The following is an edited transcript of Randy’s interview with Tony Reinke, who invited him to be a guest on Desiring God’s “Ask Pastor John” podcast in June 2014.
Tony Reinke: Randy, we know the human body changes radically from conception to age 90. So at what stage in bodily progression will our resurrected bodies appear? We are told there will be children in Heaven. Will there be elderly folks? Will there be a range of age appearances? Will we appear the age in which we died (like Jesus, apparently)—or younger or older? Or will everyone appear to be 25-years-old, in the prime of life?
Randy: This is another one of those areas where we have to speculate. We don’t have the direct biblical teaching on this, but we do have the direct biblical teaching of having real actual human bodies as created by God, not subject to sin and death and suffering. We can expect continuity of appearance, and that just as Jesus looked like the Jesus that He was, we will look like the people that we were. You will look like Tony. I will look like Randy. We will be able to recognize each other, all that.
But I think in terms of the challenging question of, “When an elderly person dies will that person look elderly?” We would assume not, because there is a peak of physical vitality in this life (and whatever that age is I know I am past it!).
But maybe it was the 20’s. I don’t know. We still have the benefits of many good things about us as we develop more with age, but physically there is the passing of a peak. And this is why historically many theologians speculated—it was all speculation, I guess you would have to say—that it was perhaps the age of Jesus, our perfect Savior, when He died (often believing that He died either at age 30 or 33, depending on different perspectives). Peter Lombard, the medieval theologian, argued that. Thomas Aquinas made the same arguments: that Christ when He died was 33, and therefore we will all be 33 in the resurrection. Well, I’m not sure you can totally fall for that logic, but it is a great idea and it certainly is possible.
I think one of the interesting dynamics of what age we will be in Heaven comes from an understanding of all the research that has been done on DNA. If our resurrected bodies have DNA, it could actually be a means that God uses for resurrection. Of course, He doesn’t need to use a means! But when they found the DNA of Egyptian Pharaohs that are thousands of years old, it is actual DNA and if we had the ability, we could reconstruct a person by creating a clone. That itself, I think, suggests that there could be continuity between us at our peaks.
Regarding the elderly in the resurrection, we could speculate that the older person becomes a younger person again, but in a body without suffering. However, what about those who have never reached that peak? What about children who died? Well, we do have those passages in Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 that seem to clearly have some children on the New Earth. I think one possibility is they could be resurrected at the age they were when they died. If that is the case, then God would not fast forward. He would not skip any stage. And I think in some ways that would almost make sense that there would not be a skipping of stages, but that they as children could literally grow up on the New Earth.
That is speculation, but to me it would fit beautifully with Luke 6 and other passages where God brings comfort to the mourners and in the sense that, “You’ve been through this, but I will compensate in the world to come in the resurrection. You’ve experienced mourning. I will give you laughter. You were deprived of raising a child who died at a young age. Maybe you will be able to be there with your child as he or she grows up on the New Earth without threat of death, harm, abuse or anything else.” I believe it would be just like our God to do that. And then the rejoicing there will be in contrast to the loss and the misery and the suffering on Earth will be celebrated for all eternity because people will think: “You know what? I loved raising my kids on the old Earth, but, wow, to have grown up here, on the New Earth!”
Tony: There’s so much more to learn and discuss about Heaven. For more see Randy’s bestselling book, simply titled Heaven. And be sure to check out his ministry, Eternal Perspective Ministries online at www.epm.org. I’m your host Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening to the Ask Pastor John podcast.