New Testing Phase

Friday, 9 September 2011

On The Immortality Of The Flesh

For most of my life, both as a false convert, then later, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I had a vague stereotypical idea of what heaven in like. Basically in my ignorance, I believed that once a believer died, their soul left their body and went to heaven, where there was golden streets and mansions, one assigned to each person. What's more, our entire occupation would be singing, in worship to God, the whole time, without ceasing.

While not everything in the previous two sentences are inaccurate, there is quite a lot of detail missing, and one or two parts completely wrong. In this post, I will try to outline what the bible says this topic and how things play out.

  1. God designed man to live on earth. God made man from the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7) to work and tend the earth (Gen 2:15). It was God’s plan that human beings would live forever, on earth, as it tenderers. Although through sin, man wrecked all that, I will try to show that it is still, ultimately, God’s plan for us to live on earth as physical beings, tending and working it.
  2. When Adam sinned, he and his wife had died, spiritually. Physically they had also begun to die, and (in Adam’s case)  after 930 years, he breathed his last. For those who have not been born again, a person is thrown, ultimately, in the lake of fire (Rev 20:14) which is described as the second death. This is God’s ultimate judgement on sin, the complete fulfilment of what He said in Genesis 2:17. Its interesting to note that this lake is physical, and that the suffering there is physical. It has fire and worms, (Mark 9:47-48) smoke, Darkness, and physical actions like gnashing of teeth (Mat 22:13)
  3. In the same way that hell is real, so is heaven. But more to the point, in the same way that the lake of fire is real, so is the New Earth

    Revelation 21:1-3  1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    These verses describe how God create a new spiritual heaven, and a new physical earth. This is done because the old earth had been destroyed as part of God’s judgement on the place, and the old heaven seems to go with it. Notice the detail about there being no sea there (sorry my surfer buddies). This is fascinating when you think about it. The sea is a sign of God’s judgement, it came when God flooded the whole world and made a significant change, it transformed a world, designed to be inhabited into a wretch, such that today, only about 3% of the surface of the earth can be inhabited by man. But on the new earth, without the sea, there will be much more space for man to live. All these features are physical.

    It is clear from these verses that for those redeemed by Jesus, their ultimate destination is on a new physical earth.

  4. With all the above in mind, by way of preamble, lets now look at the humans themselves:
    First lets take a few logical steps. If humans are designed to physical, live on a physical world and work as part of our existence, then it makes no sense to say that, after death and all of the events of Revelation are complete, we should spend our time as spiritual beings without bodies or physical activities. Also, why would God recreate a completely new physical earth unless He intends real physical humans to live there.

    Let us now look to the bible to see if it has anything else to say on the subject. The key word here is resurrection. There are several verses that I could cite, but the key one in this case is Revelation 20:5-6:

    5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

    It is clear that part of God’s fulfilling of all things, is to resurrect His people unto life forever with Him. Resurrection is always physical, if its not, then its not a true resurrection. Christ rose physically from the dead.

  5. The final point is that from this point, we will carry on into eternity (Rev 22:5) living and reigning with Christ without end.

So what then, the bible teaches that the ultimate destination of man is earth? Yes it is true, but certainly a new earth, one without curse or sin (Rev 22:3). An those who are there are, if you will immortal, they will not die, for death was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:14)

A few other points have to be made: firstly that we must be careful with the word flesh. 1 John 2:16 uses the word flesh to describe one of our 3 things we as believers have to look out for, which come as temptations to us. The “Lust of the flesh” is not a good thing. For that reason, we would do better to refer to ourselves as having ‘glorified bodies’ or ‘resurrected bodies’ rather than ‘immortal flesh’. Praise God that our sinful flesh will pass away.

Also you may have questions as to the in-between times. What happens to us if we die before Christ’s return? That whole topic requires another post, but in brief this is my answer: 2 Corinthians 5:8  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. The verse implies that when a believer is away from their bodies (in this context, meaning dead) they would be in the presence of the Lord.

Recommended Resources

400000000000000080040_s4If you want to get a good, comprehensive and biblical book on this topic, I highly recommend Heaven by Randy Alcorn. This really is the best book on the topic, and it is recommended by many brilliant theologians. For example Rick Holland said Rez2011 that it was one of his top 5 most important books after the bible. You can buy it from amazon or in audiobook format here


I also put forward a sermon series tentatively. Tentatively because it has only just been released and I haven’t yet listened to it yet. But I have gained very much from the preacher in question and trust him implicitly to be both accurate and biblical. Still listen with discernment.

Heaven & Hell: The Truth About The Afterlife by RW Glenn

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4Part 5

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