Scars of Heaven

I think it may be a vanity for us to believe that in heaven our bodies will be perfect, without defect or blemish. Clearly our souls will be but I’m not so sure about our bodies. I think the idea of a “glorified hairline” or “glorified thighs” meaning a full head of hair and slim, cellulite-less thighs is more a reflection of America’s distorted body image rather than a hope of heaven.

When we are in heaven we will be trophies of this immense grace. We will be treasures in God’s storehouse gained from his great conquest. We will not be hollow trophies easily won.

Abel’s blood still cries from the ground (Heb 11:4); will that end when his body is resurrected? I think Abel will be in heaven bearing the marks by which his brother murdered him. Job’s body will still have the pockmarks from the disease that ravaged it. John the Baptist’s head will be attached but I bet we’ll see the scar where Herod had it removed. James, John’s brother will bear the marks of Herod’s sword (Acts 12:2). Paul’s back will bear the marks of his five beatings (2Co 11:24) as well as the thorn in his flesh.

Why? Why would God allow these signs of suffering and pain to abide in heaven? Take a look at the last one I listed above: Paul’s thorn in the flesh. We don’t know what it wasSome theorize that it may have been a problem with his eyes because of his comment to the Galatians, “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me… For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me” (Gal 4:13-14, 15b) and “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” (Gal 6:11). For what its worth, this is possible but it could be that this particular eyesight problem was a temportary condition as a result of his being stoned in Acts 14. but the point is that God did not remove it, instead the thorn was a means of grace to Paul. God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Should that emblem of grace be taken away from Paul in glory? Rather, I think that in heaven Paul might be able to point to it and say “You see this? God gave me this to weaken me so that his grace might be shown to be magnificent! Isn’t He kind to let me show his glory?” The same thing might be said of all of God’s saints who have suffered while under God’s sovereign care.

The doctrine of the preservation of the saintsThe phrase “perseverance of the saints”, in our modern context, makes it sound like something we do. It originally meant something very different. I’d rather save the meaning than the archaic language and so I change the term to “preservation”. is all about God and none of us. John Piper said that, “there are no mirrors in heaven, heaven is not a hall of mirrors” and my wife says “there are no high fives in heaven.” It isn’t about us getting there, it is about God’s grace and glory and justice. To have Job stand in heaven perfectly healed and his potshard-scraped skin spotless would be amazing. But to see Job in heaven, whole and healed with scars of his trial praising God for his mercy would, I think, even more allow God’s glory to shine through those scars.I’m not speaking of some gory, celestial horror movie. These saints are resurrected and healed. For example, John won’t have his head under his arm, carrying it like a basketball. He will be made whole but bear the marks of God’s grace.

The ultimate demonstration of this concept can be seen in the Risen Savior:

And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. – Luke 24:38-40

But [Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:25b-28

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. – Rev 5:5-6

Jesus will bear the marks of his death for us, even till the end of time. They are marks of God’s tremendous grace to fallen man. When we are in heaven we will be trophies of this immense grace. We will be treasures in God’s storehouse gained from his great conquest. We will not be hollow trophies easily won. The pain and suffering and hurt that God overcame to save us will be present as a reminder of the great things he has done. Glory God and to the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain.

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  • Interesting subject to think about. What occurred to me was that at least the “scars” (could be any number of physical problems) of old age will have had to vanish to an extent, since these “scars” are part of the process of death and death will have been vanquished (through God’s grace)–so it seems to me. If that’s the case, though, where might the line be drawn?

    Christ still has his wounds, which led to his death, but as you discuss, that’s because it’s all about him and his work.

  • See, that’s what I’m wondering about. Will old age disappear? Where do we get that? I don’t remember anything in the Bible that hints at it. Indeed, Revelation speaks of Elders and martyrs. Elders could be an office but it could be age. Proverbs says that a hoary head is a crown of glory and a splendor. Are those badges of honor removed?

    In reflection, I think we may have read our idealized understanding of what we want our lives to be like into heaven. I’m not sure the Bible speaks of it like that. Its like that Robin Williams movie “What Dreams May Come”. He dies and heaven is what he thinks it should be.

  • I agree that we may be reading our ideal into things. And the thought that Elders will be present and that this probably means more than just the office is intriguing. On the other hand, as I think of the aging process, it seems to me that much of what happens during aging is a consequence of the fall. So at minimum, wouldn’t these consequence be abolished? I’m thinking of such things as strokes, arthritis, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, brittle bones, bad vision, etc.

    When you speak about scars, these are the marks of pain, but do not cause pain any longer, but what about conditions that cause actual pain? I realize that you are coming at this from the (excellent) angle that it’s about God, not about us. But perhaps part of how God will bring glory to himself in heaven is the extent of the new creation and abolishment of the suffering in the old. A passage that comes to mind (particularly for the “making all things new” part):

    Revelation 21:4-5 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

  • You’re right and I think I am overstating things. But I’m doing so to kind of shake up how I think about these things.

    The scars I am refering to primarily are the scars that glorify God. Delieverence from disfigurement would glorify God (through his ordination and provision of general grace manifested in medical science) more than not. So what I’m advocating is some scars abiding and some being completely healed.

  • Well, the emphasis you’re putting on God’s glory is right on. One of the beautiful aspects of heaven will be that we’ll actually desire and love it to be all about God’s glory. In this life, we’re always going to face things within ourselve or within the world that draw us away from a “hallowed be thy name” perspective. In heaven, we’ll be utterly content to hallow his name. (I see that as part of entering into rest–the restlessness that goes with being creatures who were designed to glorify him, but can’t consistently do so will have pass. We will rest in being in proper relation to our creator). One of the most inspiring expressions of all this for me is:

    Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb

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