Vol. 5, No. 8
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Question: "What will we be like in the resurrection?"
Answer: This is a thoughtful question. While Scripture tells us that our bodies will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:35b-44), our exact form cannot be known until this transformation takes place. Having said that, we can still "piece together" a few passages which offer us some insight. According to the Word, we will be:
1. Like angels "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven"(Matthew 22:29b-30). Despite the fact that the Sadducees denied the resurrection and the existence of the spirit world (cf. Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:7-8), Jesus reminded them that there was sufficient Old Testament evidence to the contrary (cf. Exodus 3:6; Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:29; Daniel 12:2). He then explained that when the faithful dead are brought forth from the grave at the Last Day, they will share the unique qualities of spirit which belong to angels. They will not actually become angels, but will be like them (cf. Luke 16:22).
Life there will be of a different order, with angels giving us the pattern. It is the life of the angels rather than the life of people here and now that shows us what heaven will be like. We know little about angels, but this saying of Jesus makes it clear that they do not live in families as we do. He does not say that we will be angels but that we will like angels [Leon Morris, "Attempts to Trap Jesus," The Gospel According To Matthew, Eerdmans, 560-561].
Marriage is designed by God to perpetuate the human family on earth, but after the resurrection there is eternal life and there is no longer a need for marriage. In heaven, earthly ties and relationships are no longer needed; therefore, we exist 'as angels,' separating from all limitations and necessities of the flesh [W. Terry Varner, "The Marriage Feast And Slighted Invitation; Captious Questions; Tribute to Caesar; The Great Commandment," The Book of Matthew, Getwell church of Christ, Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren editors, 1988, 571].
2. Like Christ -- "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is"(1 John 3:2). Commenting on this passage, Guy N. Woods observed:
To be like him is to be as he is, in both spirit and body. It is to partake of his glorious characteristics of mind and heart, of soul and spirit; to come into possession of the spiritual graces which are his. It is to be like him in purity, in holiness, in kindness and in love; it is to share with him the complete approval of our Father and God. It is, further, to be like him in body; to possess the immortal nature which he possesses, and to be no longer, as he is no longer, subject to death [Guy N. Woods, "God Is Love," A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, Gospel Advocate, 258].
Children of God will not actually be deity, but we will share in many of the attributes of deity. We will partake of, participate in, demonstrate, as well as exhibit Christ's glory (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:12; Romans 8:17). The grandeur of the Lord will be revealed within us (cf. Ephesians 5:25). "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform* our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body..." (Philippians 3:2-21a).
3. Equal to angels -- "But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36). Angels are higher than we are in our present state of existence (Psalm. 8:4-5); they enjoy a measure of superhuman power, knowledge and other blessings that we do not have. However, this will be remedied after the resurrection. The following diagram illustrates this point:
*Transform, metaschematisei, "to refashion, to change the outward form or appearance. The meaning of the word could be illustrated by changing a Dutch garden, not merely into an Italian garden, but by transforming it into something wholly different, like a city" [Cleon L. Rogers Jr. & Cleon L. Rogers III, "Philippians 4," The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan, 456].