By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R
Several years ago, I had a barber who gave great haircuts. She had been a professional model and still looked like one — despite reaching early middle age. She and I and our families belonged to the same church. With my being a preacher-type, she almost always greeted me at each haircut with a theological question. A minor problem was that my hair got shorter as my answers got longer.
My first haircut after Easter. On Easter Sunday, our pastor had done a fine job of preaching on the resurrection. The message was biblical and satisfied most questions anyone would have. Well, anyone but my barber. She recalled the sermon about the resurrection and asked, “When we get to heaven, what will we look like?” I asked her, “At what age in your life, would you like for your resurrection body to be?” She puzzled over my question for a minute and then replied, “I guess when I was 25.” Then I asked, “And would you like your resurrection mind to also be what it was when you were 25?” She said, “No!” After pressing her to state an ideal age for her resurrection mind, she acknowledged that’s hard to do. I will tell you what I told her later in this column.
Pictures and obituaries. The last few years I’ve checked the obits carefully to be sure mine wasn’t included. As I’ve studied the obituaries, I’ve seen the picture first and then read the age at which the person died. In doing that, I’ve noticed a change. When I’ve looked at the pictures, I’ve often thought, “How sad that a person died at such a young age!” Upon reading further, I’ve often read that the person who died was 80 or 90 years old. The striking picture at the head of an obituary today often looks like a person might have looked at the prime point of life: beautiful or handsome; vibrant; full of life and ready for more.
Why the obvious disparity between the person’s picture and the age of the person who died? The answer is very simple: We want folks to remember us at our best when we were alive on this earth. We don’t want folks to remember us or see us pictured as old, with gray hair, wrinkles, and maybe bent, sagged — or otherwise not at our prime time — and suffering from arthritis or some pain that wore us out.
Minds and reality at death. Medical science and improved knowledge of health have increased longevity significantly in my own lifetime. But there has been a trade-off I’ve dealt with in my own ministering and with my empathy for other family members. That trade-off in folks living longer is often that their bodies outlive their minds. Their bodies and minds don’t choose to die at the same age and stage. Dementia and Alzheimer’s and other afflictions bring sad trade-offs to many people who live longer life-spans.
I suppose everybody who believes in heaven wants to go there eventually. But given the choice, few of us would volunteer to go today. On the other hand, when a mind has gone on ahead of the body, there comes a time when the body also dies. One inspires and expires for the last time from any life on this earth. The body and mind get together in the way God has prepared for us to leave this earth and life. And honest people, then, usually say, “It was a blessing.” None of us wants to be that kind of “blessing.” Rather, we would like for body and mind to die together in a timely way.
But after death, what then? Well, we Christians believe we go to be with the Lord. And the Bible tells us that those who rejected our Lord and His saving grace are separated eternally from Him. And hell is the eternal destination of the unsaved. But I have good news for Christians!
After death, Christians get God’s best for soul, mind, and body — the whole person! Acts 2:24 says about Jesus, “God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death” (CSB). It is also true and theologically sound to sing, “Up from the Grave He Arose.” The angelic announcement proclaimed, “He is not here. For he has risen just as he said” (Matthew 28:6, CSB). However, the standard formula in the New Testament is that “God raised Jesus from the dead” (see I Corinthians 15:12-20, CSB). The point is this: What God the Father did for Jesus, He will also do for us Christians: namely, raise us from the grave.
So, what did I tell my barber? I told her the truths the Bible reveals to us in II Corinthians 4:7-5:10. The nutshell is this: We get God’s eternal best! Our earthly bodies and minds never experienced as great an existence as our resurrected, eternal being will enjoy! This earthly body is wondrously made, but it is just a tent that wears out, has to be patched and repaired, and finally will no longer serve the purpose of being our earthly home. The Bible says, “For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands” (II Corinthians 5:1).
The best picture over the best obituary — the best stage of our body and our mind — upon this earth never has been or could be as majestic as the resurrected body God has for us. And surely He will do no less for our minds than He does for our bodies. Though the Bible does speak of our body, our mind, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:34-40), it does not divide up our personhood. God created us as a whole being. And our eternal nature and dwelling place will be God’s best for our being — better than at any stage on this earth. Hallelujah! Amen!
— Copyright 2018 by Johnnie C Godwin: firstname.lastname@example.org.