Thursday, May 31, 2012

How Physical Is Eternity?

Scripture says that the lion will lie down with the lamb. Is this to be understood literally or symbolically? Does it refer to the present time, the millennium, or all eternity? Does this make a difference? Now the emphasis of Scripture is not on going to heaven, but on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Philippians 3:20,21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Scripture does say that, for those who die in Christ, their souls go to be with Him (Philippians 1:21-26; Luke 16:19-31; Ecclesiastes 12:7). But this seems to be more of a waiting time in preparation for the real event.  If we see the main emphasis as being on our departing, it produces a more other-worldly outlook on life. We tend, following the Greek philosopher, to see physical things as an encumbrance we need to escape. But Scripture says that God created the physical world (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3; Psalms 104:24-30) and created us to be a union of spirit and body (Genesis 2:7; 1 Kings 17:21,22; Matthew 10:28). This is what we are meant to be. Now there is a delicate balance here, as we live in a fallen world and cannot simply accept things as they are (Romans 8:19-23; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4). But we are not allowed to reject physical things as simply evil (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:4,5; Titus 1:15). Our goal is a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-4; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Isaiah 65:17), not a bodiless spiritual existence.

The exact relationship of this realm to our present reality is hard to understand. It is likened to the relationship of seed to plant (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). (By a spiritual body I do not understand an immaterial body, but a body free from the effects of sin.) The Lord Jesus' body after the resurrection had interesting characteristics. He could appear and disappear suddenly and enter locked rooms, but He was touched and ate food (Luke 24:13-43; John 20:19-29; 21:4-13). We do not really know what it will be like, but it does not seem an immaterial existence. Will there, then, be lions and lambs in eternity? I am not dogmatic one way or the other, but I do not reject it out of hand. I do not see any basis for interpreting such passages as referring to the present time, and it seems stretching any possible symbolism in the passage to do so. Nor do I see that such things can be simply shunted aside to the millennium. The idea of an end to war that is connected with these types of passages does not fit with a millennium that will end in a war (Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:1-9; Micah 4:1-5 compare Revelation 20:7-10). (It is not my purpose here to deal with the question of whether there is or is not a millennium, merely to remove it as a red herring.) The exact nature of the eternal state is difficult to discern, but we should be careful of rejecting automatically it having any physical aspect to it.


  1. Agree Mike. Do not see those in heaven without bodies. Yet it seems that those bodies have to be of an indestructible type. Maybe heaven is a place where noting ever gets old? Seems odd to think of it that way. Wonder what kind of body folks in heaven will have? Will we all have the body of a 33 year old? Much to ponder.

    1. Interesting question. Maybe we will have a body with the best qualities of every age. The energy of youth with the muscular training developed over time. But that is just speculation.