Pastors walk people to the edge of the world and watch them step away. With unbelievers I feel a kind of a dull thud. There is no grace left. God offered extravagant, measureless, priceless grace and they would have none of it. When believers step away, I feel wonder and a little bit of envy. I often think, What just happened here? We are better shepherds when we ponder the joys before us.
The Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote,
Remember this—death does that in a moment, which no graces, no duties, nor any ordinances could do for a man all his lifetime! Death frees a man from those diseases, corruptions, temptations, ... that no duties, nor graces, nor ordinances could do. … Every prayer then shall have its answer; all hungering and thirsting shall be filled and satisfied; every sigh, groan, and tear that has fallen from the saints’ eyes shall then be recompensed. That is not death but life, which joins the dying man to Christ!
Among the wonders of our heaven-bound hope is the promise of new bodies. We peer through the windows of the Gospels’ stories of the risen Jesus to catch a glimpse of the bodies we, too, shall have—corporeal, able to eat and breathe, unhindered by miles, doors, and gravity, and able to shine like the sun.
Paul taught us how death will improve upon the seeds of these mortal bodies.
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, 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. (1 Cor. 15:42-44)
“Raised imperishable,” incorruptible. Not only will our bodies never deteriorate but neither will any sin seep into our hearts to taint our blood-bought holiness. There, we can never be ruined.
“Raised in glory”—beauty, splendor, radiance. Our bodies will be bright and beautiful to see, they will have extraordinary dignity and grace, ready and willing to do anything our Christlike minds can conceive.
“Raised in power,” is a stunning contrast to the dead body which is sown, the epitome of weakness. We will be mighty, vigorous, capable of doing all that heaven makes possible; not merely Samson-strong but Christ-strong, with bodies unhindered, minds quick, curious, and knowing, hearts energetic with holy love and zeal.
“Raised a spiritual body.” Not ghostly, some kind of floaty phantom, but drawing our breath and life, our thoughts and strength, from the Spirit of God. David Prior explains, “The first body has all the limitations of our earthiness; the second body has all the capacity of God’s Spirit.” The “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” sown in cemeteries, seas, and battlefields will be raised as bodies perfectly suited to the ecosystem of the new creation.
Our new bodies will be sin-free and sick-free, fit for eternal living. We will have minds unmuddled by the lies and lunacy of this world, hands that will only and ever serve the Lord, eyes wide open to the brilliant sights of heaven, ears attuned to the anthems of saints and angels, voices that will speak only praise and truth, and hearts clean enough and big enough and loving enough to embrace the glory of God. We will be outfitted for a new world free of sin, a whole civilization—a kingdom—of people like Christ, through and through.
Be ye glad!
Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.