On July 20, 1969, the first man landed on the moon. One spring morning about the year A.D. 33 the first New Man landed on the earth. His spaceship was a tomb, and He left His pressurized linen suit inside and walked out into a garden.
He was the first human being with a glorified resurrection body ever to set foot upon the earth, and for forty days He walked around talked, ate, passed through walls, disappeared and reappeared, and finally floated straight up into Heaven in order to demonstrate that He was in no way bound to the old order of things and that His visible presence among earthlings was a matter of pure grace. Because of those forty days of extraterrestrial visitation, this old world of ours has never been the same.
This is something of what Job prophetically foresees in the famous passage in 19:25-27:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see Him with my own eyes—
I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
Job’s vision goes on to encompass not just the first Easter but also his own personal Easter, his own participation by faith in the resurrected glory of his Redeemer. Notice how emphatically Job uses the first person pronoun—“in my flesh I will see God… I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I and not another.” What Job is seeing is not the First Coming of Christ but the Second Coming. It is the time of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 when “the Lord Himself will come down from heaven… and the dead in Christ will rise,” and of 1 Corinthians 15:52, when “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye… the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
The resurrection of the body is a much stranger notion than even many Christians may suppose. For one thing, the Bible plainly teaches that resurrection is not a phenomenon that will transpire up in Heaven but rather—much more shockingly—right here on earth. Here is where death occurs; here is where the dead will rise. To dust our bodies were consigned; from dust they shall be reclaimed. Listen: the very graves will open their mouths and the dead will spring out of them and begin walking around—just as Jesus did on Easter morning!
Yes, our God is so much more earthy than we give Him credit for. In fact for the Old Testament believer the entire focus was not on some mystical “Heaven” or “hereafter” but on the here-and-now. As David declared in Psalm 27:13, “I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Even the New Testament turns out to be not quite so Heaven-centred as we may have thought. The great concluding prayer of the Bible is not “Take us to Heaven, Lord Jesus,” but rather, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). Again, Jesus declared that “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matt 24:35)—and if even Heaven must pass away, then obviously the ultimate Christian hope must be focused on something other than Heaven.
What is this “something other”? It is what Job foresees in the verses quoted above, when he envisions his God-Redeemer “standing upon the earth” and he himself beholding Him in a state “after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh.” The fullness of the gospel vision does not lie in the idea that the soul (nor even the whole person, resurrected body and all) is to be transplanted out of the earthly realm and into the spiritual, but rather that the Kingdom of Heaven must descend right down into this present world, so that like some cosmically inconceivable sperm and egg the two spheres will merge to form something stupendously new.
For now, Heaven remains a kind of government-in-exile, committed to staging a long and arduous coup upon the earth. But when this coup is complete and all earthly powers are overthrown—and “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26)—then the “new Jerusalem will come down out of Heaven like a bride” and there will be a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1-2). Then Heaven and earth, spirit and flesh, will be married! And so we shall have exactly what Job’s aching heart (and ours too) so crudely and ardently longs for: the best of both worlds. We shall have our pie-in-the-sky and eat it too.
~an excerpt from The Gospel According to Job.
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