Flesh and Blood

By Pastor Teck Uy

In this walk of faith that we are in, we press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. Just the thought of getting to heaven one day is enough to excite us and to encourage us to walk with perseverance. But who can actually get to heaven and how? In one of his epistles, the apostle Paul said, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50) This emphasizes that we cannot go to heaven just as we are, in this body, because our body is perishable and corruptible. As a tripartite being, only our redeemed soul and spirit will enter heaven.

The fact that no flesh and blood can enter heaven was confirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ when he said, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven– the Son of Man” (John 3:13). This is in spite of the fact that the Bible talks of Enoch who was taken away by God, or Elijah who was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind by a chariot and horses of fire. Neither of these men was mentioned as having gone to heaven to be with God. However, they did not taste death the way that all others have tasted it.

If flesh and blood cannot enter heaven, what kind of body will we have in heaven? The apostle Paul explained, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Though our spirit and soul, which are invisible and intangible, will be the ones that will inherit the kingdom of God, these will not just be floating around without shape and form. We will have the same body but it will be a glorified body that is imperishable, honorable and powerful. The apostle further said, “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). There will come a time, at the resurrection of the dead, when the body will again be joined by the spirit, but it will be the glorified body and not the body that was corrupted.

But how did the Lord Jesus Christ describe death, or the separation of the physical body from the intangible spirit and soul? When his friend Lazarus died, he said to his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11). Death is like falling asleep. Even the apostle Paul said, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Like Jesus, he also referred to death as being “asleep.” This description is significant in understanding what our spirit and soul will experience after death. When we are asleep, we have dreams. We can dream of a life where we are living like kings, and we just don’t want to wake up. At other times, we dream about getting hungry and thirsty. We can also get angry and fight with people in our dreams. We may get so tired and scared that when we wake up, we even feel it physically. In our dreams, we meet and recognize people, even those who were long dead. We experience all these and more in our dreams, as if we were physically awake, yet the body is completely immobile.

But many still do not believe that there can be enjoyment of life after death because they think that everything happens in the body. They believe that once the body is dead, it will be the end of life. To remove any doubt about life after death, Jesus had to give the Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In this parable, both of them did not cease living after their death. Their bodies were buried in the grave but their souls and spirits lived on. Lazarus, whose soul and spirit went to be with Abraham, was being comforted while the rich man was suffering in agony in hell. But how could they experience comfort and agony when they did not have their bodies? As mentioned earlier, death is just like sleeping, and just as in a dream, we do not have to have a body to experience comfort and suffering. The soul and the spirit are very much alive.

While flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, it does not mean that life will cease at the point of death. Rather, the spirit and soul will go on through eternity, either in heaven or in hell. Therefore, the spirit and the soul of a man need to be redeemed. It is only then that the man can inherit the kingdom of heaven. Otherwise, that man will be thrown into hell. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Praise the Lord!