She wanted to look at the photographs. One of our friends asked us if she could look through some of the pictures we took of our dead baby. Pictures of Amy holding Claire, of me holding Claire, of grandma and grandpa holding Claire. No one else requested this. But she did. The moment I heard her request, my mind registered this thought: “This friend has just crossed a line from caring to just being nosey.” She was overly curious to know what our baby would look like. My wife and I politely declined her offer to see them. We told her that those pictures contained some very sensitive visuals for us as a couple and we were just not ready to let anyone else see them at that point in our grieving process.
Claire died at only six months of age inside Amy’s womb. We were curious to know what she would have looked like if she would have grown up. Would she have had Amy’s dark hair? My blue eyes? When I held her little body, I noticed how skinny she was. She had not yet reached the stage where a baby starts to produce fat around their bones. When they measured Claire, she was twelve and ¼ inches long. I wondered during this time of grieving if she would always be twelve and ¼ inches for eternity. Will she look like this miniature human being walking around heaven, while other people who grew up to adulthood are walking around at five feet, eleven inches, or six feet, two inches? Or will everyone be the same height in heaven? People have had questions like this throughout the centuries.
Last week, we looked at the biblical evidence concerning whether or not babies go to heaven. This week we will focus on the question: What will babies who die prematurely look like in heaven? After losing our second daughter, Claire, I wanted to know what she might look like when I see her again in heaven someday.
By the late thirteenth century, the church believed that “as each person reaches their peak of perfection around the age of thirty, they will be resurrected, as they would have appeared at that time—even if they never lived to reach that age. The New Jerusalem will be populated by men and women as they would appear at the age of thirty.”
The great theologian Thomas Aquinas argued that we will all be the age of Christ when He was crucified, about thirty-three.
It appears that the ancient church believed that people in heaven would appear to be thirty years old. This is interesting because science tells us something about “age thirty.” Research has proven that our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach our full development. It appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our twenties or thirties. It might be reasonable to presume that our bodies will be resurrected at the best stage of development determined by our DNA. That stage might just be around age thirty. Therefore, even though Claire didn’t even make it out of Amy’s womb, it is entirely possible that she is walking around heaven right now looking just like a thirty year old woman. To be honest, that is really hard to picture because my oldest daughter is only nine years old. Yet, in some ways, I might always have a hard time picturing my daughters as thirty year old women because I will always picture them with their child-like faces.
Does this mean that children who go to heaven won’t be children once they get there? It seems that the answer is “Yes.” Scripture seems to hint at this. In 1 Corinthians 15:35, the apostle Paul asks this question:
“How are the dead raised?”
This is a great question! How was Claire raised when she died? What kind of body will she have? Paul gives us four characteristics of what our eternal bodies will be like. Here is the first.
Imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42). We are born perishable. Did you know that you were born to die? From the time you were born until you reach your late twenties or early thirties you are still developing. But around that time in your life (for some it is sooner than others), you physically begin to die. That is why many men start losing their hair around that age. That is why you wake up with sore muscles from yesterday’s basketball game, remembering when you were eighteen and could play for hours and feel no soreness the next day. I hate to break it to all of us, but once most of us hit our mid-thirties, physically is it all down hill.
All of us were born to die. But when a Christian dies, he or she will be resurrected with a body that will live forever. Even though it is hard to comprehend this reality, we will live forever. This feeling of living forever is instilled within each of us. For example, even though we know that we only have approximately eighty years on this earth and then we will die, we usually do not like to talk about it or even think about it. We were created to live forever and this thing called death is so unnatural for us. That is why even when we are in our sixties or seventies, we still feel like our minds are a mere thirty years old.
In heaven, I wonder if we’ll see people as we most remember them on earth. I’ll see my parents as older, and they’ll see me as younger. I’ll see my children as younger, and they’ll see me as older. I don’t mean that physical forms will actually change but that the resurrection body will show the real person we have known, and we will see each other through different eyes.
Glorified (1 Corinthians 15:43). We are born in dishonor. In other words, we are born in sin. None of us would ever claim that we are perfect. Some might live better lives than others, but we all have sin that separates us from God.
But when we die, we will be raised in a glorified body. Glory is a word that is not used very much anymore. The word glory has lost some of its clout that it once had. Glory in its most simple form means to be perfect. We will be without sin. The most important aspect of being perfect means that we will be like Jesus.
“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).
What will it be like to have a body like Jesus’? It means that we will not experience sin anymore. That will be one of the best realities of heaven: no sin! Everyone will get along. No relationships will be strained. No one’s words will be misconstrued. No one will ever feel unsafe. Everyone will be an encourager. You will only feel uplifted by others instead of discouraged by the sin around you. No more lying, cheating, unfaithfulness, bitterness, envy, drunkenness, diseases, or pain. Life will be perfect. We can’t even comprehend it at this point because every day we see some effect of sin in our life and the lives of those around us. But there will come a day when there will be no more evil to content with, no more devil to flee from, no more temptations to destroy us. Yes, earth can be a great place to live, but once you experience a moment in heaven in your glorified body that is sinless and you interact with others who are sinless, you will realize why God made you! He made you to have a perfect relationship with Him that was boundless in love and affection.
Powerful (1 Corinthians 15:43). We are born weak. Claire died because she had a thin, weak umbilical cord. I have witnessed people whom I love dearly have their body decimated by cancer and chemo treatments. Eventually in life, our bodies will break down. Some bodies sooner than others. And we are powerless to control our weakness.
But when we die, we will no longer be weak. We will have power. Our bodies will no longer get tired from hard work. Our hearts will beat strong with healthy blood pressure. Our sugar levels will be exactly where they need to be. We will feel more alive and healthy than we ever have in our entire life here on this earth. Even the air that we breathe will taste sweeter than before, because we are now totally healthy in every aspect of our life. Death from eating of the forbidden fruit will no longer have any power over us. Death where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?
I believe that our heavenly bodies will demonstrate the qualities of youthfulness that Jesus so valued in children. Curiosity, gratefulness, laughter, care-free attitudes, loving to learn and explore, and eagerness to hear stories and gather close to loved ones.
Right now, we use so little of our brain power and our muscle power and the older we get, the less power we can exhibit. But in heaven, we will have full capacity of every aspect of our being. God will recreate that which was broken down and give us a body that will live forever and never break down again. This body will last forever. It will last for eternity. For billions and trillions of years our bodies will remain strong. And then time will begin again as if only a few minutes had passed. And we will be strong in our minds (i.e. we will never get bored), strong in our muscles (i.e. we will not have a need to rest), and strong in our organs (i.e. we will never have to worry about disease again).
Spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:44). Paul is telling us that if there is a natural body, then surely there is a spiritual body. The natural body is what you see when you look in the mirror. If we were facing each other right now, you could see my flesh, and I could see your flesh. What we can’t see, but can sense is that we have an immaterial aspect to our bodies. Only a fool thinks that our brain and hearts are simply physical. When we think too hard, where does it hurt? Our brains. When we feel like crying and we anguish over something, where does it hurt? Our hearts. Why? Because we are spiritual people, not just material. We are not simply a material girl or boy. We are also spiritual.
Everyone reading this sentence knows that there is something inside of them that is not just material. Call it a soul. Call it a spirit. It is eternal and will live forever. Our spirits will live forever. Since we have something spiritual that is part of us, we can hope that this life is not the end. That after we breathe our last breath on this earth, then we will wake up in another place. And I believe that place is called heaven. A place that Jesus is preparing for you and for me if we believe that He is our way, and our truth, and our life (John 14:1-6).
Heaven takes on a new meaning because Claire is there and I will someday meet her face to face. Perhaps Claire will take my hand and show me around heaven. Then one day, after the final resurrection, we’ll enjoy each other’s company on the New Earth, and have all of eternity to catch up on the fifty or so years we lost together here on this earth.