesus did not teach that we will be angels in the resurrection. Nor does the Bible teach that in heaven our loved ones will be unknown to us. In I Corinthians 13:12, Paul contrasts the present where “I know in part” with heaven where I shall “know even as also I am known.” Thus, someone who has been married on earth will know their spouse in heaven.
Earthly love is a wonderful thing. Godly marriage can yield a truly intimate relationship. For those who have lost a loved one, especially when grieving the pain of that loss, it may seem hard to comprehend how heaven could be any better than earth if our relationship with that loved one would in any way be changed. Yet, even though the institution of marriage can be an example of the deepest kind of human Im<! and intimacy. there are no perfect marriages .. farriages of any length at all bring with them a whole set of experiences. some good and pleasant. and some experiences we might perhaps want to forget. In heaven. it is not that failures and foibles on earth will be forgotten; rather they will be forgiven. Even tragic experiences and broken relationships will be redeemed through the work of Christ. Our failings will ultimately testify of God’s love and mercy. This ability to redeem brokenness is a biblical promise that is continually reaffirmed. In Revelation 7: 17, a heavenly scene demonstrates that God Himself “shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” This is an amazing hope, a reality that will be experienced beyond anything possible here in this life.
While it is true that men and women who were married on earth will not have a married relationship in
heaven, this must be understood in this same heavenly context. The best earthly relationship will pale by comparison to the love that we will have for the Lord and for each other in eternity.
This is difficult to grasp because we only “know in part.” In truth, total understanding of a heavenly reality is beyond our base of experience. Analogously, it is like children trying to understand some future adult experience because someone merely told them how wonderful it would be. Yet, however hard it is for us to perceive. the Bible teaches us that the really, really good experiences in this life are at best imperfect metaphors of our heavenly reality.
Relationships will be changed in heaven, but they will be changed for the better. While it may sometimes be hard to comprehend, in the end it comes down to a matter of trust. Paul says that we are currently seeing things through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12). That is, we are seeing only a reflection in a hazy mirror. But in heaven we will no longer see in this way; rather we shall see “face-to-face.” This “face-to-face” relationship not only describe the love we will feel toward the Lord; it describes as well the relationship that we will feel universally toward each other. In heaven, all brokenness will be history. In heaven, we will finally and ultimately be made whole. –
Yet, even though the institution of marriage can be an example of the deepest kind of human love and intimacy, there are no perfect marriages. Marriages of any length at all bring with them a whole set of experiences, some good and pleasant, and some experiences we might perhaps want to forget. In heaven, it is not that failures and foibles on earth will be forgotten; rather, they will be forgiven. Even tragic experiences and broken relationships will be redeemed through the work of Christ. Our failings will ultimately testify of God’s love and mercy.
excerpted from the Pentecostal Herald, August, 2009