Rising from the Dust

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49).  

- 1 Corinthians 15:35–49

Pastors and theologians are often asked many questions about life in heaven. How old will we be? If I died at age 85, will I still appear to be an octogenarian? Will I recognize my family and friends in heaven? Will my dead dog or cat greet me when I enter that realm?

These questions arise largely because Scripture does not us give all that much information about the intermediate state — that place where the souls of men and women go between their death and Jesus’ return. For Christians, the intermediate state is heaven, and we are told life there is better than life in this fallen world (Phil. 1:21–23). But the apostles give few specific details about this place.

The dwelling of our souls in heaven is called the intermediate state because such existence is not the final destiny God has for His people. Christianity does not believe the physical realm is inherently evil; it is only presently suffering God’s curse due to our sin (Gen. 3:17–19). Jesus died not only to reconcile us to the Father, but to renew the cosmos and set the whole created order free from bondage to decay (Rom. 8:18–25). Once our Savior returns, our physical bodies will be resurrected and reunited with our souls, and we will dwell forever in the new heavens and the new earth (Isa. 65:17–25; Dan. 12:1–3). Our final state will be spiritual and physical. When we confess the resurrection of the body in the Apostles’ Creed, we affirm the resurrection of our bodies as well as of Christ’s physical body. 

While the Bible does not give an abundance of details about heavenly existence between our deaths and the return of Jesus, the apostles do give us some clear information about our final, resurrected life. Today’s passage tells us our bodies will be imperishable after they are raised (1 Cor. 15:42). They will not grow old or sick but will be preserved eternally. 

Most glorious of all, our resurrected bodies will bear the image of Christ, “the man of heaven” (v. 49). They will be free from sin, and nothing will hinder fellowship with others. We will also be recognizable to one another, just as Jesus could be identified by His followers after His resurrection (John 20:11–18).Rising from the Dust


Coram Deo

Unfortunately, many early Christians found it hard to get rid of the Greek philosophical notion that matter is bad while spirit is good. That is not a biblical concept. The earth and all on it, including human beings, was originally “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Our salvation is more than just spiritual, our bodies will also be restored. Acknowledging this fact will help us to be more attuned to satisfying the earthly needs of others in anticipation of the restoration of all things.

Passages for Further Study

Job 19:25–27
Matthew 22:23–33
Romans 6:5
Revelation 21:1–8

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.