When my daughter was very young, one of our favourite books to read together was ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle. It’s the story of a caterpillar who eats one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday and so on until he becomes a big fat caterpillar, at which point he lies down in his cocoon and emerges two weeks later as a handsome butterfly with large colourful wings. The book, endorsed by The Royal Entomological Society (an organisation devoted to the study of insects), is factually accurate in its description of the life stages of a butterfly and transports us into an experience of casting off the old in order to birth the new.
Isn’t God’s creation amazing? That a wiggly, chubby caterpillar transforms into a delicate butterfly with striking, paper-thin wings? That a land-bound insect metamorphoses into a flying creature of great beauty?
It should be no surprise then that, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, when we die our mortal flesh, too, is exchanged for a much-improved celestial body – more awesome than the one we have now and better suited to a heavenly environment! Our earthly bodies have to die so that we may assume our heavenly form. Just like the caterpillar, seeds die in their original structure in order to grow into something more beautiful and we follow the same pattern. In death, our bodies are metaphorically sown in the same way that seeds are sown in the ground. Wheat seeds don’t resemble the tall stems they grow into and neither does our current appearance determine our refashioned physicality in heaven.
In verses 42-44, Paul tells us that, ‘What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; 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.’
Our earthly bodies, then, are perishable, dishonourable, weak and natural. In terms of inheritance, we are like the first Adam. We have a limited lifespan and our bodies deteriorate and are prone to sickness and disease; we are sinful beings; we are weak and vulnerable; we are just as we were made for this earthly life – natural. Our resurrected bodies, on the other hand, will be imperishable, glorious, powerful and spiritual. We will resemble the last Adam – Jesus! How exciting is that?
The Bible gives us three insights into what we might look like in heaven, through people who were greatly touched by the presence of God on earth:
- ‘Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God’ Exodus 34:29
- Jesus was transfigured on the mountain ‘and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light’ Matthew 17:2
- When Stephen was before the council ‘And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel’ Acts 6:15.
We also know that Jesus ate and drank in the period before He ascended to heaven and that He was able to travel in a supernatural way, appearing and disappearing at will. ‘And he vanished from their sight’ (Luke 24:31).
It’s so thrilling to think that we can live a full life on this earth, loving, worshipping and serving God, and yet there is still more! When we die, we will live for eternity with our creator, in healthy, pain-free, sin-free bodies, which shine like the sun and reflect the glory of Jesus! Now that’s something to look forward to!