Will I have a body in heaven if I die before the rapture?

0
377

By Forrest Hindley —

Various theologians to Christians concerning their death…

“I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news—The good news is that when you die, because of your believing faith in Christ, you’ll go straight to Heaven and be with Jesus, your friends and family! But the bad news is that you won’t be able to see them, or hear them, or speak to them, or feel them, or sing God’s praises. Why? Because you won’t have a body! You will be disembodied until the rapture! But you won’t notice it, because there is no time in Heaven.”

Not very comforting, is it?

It just doesn’t fit into their predisposed theology that a mortal body could possibly have an intermediate body prior to the rapture! Until then, to them, our souls and spirits drift around Heaven without expression and sensory reception, while we are “found naked”. 2 Corinthians 5:2 says, “we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from Heaven”. So much for “O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)! Is it really “very much better” to “depart to be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23), if we are blind, deaf, and dumb, because we have no bodily senses?

But these theologians in their studies and pulpits advocate for a disembodied Heaven. They believe that their order of things means we won’t see the glories of Heaven or truly greet our loved ones because God won’t provide us some kind of heavenly body before the rapture. (see note 1) “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

Most Christians today have little idea what the future holds for them in Heaven before the Rapture, because their pastor doesn’t want to give them their bodiless bad news, or it is delivered in such a dispassionate way that many don’t realize what their pastor is talking about. Therefore, I am asking, when it comes to a believer’s arrival in Heaven, if we arrive before the glorious Rapture, “IS ANY BODY THERE?”

IS A BODY NECESSARY?

Where did this body business start? In Genesis 2:7, “The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 1:27 says, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” Please note that God started with the body first, and then breathed life into him. Angels were originally created as spirits, but mankind has never been without a body. It is integral to mankind’s very existence as God created him! And, despite the teaching of Eastern Religions, Plato, and Greek Gnosticism, Adam’s God-made body was good, not evil or something to be dismissed in favor of an exultant soul/spirit in some kind of “Nirvana”.

If Adam had never sinned, would his body have lived forever? God’s concern in Genesis 3:22, after the Fall, was that if Adam had eaten of the Tree of Life he would, in fact, have lived in his body forever with its sin nature. Psalm 90:10 somewhat standardized a man’s life at around 70-80 years. But then, Jesus defied death following His crucifixion! Three days later he rose from the dead, becoming the “first fruits, and after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor 15:23). “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5:23)

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 zeroes in on this “rapture” of the Saints: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus… For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be ‘caught up’ (Latin: “raptus” > English: “rapture”) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

I Corinthians 15:51-53 adds, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

So, when does this “rapture of the Saints” occur? Does it happen before the Tribulation, at the end, or somewhere in the middle? Does it happen at the end of the Millennium before the final judgment, or another time in the allegorical future? Personally, I see the Scriptures teaching a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, but the question here does not depend on timing. The issue here is whether Believers will have a body in Heaven if they die before the Rapture, whenever that occurs.

Exchanging a Tent for a Building (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)

If Scripture can be taken at face value, it seems that 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 would argue for a special body for Believers in Heaven. Verse 1 clearly advocates an “if-then”, immediate exchange. “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Our “earthly tent” refers to our body on earth, which is clearly a temporary home for our soul and spirit. If it is torn down, we immediately have a more lasting body in Heaven, even before we receive a glorified body at the Rapture. (see note 2)

But many theologians have argued, “How can this heavenly body be eternal? That property belongs to our raptured, glorified body alone!” In saying that, they misrepresent in II Corinthians 5:1 the substance of the Greek adjective “aionion” and its noun form “aion”, from where we get the English word “eon”. Strong’s Concordance describes the word as “partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting. The Analytical Greek Lexicon describes it as “indeterminate as to duration; a state of things marking an age or era.” In Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, Moulton writes “In general, the word depicts that of which the horizon is not in view…” Certainly, 2,000+ years of the church age since Pentecost has lasted well beyond the horizon of what anyone might have foreseen. In his God’s Methods with Man G. Campbell Morgan writes, “Let me say to Bible students that we must be very careful how we use the word ‘eternity.’ We have fallen into great error in our constant use of ‘eternal’ to mean ‘absolutely without end’.”

Therefore, we are reliant upon the subject, the context and the location to define for us the duration of the “aionion” being considered. For example, John 3:16, John 6:27 & John 10:28 clearly contrast “perish” with “eternal life (aionian zoen)”, meaning life without end in both quantity and substance. In fact, every use of “eternal life” in the Scriptures means forever and ever in the blessed presence of our Savior (1 John 5:11). But in Luke 20:34-35, Jesus compares “the sons of this age (aionos)” with “that age (aionos)”. In Ephesians 1:21 Paul states “not only in this age (aion) but also in the one to come.” Likewise, when Paul in Romans 12:2 urges us not to be conformed to this age “aioni”, he clearly does not mean this eternity. As with so many other Bible words, context can be everything.

Concordantly, we find in 2 Corinthians 5:1 that the context defines the location of this “aionion” as being “in the heavens”, where those Saints who have passed from the founding of Christ’s Church are dwelling. Properly within the timeframe of the Church Age, this Church “aionion” will expire at the Rapture, and these very saints will return with Christ to meet the living Saints in the air (I Thess 4:14), receiving their resurrected bodies. You might say that our present mortal bodies are only good for this earth; heavenly bodies are only good for Heaven; and glorified bodies are all- terrain—good for both Heaven and Earth.

GROANING IN HEAVEN?

2 Corinthians 5:2-3 reads “For indeed in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked.” Verse 4 repeats for emphasis, “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” A logical, unbiased understanding of this “groaning” associates “this tent” with our present, mortal bodies, while we long to have a new body in Heaven, so as not to be “naked” (without a body). Oddly, several commentaries, apparently to fit their “disembodied” dogma, attach this “groaning” and “longing” and “nakedness” to our entire period in Heaven, while we wait for our resurrected, glorious bodies! That means that early Christians have been groaning for two thousand years! This hardly sounds like Heaven to me, and it does not fit the prior context of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”) Indeed, it does not seem to fit the very character of God to have us feeling naked, burdened, groaning and longing while we’re supposed to be rejoicing and at peace in Heaven!

TIME & SPACE

So, arguments are made that we can’t have any kind of physical body in Heaven, because God’s throne is there. “God is outside the dimensions of space and time, and thus cannot allow us to have bodies near His throne.” So they say. Can they provide any Biblical support for this theory? Such a view would seem to ignore the fact that God is also here on earth and very much involved in our dimension. God is not limited by space and time, but He can certainly exist within the very elements He created. Regarding space, before the New Jerusalem is lowered toward Earth, it existed in Heaven (Rev 21:2) and certainly had very specific measurements marked by space (Rev 21:10-17). And isn’t God’s house in

heaven supposed to have many rooms, with places that Jesus has prepared for us (John 14:1-3)? Regarding time, the Tree of Life is described as “bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month,” which certainly involves time. For that matter, how can the “River of the Water of Life” actually flow without time being involved? Revelation 8:1 declares “There was silence in Heaven for about half an hour.” Additionally, Revelation 21:3 announces “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” God doesn’t seem to be bothered at all about co-existing in the sphere of space and time.

WHY COULDN’T A SPIRIT SPEAK, SEE, HEAR, & SENSE THINGS?

They say, “Does being a spirit, in the Biblical sense, necessarily imply we won’t be able to see, hear, speak, feel, or sing God’s praises? John 4:24 says, ‘God is spirit,’ and God the Father certainly can do all those things!” But God is God, and all other beings were created by God. While God as spirit can see, speak, and sense things, no other creation is recorded in the Scriptures as doing likewise. In Scripture, only God seems to be able to speak without assuming bodily form. Even angels must assume some kind of body before they can have those abilities. Also, while angels were originally created as spirits, humans were created with bodies first, and have never had an ability to perceive or express things other than through our bodily senses. 1 Corinthians 15:38 says, “But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. No matter how much we might want our body to fly, that possibility belongs to “another flesh of birds.” (v. 39) Inversely, the “seed” of a bird cannot result in a human.

1 Corinthians 15:44 tells us that when we’re raptured we will have a spiritual body, but that doesn’t mean we are disembodied. When Jesus met his disciples after His resurrection, he declared, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you can see that I have.” (Luke 24:39) Even Jesus, once He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men”, never stopped having a body, through which He spoke and over which He wore a robe, as described even in Revelation 1:12-16 and 19:11-13.

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF BODIES BETWEEN DEATH & RESURRECTION

Is there any Biblical evidence of individuals having bodies after death? Absolutely!

–In I Samuel 28:7-20, King Saul asked the Witch of Endor to call forth the dead prophet Samuel, he asks, “’What is his form?’ And she said, ‘An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.’ And Saul knew that it was Samuel.” GotQues􏰀ons.org. explains “

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells about the rich man and poor Lazarus covered in sores. Upon dying, both went to Hades (Heb: Sheol), but a gulf separated the two of them, as the rich man suffered in the depths of Hades, and Lazarus was comforted in “Abraham’s Bosom” or “Paradise”, in the upper realm of Sheol. The rich man had to have a body in order to be in torment, lift up his eyes, cry out, hear, be thirsty, and feel the flames. Lazarus had to have a body for him to need rest and comfort.

At the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-10, Peter & James viewed and recognized Moses & Elijah in bodily form, talking with Jesus. Some may say, “But those could have been temporary bodies!” So then, intermediate bodies between death of our mortal bodies and our bodily resurrection have certainly occurred.

In Mark 8:31 & Matthew 27:63, Jesus said He must be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes and be killed, and after 3 days rise again. I Corinthians 15:4 confirms that Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” But in Luke 23:42-43, Jesus announced to the believing thief on a nearby cross that “Today, you will be with me in Paradise”. Therefore, before Christ’s body was resurrected, He had an appointment in Paradise with the believing thief. Did Jesus’s spirit arrive within some kind of body before He was resurrected? His presence would have been little comfort if they were both disembodied!

Perhaps the most telling passage regarding Believers’ existence in Heaven before their bodies are resurrected can be found in the book of Revelation. We know that these Tribulation Martyrs were not resurrected until after the Tribulation, where Revelation 20:4 states, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them.

The passage does not give any indication that the apparition the witch of Endor saw was

anything other than Samuel himself. We know that the medium was not producing an illusion because she screams in surprise when she sees Samuel (v 12). Also, the spirit rising from the earth is called ‘Samuel.’ The text does not say that the spirit “appeared to be Samuel” or that the medium ‘thought it was Samuel’; the text directly refers to the spirit as ‘Samuel.’ Further, the spirit spoke the truth; the message Saul received was accurate.” Samuel was disturbed for being brought up, presumably from Paradise in Sheol.

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand, and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

Then in Revelation 6:9-11, we find these martyrs in heaven, prior to their resurrection… “And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls (persons) of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.” (see note 3)

Please note that the Apostle John could actually see them, and he could tell who they were. Interestingly, Dr. John MacArthur, in his 1999 commentary on Revelation, described these robes as “a reward of grace, symbolizing God’s gift of eternal righteousness, blessedness, dignity, and honor.” He goes on to state, “These were not actual robes, since what is depicted in this vision is before the resurrection of the bodies of the redeemed, which occurs for Tribulation saints at Christ’s return (20:4-5).”

However, in 2017, when Dr. MacArthur published his Biblical Doctrine- Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, he writes on page 841 concerning this very same passage…
“The martyred saints in heaven appear to have some body-like form. They can be seen by John (“I saw…the souls,” Rev. 6:9). They have an audible element in that they can speak and be heard (“They cried out with a loud voice,” 6:10). Also, they can wear clothing (“They were each given a white robe,” 6:11). And they operate within the confines of time (“They were…told to rest a little longer,” 6:11). It is plain, then, that intermediate-state saints in heaven have a real existence… a real and localized presence of believers in heaven appears to be the reality.”

I remember Dr. MacArthur saying that the problem with writing and having your sermons recorded is that it is difficult to alter your view over the years. John is still open to letting God change his mind. Should the Lord tarry, (and I pray He doesn’t), we can still look forward to an intermediate body in Heaven prior to our resurrected one! That’s a comfort!

 

(note 1) Dr. Philip Hughes in The New International Commentary in the New Testament- II Corinthians; p. 171: “True though it is that for the Christian the sting of death has been removed (I Cor. 15:55ff), yet death in itself is not something in which he takes pleasure. It still means a state of nakedness and a period of waiting until he is clothed with his resurrection body…Death, although no longer feared, is still repulsive to the Christian.”
Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries in The Intermediate State Between Death and Resurrection; p. 12: “When the body that is now mortal dies, the soul spirit goes into Heaven and is unclothed, it is naked with no intermediate body present until the body is resurrected and then the soul spirit is clothed again.”

 

(note 2) Jon Courson in Application Commentary, Vol 3; p. 1118: “‘Nakedness’ in this context speaks of disembodiment. Paul is setting straight the misunderstanding that when a person dies, he becomes a disembodied spirit—an idea completely contradictory to Scripture. Buddha was wrong. The goal of man is not to reach Nirvana,…Rather, it is to inhabit the body prepared for us that will make the one we’re living in now a tent by comparison.”

(note 3) Dr. John Walvoord, Chancellor Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the New Testament (p. 948): “Spirits without any substance could not wear robes. The fact that they will be given robes (Rev 6:9-11) supports the concept that when believers die they are given temporary bodies in heaven which are later replaced by resurrection bodies at the time of resurrection (Rev 20:4).”

Forrest Hindley graduated summa cum laude from USC’s Marshall School of Business in 1972. After committing his life to Christ, he served 4 years in the Navy and then entered Talbot School of Theology, graduatng with his Master of Divinity in 1980. Forrest served in various pastoral roles before planting a church in Rancho Cucamonga, where 2/3rds were new believers. He was ordained in the Evangelical Free Church. In 1993, Forrest joined his father’s business as a financial planner so he could touch more lives outside the church. Retiring in 2015 with kids grown and following Jesus, Forrest is now free to explore the Scriptures, especially those involving end times. Today, Forrest and his wife Debby lead an outreach ministry within their neighborhood, while attending Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here