O, That Day When Freed From Sinning! (3)
[This is our third article focusing on the experience of glorification, when we will be entirely set free from the presence and power of sin.] Continue reading . . .
[This is our third article focusing on the experience of glorification, when we will be entirely set free from the presence and power of sin.]
Still in 1 Corinthians, Paul exuberantly declares “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). But the change is not merely physical. It is moral as well. Our bodies are to be transformed from perishable and corruptible into imperishable and incorruptible, but this extends as well to our minds: how we think; it extends to our wills: what we choose; it extends to our affections: what we desire; it extends to our tongues: what we say; and to our hands: what we do.
Paul speaks again to this idea of glorification in Philippians 3. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
Many of you live in constant frustration because you hate your body. You are dissatisfied with your appearance, your size, your color, your hair. You think you’re either too tall or too short, too thin or too fat, too weak or too strong. Worse still, you hate what your body does and how it feels. You despise disease and weakness and fatigue and pain and lust and greed and discomfort and death.
Does this rob you of life and joy and service? Or does it cause you to fix your eyes on the heavens and the return of Christ who will finally, fully, and forever change your body into one that is fit for the glories of heaven and the kingdom of God?
Never forget that we will live for eternity in a body, a glorified and redeemed body, but no less a body. Our existence will not merely be spiritual but gloriously physical forever! Our hope, as Paul states it in Philippians 3:21, is that Christ “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
I don’t think this means we will all have identical bodies to such an extent that we won’t be able to differentiate one person from another. There is a measure of continuity between what we look like now and what we will look like after we are glorified. But I can assure you that there will be nothing in your physical form with which you will be dissatisfied. I don’t know how that will work, but it will.
It’s often hard to be happy when you hurt. Some of you are feeling that right now. But in heaven, with new and glorified bodies, you will never be out of breath; there will be no fatigue, pain, discomfort, chronic aches or itches. There will be only pure physical pleasure with no bodily obstacles to diminish our ability to see and feel and hear and touch and taste and smell the glories of paradise. Now, on earth, physical pleasure often competes with spiritual happiness, but in heaven they are one! The physical and emotional and intellectual pleasures of heaven will infinitely exceed the most ecstatic of physical and sensual pleasures on earth.
In the age to come, once sin is eradicated from our souls and bodies, there will be new faculties of mind to think and to comprehend the majesty of God. There will be new senses that enable us to see and feel and hear and taste the limitless beauty and sweetness of all that Jesus Christ is.
There will be no bodily lusts to defile your heart, no physical fatigue to cloud your mind, no wicked impulses against which you must fight, no dullness of spirit to hold you back, no lethargy of soul to slow you down, no weakness of will to keep you in bondage, no lack of energy to love someone else, no absence of passion to pursue what is holy.
Insofar as our bodies will be glorified in heaven and thus delivered of weakness and frailty and obscurity and our senses all heightened and magnified and their capacity to see, touch, feel, hear, and smell greatly increased and no longer hindered by disease or distraction, our experience will be indescribably joyful.
And what precisely is the practical benefit of thinking on these things and fixing the eyes of our hearts on the heavens from which Christ will return? As John said – “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). More on this passage later.
In Colossians 3 Paul assures us that “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4).
According to this text, Christ, who is our life, will one day “appear”. That is typically taken for granted among Christians. We refer to it as the Second Coming. But we fail to consider that “when” he appears “then” (note the explicit temporal connection in Paul’s language) we “also will appear with him in glory.”
Let’s put this passage together with two others. According to Romans 8:18 we will “see” that glory. Paul says it will be “revealed” to us. But in another sense we will “be” that glory. But in what sense? And in “being” that glory how do we keep the focus on Christ and not ourselves? Look again at Colossians 3:4.
When Paul says we will appear with him “in glory” he’s not referring to a place but an experience. This is the promise of sharing in the glorified life of Christ. It is the promise of the eradication of evil and every fleshly impulse. It is the promise of everlasting deliverance from greed and pride and lust and envy and bitterness. It is the promise that our whole being: body, soul, mind, spirit, and affections will experience and forever live in the power and purity of God himself.
It’s somewhat akin to what Paul had in mind in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 where he declares that Christ is coming to be glorified “in” his saints. John Stott explains it this way:
“So how will the coming Lord Jesus be glorified in relation to his people? Not ‘among’ them, as if they will be the theatre or stadium in which he appears; nor ‘by’ them, as if they will be the spectators, the audience who watch and worship; nor ‘through’ or ‘by means of’ them, as if they will be mirrors which reflect his image and glory [although, in a sense all those are true]; but rather ‘in’ them, as if they will be a filament, which itself glows with light and heat when the electric current passes through it” (The Gospel & The End of Time: The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991], p. 149).
Stott’s point is that we will not only witness Christ’s glory, we will be enveloped within it, engulfed by its surging splendor, and made experiential participants of it. One day, oh glorious day, our lives will no longer be “hidden” with Christ in God (Col. 3:3), but fully and finally and forever seen as we glow with the brightness of his glory, for his glory. This is surely what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 13:43 when he said of his Second Coming: “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43a).
Although the word “glory” or “glorification” does not appear in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, that is undoubtedly what Paul has in mind when he prays, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). One day our sanctification will be “complete” or consummated.
The author of Hebrews says that when Christ returns to this earth a second time it will not be to deal with sin but “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28b).
Perhaps the most instructive of all biblical declarations of our “glorification” is provided by John in 1 John 3. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Just as our spiritual perception of Christ in the present sanctifies us incrementally and progressively, our literal vision of Christ in the future will sanctify us wholly. It is our experience of Christ that sanctifies. If progressive assimilation to the likeness of Christ results from our present beholding of him through a glass darkly, to behold him face to face, i.e., "to see him as he is," will result in instantaneous perfection or glorification.
What is the precise causal relationship between the vision of Christ and final glorification? Two views are possible:
On the one hand, some insist that we shall see Christ because we are like him; likeness, then, is the condition of seeing him (cf. Mt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14). Thus, this view says that holiness is a prerequisite to the vision of Christ and thus must precede it (the holiness, of course, is God given, not earned by man).
But I think it more likely John is saying that Christ shall appear, we will see him, and as a result of seeing him we shall be made like him. In other words, in his presence sin will be eradicated altogether from us. When the glory of Christ finally appears, sin flees. It cannot abide his presence. In that moment and forevermore we will reflect his glory and through the majesty of that encounter we will be made like him.
Whereas there are certainly other texts that speak of our final resurrection and the change that will be wrought in us, body, soul, and spirit, these we’ve noted are sufficient to give us a general sense of what comes when Christ does.
To be continued . . .