(This article has been changed since March 2008 as a result of circumstances displayed in Wellspring 70)
In the last number I wrote about the beauties and joys of resurrection, the state we are awaiting with much longing. In this number, I should like to quote from a few testimonies, reproduced from chapter 27 of a book I am currently writing, entitled “Mysteries of Science and Faith.” The chapter is entitled “Caught up to Heaven.”
1. Sadhu Sundar Singh’s story is quite well known. But his frequent excursions into heavenly places are less known. In fact he was repeatedly caught up to heaven in visions, some of which have been recorded.
“I was told there [i.e. in heaven] that Christians leave behind them the physical body. The body is buried, but the spiritual body that is within them is then free to come out, and in this [spiritual body] we go to heaven. In the case of those caught up without dying, the physical body is completely spiritualised, for flesh and blood cannot inherit eternal life, but it is the same physical body, only completely transformed. I asked whether this applied to Enoch and Elijah, and was told ‘Yes’. An angel told me, ‘The body that you see is the soul, or spiritual body, possessed while in the temple of flesh on earth.’”
2. William Booth, (1829 – 1912) was the founder of the Salvation Army. He was born in Nottingham and became an itinerant Methodist preacher, but eventually left Methodism to work amongst the poor, establishing a mission in Whitechapel, London, in 1865. The established churches were reluctant to accept his slum converts, and so he eventually formed the Salvation Army in 1877, with himself as “General.” But whereas many have read about his work and his life, few know that he received a vision of heaven, and so here is a brief extract from his writing.
Though attempting to describe a person redeemed from the earth as he appeared in his spiritual form in heaven, Booth said,“Describe the shape, the features and bearing of this noble form I cannot, and will not attempt it. He was at the same time earthly and celestial. I discovered, therefore, at a glance that he was one of the blood-washed multitude, and I not only judged from a certain majestic appearance, which he bore, but from instinct, I felt that the being before me was a man, a redeemed and glorified man. He looked at me and I could not help but return his gaze. His eyes compelled me, and in doing so I confessed to being ravished by his beauty. I could never have believed the human face divine could have borne so grave a stamp of dignity and charm, but far beyond the entrancing love-lines of those celestial features was the expression through every ligament of that countenance, and through those eyes that were gazing upon me. It was as though that face was only a sun-lit window through which I could see into the depths of the pure benevolent soul within. He spoke first. Had he not done so I could never have summoned courage to address him. His voice was soft and musical and fitted well with the seriousness of his aspect.”
Concerning a certain lady he met in the heavenly vision, General Booth wrote as follows – “She told me her name. I had heard it on earth. She was a widow who had struggled through great difficulties. After her husband’s death she had given herself up unreservedly to fight for the Lord. Her children had been her first care and all but one had been saved.
“There was a dignity of bearing of inward power, the same marvellous expression and purity and joy as in the case of the man just described, but in this case combined (I could imagine) with a beauty of more delicate and enthralling mould. Beautiful as I thought my first visitor to be, more beautiful than conception or dream of earth could be, yet here was a beauty that surpassed it – not, perhaps if judged from inherent rules, but judged from my standpoint. My former visitor, I have said, was a glorious man; this was the more glorified form of a woman.
“I had, when on earth, sometimes thought I could have wished the privilege of beholding Eve in the hour when she came forth from the hands of her Maker, and I had imagined something – only something, of what her beautiful form must have been as she sprang into being on that bridal morning, young and pure and beautiful – perhaps the sweetest work of God. No, here I saw her – I saw Eve reproduced before my eyes as young, pure and beautiful, nay, more beautiful than her first mother could possibly have been, for was not this God’s finished workmanship?”
But some who read these lines will be asking, “Surely, these people are not in their resurrection bodies yet?” Indeed, no. But the following extract will be helpful here, in order to clarify the matter.
3. In the writings of H.A.Baker we find his description of the salvation and subsequent filling with the power of the Holy Spirit of a group of over twenty Chinese orphan children, varying in age between 8 and 18, in the years prior to the Communist take-over in China. Baker and his wife Josephine were working there in the south-west corner of Yunnan, the most south-west province of China, in a little town called Kotchiu, having about 5000 inhabitants.
During the days when the Spirit’s power fell upon these “street urchins,” now washed in the precious blood of Christ, they were taken up to heaven in vision and in the spirit, much as the Apostle John was when he wrote the Revelation. And like General Booth, they had converse with some of the redeemed from earth who had died in former years. On returning from their “heavenly adventures” Baker quizzed them extensively about the experience, comparing their answers with the Scriptures he knew so well. Although the orphans were illiterate, unlearned, and had only that brief knowledge of the Bible which they had heard at the Adullam Home, they gave accurate answers, and each confirmed the next about what they saw. This became the subject of Baker’s best-selling book, “Visions beyond the Veil”, together with his other lesser-known works– (“Heaven and the Angels”, & “Planes of Glory and Gloom”) This is what Baker had to say –
“I have already told how our children had visions of some of our Adullam people already dead and now in heaven, clothed in white and enjoying Paradise, and of their seeing the saints of old clothed in white. The Scripture teaches that between death and the resurrection the saints have spiritual bodies and are clothed in white. (Rev. 6:9-11) When I cross-questioned the children as to how they knew whether the saints they saw in heaven had been resurrected or not, they said they did not know until the angels told them that they saw only the souls of the saints and that their bodies had not been resurrected. I questioned and cross-questioned in some of these matters and always got a uniform testimony.”
Here then is the answer to a puzzle that has perplexed a number of students of the Word of God. They accept that in vision and in near-death experiences, people have seen white-robed saints, but have doubted the testimony insofar as it seems to contradict the Scriptural statements about the day of resurrection. But apparently in this interim period the “soul” is clothed upon with a form that enables recognition and is a sort of foretaste of the resurrection body, whereby the saints may have converse with each other in those higher regions.