Friday, January 16, 2009


A week ago I drove up to Michigan for my grandfather's memorial service. Louis H. Bork died at age 86, leaving behind his wife of 61 years, Mona, along with his three children and three more grandchildren. A few things came to mind recently regarding death and loss.

First, it's easy to want to be consoled by the comforting news that Opa is in heaven now because he trusted in Jesus as his Savior from sin. (I'm not entirely certain he did, however, though I have fairly reasonable confidence.) Someone even said at the funeral that he was running around now, youthful and free. I didn't want to be a killjoy, but the biblical evidence seems to say that even those who die in Christ will not have new bodies until all God's children are gathered home and his kingdom is consummated. Our glorious and renewed bodies will be ours only as part of the final inheritance we will receive as God's sons (Romans 8:18-25). In the meantime even those who die justified will, until the Last Judgment, be only "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8; cf. Philippians 1:21-24). Of course, this is "better by far"!

You see, death--even for those in Christ--isn't such a great "pathway to glory" as we make it out to be. True humanity, true life, is nothing short of being alive in both body and spirit. That's how we were created, and only when all of the material, physical, earthy cosmos is redeemed and glorified will everything be set right again. (See my older post here.)

This brings me to my second thought. I know that I've lost Opa--for now, at least. He's no longer here. But that doesn't just mean that the Bork/Hall family is down a man; it means we've all changed individually. You see, I can only be a grandson if I have a grandfather. I am no longer Louis Bork's grandson. His beloved Mona (my "Oma") is no longer his wife: "till death us do part"--and death has parted them. We are who we are by virtue of relationships; even Jesus wouldn't be a Son without having been "begotten from the Father before all worlds." There's no telling what measure of who I am in my thoughts, knowledge, worldview, abilities, character, and desires was effected by being Opa's grandson. The loss of a loved one is, for the remainder of our sojourn, a loss of ourselves as well.


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...
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Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Oops, sorry, typing issues!

I dunno - I will always be my daddy's daughter whether he is alive or not. The only requirement I know of for a relative to be living to state the relationship is that of Sonship. It was essential for Christ to rise from the dead and to live forever so that we could be His sons and daughters. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

As to what happens when we die - I read the Rom 8 passages you cite, particularly 8:23, as being in present tense. I would have to ask someone who knows Greek better than I do, but experientially, I do indeed groan within myself for the redemption of my body - oh trust me I do - for many reasons! And, I believe things like earthquakes and tsunamis are the creation currently groaning for it's redemption "body" as well.

It is interesting that the word body - soma used in that passage - and in Paul's absent from the body is present with the Lord, is the same exact word as body used to reference believers as the body of Christ - see Rom 12:4,5 for eg. So, it is not a case - at least not in my book - of clear cut usage in the passages you reference.

Lastly, what I do know for sure is that I don't know for sure. But, 1John 3:2 assures me that whenever, wherever, I will be like Him. And that is really all that matters to me.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I have to agree with Susan on this one. I'm not sure the logic of your reasoning.

But Jesus and his family is maybe a case in point that might have relevance here (and might not). Jesus kind of rebuked them when he told them that his true mother and brothers and sisters were those who heard God's word and put it into practice. Mary had to learn to honor and obey her son, even as he continued to honor her, and be in obedience to her as a child growing up. And Jesus honored and cared for her as his mother at the cross. I see Mary as Jesus' mother to this day, in that sense, in the sense of creation. In the new creation perhaps we can say all is different.

So I have two grandfathers who are gone now, a father who is gone- and yes, something essential is gone since we are who we are by virtue of relationships. About husbands and wives, there are none in the resurrection, so I guess it stands to reason to say that once a spouse is deceased, then they are no longer a spouse, as this is a relationship contingent on the two being alive. But don't tell a mother who has lost her baby, or her son or daughter (or the father, either, for that matter) that so and so is no longer their child. That is not contingent on whether one is dead or alive. It's a matter of one's ancestry and family line, and a matter of love in looking forward to reunion in Jesus (conjecturing).

I don't know. In this one you lost me a bit. Probably I'm just not seeing what you're seeing.

But I like and fully concur with you on the resurrection. Yes, we look forward to that, even though there is room for interpretation that the intermediate state is better by far, though even there Paul may have been looking forward to the resurrection. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, to be with Christ better by far. So again, interpreters are divided as to all that this precisely means in those texts, how it falls out.

You do have me thinking, Andrew.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I should say you lost me in your reasoning. I'm quite confident you are logical and reason quite well.

Ted M. Gossard said...
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Ted M. Gossard said...

In trying to think through this a little this morning, as well as looking, I am still not getting any good answers. I will keep trying.

1 John 3 says we don't know what we will be, that it has not been made known. But we will be like Jesus. There is mystery in that. All will be love, and each in their proper place and relationship with everyone else. It will be wondrous.

But your thoughts might come across as being quick to get rid of what God has created. And we know that what God creates he redeems. So that somehow all the relationships we have now on earth will then be fulfilled. Notwithstanding the sad reality that not all our loved ones or friends will be there.

So I guess I'm just saying something like: Are you trying to say more than what Scripture really says? Questions like this do get my curiosity, so I'll keep looking here and there. But I don't see Scripture indicating what you say here. Correct me where need be from the Book, -and from tradition and reason (I won't put experience in that stew, though maybe somehow it would be relevant). Don't hesitate. (:

Andrew said...

To explain thoroughly why I think we won't have our glorified bodies until the Day of Christ would take too much space for a comment here. But allow me to cite Wayne Grudem on it, from his Systematic Theology.

"Death is a temporary cessation of bodily life and a separation of the soul from the body. Once a believer has died, though his or her physical body remains on earth and is buried, at the moment of death the soul (or spirit) of that believer goes immediately into the presence of God with rejoicing. . . . However, . . . God will not leave our dead bodies in the earth forever, for when Christ returns the souls of believers will be reunited with their bodies, their bodies will be raised from the dead, and they will live with Christ eternally." (ST pp. 816-17, Death and the Intermediate State)

"When Christ redeemed us he did not just redeem our spirits (or souls)--he redeemd us as whole persons, and this includes the redemption of our bodies. Therefore the application of Christ's work of redemption to us will not be complete until our bodies are entirely set free from teh effects of the fall and brought to that state of perfection for which God created them. In fact, the redemption of our bodies will only occur when Christ returns and raises our bodies from the dead. But at this time, Paul says that we wait for 'the redemption of our bodies,' and then adds, 'for in this hope we were saved' (Rom. 8:23-24). The state in the application of redemption hwne we receive resurrection bodies is called glorification." (ST p. 828, Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body)

(Susan, I used your copy of Grudem's ST; Ted, if you have an older copy, you might need to adjust the page numbers.)

Andrew said...

As for the loss of familial relationships, sure, I may be emphasizing one side of it. That I'll agree with. It's not that part of me literally goes out of existence. But I do believe that who I am is a function of my relationships: a son of my father, a teacher of my students, etc. I can't be a teacher without students who are learning from me. My identity as a teacher is contingent upon (a) having students and (b) that they actually are learning something from me. If either of the two ceases, I cease to be a teacher.

I think that the stark reality of this is that even though we who die in the Lord are immediately free from "this body of death" and are "at home with the Lord," "which is better by far," death was never part of God's desire and delight. No, I don't mean that it snuck in without him looking; I mean that death is never benign or harmless, that we should just put on a happy face. Real loss happens.

But we DO have the hope that insofar as our loved ones have trusted in Christ for salvation in this lifetime, then we will be reunited with them eternally upon "the first death."

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Gotta love the fact that you used the Christmas gift you gave me - makes me happy!

Ted M. Gossard said...

of course I know that we await the resurrection- "life after life after death", and I must say N.T. Wright's book on hope, the recent one, speaks quite well to that, to the Scriptural witness. Our hope in Christ is fulfilled in the resurrection, of course, not in some intermediate stage (or soul sleep either, which I doubt from what Scripture says).

I do look forward to reading Wright's book on justification, which is in part an answer to Piper. Due to come out this summer, I think.

Anonymous said...

How do you believe people's current earthy relationships translate to their relationships in heaven? Hmmm, I'm trying hard to try and make this understandable... Let's say you interract with 100 different people on earth, through church family, work etc. Let's say out of those 100, you only think of 5 of them to be "good" relationships (ie. you know them well) When you meet again in heaven (let's assume they are believers too), what happens to the relationships that did not work out so well? What happens to those in heaven? Is this understandable? And how do you respond?