"Grave, the guardian of our dust,
Grave, the treasury of the skies;
Every atom of your dust,
Rests in hope again to rise.
"Hark, the judgment-trumpet calls,
Soul, rebuild your house of clay,
Immortality its walls,
And eternity its day."
"He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned
like his glorious body." Philip. 3:21
Is this frail BODY to share none of the glories of
immortality? Is the decaying tenement to slumber on—a heap of unconscious
dust—to be at last swept into annihilation at the dissolution of all things?
"The voice said, Cry! and he said, What shall I cry? All
flesh is GRASS!" (the noble! the beautiful! the ornamental!) all like
withering, fading grass of the field! (Isa. 40:6.) Such is the Bible's
humiliating description of the body here, and it is echoed back in mournful
experience from ten thousand tombstones, and ten thousand aching hearts.
But "our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed
into heavenly bodies that will never die." (1 Cor. 15:53.) The
resurrection-body, freed from the last vestige of corruption—purged from the
last taint of earthliness—ennobled, purified, etherealized—shall stand
"without fault before the throne," the crowning and culminating triumph of
the redemption work, (Rom. 8:23.)
We need not dwell on nature's familiar analogies. The
seed expanding into the perfect blossom—the little grain of corn,
buried in its tiny grave of inert clod, bursting forth in the appointed
spring-time—the torpid caterpillar cradled in a dark cell—a loathsome
dungeon—yet that dungeon becoming the birthplace of a beauteous butterfly,
mounting to heaven on wings of purple and gold. These are the mute
utterances of the outer world on the possibility of a truth beyond the
province of reason.
But Scripture comes in where reason is speechless or
ambiguous. It tells me of the reconstruction of the dissolved earthly
tabernacle into "a building of God eternal in the heavens." It tells
more—that the spiritual body is to be "fashioned" like to that of a
glorified Redeemer. It tells that there is at this moment a MAN wearing a
glorified Human body on the throne. "Christ, the first-fruits"—the first
Sheaf of the immortal harvest—has been waved in the new Jerusalem temple,
the pledge of the myriad sheaves that are to follow; and His saints (raised
up in their bodies) will be "caught up together in the clouds to meet the
Lord in the air, and so be forever with the Lord," (1 Thess. 4:17.)
It is vain to attempt conjectures as to the nature of the
incorruptible and glorified frame—what changes will take place on the
present condition of our bodily system. That there will be new powers and
susceptibilities of enjoyment added to what we now possess, we have the
strongest reason to believe. There will be no greater change, indeed, in a
glorified state on our physical structure than is absolutely necessary.
We know, however, the dependence of the mind on the body; and it is quite
possible to conceive, by a finer bodily organization, a corresponding
enlargement of the mental faculties and powers. We may be deprived of some
important sources of happiness at present, owing to the lack in our existing
bodily frames of some necessary inlets for these. A man deprived of eyesight
has a mind as susceptible as others of taking impressions of beauty;
but having no organ to be the medium of their conveyance, he forfeits the
pleasures which his fellows enjoy.
So, may it not be possible in heaven, by means of a more
perfect bodily structure—a physical frame even more "fearfully and
wonderfully made" than our present one—to have the way opened for new inlets
of exalted enjoyment—waking into energy dormant powers of which we are now
as unconscious as the deaf man is of the sweets of music, or the
blind man of the glories of the sun, or the tiny infant of the
We may infer, moreover, that whatever be the nature of
the change, and however vast, it will not be so vast as to destroy
personal identity. We might recur to earthly analogies here also. The
grown-up man has an entirely different body in its component parts from what
he had as an infant. The particles which make up his material framework have
again and again been renewed, yet in person he remains the same.
Heaven will be the manhood of our earthly being. But though the
transformation must necessarily be great from our present "infant state,"
personal identity will remain undestroyed. "Then shall I know, even as
also (now) I am (here) known," (1 Cor. 13.)
The features of my buried friend I shall recognize again.
The beaming face of cherished affection shall wear the old impress of
earth—no change but this, that the shifting tent is transmuted into
"a building of God," reared of permanent and imperishable materials—a
bodily structure that shall know no decrepitude—smiles that shall never
die—new powers conferred which earth may have longed for, but never
possessed—all emulous for the divine glory, and instinct with burning and
untiring zeal in His service!
And more than all, it will be Humanity in its noblest
type—"fashioned like Christ's glorious body.'' There will be a
family resemblance to the elder Brother, bodily, spiritually. It is said
that He shall come to be "glorified" not only BY his saints, but "IN his
saints," as they bear His image, and wear His likeness. "We know that
when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
Some of our loveliest garden flowers, are grafts from wild plants in
brake and forest-thicket and hedgerow. So beauteous are these transplants as
almost to belie their pedigree. Their perfect tints, and symmetrical forms,
and sweet perfume, however, prove the culture and development of which the
plant or flower in its native state was capable.
So shall it be in a far higher and nobler sense with
flowers transplanted into the garden above. The glorified body! how
immeasurably will it transcend in physical and moral beauty the old earthly
tabernacle! "Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in weakness,
raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body." The first
was "of the earth, earthy," the second is fashioned like the glorious body
of "the Lord from heaven!" (1 Cor. 15:42.)
Glorious body, indeed! without sin, without pain, without
weakness, or weariness, or infirmity. The thought of dissolution, which now
casts its cold shadow across our path, no longer known or dreaded! Paul's
earthly soliloquy changed to this, "O happy man that I am, now that I
am delivered from this body of death!" The Christian's grave, however
lowly, is thus "hallowed ground." There slumbers, in these clods of the
valley, redeemed dust. The mausoleum of clay becomes the casket of a
gem which is to sparkle through eternal ages in the Redeemer's crown!
"It is the same way for the resurrection of the dead. Our
earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are
resurrected, for they will never die. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when
they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when
they are raised, they will be full of power. They are natural human bodies
now, but when they are raised, they will be spiritual bodies." 1 Cor.