I want to show you something…
See that? That’s me… or, at least that will be me one day when Jesus comes back and I get my glorified body… or, at least that’s what I used to think.
But look at that! Would you look at it? Just look at it! Perfect skin, perfect features, perfect jawline, perfect physique, perfect hair (and in right places too). That’s what it’ll be like, right? We’ll all be gods and goddesses walking around with our new, unfallen bodies. Like a whole race of Aphrodites and Adonises… but, you know, perfectly humble and Christlike.
And then there’s Jesus. And, as he so often does, along he comes and screws up the way I think things ought to be. How so? Well, I’ll tell you.
You see, after Jesus comes back from the grave, we find him walking around with a glorified body, one that can do really cool stuff like appear and disappear (Jn 20:19, 26; Lk 24:31), and apparently fly (24:51; Acts 1:9). And what makes this even cooler is that the New Testament teaches that Jesus and his resurrection are just the “first fruits” of what is to come for those who are in Christ (1 Cor 15:23). At least two of the apostles seemed to think that we too would one day share in this awesomeness. Paul wrote that we who are “fellow heirs with Christ” and “suffer with him… may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:17) since we are eagerly awaiting “the redemption of our body” (v 23). Peter wrote to Christians saying, “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Pet 4:13). He claimed that he was “a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed” (5:1). Well that sounds cool, right?
And then there’s Thomas, that doubter. If he hadn’t been so skeptical, so inquisitive, so investigative, so evidence-conscious and reason-focused, we might have never known about the ugly side of resurrection… the scars. You see, when Thomas missed out on seeing the resurrected Jesus with the other disciples,1 he tells them that he won’t believe that Jesus actually came back from the dead unless he could touch the scars left over from the crucifixion. And when Jesus finally does show up to set this cynic straight, he actually has the scars to prove it all!2
And therein lies the rub. The resurrected, glorified, perfected, walk-through-walls3 Jesus has scars. And not little ones, mind you. Big ones. The sort that would put a quick halt on any career as a model.
So my question is, what does this mean for us? Will we too bear our scars with us into paradise?
It’s a sobering thought. I suppose I grew up with the idea that once Jesus comes back, everything from our past life4 would be wiped away and we’d start all over again with a clean slate. But what if that’s not quite the case? Will the marks of fallen reality be evident when the Kingdom finally comes in full?
If Jesus’ resurrected and glorified body is an indicator, it could very well be that Saint Patrick and Fredrick Douglas will bring with them indicators of their years of slavery. It could be that the left side of Malala Yousafzai’s forehead will continue to display a past bullet wound. Even Tina Fey’s distinctive cheek scar may still be around post-glorification.5
Another thing to bear in mind is that most scars aren’t even physical. Will there still remain emotional, relational, or even sexual scars within our hearts and minds that will take lifetimes to wipe away. Would such scars perhaps condition our personalities on into eternity?
To take it another step further, we have to remember that it isn’t just people who will one day be restored back to right relationship with God. All of creation cries out for redemption (Rom 8:19-22), and Christ’s work was to reconcile all things to himself (Col 1:20). All of which begs the question – what scars will our world continue to bear even after it is redeemed? Will there still be rainforests that need replanting? Will there still be polluted rivers and landfills that need cleaning? When the prophet Isaiah envisions God’s universal reign, he mentions how people “will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isa 2:4). Perhaps the same could be said of turning tanks into tractors and AK-47s into shovels. It might be that beauty and harmony will one day come from repurposed former instruments of war? Maybe our tyranny over nature will be the backdrop for a renewed relationship with nature. Could it be that Eden restored will be a garden grown atop factories and skyscrapers?
And the purpose of it all? I don’t know. Maybe as a cautionary tale. Perhaps we will continue to show signs of our tattered history because, to borrow from Papa Roach, “our scars remind us that the past is real.”
Or, perhaps I will get my Ryan Gosling body after all (you never know). Anyhow, these are just my thoughts on this so far. What do you think?
1: Probably because he was off doing something lame and unspiritual… doubter.
2: As a side note, Thomas is actually my favorite apostle because he cares so much about evidence. And I think the fact that Jesus vindicates this by presenting evidence says a lot about what God thinks of rational inquiry.
4: sans our personalities and individual identity
5: And yes, I do expect to see all of these people in Paradise.