After Eric Clapton’s son Conor died tragically in 1991, the singer wrote a beautiful song asking a haunting question, a question that I believe many have pondered through the years:
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
Tears in Heaven, Eric Clapton
Will I know you in heaven? I think my mom used to wonder about this – somewhere she came up with the idea that we won’t know anyone there. Ergo, a hundred years from now, if you bumped into someone beyond the Pearly Gates, it might be your Uncle Melvin or it might be the Apostle Paul, but you wouldn’t know – you would both just have your celestial smiles on full power and say “Excuse me.”
What a sad and hopeless thought.
But fear not. It’s surely wrong. When Jesus went up on the Mount of Transfiguration, He knew Moses and Elijah, as did also apparently Peter, James and John. And even more importantly than that, the disciples knew that it was Jesus after He was resurrected. Well, mostly they knew, I suppose. He apparently wasn’t as easy to recognize as before, and there was a bit of fumbling, but overall they got it right.
You see, He was different…and yet the same. And that’s how it will be in heaven.
Paul writes about it helpfully in 1 Corinthians 15, as he says that our bodies on earth now are like the seeds and our bodies in heaven will be like the corresponding full grown plants:
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 (ESV)
I find this extremely helpful. It also answers the question regarding what happens to a body that is destroyed in death, as in a fire or just after centuries of decomposition (Sorry, I don’t mean to go all CSI on you). Anyway, if you’ve wondered about these things (and it’s not just my weird mind) lay your curiosity to rest – I can’t tell you exactly what it will be like, but I can tell you that it’s going to be wonderful. Your body on earth will be a kind of seed for a glorious resurrection body.
So the Apostle writes…
It is sown in dishonor; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:43-44 (ESV)
Now, I have a calling on my life that leads me into the inner world of dying people. And I can testify that when Paul says “dishonor”, he has chosen an apt word. For there is no honor in the body when it is wasting away. And when he says “weakness”, well, I think he must have seen many before death as well. Weakness is all that is left.
But the wonderful truth of the resurrection is that the dishonor and weakness of our dying bodies ends in glory and power, yea, even in victory:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:54 ESV)
And so, make no mistake. When we bump into a dear loved one on the other side, we will do more than flash a cheesy smile and say, “Excuse me.”
We will look with love and wonder upon the victory that God has wrought…and we will greet one another by name.
For Tuesday, May 26th: 1 Corinthians 16