Table of Contents
Part III: The Nature of the Interval
THE BIBLICAL DATA
are the passages of Scripture upon which my thesis depends. There
are probably other
passages which bear on the matter, but after many years of studying
the Bible in the original languages
and testing my ideas on my friends and on small audiences, I
do not think I have missed very many.
Every hypothesis is tentative by its
very nature, and mine is no exception. It can certainly be refined,
at least forms a starting point and it may be that by opening
up fresh avenues of approach, other minds of
greater precision will be enabled to hit upon the exact truth.
Some of these passages are expressions
of hope (from the Psalms, for example), others seem almost
chance observations ('asides,' as it were), some are promises
made by the Lord Himself (chiefly in the Gospels), while others
are theological in character and categorical in tone (for the
most part from the Epistles).
Finding and analyzing this data
I accept without hesitation the
position that all Scripture is inspired and is therefore profitable
material, sometimes in unexpected ways. One should keep a constant
look-out for further passages that
bear on the issue, which have not hitherto been recognized as
doing so. In my view 'inspiration' can have
range of meanings. Broadly, I take it to signify that material
is, by inspiration, included within the pages
of Holy Writ by God's express intention, whether it is from some
secular source such as existing records
(cf. Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18; etc.(1)), or is new information resulting directly by revelation,
as a chance observation during the course of a normal conversation,
or even involves the untruthful
words of man or Satan himself (cf. Genesis 3: 4, 5; Job 1:9-11).(2) Thus statements are included
in the Bible
either by divine instruction, or by divine permission,
or by revelation.
I am convinced, moreover, that
in a great many places, the very wording is overruled in order
that the message is precisely conveyed and not merely the general
sense given. In expressing human
emotion this may or may not be so important in the ordinary course
of events, but where revealed truth in
the abstract is involved, it seems to me that it would be virtually
impossible for ideas or factual data to be
conveyed without the aid of verbal inspiration. Man often chooses
words poorly and consequently
misleads his hearers. It does not seem to me that God would ever
do this. But only rarely can ideas be
conveyed by mere images save in mathematical terms. It is words
that are crucial as a rule. To claim that
meaning is inspired but not the wording often seems
to me to be an evasion.
I would also argue that all Scripture
has equal value and authority for whatever reason it came to
included. Any passage may form part and parcel of the resource
material at our disposal. Obviously not all
passages do, but any passage may. The words of the Lord
himself do not, in my view, carry more weight than the words
of Paul or John or James even though the Lord's words may
have been printed in red ink,
as they are in some editions of the Bible. The whole of Scripture,
if it is divinely inspired, has equal importance since
the One who inspired it is the same Lord throughout, whether
He was the actual speaker or not.
Thus I make no apology for my literalism
but rather tend towards the view that it is probably the only
1. "Then spake Joshua to the Lord in
the day when the Lord delivered up the Ammorites before the children
of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand still
upon Gibeon, and you, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the
sun stood still, and the moon stayed, till the nation avenged
itself upon its enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher?"
Joshua 10:12, 13. "David lamented with this lamentation
over Scul and over Jonathan his son: (also he bade them teach
the children of Judah the use of the bow as it is written in
the Book of Jasher)." 2 Samuel 1:17, 18.
2. "The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the
fruit from the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree
which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, you shall
not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. The
serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die. For God
knows that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be
opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
Genesis 3:2-5. "Then Satan answered the Lord, and said,
Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge about
him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every
side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance
is increased in the land. But put forth your hand now, and touch
all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." Job
in which to unravel the
apparent contradictions that seem clearly to exist between certain
key statements that relate to the things we shall experience
as we make the journey "across Jordan" into the 'forever'
world of eternity.
Here, then, is a list of the passages
to be examined in this chapter, a list which at first reading
give contradictory data but which we hope to reconcile in the
Old and New
Luke 23:42,43 1
Corinthians 15:35-53 Philippians
Psalm 17:15 John 3:13 1
Corinthians 4:14 1
Isaiah 26:19 John
14:2, 3 2
Corinthians 5:1-8 1
Daniel 12:2 Acts
Philippians 1 :23
l John 3:2
passages, about which there is little if any agreement as to
their meaning or relevance to
this issue, will be found in Appendix I, including these New
Matthew 12:29; 16:18; 27:51-5 2
1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6
Revelation 1:18; 20:2,7,13,14.
I do not propose
that these passages should be examined in the order in which
they appear in Scripture,
as though God had so arranged that each succeeding author should
add the next piece of required
information before laying down his pen. The Word of God is not
like other books in this respect. In the end,
one usually finds that one has to gather all the available data
on any biblical theme and then reflect upon
it before the proper ordering of the data becomes clear. The
synthesis is likely to require that the data
then be re-arranged time and again until, suddenly, like the
pieces of a jigsaw puzzle correctly
assembled, the whole picture emerges at last. It means that the
deeper truths of God are hidden from the
dilettante, from the casual reader or the idly curious: understanding
is the reward only of diligent search.
Life is like this. We do not discover
the meaning of life in an orderly way by the mere accumulation
Lessons usually come to us in random order, and it is doubtful
if it can ever be fully understood until it is nearly
completed and it comes time to die. . . .
the laboratory, the same seemingly haphazard accumulation of
data is characteristic of scientific
research. Many discoveries are made in spite of, rather than
because of, the available data. The popular
view of the scientist steadily gathering facts, day by day adding
just the right piece of information next
required to complete the picture to date, is far from the truth.
Often the next piece of information actually
contradicts the last piece! Time and again one has to abandon
a hypothesis in its current state or modify
it quite radically, until one day a single insight often
coming quite unsought provides the missing
key. The accumulated data is then re-assembled, perhaps into
a set of entirely new relationships, and
there it is: the meaning of it all at last, the resolution that
reconciles the contradictions! The thrill this
gives to the research worker only a research worker can know.
. . .
A. B. Davidson in his Theology
of the Old Testament makes a very a propos statement
in this regard with
respect to biblical research:(3)
One thing that characterizes
Scripture in distinction from modern literature [wherever
authorship is multiple] is that its deliverances on any subject
are consistent throughout.
There is no such violent antithesis of opinion [on its subject
matter] as occurs in modem
literature. From beginning to end of the Bible the view taken
of death, for example, and sin,
But the full view is nowhere presented
at once; and hence, in order to pass a just judgment as
to the Scripture's teaching on such a subject, we have to familiarize
ourselves with the
whole of Scripture. The acquiring of this familiarity
is not an easy thing. It takes, I might say,
the labour and experience of a life time.
The study of
Scripture is not essentially different from the study of Nature.
In both, what is hidden from the
casual student is often revealed to the dedicated one, and the
discovery of new truths becomes the most exciting experience
This is not to say that novelty
has a virtue in itself or that we should ignore what others before
mined from the Word of God. But it is a fact that every branch
of organized knowledge, including theology,
has a constant tendency towards crystallization into a closed
system which resists further elaboration or
refinement. Yet it does not do to make such elaborations or refinements
too freely or too quickly. And it is
no less unhealthy to be reluctant to entertain "second thoughts.
. . ."
3. Davidson, A.B., The Theology of the
Old Testament, Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1911, p.514.
Now I have laid some emphasis on the importance of
the actual wording of any text under scrutiny. In
THE TIMING OF HIS COMING:
the present analysis of the passages listed above, I may be
accused of an unwarranted dependence upon
"jots and tittles." Admittedly I am taking the wording
very seriously and seeking to extract out of the data
every ounce of meaning that can be mined. I believe it is safer
to err on this side than to treat the words
casually as though their precise meaning is a matter of relative
indifference so long as we note their
broader implications. At any rate, it is surprising how rewarding
such attention to detail can be. . . and my
own professional life, spent in a research laboratory, has taught
me that it can make all the difference in
the world to what will be discovered.
Resolving the Contradiction: "Today"
or "When I Come Again"
The first example of two apparently
irreconcilable statements to which I wish to draw attention,
found in John 14:2 and 3 and Luke 23:43. Remember, I am paying
strict attention to the actual wording!
The first is a promise made by
the Lord to his disciples, which has brought enormous comfort
assurance to God's people in times of stress. Yet the implications
of it, if we take it to mean precisely what
it says, are almost always overlooked and seldom if ever commented
upon from the pulpit. Jesus said
(John 14:2, 3):
In my Father's house
are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to
prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for
you, I will come again and receive
you unto myself; that where I am there you may be also.
is this return? Surely, at the end of the present age, and therefore
already nearly 2000 years in the
future when the promise was made. But the Lord made a similar
promise to the penitent thief which
implied no such delay in fulfillment. To him, He said: "Verily
I say unto you, Today you shalt be with me in
paradise." (Luke 23:43.)
Now whatever the word paradise
may signify, it is clear that the thief was to be with
the Lord that very
day. It seems equally clear that the disciples were going
to be with the Lord only after He returns the
second time. This appears to signify a long wait for the disciples
but an immediate entry for the thief. For
the thief, reception was to be that very day: for the disciples,
reception was only to be at the end of the
age. How do we reconcile these two statements?
It is very difficult to re-interpret
the promise to the dying thief in any other way than to take
words quite literally. And we seem to have little alternative
but to do the same with the Lord's words (in
John 14:3) to the disciples. Yet there appears clearly to be
a contradiction involved.
In short, both promises guarantee
a joyful reunion with the Lord: but it looks as though the thief
was to be
with the Lord thousands of years before the Lord's own disciples
were to be. They must wait till He
returns. . . .
The contradiction: now or later?
However, the prospects of the Lord's
disciples, when judged by the statements made in John 14:2 and
seem very different from what Paul anticipates for himself and
his readers (as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
For we know that if our
earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building
God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this [house] we groan,
earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which
is from heaven: if so be that being
clothed we shall not be found naked.
For we who are in this tabernacle
do groan, being burdened: not that we would be unclothed,
but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
Now he that has wrought us for
the self-same thing is God, who has also given unto us the
earnest of the spirit.
Therefore we are always confident,
knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent
from the Lord: (for we walk by faith, not by sight) we are confident,
I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be
present with the Lord.
is true that we don't at all desire to be without embodiment.
What we really desire is a perfect one,
such a body as would cause us no shame whatever in heaven and
in the presence of the Lord who is now
clothed in his glorious body. And we are confident that God has
constituted us for this very thing.
Furthermore, we have to believe
that the change will be somehow wrought instantly, since it is
that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord,
and to be present with the Lord means to
have been 'received' by Him, a reception which is only to occur
when He returns. Since it is when He
returns that our bodies are to be resurrected, these things must
somehow all happen at one time.
Paul underscores the immediacy
of our entry into his presence when he says in Philippians 1:23,
I am in a strait betwixt leaving
you, my beloved friends, and having a desire to depart to be
with Christ which is far better.
really is no reconciliation possible between John 14:3 (which
promises a delay) and Luke 23:43
(which, in agreement with 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Philippians
1:23, assures us there is no delay) unless we assume
that the thief's Today is just another way of expressing
the disciples' When I come again!
That particular "Today" was (or is) coincident with
that "When I come again."
Now David's expressed wishes bear
out the same seemingly contradictory circumstance. In Psalm 17:15
As for me, I will behold
your face in righteousness [i.e., when I have been made perfect]:
I shall be satisfied when I awake with your likeness.
is no question that to "awake" means to be resurrected.(4) This is true whether the
context refers to
4. An equally specific expression of hope
for the resurrection of the body is to be found in Isaiah 26:19,
"Your dead shall live, with my dead body shall they arise.
Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust. . . and the earth
shall cast out the dead."
the saved or the unsaved
as Daniel 12:2 makes clear: "Many of them that sleep in
the dust of the earth
shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and
It is true that in the New Testament
'sleep' seems to be reserved for the saints, but this is not
true in the
Old Testament (cf. 1 Kings 22:40, for instance(5)) so that it would appear only that there is no mention
unsaved sleeping in the New Testament. But Daniel 12:2 makes
it clear that the unsaved do indeed sleep in
death and thus are indeed asleep at this moment, since the resurrection
unto Judgment has not yet taken
place for them. Thus there is clearly an interval of some length
in the light of the Scriptures, separating
the time of dying and the time of awakening for the saved and
the unsaved alike.
But David certainly closely associates
two events he is eager to experience: (1) his acquisition of
'likeness' to the Lord, and (2) his awakening from the dead.
Both of these events we know from other passages
belong to the time of the Lord's return. Of the first experience
we have precise confirmation in 1 John 3:2
which reads: "Beloved, we are even now the sons of God,
and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but
we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him: for
we shall see Him as He is." Thus David's
expectation was the same as ours: to see the Lord when He comes
again and at once to be made like Him.
But with respect to the second
experience, we know that David did not at once pass into
presence, since years after David's death, the Lord Himself told
his listeners (in John 3:13) that no one
had yet ascended into heaven. It is true that this was spoken
before the Lord had died and risen again, but
we find Peter re-affirming the fact (Acts 2:34), making particular
mention of David himself! He said, "For
David is not yet ascended into the heavens."
Thus we have to ask again, How
does the immediacy of which Paul speaks come about? And how do
understand the Lord's words to the thief if even David, a man
after God's own heart (Acts 13:22(6)), has not
yet entered into the Lord's presence? How do we understand Paul's
assurance if, according to the Lord
Himself, no man at all has yet ascended into heaven?
5. So Ahab slept with his fathers. . . ."
I Kings 22:40.
6. "[God] raised up unto them David to be their king, to
whom also he gave testimony and said, I have found David, the
son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will fulfill all
my will." Acts 13:22
THE ORDER OF JOINING HIM AT HIS
It seems to me that we have been
settling for a very imprecise picture of events which will transpire
between death and the resurrection of the body, in spite of the
fact that we have at the same time been
comforting ourselves in the persuasion that we are quite sure
about what is to happen. This seems very
unsatisfactory and it is strange that the difficulty has not
been faced up to long before this. Of course, it
has been wrestled with by a few, but the tendency has been to
gloss over the problems created by such
passages, and to assure ourselves that there is no delay really
in our entry into the Lord's presence, and
that the delay in respect to our new bodies is of little importance.
We really do not need these bodies.
Personally I am convinced
we shall be at once with the Lord, but I am equally convinced
we do need our
bodies! I am also convinced there will be no delay in receiving
the latter, but that nevertheless there will
be an interval! It is possible to reconcile these
apparent contradictions. Let us therefore pursue the
subject a little further by examining carefully one of the most
precise statements that Paul has made
about the events which accompany the Lord's return. I have reserved
this for the Second Section of this
The Precedence of the Dead over the Living
One of the most elaborate and precisely
worded portions of Scripture dealing with the events surrounding
the passage of the saints into the presence of the Lord is to
be found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It is also
one of the most difficult to deal with successfully because the
implications of it are highly complex in view of the fact that
it is a time of reunion not only of departed spirits with their
resurrected bodies but also of
saints who are still living at the time of the Lord's return
with their transformed bodies.
The passage deserves (and requires)
very careful analysis. It reads as follows (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18):
would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning
them which are asleep, that you
sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe
that Jesus died and rose
again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring
For this we say unto you by
the Word of the Lord [i.e., by inspiration] that we which
and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them
which are asleep.
For the Lord Himself shall
descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel
and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise
first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught
up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord
in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
There are several
rather special things about these verses. In the first place,
Paul makes it clear that he
views what he is about to say as particularly important. He says,
by way of preface, "I don't want you to be
ignorant, brethren what I am about to say to you is intended
above all to be a comfort and a
re-assurance. And for this reason I also want you to know that
I have received this detailed information
as from the Lord! I speak as a prophet of God: 'Thus says the
What is he actually telling us?
When will the dead in Christ be raised?
The environment in which the Thessalonian
Christians had grown up was a far from reassuring one when
it came to current beliefs about the fate of the dead. Many probably
shared the very nebulous 'hope' of the
Greek philosophers who followed Plato in the belief that no certainty
was possible though logic seemed in
favour of some kind of shadowy existence that might not be too
bad. According to Plato, Socrates did
believe that there were probably gods in that after-world, and
he expressed the pious hope that they
would be good, not evil. Socrates was not even certain that any
human beings would be there, though he himself seems to have
felt reasonably confident of being present which was a
fine piece of conceit!
There was, of course,
no concern for re-embodiment: it was considered undesirable.
But Paul wants God's people to
know with absolute certainty that when the Lord returns, He will
those who have died in the faith:(7) only then will He call up to be with Himself those
of his people who at
that moment are still alive. So shall we all the departed
saints and the still living alike join together,
transformed and made perfect in spirit and body, to be
thereafter forever with the Lord. The living will not
go first to join Him, but those who have already departed this
life in the faith. Their bodies will be raised
from the dust, and they will be instantly re-constituted as whole
persons. Then will the still living join
their brethren in the Lord in the most marvelous assembly that
the mind can conceive! It seems clear that
these events follow one another in rapid succession.
In what form do the dead exist?
Let us now try to imagine exactly
what it is that God will have the Lord "bring" with
Him (verse 14) when He returns. The language is very specific.
Since the spirit returns to God
at death and is there presumably preserved in God's keeping until
it is to be
reunited with its body again, and since there is reason to believe
that the spirit without the body is not a
conscious entity but only one component of personal identity,
we have to try to visualize in what form
these spirits are brought back by Jesus to the earth.
Clearly they are brought back specifically
for the purpose of completion by union with their resurrected
bodies which thus reconstitutes them as whole persons. To view
them as mere "essences" of soul-stuff
rather than conscious beings is difficult admittedly. It may
therefore help to consider a parallel situation
which must surely occur at the ensoulment of every newborn child.
The situation is, therefore, by no
means without precedent.
In the generation of every one
of us, our parents supply the body, but it is God who forms the
infuses it into the body when that body is ready to receive it.
What precisely is it that God infuses? It is
surely not a finished, fully formed personality, though it may
indeed have the potential structure
7. Paul speaks of the order at the event of
His second coming: "The Lord Himself shall descend from
heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with
the trump of God: and the dead in Christ [i.e., Christians who
have departed this scene] shall rise first: then we which are
alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be
with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.) That is, not
simply "the bodies of the dead", but "the dead"
those persons who have died "will
rise to meet the Lord in the air". What else can this possibly
signify than those who have departed have not yet met the Lord,
but will do so when He descends from heaven?
necessary for the personality
which God intends shall develop. Evidently, what God infuses
is indeed a
potential, some essence, or as Thomas Aquinas would have used
the word, some "substance." It is not a physical
substance but spiritual; not substance in the concrete sense
but substantial in the sense that it
is a reality, albeit only a spiritual one. Perhaps the nearest
approximation we might have is that of an
angelic being immediately after his creation. By this I do not
mean we are embodied angels, but that what
God creates is not simply a cloud with no defined boundaries.
It is something sufficiently identifiable that it can be spoken
of as taken back again by God unto Himself when the body is no
longer able to house it
appropriately (Ecclesiastes 12:7 carries this implication(8)).
The accounts we have of persons
brought back to life (like the daughter of Jairus, for example,
something of this sort where it is said that her spirit returned
again. From whence does it
return, if not from God, since it returned to God
in death (Job 34:14-15; Psalm 3 1:5; Acts 7:59; etc.(10))?
Evidently the spirit has two places of rest: in the body or in
God's keeping, and it passes back and forth
between the two.(11)
8. "Then shall the dust return to the
earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave
it." Ecclesiastes 12:7.
9. "A man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and
fell at Jesus' feet and begged him to come to his house. For
he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay
dying. But as he [Jesus] went . . . one came from the ruler of
the synagogue's house, saying, Your daughter is dead: trouble
not the Master. But when Jesus heard it he said, Fear not; only
believe, and she shall be made whole. When he came to the house
. . . all were weeping and bewailing her, and he said, Weep not;
she is not dead, but sleeps. They laughed him to scorn, knowing
that she was dead. He put them all out. He took her by the hand,
and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and
she arose immediately." Luke 8:49-55
10. "If he [God] set his heart upon a man, if he gather
unto himself his [man's] spirit and breath; all flesh shall perish
together, and man shall turn again unto dust." Job 34:14,
15. "Into your hand I commit my spirit: you have redeemed
me, O Lord God of truth." Psalm 31:5. "And they stoned
Stephen, as he was calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus,
receive my spirit." Acts 7:59.
11. But does the spirit pass back and forth is it not a
"one way street"? Where was Lazarus' spirit in those
four days? There seem to be three situations possible: a) in
death, the spirit leaves the body; b) in resuscitation, the spirit
returns to the body; and c) in resurrection, the body is reunited
with the spirit. The difference in the latter two is that in
resuscitation both the body and the spirit are unchanged whereas
in resurrection it is a new body reunited with a perfected spirit.
Death occurs when the body no longer permits expression of the
spirit whereas in resuscitation the body is brought, by external
means, to a condition which permits, once again, expression of
the spirit. Whether the spirit had really left the body in such
a case is a moot point. In "out-of-body" experiences
(OBEs) where people recount experiences of "having gone
to heaven" (or otherwise), it is doubtful that death has
actually occurred, since it is not possible for a memory to be
engrammed if the "machinery" is not operating. The
author, on November 27, 1983, suffered within 2 hours 4 cardiac
arrests, yet had no memory of events for almost 12 hours, even
though in that period he carried on normal conversations with
nurses and friends. So even when a person is clinically pronounced
dead by doctors, it appears that OBEs are really evidence, not
of death, but of life.
is it that thus comes and goes, passing back and forth between
its body and its Creator? We assume it is a person, but
such an assumption poses some problems which seem insoluble
problems whichrelate to the part played in the acquisition of
conscious identity by its reunion with the resurrected
It cannot really be doubted that
we need a body for conscious existence in this world. Nor can
it be doubted that we need a body in the next world: otherwise
the Lord would not bring the spirits of the
departed saints with Him when He returns in order expressly to
reunite them with their bodies. And why
are those who are alive and remain at his coming first clothed
in a transformed body (13) before being
admitted to that happy throng? For we are told clearly that there
is at that moment to be a change.
To the last question, the only
answer must be that those who remain alive at his coming are
not to be
joined with the dead in Christ by being converted into ghosts,
but rather the spirits of those who have
already died in the Lord are to be embodied again
and so made like the transformed living. We have here
presumptive evidence that the union of the living saints with
the departed saints is possible only by
embodiment of the departed saints to match the living, not by
disembodiment of the living saints to
correspond with the dead. If this were not the case, we would
have to ask why those alive at his coming
do not merely shed their bodies and rise like birds out of an
imprisoning cage. In short, it must be
because, as the body without the spirit is inert, so the
SPIRIT WITHOUT THE BODY IS INERT ALSO. Neither one is a person
without the other.
Perhaps these dead bodies
do not arise to meet their spirits in the air but arise because
these spirits are
first infused into them in the earth so that they everywhere
stand up whole and perfected as people, like
the dry bones in Ezekiel's valley (Ezekiel 37:1-10(14)).
12. On what constitutes a person, see Martin
Chemnitz, The Two Natures of Christ, translated by J.
A. O. Preuss, St. Louis, MO., Concordia Press, 1971, p.92, 94,
13. Paul says, "Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence
we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who will transform
this wreteched body of ours that it may be fashioned like unto
his glorious body" (Philippians 3:20; 21). This transformation
is evidently a passport to citizenship.
14. "The hand of the Lord was upon me [Ezekiel], and carried
me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst
of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass
by them round about: and behold, there were very many in the
open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said to me,
Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God,
you know. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and
say unto them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus
says the Lord God unto these bones: Behold I will cause breath
to enter into you, and you shall live: and I will lay sinews
upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with
skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live: and you shall
know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded;
and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking,
and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld,
lo, the sinew and flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered
them above; but there was no breath in them.
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of
man, and say to the wind, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the
four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they
may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath
came into them and they lived, and stood up upon their feet,
an exceeding great army" Ezekiel 37:1-10.
resurrected saints, made alive and reconstituted by the awakening
of their bodies out of their long sleep, rise up to meet the
Lord first. Only then are we "who are alive and remain caught
up together with
them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall
we ever be with the Lord." Thus we are all
brought together into the Lord's presence at the same instant
the instant of his coming again. Those
asleep in Jesus precede us by a mere moment.
Problem of delay still unresolved
Yet, while we may have pointed
up the problem of reconciling such promises of immediacy
reflected in Luke 23:43(15) and 2 Corinthians 5:8(16), with the foreseen delay clearly implied in John
we have not resolved it.(18)
Even in this 'pointing up' of the
problem I shall no doubt be accused of speculation and 'going
evidence.' Speculating I am certainly doing: going beyond the
evidence is a matter of opinion though
all rethinking is viewed as this by those who prefer established
confusion to novel truth.
But speculation which may be anathema
to the cautious theologian is the very life-blood of scientific
progress, where$it is called by another name hypothesizing.
And no one would deny that in science it
has proved a most fruitful exercise in advancing understanding
of natural law.
If, as many would think, theology
is also to be viewed as a "science," may it not be
time to set ourselves
free from the stigma attached to speculation and to attempt to
exercise our God-given imaginative skills
in the interests of extending our understanding of the Word
of God just as the scientific community has
15. "And Jesus said unto him [the thief],
Verily I say unto you, Today you shall be with me in paradise."
16. "We are always confident, knowing that, while we are
at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (for we walk
by faith, not by sight): we are confident, I [Paul] say, and
willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present
with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 5:6-8.
17. "I [Jesus] go to prepare a place for you. And if I go
and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you
unto myself: that where I am, there you may be also." John
18. The thief on the cross was promised "Today shall you
be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Was the Lord (as God)
in Paradise while Jesus (the man) was actually in the grave?
Surely he was, as to his manhood, in the grave. And it must,
I think, be assumed that it is as a man that He said (to the
thief) "You shall be with ME". For it is as MAN that
He is to come again that we may be with Him ("where I am",
as He told the disciples, John 14:3). Thus it cannot be argued
that the thief received a promise that "on that very day"
he would be accompanying the Lord as God (i.e., in his divine
person) as He went to announce his victory over death to the
spirits in prison (I Peter 3:19). While his body lay in the tomb
He existed as God: but not as MAN. So the thief, a man, could
in no way have been with Him who was God only. Thus the promise
could not in fact have meant "Today" in the temporal
sense but only in the experiential sense.
extended its understanding
of the works of God? I speak as a scientist by training
and profession, but
also as a dedicated Bible student by inclination.
How else than by asking bold questions
shall we advance our grasp of the meaning of Scripture in some
areas which hitherto by our more timid and conservative
methods have remained so poorly elucidated that there are
almost as many conflicting explanations and interpretations
as there are students? It is clear that we need a new key and
a fresh look. This is particularly so in view of Paul's opening
remark, "I would not have
you to be ignorant," and in view of his insistence that
he had received what he wrote very specifically as "by the
word of the Lord." We must surely apply ourselves very seriously
to any passage so singled out by its author as this one is.
It may seem an absurd thing
that God should preserve some essence of spiritual identity that
the individual, a mere "essence" having no consciousness.
But is this more difficult for God than to
preserve some form of physical identity that represents
each individual's body which can be called into
being at his will though it has long since returned to the dust
or been effectively annihilated in an atomic
explosion? With God all things are possible.
Perhaps it is sufficient that God
should preserve our spirits as a kind of memory in the divine
mind to be
later re-created at will, something after the order of what the
neurophysiologist would call an engram
in the brain, a construct easily recovered by the operator by
"pressing the right button." After all, nothing
existed until God had created it. Out of what did the forms of
animals, trees, rocks, metals, anything in
fact, arise into being save that each was first a thought in
the mind of God? Until He spoke, it was not done.
And surely He did not speak without first having a thought to
express. Such thoughts in the mind of God
were realities in the strictest sense though not yet physical
So, then, it will not be
any more difficult for God to reconstitute the dead in Christ,
body and spirit alike,
when the time comes for the Lord's return. This is in fact what
it means to "raise up," in many cases. As
Paul says, "Knowing this that He who raised up the Lord
Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall
present us with you" (2 Corinthians 4: 14). Wonderful, is
this! God will 'present us,' and the Lord will 'receive us'!
And we are none of us to appear single and alone: we are all
to be presented together. . . "us with you," Paul affirms.
We go into his presence as a family.
if we all go into the Lord's presence together, does this include
the penitent thief? Since our
reception is future, how then did he enter into his presence
that very day? Either his passage has been
delayed or ours is somehow to be advanced. Who adjusts to whom?
All that seems certain at the moment
is that we shall all go to meet the Lord together. It
is this which underlies Paul exhortation, "Wherefore
comfort one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:10, 11).
THE NATURE OF THE RESURRECTED BODY
AT HIS COMING
is natural that we should also want to know what kind of a body
we shall have when we join the
great assembly of the Lord's people and make the journey out
of time. Paul spells out for us (in 1
Corinthians 15:35-57) how a spiritual body is possible and what
kind of relationship it bears to our present
one. This passage, illuminated by many others in Scripture, forms
a kind of base on which to make some
predictions. Several key points can be affirmed with a fair degree
of assurance. We have broken up this
passage into three segments, each followed by a comment.
Transformed, yet the same
But some man will say,
How are the dead raised up? and, With what body do they come?
You fool, that which
you sow is not quickened, except it die; and that which you sow,
not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of
wheat, or of some other grain.
But God gives it a body as it has pleased him, to every seed
its own body.
All flesh is not the
same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh
another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial
bodies, and bodies terrestrial;
but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial
is another. There is one glory of
the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of
the stars; for one star differs from
another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection
of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.
is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness,
it is raised in power. It is sown a
natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural
body, and there is a spiritual body."
pleased God to establish in nature a principle of correspondence
for every form of life which reproduces itself by being planted
in the earth. What springs up is recognizably a derivative: the
generation is like the parent form and yet has a new individuality
of its own the same species of seeds
are harvested but not the same actual seeds. Even the
Lord's body "planted in the earth" emerged in a
different form (en hetero morphe so the Greek of
though still identifiably his very own.
There is in each planting a genuine continuity between what is
sown and what is reaped. This is true in
nature and it is true also as to the supernatural harvest of
which Paul is speaking. What is to be raised will
retain that much of the character of the original to establish
unequivocal identity. The important point is
that a true correspondence will be preserved: "to every
seed its own body."
Even Job rested secure in
the hope that he, too, would see the Lord for himself.
As he put it: "I know that
my redeemer lives and that he shall stand at the latter day upon
the earth: and although after [worms have destroyed] my skin,
worms [shall also] destroy my body, yet in my
flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself,
and my own eyes shall behold: [I myself] and
no other" (Job 19:25-27).
The relevance for us of what
is implied by the phrase en hetero morphe (as applied
to the Lord's body in
Mark 16:12) is to found in Paul's statement in Philippians 3:21(20) in which he says that
the Lord Jesus Christ
will change this abject body of ours in order that it may be
re-fashioned like unto his glorious body.
Consider, then, what his resurrected
and glorified body was capable of! He could pass at will through
walls or locked doors (John 20:19(21)), and yet if He so desired, He could be touched and
handled as though
his body were as materially solid as the hands or fingers that
reached out to touch Him (Luke 24:39(22)).
He could prove the substantiality
of his flesh by taking food and eating it before their eyes (Luke
yet a few moments later vanish and the food ingested was
so absorbed by his body
19. "After that [the resurrection] he
[Jesus] appeared in another form unto two of them as they walked.
. . ." Mark 16:12.
20. "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned
like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby
he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." Philippians
21. "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of
the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled
for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and
said unto them, Peace be unto you." John 20:19.
22. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle
me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see
me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands
and his feet." Luke 24:39.
23. "And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered,
he said unto them, Have you here any meat? And they gave him
a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb, and he took it,
and did eat before them." Luke 24:41-43.
that it vanished with
him!(24) At the
home of his two friends in Emmaus He sat at supper and took bread
and broke it (Luke 24:28-31(25)), thereby proving (as did almost every act during
this wonderful forty-day
resurrection period) that the spiritual quality of his body which
allowed Him to appear and disappear at
will, in no way prevented him from penetrating the old familiar
environment of his earthly residence nor
from acting physically upon the materials that were natural to
How clearly this shows that
the transformed bodies we are to have will not be barred from
things of this earth even though we shall transcend their limitations.
Nor will such participation be denied us when we return with
Him to share his glory during the Millennium.
We shall share the kind of
"materialization" He was able to assume during those
forty days, because when
He returns we are always to be in his company and shall surely
have some part to play. Our spiritual
bodies will be capable of doing these simple and beautiful things
that His spiritual body was capable of
24. It seems clear that He did this on more
than one occasion -- perhaps on many occasions, in fact. Peter
tells us that chosen witnesses "did eat and drink with Him
after He rose from the dead" (Acts 10:41). What proof of
the reality of his glorified body could be more convincing? In
another connection, we have already referred to one of the post-resurrections
scenes in which the Lord had prepared a breakfast for his disciples.
Here we seem to have a highly physical manipulation of coals
of fire, of fish, and of bread. One only has to ask oneself how
He lit the fire, and where He obtained the fish and the loaves,
to realize how completely the Lord was able to enter into the
physical environment of the disciples even while He was able
at the same time to be completely independent of it.
25. "And they [Jesus and the two friends]
drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as
though he would have gone further. But they constrained him,
saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day
is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came
to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed
it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened,
and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight."
26. God is so pure as a substance (i.e., like a perfect sheet
of glass) that our earthly eyes would look right through him
and never detect his presence. The Lord Jesus in his resurrection
body can likewise be present with us and yet be wholly invisible.
But He can "open" our eyes. And, then, with our 'converted'
vision made momentarily concordant with his reality, we shall
suddenly be able to see Him perfectly. When we have a body like
his glorified body, our means of response will be concordant
with his means of communicating his presence. . . . And suddenly
"we shall see Him as He is, because we shall be like Him"!
(I John 3:2). Undoubtedly He can in like manner "open"
our ears so that we can hear his voice: not inwardly, mystically,
privately, or 'in a manner of speaking' or subjectively only,
but we will hear it objectively. Similarly, we shall be able
to reach out and make objective contact with Him, "handle
Him" and prove the objective reality of his immediate presence.
In short, as He was (and is) in His glorified body, so shall
we be in ours and what He could do with that body we shall do
with ours. The dream of simply soaring freely through space by
a mere act of will, or breaking through barriers, or total freedom
of passage anywhere and everywhere will be ours. Time and space
as limitations will be no more; they will both be open sesames
to achievement beyond our wildest dreams. And in due course the
New Heaven and the New Earth will be designed to enhance the
potential of this new achievement to the full.
doing. The Lord is to
return (John 14:3(27))
exactly as He went (Acts 1:11(28)), and to return with all his saints (Zechariah 14:5(29)) with us, no less!
We have every assurance that we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2(30)).
This likeness is so specifically stated that it must mean that
during the Millennium we shall enjoy the
same unique experience of re-penetration of this earthly environment
as He will.
Although, with respect to
our bodies, that which is raised up is the same "species"
of body, it will not be
the same body. It will be metamorphized. In our case (though
not in the Lord's), what is defective will be
healed, what has been mortalized by sin will become immortal,
what is corrupted will be uncorruptible,
what is feeble is to be full of power, what is now vulnerable
to a thousand kinds of injury will be totally
invulnerable. Here the important point is that while identity
will have been preserved, it will be a body
endowed with entirely new potential. There will be no more
thirst, no more hunger, no more pain, or
hurt, or tears (Revelation 21:4(31)), no more aging or death, and no more limitations
of time and space.
Transformed, but with a different energy
And so it is written,
The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was
quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is
spiritual, but that which is natural; and
afterward that which is spiritual.
The first man is of
the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As
is the earthy,
such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly,
such are they also that are heavenly.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall
also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now this I say,
brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of
God; neither does
corruption inherit incorruption.
27. "If I go and prepare a place for
you, I will cme again, and receive you unto myself, that where
I am, there you may be also" John 14:3.
28. "You men of Galilee. who stand you gazing up into heave?
This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall
so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven."
29. "Then shall the Lord go forth. . . and his feet shall
stand in that day upon the mount of Olives. . . and the Lord
my God shall come, and all the saints with you. . . ." Zechariah
14:3, 4, 5b.
30. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not
yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall
appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
31. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are
passed away." Revelation 21:4.
present body is dependent upon food and oxygen as the source
of its physical energy. In that world the source of energy
will be of a different kind, a kind that will free us from
circumspections of matter and space (and therefore of time also),
and so of any dependence upon the
present world order "first that which is natural,
and afterwards that which is spiritual," as Paul puts it.
As to the source of energy
of this spiritual body, we really know nothing for certain. We
have a clue, however, in Luke 24:39, when the Lord chose his
words carefully in saying, "Handle me, and
see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see me
The phrase "flesh and bones"
is not a normal one, the more familiar words being rather "flesh
blood." I cannot believe that this change in wording
was accidental. The usual form is common enough,
as will be seen by reference to Matthew 16:17; John 1:12-13;
1 Corinthians 15:50; and Hebrews 2:14.(32) But
when Paul speaks of our new relationship to the Lord, he too
avoids the phrase "flesh and blood," calling
us rather members of "his flesh and of his bones" (Ephesians
surely is not accidental either.
It is striking that what remains
in the grave longer than the rest of the body is the skeleton,
the bones. The
Lord took from his tomb all that might have left any doubt as
to the identity of his person even retaining
the evidence of his wounds. Perhaps our bones will be gathered
together, too, no matter what has
happened to them, and then re-assembled as they were re-assembled
in Ezekiel's valley (Ezekiel 37:7(34))!
I believe firmly that when the
Lord returns, it is to assume kingship over this present world,
to rule in
righteousness for a period of time which we refer to as the Millennium.
It is at this time that, as
co-workers with Him, we shall need to be able to move back and
forth between two worlds, a heavenly
one and an earthly one -- as He was able to do with complete
freedom and with no incongruity during the
forty post-resurrection days. Once this old world is done away
with and we live entirely in a new heaven
and a new earth, it seems likely that no such dual form of existence
will be needed since our transformed
32. "And Jesus answered and said, Blessed
are you, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood has not revealed
it unto you, but my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 16:17.
"As many as received him, to them gave he the power
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor
of the will of man, but of God." John 1:12-13. "Now
this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption."
I Corinthians 15:50. "Forasmuch then as the children
are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took
part of the
same." Hebrews 2:14.
33. "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of
his bones." Ephesians 5:30.
34. "So I prophesied as I was commanded, and as I prophesied,
there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together,
bone to his bone." Ezekiel 37:7.
bodies will be completely
concordant with the new kind of universe: no back-and-forth movement
When the Lord returns, we are going
to be part of his entourage (Zechariah 14:5(35) and Jude 14(36)). His
return is specifically to rule a Kingdom upon earth in which
righteousness will triumph over wickedness.
Many details of this Kingdom are provided in Scripture, such
as those given in Isaiah 35(37) and Daniel 2:44
and 45.(38) It
is to be an idyllic Kingdom, where nature and man will be at
peace, where the wolf and the
lamb will live together (Isaiah11:6; 65:25(39)) and the lion shall eat straw like the ox (Isaiah
where there will be neither hurt nor harm in any part of his
Kingdom (Isaiah 11:9(41)).
youthfulness of man will be restored (Isaiah 65:20(42)) and a pre-Flood longevity
will be recovered but
without its violence or evil consequences. In this government,
the saints are surely to play a part, moving
freely in and out of time and effortlessly crossing the line
between the physical world and the spiritual
world. For us, this will be a situation comparable to that of
the Lord before his ascension. It is a
circumstance which belongs only to the period of the Lord's kingship
upon this present earth.
I am well aware that the
details of these events as they are to be witnessed on earth
are not interpreted
by all students of the Bible in the same way. But I am convinced
that there are some certainties stated
here in such unequivocal terms that they can hardly be questioned.
The Lord's return will be as personal
35. "Then shall the Lord go forth. .
. and his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives.
. . and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee."
Zechariah 14:3, 4, 5.
36. "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of
these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his
saints." Jude 14.
37. ". . .The desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.
. . and shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of
our God. . . behold, your God will come. . . He will come and
save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the
ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man
leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. . . and the
ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs
and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and
gladness, and sorrow and sighing
shall flee away." Isaiah 35:1, 2, 4-6, 10.
38. "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven
set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom
shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces
and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch
as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without
hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay,
the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the
king what shall come to pass hereafter." Daniel 2:44, 45.
39. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard
shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion
and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them."
Isaiah 11:6 "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, and dust shall
be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all
my holy mountain, says the Lord." Isaiah 65:66.
40. "And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones
shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the
ox." Isaiah 11:7.
41. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as
the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:9.
42. "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor
an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall
die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years
old shall be accursed." Isaiah 65:20.
and as real an event
as His ascension was. He will so come in like manner (Acts
Himself know, when the disciples asked Him, exactly when He would
come (Acts 1:7(44)),
but in my view
He must be coming soon since we appear to be living in
an environment that has been damaged almost
beyond repair. He is coming to establish a Kingdom in righteousness,
a Kingdom upon earth, a Kingdom
which takes cognizance of nature as well as of man. This earthly
Kingdom will be worldwide but it will
come to an end; and when it does, it will mark the end of the
present physical order. The new heaven and
the new earth will replace it and it will be a universe which
does not experience any "running down."
The saints in this world are bound
to its natural order. In the righteous Kingdom which the Lord
establish when He returns, the saints in their transformed bodies
will be free to move from one world to
the other. In the end, when the new heaven and the new earth
are established, such back-and-forth movement will no longer
be necessary since heaven and earth will once again form a true
universe in which the secular and the spiritual are completely
fused. There may be disagreement as to how these events succeed
one another in their ordering, but anyone who accepts the Scriptures
as the touchstone of truth can hardly question that the reality
of these events was clearly assumed by the writers themselves.
Transformed, instantly and permanently
Behold, I show you a mystery.
We shall not all sleep(45), but we shall
all be changed, in a
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the
trumpet shall sound, and the
dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on
incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So
when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this
mortal shall have put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death
is swallowed up in victory.
43. "And while they looked stedfastly
toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in
white apparel: who also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you
gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from
you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen
him go into heaven." Acts 1:1011.
44. After the resurrection, "[the disciples] asked [Jesus],
Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the time or
the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power."
Acts 1:6, 7.
45. Those who state quite categorically that soul-sleeping is
a new heresy are quite mistaken. When Paul says, "we shall
not all sleep" and then specifies that this applies only
to those fortunate ones who will still be alive when Jesus returns,
he is stating quite unequivocally that the vast majority of the
saints (like David and Stephen) do fall asleep. Those who will
not sleep are the fortunate exceptions.
death, where is your sting? 0 grave, where is your victory? The
sting of death is sin; and the
strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives
us the victory through our Lord
So we shall experience a change
by which our bodies will be fitted for life on a far higher plane
in an entirely new environment with a different principle of
operation. The change will be instantaneous,
"in the twinkling of an eye" not like the change
of a chrysalis into a butterfly, which takes time.
Because we are designed to
live in a new heaven and a new earth, a unique feature of which
will be that
they will remain forever (Isaiah 66:22(46)), so our bodies will accordingly never again be subject
decay or wearing out either. Thus the form of the human body,
made inconceivably beautiful by its
re-creation in perfection, will never spoil with age. And yet
I do not doubt that each body will have a
beauty that is unique to its possessor and wholly reflective
of the personality which animates it. No
human society on earth will ever have witnessed such "beautiful
The suddenness of this departure
to be with the Lord is often spoken of in Scripture as to its
nature. Compare, for example, how one is to be taken and one
is to be left where a couple may be working
together in the field or even when they have [perhaps] retired
for the night. And as for the unexpectedness
of it, the Lord warned that He would come as a thief in the night
The change will be permanent
since the energy source will be inexhaustible. Scientists will
as a universe free from the law of entropy. When man was created
he was in such a position that he could
die but was under no necessity of doing so: i.e., death was a
possibility only. After man was fallen, the
46. "For as the new heavens and the new
earth, which I shall make, shall remain before me,says the Lord,
so shall your seed and your name remain." Isaiah 66:22.
47. "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken
and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; the
one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for
you know not what hour your Lord does come. But know this, that
if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief
would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered
his house to be broken up. Therefore be also ready; for in such
an hour as you think not, the Son of Man will come." Matthew
changed. He was now destined to die: death has become a certainty.(48) In the new universe the
situation will once more be radically changed and death, being
abolished, will be an
Such, then, are the basic data
which underlie the perceived problems surrounding the nature
intermediate state. And such are the basic data which any acceptable
resolution must accommodate successfully. It is, in my view,
an exciting quest and full of promise.
The redemption that is in Christ
Jesus by no means finds its goal in the present order
of things. The
universe as it now exists (within which our existence is framed)
is only a stage in a process of preparation
for the glory which is yet to be revealed for all who are in
As we shall see from the brief
survey in the next chapter of how commentators in the past have
resolve these problems, the problems themselves, though clarified,
have unfortunately remained
One possible way out of the dilemma
and an exciting way out, though one which requires a certain
perceptiveness and genuinely challenges the mind is the
subject of the final chapter of this volume.
Perhaps one of its most rewarding features is the manner in which
it freshly illuminates passages of
Scripture hitherto largely ignored in discussions of this subject.
It does indeed bring new treasures out of
old (Matthew 13:52(49)).
48. Scripture is quite unequivocal about the
certainty of death: "It is appointed unto [all] men once
to die" (Hebrews 9:27); "In Adam all die" (2 Corinthians
5:22); ". . .death passed upon all men. . . ." (Romans
5:12). Yet Paul also says, does he not, that we shall not all
die because those who survive to the Second Coming will be caught
up into the air without tasting death (1 Corinthians 15:51).
However, he does not say that not all shall die but rather that
not all shall sleep which is an entirely different thing.
On this problem of translation "without tasting of death",
see Appendix 3, Elijah and Enoch.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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49. "Then said he [Jesus] unto them, Therefore every scribe
who is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man
that is an householder, who brings forth out of his treasure
things new and old." Matthew 13:52.