Woody Allen (1935-present), in one of his forty or so films called "Hannah and Her Sisters," said, "I don't want to gain immortality through my work. I want to gain immortality by not dying." Woody had a point, but Jesus said in John 11.25-26, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." We expect our devotion to God's Son to gain heaven's immortality because it is a natural part of our being, something to be experienced when we die. ✞
The English poet William Langland (1332-1386), in his quest for the authentic Christian life in his poem "Piers Plowman," wrote of the finality of death in the antiquated English language as "ded as a dore-nayl." A "dead doornail" here is a reference in Middle English to a hand-forged nail driven through a vertical board and a horizontal one in a door, and the point of the metal fastener was then bent over so that no one could pull it out. There is an absolute finality in being "as dead as a doornail." It was really "dead." We will all be "as dead as a doornail" in this respect until Jesus personally gives us immortality. It is a "miracle happening" for every Christian. Jesus said in John 8.51, "I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." There is no death in store for the believer. Death means separation. Natural death separates the spirit from the body, and spiritual death separates the soul from God. Christians will not see the end, for their souls will never be separated from God! ✞
The Bible teaches that when Christians "fall asleep" and their human bodies die, they later rise and receive new recognizable heavenly bodies. In heaven, all Christians receive unique heavenly bodies. These bodies will not be the same as our earthly bodies but are less recognizable to their Christian friends and families. There are differences of opinion, but many scholars believe we will appear as we were at aged 33, at Jesus' age when he arose at the Ascension. I don't know! It's as good a guess as any, I suppose! Our new bodies will not be burdensome like the old ones but free from pain and tears, illness, and stress. Philippians 3.21 tells us that Jesus Christ "will transform our lowly bodies so that they may be like his glorious body." ✞
Jesus gives his children heavenly bodies because they are part of heaven, just as those invited to the King's banquet are given and expected to wear a brand new banquet robe. After all, they are part of his celebration. All Christians receive heavenly bodies after they die and are personally recognized and cherished by Christ in heaven. In a society where various numbers, such as their Social Insurance Number, identify individuals, it is refreshing to see that we mean more to God. He knows us not as numbers but individually and personally.
To a computer, I am just another number.
To Jesus, I am an object of his
I'm just a small number. Computers can trace.
But Jesus knows my heartaches.
My name, my face." (author unknown.) ✞
Jesus revealed John Wesley Heaven to him in a dream. The Methodist reformer questioned his guide as to who was and who was not in heaven. The Rev. John Wesley (1703-1791), the great Anglican/Methodist reformer and theologian who founded the Methodist Church and the evangelical movement connected with "the method," or "the rule with which the Wesley Brothers went about their religious affairs." Though "Methodist" was originally a mocking title by their fellow students, John and Charles Wesley turned it into a title of honor. Methodists organized home Bible study and prayer groups, which spread throughout Britain and beyond.
In the United States, Methodism became the religion of many slaves who formed "black churches" in the Methodist tradition. One night, however, John Wesley had a dream about heaven and hell. This dream first found him standing at the gates of hell, a place of torment and anguish in the afterlife. Wesley asked his guide, "Are there any Presbyterians in there?" "Yes, a great many," came the reply. "Are there any Church of England members?" "Yes, there are lots of them." "Are there any Baptists?" "A large number." "And are there any Wesleyans?" Again the answer came back, "Yes, there are many of them." ✞
In his dream, John Wesley saw heaven's gates and a place of great joy and peace in the afterlife. Wesley repeated the same questions, and each time was surprised to receive only negative answers. According to his guide, there were "No Baptists, no Church of England, no Presbyterians and no Wesleyans, present in heaven!" "Who, then, is in heaven?" Wesley exclaimed. "We know nothing about the names you mentioned," came the reply. "The only name that matters here is the name "Christian." We are all Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ here!" One moral of this story is that Christians would do well to take John Wesley's lead and to dispense with their denominational labels! Are you interested in who else might be in heaven? ✞
Jesus Christ's death destroys the power of death over every Christian believer. From that death moment, it opens up immortality for them in heaven. For the Christian believer, the grave loses its sting. When Jesus died on the cross, something unique happened relevant to Christians down the ages and today. The body of Christ and his blood provided for the conversion of individuals all around the world. ✞
The writer of Hebrews 2.14-15 spoke of Jesus Christ's death when he wrote, "by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Satan holds the power of death only because he induces people to sin and come under sin's penalty. By Jesus' death on the cross, he completely breaks Satan's power and frees believers to serve Jesus Christ as their Lord. Therefore Jesus Christ's death has destroyed the power of death over the believer and taken the fear of dying from Christians. Satan can no longer inflict death with all its terror upon believers in that death moment. As Saint Paul said in 2 Timothy 1.10, "Our Savior, Christ Jesus, has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." ✞
I was reminded the other day of a weekend retreat as a young man in Scargill, Yorkshire, in 1963. One of the activities there was potholing in the caves nearby. I was suited out with the others with helmets and overalls and led into the cave by trained guides. I was curious about a bricked-up hole and told of a young man wedged in there who, despite every effort, tragically died. It had become his grave. Suddenly, I was fearful of death. In the blackness, it became a genuine possibility. We squeezed around a corkscrew in the rock and trudged along in the blackness with only our helmet lights. It was awe-inspiring. Coming back out into the sunlight, I realized that I had nothing to fear, for Jesus had abolished death and replaced it with life and immortality. The corkscrew, by the way, was first patented by The Rev Samuel Henshall (c1764-1807) in 1795 in Oxford, England. The earliest device called a "steel worm" was the French cage-style corkscrew from 1685. Corkscrew enthusiasts are known as "helixophiles." You can imagine my dismay of being faced with a corkscrew hole in the rock and having to squirm around the bend to get to the other side! ✞
Christians from all generations and ages form the Body of Christ. Jesus gathers her around him across time in the heavenly historical body. The Body of Christ is part of history and inseparable from it. Just as an outcrop on a mountain can be an example of the rock beneath, the Body of Christ on earth is only a small part of heaven's historical body across the ages. She is united and joined historically from the past to the present to the future by Christ himself. As the head, Jesus holds this historical body across time and binds it together in himself. Jesus is with us as Christians, not just in this life but also in heaven. We are sustained even through death by the prospect of belonging to the future body. Saint Paul wrote in Philippians 3.17-21, "Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." A person committed to Christ and the Christian Way begins the journey into Heaven's Mystical Body when they commit to following Jesus Christ. ✞
A little boy was shivering on a bleak and chilled city pavement, afraid and hungry. A city missionary invited him to go to a particular hostel and told him, "Go there, ring the bell, and when they ask who you are, say the three words, 'In His Name.'" The lad found his way to the hostel, ventured up the steps, repeated the strange words at the door, and received a royal welcome with a hot supper and a warm, clean bed, to his amazement. The same lad was seriously injured in a street accident and taken to hospital a few days later. The city missionary revisited him and assured him of the love of Jesus. Before his death, he repeated again and again, "In His Name, that's what lets you in." Resurrection and entry into the heavenly body can only be expected by those who come "In His Name." In Jesus' name, that's what lets you in! ✞