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Table of Contents


Chapter  1

Part I
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

Part II
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Part II: Embodiment and Redemption

Chapter 17

We, Too!

       Speculative? Of course it is! As one whose professional life was spent as Head of a research laboratory in Human Phisiology, I know that one can make little or no progress without it — only we call it hypothesizing. And it has proved highly successful in the laboratory.

       Why should not the Christian excercise freedom of mind in the same way — only this time with a mind renewed and a mind informed and channelled by revelation and disciplined in the use of logic?         Why not!

      A human being is not a human being without a human body. Unless the body is constitutionally part and parcel of man's being, the emphasis in the New Testament upon the resurrection of the body is quite unaccountable.
     If we can be persons without a body, there seems to be no reason why Paul should have argued that unless the body is raised we are of all men most miserable: nor why he should have said our final expectation is 'the redemption of the body.' The proof of the Lord's resurrection was not his re-appearance as a ghost but as a person with a body of flesh and bones. Resurrection is not merely spiritual survival but bodily survival as well.

     I don't, however, wish this chapter to be an anticlimax in the form of a catalogue of passages of Scripture proving the point. This has been done many times by detailed     

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exegesis of the wonderful assurances of the reality of the next world — such as we find in 1 Corinthians 15:35—38; Philippians 3:20, 21; and the final chapters of Revelation. I'm not attempting to prove the resurrection of the body: I'm starting with it as a basic premise.
     What I want to do is to exercise some imaginative freedom and reflect upon four aspects of the potentials of such a bodily existence as the Lord Jesus Christ experienced and still experiences as a Man in heaven, for here is our pattern according to the promise of the Scriptures.
     These four aspects may be summarized as follows:

(a) What shall we be?
(b) What shall we do?
(c) What shall we know?
(d) How shall we be recognized?

     What will it be like to be entirely free forever — free to be what we would like to be, to do what we would like to do, to know what we would like to know, to go where we would like to go, and to meet whoever we would like to meet.
     How will we feel when we suddenly realize we are incorruptible and immortal at last, without fear or pride? What will it be like when we are free of gravity and of the limitations of space and time: free of need, free of hunger, pain, delay or impatience, hatred or malice, boredom or unfulfilled aspiration or unwanted partings — of all and any of the sorrows and disappointments that characterize this life and turn a beautiful earth into such a blessed vale of tears.
     Name anything, absolutely anything that is a source of human anxiety or grief or shame, and that will be absent from our world. What freedom this will bring, and with what safety it will be enjoyed! The real reason we cannot be allowed even the good things we long for, including fruitfulness in his service, is that all too frequently it would not be safe for us. We would all too soon be plagued with spiritual

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pride if our labours were to be as blessed as we would wish. Such is the paradox of Christian life because of that most troublesome of all sins — spiritual pride.

     Let us, then, take a look at these four aspects of existence which will almost certainly apply to a state of freedom that is nevertheless not a state of disembodiment but of being embodied "gloriously" as promised in Philippians 3:21.


     We have the Lord's promise that when He returns He will not only receive us unto Himself (John 14:3) but that when we see Him we shall be like Him (l John 3:1). This is what we are to BE.
     The change will be instantaneous, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 5:51,52). We shall be raised incorruptible and immortal for that meeting (1 Corinthians 5:52, 53). This diseased and decaying body will be transformed "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 3:21).
     And if you have questions about the 'how,' I suggest you read 1 Corinthians 15:35—50. The words scarcely need comment: they are clear and unequivocal. What will rise from the dust is to be an outgrowth of what has been sown. To quote Thomas Boston again, "There is a vileness in the body which, as to the saints, will never be removed, until it be melted down in the grave, and cast into a new form at the resurrection to come forth a spiritual body."
     Nor will there be any loss of identity, a fact which gave Job great assurance and led him to exclaim: "Though after worms have destroyed my skin, they will then also destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself and my own eyes shall behold, and not someone

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else's" (Job 19:26, 27). We shall be ourselves and all experience will be firsthand.
     God will give to each of us a body as it shall please Him (1 Corinthians 15:38), having wrought us in the first place 'for this very thing' (2 Corinthians 5:5). It is far better that He should choose for us the particular form of embodiment that will make us whole again. As we shall see in dealing with (d), we shall really not be in a position to choose for ourselves. What He chooses for us will be a body that is perfectly appropriate to house the spirit which He has perfected for it in order to re-constitute us as the kind of person we have always longed to be both outwardly and inwardly.
     Above all, we shall be human beings, not angels. The point is an important one. To Adam was committed the government and cultivation of the resources of the earth. He and his descendants were to multiply and fill it in order to "occupy" it in the proper sense. When the Lord Jesus said, "Occupy till I come" (Luke 19:13), He implied two things: first, that He is coming again; and second, that He is coming again to "occupy" the earth as the Second Adam — with all that this implies.
     If God committed to man the management of his created world, He had of necessity to provide him with the means. He had to provide him with a mind that would enable him to understand His will. And He had to provide him with a suitable brain in order that his mind could exercise its will upon the physical world. It would be foolish to suppose that, if there is to be a new heavens and a new earth, we would not continue to be provided with the same two pre-requisites.
     We do not yet know how mind or will can act upon the body and use it as an extension of itself — as the hand, for example, puts our wishes into practice. Just how a spiritual force like my will can move a material object like my hand but cannot move the hands of the clock on the wall except indirectly, is a mystery. But certainly we have the will and the skill increasingly to manage the physical world if we

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were to set our hearts to do so.
      But angels have no such direct powers to influence physical objects except by a temporary embodiment. The angel that "rolled away the stone" had to move a physical mass of perhaps 1500 to 2000 pounds. Even the little stone placed in the track and sealed in position by mud or clay so as to show whether it had been tampered with, would prevent its being rolled back unless it also were removed. No doubt the angel did this as a requisite first step. But it seems that the angel must have been temporarily embodied with the same kind of embodiment involved when the two angels took Lot and his wife "by the hand" and hurried them out of the doomed city of Sodom (Genesis 9:16).
     Yet angels are not men, because by definition a man is only man in a truly human body, and though angels may be temporarily embodied it is certainly not their customary constitution. Moreover, unlike man, they seem quite able to be fully conscious as pure spirits without bodies.
     When the Lord Jesus became Man, He did so by becoming flesh, of human seed, of the seed of the woman and of the seed of David and of the seed of Abraham. He became partaker of flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14), though without our defect. He did not take upon Himself the nature of angels (Hebrews 2:16), because He came specifically to act upon our world and to do it as we do it, not as an angel might do it. He lived among us, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, and sharing our physical life to the full. Moreover, He came to die, which God as pure spirit cannot do.
     Thus man by his very nature can interact with the physical world. And because his spirit and mind can comprehend the will of God, he can fulfil the will of God within this physical framework as its governor. He is a link across two realities, the reality of the physical world and the reality of the spiritual world. This is what he is — a link and a medium; and in the new heavens and the new earth since our basic constitution of spirit and body is to be retained,

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we shall continue to be a link and a medium.


     We are not told very much about the nature of the new heaven and the new earth except that they shall remain and therefore will not wear out or run down. They are to be new and unshakeable (Hebrews 2:27) which may perhaps signify that they will be stable and not subject to catastrophic disturbances such as astronomy and geology hold the present universe to have been subject to in the past.
     The present world seems clearly to have been designed as a habitation for man as he is now constituted. Indeed, this is not only true of the earth but probably even of the heavens also, i.e., of the whole universe. This has in recent years been the considered opinion of a number of prominent cosmologists.
     It would seem reasonable to conclude that if we are to undergo a transformation of a certain kind and to be placed in a new universe, that universe will accordingly be a transformation of this present one. It will therefore be new in this sense: not merely a replacement in the same form but a re-formed replacement in which we shall live and move and have our being. In other words, we shall belong in the whole of it — as we cannot be in the present one, for lack of time if nothing else! There will then be the same kind of correspondence between our constitution and its constitution as there is at the present time, except that we shall not be bound by those physical limitations which currently bind us.
     While this present heaven and earth will pass away (Matthew 4:35), the new one will not (Isaiah 6:22), and neither shall we. Thus the words, "Of the increase of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Isaiah 9:7), may take on an entirely new meaning, the key word being increase. A few years ago such a prospect might have seemed utterly absurd, but not any more — only we shall not need space ships nor

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space suits, and our movements may even exceed the speed of light!
     I do not for one moment anticipate that our "time" will be spent playing a harp, much as I would like to be able to play any instrument well! But I believe such an achievement would be easily within our reach just by willing to do it. So likewise, I'm confident we shall be able to roam the earth, or the sky, and indeed the whole universe, at will. Yet I suspect it will not be an idle roaming.
     There will be creative responsibilities, 'rulerships' as it were, over whatever will correspond to the "many things" of Matthew 25:21. Whatever the reality may prove to be, I am sure it will be easily recognizable as a fulfillment of our capabilities when the time comes. And my prediction is that the sense of reward we get in this world for an achievement well done is a harbinger of a sense of far greater achievement for things yet to be accomplished in that world (John 14:12). Man was not designed for idleness.
     One final point. Such 'doings' assume the continuance of our embodied humanity with its potential for creative activity. But this seems to assume also that the Lord will retain his: and this I believe He will. The mark of his humanity was (and is) his willing subservience to his Father (John 6:38), even as the mark of his deity is his rightly claimed equality with his Father (John 10:30). If this is a reasonable assumption, then perhaps we have assurance of the permanence of his humanity from the fact that when He shall have had all things (ta panta, in the Greek, i.e., "the universe") subdued under his feet, He in turn will also Himself be subject unto Him (the Father) that put the universe under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 5:28). He will therefore, it seems, never cease to retain his two natures, one of which we now also share. Neither He, nor we, will ever be in a disembodied state again, and this implies we shall never be without something to do! The fact that we are to be embodied can only mean that the universe will be 'substantial' and that we shall be able to act upon it.

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     I suggest we shall know anything we need or desire to know and our knowledge will be without error. Since it seems impossible to contemplate the failure of memory, whatever we have once learned in that new universe we shall never forget.
     But would not this imply an interim ignorance, and is not ignorance a kind of sin? From the New Testament, we know that the answer to this must be in the negative.
    The Lord Jesus as Man did not know everything automatically and from the moment He was born. He did know everything He needed to know at each stage of his life, and all that He knew He knew perfectly. Of some things He seems clearly to have been ignorant. This was part of his self-abasement in assuming human nature, which in order to be truly human required that He lay aside or sublimate his divine omniscience sometimes. Thus while his occasional ignorance was real enough (as when He could not tell his disciples the time of his returning), it was not an ignorance due to sin.
     On a number of occasions we see this laying aside of omniscience. For instance, we learn of his surprise at the fig tree which lacked the fruit He had expected to find on it, and of his great delight in the man who, though not a Jew, had a wonderful faith in his power to heal. On another occasion, He asked his beloved and bereaved friends, Martha and Mary, to show Him where Lazarus had been buried. Was this merely an accommodation to his friends in which He concealed his knowledge or was it a real case of limitation? It seems to me that He would not pretend under any circumstances, and therefore that He really did not know.
     I believe in our perfected state in that new universe we shall still have much to learn. We shall know anything we need to know and learn everything we desire to learn. We shall never suffer from needless or undesired ignorance. Things we want to know, whether necessary or not, we shall

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know by some process perhaps akin to intuition, or merely by asking.
     And as to asking questions. . . .  With a direct line of communication involving neither delay nor hindrance of any kind, perhaps what computers are beginning to make possible for us in time, that which will constitute brain in our new bodies will do for us in eternity when channelled into the right data-bank. That heavenly resource could well be nothing less than the mind of God.


     It would seem a simple matter to house the resurrected spirit in a recognizable body so that we could all know one another as we have known one another in this world. The size and shape and mannerisms of our bodies become part of our identity to those around us. And our facial features and expression clinch the matter. So we have plenty of clues by which to recognize one another.
     But then a problem arises. What if it has been twenty-five years since we last saw some particular friend in this world? Faces change, and so do figures! How, then, shall we recognize each other if in the interval we have grown from infancy to maturity, or even from middle age to old age? In short, what stage of our life will our resurrection bodies reflect?
     And even more problematically, let us suppose that a child is a year old when his mother dies. He grows up to be a well-known Christian leader and in due time, well on in years, he goes home to be with the Lord. How, now, will mother recognize son, or son mother? Adequate photographs might be left in his possession for him to recognize his mother, but photographs of the son could not be left in the mother's possession to serve the same purpose. Such blood relationships will surely not matter in heaven, but will we need introductions to almost every person we meet, including old friends and even our closest relatives?

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     And what of those with whom we may have corresponded for many years and yet have never seen, or may even have spoken to by telephone but still never met face-to-face? How shall we recognize them: or they us? Certainly not by the wearing of name-tags!
     It was easy for the disciples to recognize the Lord, once their minds had accepted the reality of the resurrection, because of the marks on his body which He deliberately made use of to serve that very purpose. But it seems highly unlikely that any of the redeemed will come before Him with any such marks, with a limp or a missing arm or anything marring the perfection of his new body.
     Thus we cannot allow ourselves the conceit of supposing that we shall automatically have the kind of magnificent body or beautiful body that would be appropriate in the prime of life, for such a body would not be appropriate in many cases as a means of identification. Some other principle of "identity" must be in view.
     There is an identity which is non-photographic. Artists recognize this and are often guided by it even though to the uninitiated it looks like a distortion. Michelangelo, with his extraordinary skill as a sculptor, often portrayed his subjects in such a way as to make them both recognizable and unrecognizable: recognizable to those who already knew them with a measure of intimacy but unrecognizable to those who didn't. They were recognizable in that he had captured the soul of his subject, which would be familiar to those who knew: but unrecognizable to those who didn't know the soul of the subject because he disregarded to a great extent external appearance, leaving his portrait without adequate visual correspondence.
For instance, he portrayed Lorenzo the Magnificent who was his great benefactor, as a soul of great beauty (which he was in the eyes of many people) rather than as a somewhat mean-looking character such as we see on coins struck with his image during his lifetime. The coins showed what he looked like. Michelangelo showed what he was.  
(See Volume 7 of the Doorway Papers Series, Prt. II, Chp. 2)

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     Again, if one examines his masterpiece, The Pieta, in which he portrayed the crucified Lord as it were "draped in death" across Mary's knees, one will notice that the face of Mary is if anything younger than that of the Lord. His purpose was undoubtedly to present Mary to the viewer as a soul of great beauty, apart from the fact that her attitude is one of sad resignation. But considering that she must have been by this time at least 50 years of age, * and considering that the Middle East is not "kind" to the faces of women as a rule, a photographic image might well fail to reveal the heart of Mary behind that aging face. Michelangelo was not trying to be merely kind: he wished to be truthful, and unconsciously we read the truth.
     We may well find that in our new bodies we shall all have a truer and deeper identity than mere photographic likeness. Perhaps the identity will not be established at all by shape or configuration. The shape or configuration that we shall each have may be precisely the shape or configuration which will be a creation of the viewer in each case and not of the one viewed. We shall see in our friend what will seem to us ideal: and yet another friend will see in that same person something quite different though equally satisfying his or her ideal. We shall not know we are looking at something different, we two viewers. And it will seem quite possible that when we look at ourselves, if there is ever such a thing as a heavenly mirror, we shall see what is ideal to us and it may be very different from what our viewers are seeing.
     Could it not be that each of us will be recognized not by the normal visual impact of ordinary viewing but by the miracle of a transformation which will convert the visual signal in the mind of the viewer into an appropriate form that is entirely congruous with the personal nature of that individual as the viewer once knew him or her in this world? The

* By the time of the crucifixion, the Lord was approximately 33 years of age, and it seems rather unlikely that Mary would have been less than 17 years of age when He was born.

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woman would appear as a woman to those who knew her as such, as a girl to others who had known her at an earlier stage, and conceivably even as a child to the mother who had died when that child was only a few years old.
    The four Gospels present us with apparently different and intentionally contradictory accounts, though the central figure is clearly one and the same Person throughout. We have to assume therefore that the impression He generated was different to the minds of different viewers. Matthew saw Him as the Promised King, with all the earmarks of a kingly presence. Mark saw Him as a servant par excellence, which is quite another thing. Luke saw Him as a Man among men, as "the Son of Man" indeed. John saw Him not as Man with the attributes of God but as God with the attributes of Man. He was all these things. He communicated his presence and his identity differently to different men, not because He was changeable in any way but because those whom God chose as writers of the inspired record each perceived Him according to their own personality and background.
I have no doubt that people from countries all around, regardless of their skin colour or characteristic appearance, saw the Lord as a true representative of mankind in their own terms. We have a slight intimation of this possibility in the way very small children will readily play with children of other races without any apparent awareness of difference in skin colour or features. It is possible therefore to be quite unaware of these things. Perhaps it is a mistake for us to portray the Lord "as one of us" with fair hair and blue eyes since people from other races are rightly offended by this form of ethnocentricity. The Lord was strictly the Son of Man, somehow escaping these formal limitations. I wonder what our illustrated Bibles and Christmas cards are doing, deeply stamped as they are with our image of what is becoming in man.
     I believe that when we see the Lord, we, too, will each see Him differently. To the white man, He will be our ideal;

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and so will He be to the black man his ideal; and to the Chinaman, and to the Eskimo, and indeed to "every man."
     Each of us has his or her own ideal of what is beautiful and what is formal perfection. He will meet all our ideals individually — not because He will be both black and white but because our resurrected minds will be so structured as to filter our vision appropriately.
     And thus we shall somehow recognize beloved friends in the Lord no matter how changed in later life they or we may have been. Nor shall we need any introductions to those whom we never actually met — Adam, Job, David, Paul, Augustine, Luther, Whitefield. . . .  We shall recognize by "essence" not by shape.
     As He sees us in a perfect way that truly reveals the character of our redeemed spirit, so because we shall be like Him we shall see Him as He is; beautiful to behold, and surrounded by truly beautiful people, his redeemed children.

     C. S. Lewis in a sermon titled "The Weight of Glory," made a perceptive observation which is particularly apropos of what we have been saying. He suggested that the most uninteresting and commonplace person one has ever spoken to may one day be such a creature that if one met him today one would be tempted to worship him. On the other hand, he may one day be such a creature, so full of horror and corruption, as to be conceivable only in a nightmare.
     As he put it, "You have never talked to a mere mortal": by which I think he meant no man is just what we see before us, but rather what he may be potentially — for good or ill. The creatures with whom we joke, snub, exploit, or marry are potentially "immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."
     It is a sobering thought: truly awful or truly wonderful. And it depends as much on the potential of the human body as it does on the potential of the human spirit. The concept of a chance evolutionary process producing a

135. C. S. Lewis, In one essay entitled "The Weight of Glory" in "They Asked for a Paper" New York, Macmillan, 1949, p. 210

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creature with such a potential for inexpressible beauty or unbelievable ugliness seems to me utterly absurd. We cannot account by such a means for either alternative — the horror of the effect of sin, or the glory of the effect of redemption. In this beauty or horror the body plays an essential role. That heaven or hell should be peopled with beautiful or horrible ghosts is really inconceivable, and the Bible certainly does not suggest such a thing. We are to be rewarded or judged "in the flesh." Our bodies are to share the glory or the shame.


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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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