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 because of our devotion to God's Son to gain heaven's immortality because it is a natural part of our being, something to be expected after we die. The English poet William Langland (1332-1386) in his quest for the true 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 that was driven through a vertical board and a horizontal one perhaps in a door and the point of the nail was then bent over so that it cannot be pulled out. There was a certain 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 is the separation of the spirit from the body and spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God. Christians will not see death 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 are given new recognizable heavenly bodies. In Heaven, all Christians are given new and recognizable heavenly bodies. These bodies will not be the same as our earthly bodies but are never the 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. We are told in Philippians 3.21 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 because they are part of his banquet. All Christians are given heavenly bodies after they die and are personally recognized and cherished by Christ in Heaven. In a society where individuals are known through various numbers such as their Social Insurance Number in Canada, it is refreshing to know 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 was credited with the founding of 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 as 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."✞
John Wesley was then transported in his dream to the gates of Heaven, 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, to be found 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 and from that death moment opens up immortality for them in Heaven. For the Christian believer, death is robbed of its sting. When Jesus was crucified on the cross something amazing happened which has been relevant to Christians down the ages and to us 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 in that he induces people to sin and to come under sin's penalty which is death. By Jesus' death on the cross, Satan's power is completely broken and believers are freed 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 too. 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." Jesus has abolished death in that the wages of sin is death and he has replaced it with life and immortality.✞
The body of Christ is formed of Christians from all generations and ages. She is gathered around Jesus across time in the Heaven historical body. The Body of Christ is part of history and can never be separated from it. Just as an outcrop on a mountain can be an example of the rock beneath, so 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. Jesus as the head holds this historical body across time and the historical body is bound together by God 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 who is committed to Christ and the Christian Way begins the journey which ends in Heaven's Mystical Body. Heaven's mystical body begins when a person commits to 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 certain hostel and told him simply, "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 to his amazement received a royal welcome with a hot supper and a warm clean bed. A few days later, the same lad was seriously injured in a street accident and taken to hospital. The city missionary visited him again and assured him of the love of Jesus. In the hours before his death, he was found repeating 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" that is in the name of Jesus. In his name, that's what lets you in!✞