The Joys, Beauty, and Glory of Resurrection
The location of “heaven” is traditionally “up”, somewhere “beyond the blue”, and when Christians are about to die, they like to think that they will travel “up” to be with the Lord in heaven. Certain verses in the Bible have fostered this impression, and therefore it would be presumptuous to present any alternative. But wait a minute –
Did the three angels fall out of the sky to meet with Abraham? Didn’t they just appear? And weren’t the chariots and horsemen there all the time? Elisha’s servant just needed his eyes to be opened to see them. Didn’t Jehovah dwell in the midst of His people Israel, rather than in some other galaxy? Isn’t it rather a case of a dimensional change than ageographical change that we are asked to believe? Isn’t Heaven all around us, but in an invisible state? If that is the case, then all references to “up” are just a convenient way of speaking about heaven. It is a Figure of Speech that needs to be understood.
The Bible speaks about two “levels” of heaven, depicted in the Bible by the Astronomical Heavens, and the Aerial Heavens. There are two dimensions beyond our present comprehension, and the higher one, (the Astronomical) is invisible to the lower one (the Aerial). Satan and his angels dwell in the Aerial Heaven. He is “the Prince of the power of the Air”. He was thrown out of the Astronomical Heaven when he fell.
With that little preamble, let’s talk about Resurrection. Paul said that the Lord will “descend from Heaven”, and we shall “meet Him in the Air.” Understanding the figure, the Lord will translate Himself to be visible in the Aerial Heaven, and we shall be translated from Earth Dimension to meet Him in the Aerial Heaven. This can take place without us moving an inch from where we are on Planet Earth. It won’t be a case of “little piles of clothes lying about”, or “airline pilots suddenly disappearing”. It will be a case of a sudden transformation here on the earth. This is where God wants His resurrected sons to be. He has work for all such. They will be His representatives to govern and rule the peoples of the world in His Kingdom. Amusing little pictures of people sitting on clouds, with wings sprouting from their shoulders, playing harps, could not be further from truth and reality.
God’s Kingdom will contain two types of people. The vast majority will be the people of the world, as now. These will enjoy benefits of a type unknown to this present world, but coupled with this joy will be a far greater responsibility, that of learning about God, about righteousness and holiness, about God’s demands on human life, as Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Friend. The Lord Jesus will send His Ambassadors to accomplish this task. They will have been trained and prepared for the task, passing through this valley experience, learning of God through obedience and suffering, until their hearts beat in unison with that of the Son of God.
When Jesus died on the cross for all mankind, He reversed the curse of death for all. That which Adam lost, is now given as a free gift to all mankind. This is the legal position. It stands firm by law, as any well-versed Lawyer would testify. But the Bible speaks about certain believers being “equal to angels” in resurrection. Jesus said that all such would have to reach a certain“worthiness”, and this is something beyond the grace gift of new Adamic life for all mankind. Herein is the crux of the problem facing all Biblical expositors. Most fail to see that although Jesus won redemption for all, not all reach the higher place of ruling with Him from the Heavenly Dimension. These are the ones whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The rest of mankind will have their names “written in the earth”, because they will be restored to the state of Adam and Eve before they fell. (See Jer.17:13)
What will it be like for those who “are accounted worthy” to attain rulership? First of all Paul speaks about “mortality” being exchanged for “immortality”, in other words death no longer has power over them. Then he speaks about “corruptibility” being exchanged for “incorruptibility”, human bodies that never grow old, but are self-sustaining, energised by Divine Principle. Then he says that there are “celestial bodies” and “terrestrial bodies”, showing the distinction between the two groups mentioned above. “God gives to each a body as it pleases Him.” Some will be Celestial Sons, that is, of a Heavenly Dimension, others will be Terrestrial Sons, like Adam before he fell. The Celestial Sons will be “equal to the angels”, as Jesus declared in Luke20:36. As such they will be able to appear and disappear on earth during the Kingdom, acting as God’s “messengers” (the meaning of the word Angels).
Paul knew that this dramatic change would not be a “once and for all” change. Yes, he realised that the sudden exchange of mortality for immortality would be instantaneous, like “the wink of an eye”, but after that further changes are in store. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor.3:18) There is nothing static in life, whether on earth or in heaven. With God, there is a continual movement for us from childhood to adulthood, from Grade 1 to University Level in learning of Him, from the ordinary human heart to that which “will praise and be enlarged”. (Isa.60:5)
Finally, a quotation from an ancient Jewish writing known as the “Works of Baruch”. Even in those early days, before the advent of Jesus, holy men of God knew some of the truths of Millennial Glory, and Resurrection. “In what shape will those live who live in Thy day? asked Baruch. And the Lord answered and said, It shall make no change in their form, but as it has received, so shall it restore them, for then it will be necessary to show to the living that the dead have come to life again, and that those who had departed have returned. . . . Their splendour shall be glorified in stages, and the form of their face shall be turned into the light of their beauty, that they may be able to acquire and receive the world that does not die, which is then promised to them. . . They shall be transformed into the splendour of angels. . . They shall behold the world that is now invisible to them, and they shall behold the time that is now hidden from them, and time shall no longer age them. In the heights of that world they shall dwell, and they shall be made like unto the angels, and be made equal to the stars, and they shall be changed into every form they desire, from beauty into loveliness, and from light into the splendour of glory.” (Extracts from 2 Baruch 49-51)
It is because of the exceeding wonder, beauty, and glory of this higher resurrection state, that Paul laid aside “that which is behind,” as he “stretched out to that which is before”, seeking the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The writer to the Hebrews spoke about “laying aside every weight and the sin which so easily binds us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” This is the joy that many of the Old Testament patriarchs knew about, and sought, despising earthly inheritance, and looking “for the city not made with hands, in the heavens.” This is the vision that grips the hearts of men who desire to be changed from being “drain pipes” into “golden goblets” for the Lord’s Table. (See 2 Tim.:20-21) All such need to “endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, not entangling themselves with the affairs of this life . . . for if one strive for masteries, he is not crowned except he strive lawfully.” Once having seen the vision, it can become the means of transporting them into the heights of glory. There will be no looking back.