the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Last week I made the claim that the only things we take with us into eternity are our own character and the personal relationships we have with Christ and fellow Christians. I also said that eternity is a “super physical” place not ghostly or insubstantial. To quote the Apostle Paul again, we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling [our present body] is destroyed we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands [our future body] (2 Corinthians 5:1, HCSB, brackets added). This passage alone tells us that eternity is a physical place where a body of “super physicality” is at home. We have a glimpse of what our eternal bodies will be like in the brief accounts of our risen lord in the Gospels. There we see a man able to pass through walls, disappear, mask his appearance and so on who (according to his own testimony) was flesh and bone (Luke 24:39-43).
Part of the confusion concerning the nature of our eternal bodies arises from a misunderstanding of Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth. Speaking of the resurrection of the dead he says we are sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.(1 Corinthians 15:42-45). So “spiritual body” does not mean an airy and ethereal body but a body without earthly origin. The first Adam was created from the stuff of this earth. The last Adam (Jesus) was likewise made of flesh and bone but was transformed in resurrection to a life giving spirit. In so saying, Paul does not suggest Jesus lacked human nature or existence as a man. Instead, he says Jesus was greater than the first Adam because he was “endowed with an elevated spiritual nature, which was capable of imparting vital existence to the dead” (Albert Barnes Notes On The Bible). But please note: Paul does not say Jesus was transformed into a spirit or a ghost. He was still flesh and bone. He still carried the scars of his crucifixion in his flesh (John 20:24-27).
Now then, a person’s character is revealed by their behavior and the only way one person really knows how another person feels about them is in the way they act. In other words, character and relationships are ultimately represented physically. A person’s Christ-like nature is shown by their behavior and their love for another is displayed in their self-sacrificial service. Folks, this is true in this life and it’s true in eternity. Do you think character and relationships will cease to be important in eternity? Think again! The Bible nowhere suggests we become robotic, mindless wraiths in eternity. We continue as rational beings capable of exhibiting Christ like character and love. And in order to do so, it is required that we live in a place where self-sacrificial service has true significance.
I plan to return to this topic in a couple weeks.