Jesus is alive! And that changes everything.
by LEE ECLOV
JESUS, DEAD AS DEAD COULD BE, came to life at the first sliver of dawn!
Scripture doesn’t tell us just what happened in that moment, but I imagine the blinding light of God’s glory and power infusing Christ’s body. The linen wrappings around His body collapsed, and Jesus passed through them and vanished. When moments later the bright angel slid back the tombstone, it wasn’t to let Jesus out but to allow witnesses in. We often say Jesus came back to life, but He didn’t exactly come back. The Son of Man rose to new life, a life unlike any ever experienced before. He was the first fruit of a new race of people — the holy immortals.
Christians celebrate Christ’s resurrection because it carries the promise of our own. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” What will it be like for us “in that great gettin’ up morning”?
Whether we are alive when He comes back and we rise to meet the Lord in the air or we are vaulted from our graves even as Jesus was, we will be changed in every way. Our bodies will be transformed in an instant, just as Jesus’ was — imperishable, glorious, strong, and breathing the very Spirit of God.
We can learn about our new bodies from Jesus’ resurrection body. On the one hand, it was substantial enough to touch — even to feel His wounds. He could eat, though He surely didn’t need nourishment. When He wished to be, He was recognizable to those who knew and loved Him. He knew those around Him and loved them. Yet He could disappear as easily as He appeared. He was unhindered by walls or doors, by distance or gravity. He reigns now and forever in that glorious immortal body, the Second Adam.
When we are born again, the Lord begins the process of renewing our minds. (See Rom. 12:2.) Everything in Scripture is counter-intuitive to us at first. Nothing is quite like we thought it was, and there are countless truths we never knew. We have been saturated by the devil’s lies and the world’s lunacy. Gradually, in our life here with Christ, we have learned to think with the mind of Christ. But still, even at our best, “we see indistinctly, as in a mirror” (1 Cor. 13:12, HCSB). A primitive mirror. But the verse promises “then [we will see] face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.” On the day we see Jesus, our beloved Bibles will be unnecessary. Teachers and preachers will be out of business. We will all know Jesus as Jesus knows us!
Worship is the business of heaven. We will be outfitted for worship at our resurrection, with minds and hearts, voices and ears all attuned to the glory of God. We will be more capable worshipers than the angels, for we are the redeemed. While our worship will be constant, we will still be blessed with wonderful endeavors, which are a form of worship in themselves. Our endeavors in heaven will be nothing like our work on earth. Now, everything we put our hands to is weed-choked and sunbaked. Even holy work can become wearisome. Then, our endeavors will be among the great delights of eternity.
OUR FAMILY REUNION
Matthew 24:31 says that God “will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” God’s people have never all been together. We have witnessed to one another of Christ across ages and miles. We have sung the same songs, prayed the same prayers, and read the same Scripture. Each in our own time and place and way, we have seen that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). We have sensed deep within that we are part of one great church across ages and miles and languages. And finally, on that great day, we will all be together when we meet the Lord in the air.
If Christ’s greatest commands are that we love God and love one another, how sweet will our love in heaven be! The New Jerusalem will be a holy city where every relationship is good, every sight is beautiful, and every corner is safe. Not crowded, but intimate; not noisy, but ringing with praise; not partitioned by walls and hedges and fences, but bound and linked by love for one another; not populated by the selfish and sullen and strange, but filled with brothers and sisters washed clean of every offending sin, every off-putting weakness, every defensive memory. A city like a bride.
“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Can you imagine? “We will be like him”! Our bodies will be like His. Our minds will be like His. Our energies, like His. Our love, like His. We will be like Him.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who has lived many years as a quadriplegic, has said, “Don’t assume that all I ever do is dream about springing out of this wheelchair, jumping up, dancing, kicking, doing aerobics. No, I’m looking forward to heaven because of a new heart, a heart free of sin, sorrow, selfishness. That beats having a new body any day.” 1
1 From the CD, Heaven, in the Gaither Gospel Series, Track 1
LEE ECLOV is senior pastor of the Village Church of Lincolnshire in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He is an adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the author of the Pastor’s Service Manual, Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls, and the forthcoming Feels Like Home: How Rediscovering the Church as Family Changes Everything. He is a frequent contributor to CTPastors.com and PreachingToday.com.