On page 174 of Heaven you talk of the thrill of seeing Jesus in Heaven. You say, “Being with him. Gazing at him. Talking with him. Worshiping him. Embracing him. Eating with him. Walking with him. Laughing with him.” But how will millions of resurrected believers be able to do this? Do we take turns?
You ask a great question, and one which I’ve thought about, but have no definitive answers for. But I have some “sort of” answers which I’ll suggest.
Though I see no reason to think that we as believers, who will continue to be finite beings even in our resurrection bodies, can be in two places at once, I wonder if Jesus might be. On the one hand, I believe he’ll have a single resurrected body, in keeping with his humanity. Yet that body glorified may well allow a greater expression of his divine attributes which were of necessity so limited in his first earthly life. (I say “first” since he’ll be on earth again, the New Earth.)
God is infinite and omnipresent, and Jesus is God. Man is finite and limited to one location, and Jesus is man. In a sense one of these truths has to “trump” or somewhat redefine the other. I wonder if Christ’s humanity defined the extent of his presence in his first coming and life on this earth (humanity trumping deity by limiting omnipresence), and if His deity will define the extent of his presence in his second coming and life on the New Earth (deity trumping the normal human inability to be two places at once).
Since we can accurately say that Jesus functioning as a man does not prohibit him being God, we must also say that Jesus functioning as God does not prohibit him being a man. So, though I cannot conceive exactly how it could happen—what else is new?—I do believe it is entirely possible that Jesus could in the future remain a man while fully exercising the attributes of God, including (at least in some sense) omnipresence.
In a way, don’t we already see that now? Where is Christ? At the right hand of God. He will be there until he returns to the earth. We say this accurately; in terms of his human body, he is in one location, and only one.
But even now, when we ask “Where is Christ?” there is another biblical answer: he is here with us. He promised to be (Matthew 28:20). He dwells in our hearts, all of our hearts who know Him. If He can do that even now in this sin-stained world, indwelling those who are saints and yet sinners, how much more will he do it in the world to come when no sin shall separate us from him?
Consider the promise that when Christ returns “every eye will see him.” How is that physically possible unless the resurrected and returning Christ will be in more than one place at once—at very least there would have to be a sort of projection of him on the far side of the earth to be seen simultaneously; but since we will see Christ, not merely his projection, it suggests an exercise of divine attributes that takes his glorified body beyond the normal limitations of finite humanity.
So, Christ’s spiritual presence even now is not limited to his physical body. In a world where we will be unhindered in our access to Christ, in which we will continuously sense the reality of his presence with us wherever we are, might we be capable not only of talking to him (as we do now), but of hearing from him in terms of direct and actual words (in ways far beyond what we do now)?
Furthermore, just as an angel might take on a human body to express his presence to people (even though the angel is a spirit, usually without a body), God did this in theophanies as an accommodation to finite people, without violating his fundamental nature. Now, even though Jesus has an eternal resurrection body, since we know he can be “spiritually present” in countless millions of believers at the same time in different places, in the world to come could he not be spiritually present with us in a far corner of the world (or universe)? Sure.
But one step further, couldn’t he choose to take on a temporary form to manifest himself to us? If he did that, might he not take on a temporary form very similar in appearance to his actual physical form which may at that moment be sitting on the throne in the New Jerusalem thousands of miles—or light years—away? Might Jesus then, appear to us and walk with us in this temporary but tangible form which is a tangible expression (I would prefer that to projection) of his real body? Might I not just spiritually, but physically walk with Jesus while thousands of others are walking with Jesus? Might I not be able to touch his hand or embrace him or spend a long afternoon privately conversing with him? Since God goes out of his way to accommodate himself to us, in light of our limitations, I would anticipate we would experience that on even a higher level as one of the joys of being in his presence. (We will be always in his presence without necessitating that we are always in each other’s presence.) As finite beings pictured as millions of little circles, we could each simultaneously overlap the infinite circle of God’s being while not overlapping each other’s circles. Yet each of us, at the same time, could really and truly—and even privately—be with God.
While we do not know the mechanics, these possibilities make it easier for me to grasp that just as we now have spiritual access to God and can come boldly before Him, and Jesus is currently always in us and with us, we will then have a far more tangible access to Him at any time and in any place.
Not an entirely satisfying answer, perhaps, but I hope it helps a little.
For more information on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.