Please humor me as I recount a discussion i had with my husband after the death of Leon Russell a week or so ago:
Me: I can’t wait to meet Leon Russell in heaven! Yay!
My husband: (scoffing) What makes you think heaven will be like that?
Me: Like what?
My husband: Like you’ll just be yourself as you are now and be able to sit around having (derisive emphasis) “chatty time” with famous dead people?
(Husband dislikes what he interprets as frivolous socialization)
Me: Why not?
My husband: Because it would get incredibly boring. Besides, you might not even be you. Jesus said we’ll be neither make not female. Nobody knows what it’ll be like.
*There followed an escalation nearly into a full-blown argument until we agreed to disagree. Still, I found my husband’s vision of heaven extremely discouraging. Although it’s true no one knows what it will be like, I believe we will still be out individuated selves, albeit perfected in Christ and through Christ. Jesus was still Jesus, after all, after his resurrection. I have read nothing in scripture which contradicts the idea that we will still be our individuated selves, on the contrary, I find much to affirm it, though not necessarily in an explicit way. After years of being lost in new age thought, it was such a profound relief to find Christ and realize there is a person at the crux of the universe and not a void or amorphous “all in all” as I’d been struggling to believe (and despairing thereof). Yes, we lose our lives in discipleship to Jesus, but they are given back to us tenfold and more in Him, resurrected, reborn, made new.
So, I don’t see why I shouldn’t get to meet Leon Russell after the resurrection and judgement. And this for me thinking - the selves which are made in the image will be risen from the dead… but where does that begin? I know there is lots of different thinking on this, and I’ve read some on biologos, but the question troubles me. It seems to me that there must be a clear demarcation in the course of evolution where “human” was born. So will homo habilis be in heaven? Homo erectus? And if so would we even be able to communicate with them? Will communication supercede our languages here on earth? I should expect so… but with such varying levels of intelligence, what would that be like?
Forgive me if these speculations seem childish, or missing the point. But they are just things I think about and times I find it helpful to go ahead and being up the “childish” or naive-sounding or silly questions. But also to just trust that when we do see face to face, it will be glorious beyond our paltry imaginings!
It makes me happy to know that other couples also argue about stupid stuff.
I’m with you. I think we will be our recognizable, unique selves in heaven. We can’t take our stuff with us, but I believe to a certain extent we take our experiences and the degree to which we are sanctified and refined during our lives matters in eternity. The risen Jesus had scars.
And I also think it is fun to think about who we will get to hang out with in heaven. No harm in making a wishlist.
All dogs go to heaven.
surely anyone with compassion we would want around. And dogs have compassion. no?
Individuals? Several have appeared - Samuel was resurrected from the dead by Saul and a witch to answer questions. he , Samuel, retained his identity after death. Catholics believe in numerous apparitions of Mary, in different languages Serejevo, Guadalupe, Fatima are like recent. And all those relics are to connect you with saints. Outside the book, ancestor worship is all the rage. Also a world wide appreciation. But did you seek out their company on this earth? whether it was an ancestory or Mary or . . your famous person? maybe have that conversation now. The strong wanting of emotion comes with a body. out of body, probably less urgency.
I’ve been reading N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope which goes into that. He has some concepts that are a little foreign to this Baptist boy, but very interesting and thought provoking. He affirms the resurrection to a physical body. As the thought that we as Christians are now living in Purgatory, in a sense, becoming more holy, and sanctified (if I understand him correctly).
As to seeing Leon Russell, I think we will be able to do so. It will be all right now, in fact it’s a gas! Bad thing is we may all be naked and barefoot, which will be a little awkward. After all, you see all those piles of clothes and shoes in the rapture movies. I just hope we get to keep our underwear.
The Physical Body in the Afterlife - A Casual Survey - -
Presumably the Persians saw the afterlife with physical bodies. But I have yet to find a text that is definitive about that.
The Greeks saw the afterlife with SOME kind of bodies … probably NOT physical. Because logic tells them, after the 4th day, there is STILL a dead body in that grave … but the “Person” now resides in either a nice part or an unpleasant part of the underworld.
The Egyptians believed that there was an afterlife of non-physical bodies… but with bodily like needs. That’s why they invented the “Shabti” dolls… to do the necessary work and chores of the deceased. The Egyptians, which are the ultimate origin of the “emanations” aspect of Dualist Gnosticism (Persia is the source of the Dualism), has a mind-boggling array of non-physical components of the soul!
Pocket Summary of Egyptian Parts of Self -
1 Ib, later as Ab (heart aka emotion/will/intention) - from one drop of blood from the person’s mother’s heart, at conception. Called Ab after death.
2 Sheut (shadow) - a cryptic part of the self that was always present. Statues (mummy masks too?) were thought to capture the essence or Sheut. Depicted in the afterlife as a small human figure painted completely black (like all shadows).
3 Ren (name) - Lived as long as the name was spoken, perhaps as an eternal source of “energy” for the person.
4 Ba (personality) - depicted as a bird with a human head, it was “everything that made an individual unique”, closest to the Western view of someone’s ‘Personality’; some have argued that it wasn’t PART of the Soul, but the Soul itself! Gods were sometimes looked upon as having more than one “Ba” (plural = “Bau”).
5 Ka (vital spark) - Seen as the difference between a LIVE person and a DEAD person. The Ka allowed the Person to act lively, sustained by food & drink.
6 Akh (“Effective One” [aka Doer?] ) - A point of Egyptian metaphysics that changed over the centuries, the simplest description included the idea that the death of the Khat [the body], triggered the union of the “Ba” & “Ka”, in order to re-animate the “Akh”, which was only possible with the correct funeral rites. The Akh was similar to the idea of a ghost who was interested in either doing good or harm to the living. Ka’s exit of the body was automatic, as soon as someone died. Using the right “opening of the mouth” ceremony allowed the “Ba” to un-bind with the dead flesh. And once the “Ba” and “Ka” were inspired to unite, the “Akh” was a Perfected or Resurrected Person in the spirit world.
The modern audience has a notorious Under-Appreciation of the variety of Jewish views regarding the afterlife:
We are told that the most elite priestly families (Sadducees) didn’t believe in Angels, nor in a General Resurrection. But they did think that exceptional individuals, like Enoch - - as a Physical body - - could be transported to some realm to walk with God. The New Testament scene of the Transfiguration reflects mystic views that had evolved by the time of Jesus, where Moses and Elijah were also singled out to enjoy a physical existence with Yahweh .
Some suggest that the Jewish interest in Heaven as the abode of God was inspired directly from the Zoroastrians. And that prior to contact with Persia, Yahweh (or, AKA, EL) walked in the underworld (even the Greeks, who were influenced by the Persians, thought that some deities made the underworld their abode). UN-exceptional persons just died and stayed dead.
The Pharisees (cognate of Parsees?) believed in angels, and a general resurrection at the End of Time. This is when souls would be provided with a NEW Physical Body (since most of the old physical bodies would be long gone by then).
C) Essenes And/Or Other Fringe Jewish Groups
Josephus invests quite a bit of effort explaining that Essenes had different views of the Afterlife from the Sadducees or Pharisees. While it can be confusing to the modern reader, the difference appears to be an existence without any physical body - - sometimes likened to having an angel’s body of “spiritual matter” (if you like that kind of oxymoron).
The Christianized text known as “The History of the Rechabites” seems to capture this view, like the Zealot’s Speech at Masada which Josephus constructs (whether it was actually ever given or not).
This “heavenly realm” is not in Heaven or Under the Earth, but is some “Blessed Isle” (aka Elysium) that only the dead’s spirit can reach… much like a re-engineered Eden, surrounded with a “moat” of un-passable river water.
I think the greatest irony of all is that the West’s popular view of the afterlife is much more like the Essenes than that of the Sadducees or the Pharisees. Very few Westerners think a soul requires a physical body in order to pass the time . . . even an eternity of time.
Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing. Makes you wonder also if a bit of Gnosticism is present in common beliefs, with the idea that the materialistic is bad, spiritualistic is the good, and we go to heaven as disembodied spirits. And to relate it to origins discussions, makes you wonder if science deniers also drink from the cup of Gnosticism.
Or will we unknow that we are naked? Curiosity got the best of me recently and I picked up a copy of “Left Behind” and had the same thought about the piles of clothes. But of course I hold fast to the promise we will be clothed with joy (Psalm 30, my personal favorite psalm), righteousness, and greater than Solomon in all his glory… It’s gonna be good
Hmmm, interesting. Having not grown up in a fundamentalist congregation (we were Methodist and nominally religious), I was never introduced to the concept of YEC and denial of evolution. Once we were reborn and began following Jesus, I never really considered it, either. I have always found evolution a much more compelling means of how God would create rather than merely “poofing” things into existence. I think there is vague Gnosticism about that which overemphasizes the supernatural and limits God to supernatural means, just as atheistic materialism completely denies the existence of the supernatural. But Jesus Christ was both fully man and fully God, which I think bespeaks everything about how God works. The incarnation echoes throughout creation - after all, the Word was with God from the beginning and through him and by him all things were made. I still get chills from the beginning of John - one of my favorite passages in all the Bible!
“I think the greatest irony of all is that the West’s popular view of the afterlife is much more like the Essenes than that of the Sadducees or the Pharisees. Very few Westerners think a soul requires a physical body in order to pass the time . . . even an eternity of time.”
True… I remember having this abstract conception of heaven when I was a child. No idea where I got it from - maybe just the zeitgeist and culture, and the persistent idea portrayed in media and elsewhere that our souls vacate our bodies and “float up” to heaven when we die. It’s really not Biblical at all, like Christy says.
Ouch! That pinched. I think we can put it a little more delicately. For instance, I am inclined to think that the reason the Essenes appear not to have been mentioned in the New Testament is because rival groups are not motivated in making the linkage. As the Pharisees had two schools… Hippolytus tells us that the Essenes had FOUR (4) schools … and at least one of them seemed much like the primitive church. We have already read in Acts about the early Church being communitarian. And we read the words of Jesus in Mark 10:21:
“. . . sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor - - and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”
Translators have always rushed to think this is a reference to the poor everywhere … but how exactly would that work? Would you throw hundred dollar bills in the street… and you are sanctified?
No. “The Poor” (aka “Ebionites” was actually the generic name for communitarian religious communities, with giving all that you had to their treasury as part of the admittance process… as we have seen for the last 2000 years where wealthy men give their possessions to monasteries and begin their life of prayer and salvation.
I think the smoothest indication of a spiritual afterlife is found here:
Luke 23:42 - 43
" And he [one of the other two] said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. "
And then there is this discussion by Paul … apparently in reference to a vision he personally experienced:
2Co 12:2 - 4
"I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words. . . "
Some like to dismiss this as purely a vision. I am more inclined to see it as a vision of something real and relevant.
Jesus and the apostles introduced new revelation and a new religion. Yes, it’s helpful to understand the contexts into which they spoke, but in the end, what matters (to me), is what the apostolic tradition actually taught, not what seven other contemporary groups taught. Jesus, Paul, and Peter trump all your Wikipedia citations, at least in my book.
The reason I struggle with Paul is because of his “smarty pants” attitude.
He has never met Jesus. But he assures those around him and us that the Apostles who were taught by Jesus,
and the relatives who lived with Jesus, all got Jesus wrong. But that he, Paul of Tarsus, who got
his head banged and struck blind for three days - - and probably suffering from a concussion? - -
is the only one who understands what Jesus was really saying.
I don’t think the assertion I’m making in this particular thread is such a wild idea . . .
A) Jesus challenged the Temple establishment - - so did various communities of Essenes.
B) Jesus inspired his apostles to live “all things in common”. I know of no other Jewish group who also did this - - other than the Essene communities. In fact, they were notorious for it. At the very least, Christians learned how from them.
C) Christian literature emphasized the spiritual side of existence. So did the Essenes.
D) There is plenty of indications that early Christians thought their relief in the afterlife would be immediate.
So did the Essenes.
I’m not quite sure why there is so much concern about Jesus being linked to the Essene matrix.
They were a fairly varied aggregation of people and ideas according to Hippolytus.
He claimed he did. He also spent three years of spiritual preparation in the desert before beginning his ministry. Some people point out this is as long as the other apostles spent learning from Jesus.
How do you figure? Paul is preaching the kerygma, the same as the other apostles. Have you ever looked at any of the New Perspective on Paul scholarship, or even better, the post-NPP stuff? It has been all the rage the last few decades. Maybe it is the Reformation that got Paul wrong, not Paul who got Jesus wrong.
I think maybe you are mischaracterizing the concern. The fact that the early church community shared some characteristics with Essene communities is beside the point. Jesus preached something radically different than the Essenes. He wasn’t just preaching a lifestyle or a purer, higher form of Judaism, he was preaching an identity-- that he was the promised Messiah and that he was bringing God’s kingdom. That is the heart of the gospel. The way of life Christians are called to starts with and centers on “Jesus is Lord.” The caring for the poor and marginalized, sharing resources, separation from the culture and institutions of the day, and other hallmarks of early Christian practice flowed out of their conviction that Jesus was the Messiah and his return was imminent.
Yes… it seems without question that Jesus was teaching something new.
And it actually makes sense that it would be someone trained in the Essene ideas that such a thing would happen. They were willing to consider the Temple less relevant to the future of humanity. They were very concerned about the future of good and evil.
The Essene communities were the ones that characterized their groups as the Assemblies of God …
So imagine the shock to the system when someone - - presumably someone trained within their ranks? - - stepped up and said he was making a Kingdom (!!!) of God !!!
Naturally, this implies that as founder, he was King! While all the other communities were more common … along the lines of Assemblies … with no real royal prerogatives…
it is Ghandi who experimented with fasting who says less food gives less emotion. i cannot imagine food in heaven. not manageable. who is cooking, who is cleaning up?flush toilets in heaven? the little fasting i have tried confirms Ghandis observation that if you stop eating, there is less urgency.also observed in people about to die. And Jesus tells us, no sex in heaven, even you are naked, you are not interested.
again, if all people who ever lived showed up physically, even half of them, it would be very crowded on this planet. mostly speculation, but if compassion is an option and you chose it, even if you are a dog or an orca, seems like you should have a place in a better world. then the question is what are you going to talk about? “how are you”, i am fine, how are you? nice day today. would you be interested in the elections down on earth? i think not. speculation.
So, how do you propose a wedding feast with no food? Obviously, there is a cherubim housekeeping staff or something. You can have your food-free speculative heaven, mine has lots of food. And calories don’t count either.
I always have something to talk about. Plus, I think we’ll have meaningful work to do in the New Creation, so there will be new things happening. Sorry, Mike, you sound kind of boring. You’re not making my “hang out with in eternity” list.
Ultimately, what the new heaven and new earth will be like is beyond our understanding. But I believe we can have a foretaste of it here on earth. Have you ever had an experience where it felt like eternity “broke in” to everyday space and time? I have. Boredom and practicalities and whatnot are… I don’t know… not relevant. And that is only a faint foretaste, as though through a glass, darkly. In heaven, the full glory of Christ will be revealed. And what is the alternative, exactly, to human community and interaction? Some kind of ecstatic meditative trance? I believe there will be no sex as we know it because the deep knowing, trust and vulnerability for which God designed sex here on earth (dang… we really mess it up!) will be our state of being. Like Christy, I will never run out of things to talk about! I’m sure it won’t be a constant chat-a-thon, though, and solitude will also be part of things. Who knows. All I know is it’s gonna be good, a redemption so sweet that it will wipe away every tear.