An Interesting Question
One of the great joys of being a pastor is that people ask you some interesting questions. Sometimes those questions force you to wrestle and pray, other times they are quite straightforward, and still on other occasions the question is so multi-layered it requires a less straightforward answer. The question I was recently asked was this:
When we are united with loved ones in heaven what age would they be?
Let’s break this question down.
First we need to affirm that not all dogs go to heaven. If someone is a Christian and goes to heaven there are many loved ones that will not be there. Hell is a reality that should cause us to lament sin and urge our loved ones to believe the Gospel so we might spend eternity with them!
Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone in the New Testament. He said, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:46; for 10 verses on the eternity of hell click here).
The truth is that no human is naturally good in our fallen world and so NONE are therefore deserving of heaven (Ps 14). That God in His mercy pardon’s some is pure amazing grace! Jesus made it clear that He was “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6). That is no one can be counted righteous and able to stand in the presence of God and be counted as His unless Jesus died to pay for that sin. But Jesus did not die for everyone but for those who would believe in Him. When the Lord gives us eyes of faith to behold the light amidst our darkness and we believe in Him, Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to the believer so that when the Father looks upon them He does not see their sin but Christ’s righteousness.
Recalling Jesus famous words from John 3:16-18:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
If a loved one is a Christian it should be self-evident. The Bible calls us to not be naive in this matter but to look for fruit (proof, evidence)! Here are three things to look for in a Christian (there are more, for some read 1 John). A Christian will believe in Jesus and profess them as their Lord of life and Saviour from sin. This is important. Many people say “Jesus, Jesus” but the Lord will say to them “I never knew you.” Nominal Christians go to hell. Authentic Christians alone are spared God’s wrath. Upon belief the Lord promises the gift of the Holy Spirit whose job it is to restore us into the likeness of Christ. If He is at work you WILL see progressive growth in holiness and the presence of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). But Jesus rarely called people to believe in Him. Usually He called them to follow Him. A third sign that someone is a Christian is that they are seeking to follow and obey Christ. Their choices, actions, associations and involvement will add credence to whether their heart has been made right with God.
If you, or your loved one, is a Christian then they are blessed to receive the promises of life eternal, which begins the moment they believe and lasts for eternity. But before we get to what age that individual will be in heaven we must first address the concept of “heaven” for it is often grossly misunderstood.
The central hope of the New Testament, outside the Gospel, is the return of Christ, the Ressurection of the dead and the life everlasting in the New Heavens and New Earth (Isa 65:17, 22; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1-2). This is very different from “heaven” as many people imagine it (i.e. Cloud 9). What people often think of as heaven—while wonderful—falls short of this great hope and is known as “the intermediate state.” This is the presence of the Lord where the soul or spirit (depending on whether you are a dichotomist [human=body+soul] or a trichotomist [human=body+soul (will, mind, emotion)+spirit]. Throughout the New Testament are examples of believer’s souls/spirits that have gone to be with the Lord to await His second coming. To be honest, the Bible tells us very little about what it will be like to exist in this state (though it we could make some inferences). What the Bible is much more interested in telling us about is the final hope. When Jesus returns there will be the Resurrection of the Dead (1 Cor 15), the judgement of the nations and then Christians will join Christ in the New Heavens and the New Earth and the wicked will go away to eternal punishment.
With those points clarified let’s get to the main question about age. What age will our Resurrected, Glorified bodies be (Phil 3:21)? There are many things the Bible tells us (everything we need to know to be saved and to walk in a way that pleases God and have a certain hope). Somethings it only reveals in part and somethings remain a mystery. The closest answer to what age we will be in our resurrected bodies is to consider Jesus’ resurrected body. Jesus is the first fruit of the Resurrection (1 Cor 15:20). His physical and yet glorified body is like what we can expect we will be like after the Resurrection. While the Bible doesn’t say this, many Christians through the centuries have reasoned that because Jesus was 33 when He rose from the dead (He began His three year ministry at 30) then the Christian too will be about that age, but we cannot be certain. C.S Lewis tried to describe it this way in his children’s book entitled the Last Battle (chapter, “Through the stable door.”). The old would look young again while retaining their essential likeness, and so too with the youth, they would appear older and yet full of life and still recognisable:
Seven Kings and Queens stood before him [Tirian]…He stared hard at her face, and then gasped in amazement, for he knew her. It was Jill: but not Jill as he had last seen her, with her face all dirt and tears and an old drill dress half slipping off one shoulder. Now she looked cool and fresh, as fresh as if she had just come from bathing. And at first he thought she looked older, but then didn’t, and he could never make up his mind on that point. And then he saw the youngest of the Kings was Eustace: but he also was changed as Jill was changed.
Tirian suddenly felt awkward about coming among these people with the blood and dust and sweat of a battle still on him. Next moment he realized that he was not in that state at all. He was fresh and cool and clean, and dressed in such clothes as he would have worn for a great feast at Cair Paravel…Then he [High King Peter] led him to the eldest of the Queens- but even she was not old, and there were no grey hairs on her head and no wrinkles on her cheek…
Whatever age the Christian will be, won’t it be wonderful?
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,