Responses to Q&A on the Soul

Last night we had a Q & A time after a sermon from 1 Peter about the salvation of the soul. You asked some really good questions! Here are answers to the ones we didn’t get to during the gathering. You can listen to the sermon here.

Where is Jesus’ resurrected body now?

The following is adapted from a response to a similar question by Jared C. Wilson. Large portions are quoted.

Answering this question starts with the nature of heaven. We often think of heaven as a different place from the earth where God dwells. Maybe in another galaxy far, far away. This is partially due to the description in Acts 1 of Jesus ascending into the clouds and the description of his return in Revelation. This makes us think that heaven is “up.” However, I would contend that heaven, simply put, is the place where God is and where his will is done perfectly. If we take the biblical witness on heaven as a whole, it is likely these things are figures of speech that indicate heaven is a place that is spiritually “higher” than the earth.

However, heaven is not simply a place of disembodied habitation. It is a real place, even if invisible to us now, where God who is spirit presides, along with the saints who have passed before us, as well as of course his glorified Son Jesus.

The best parallel I can think of as to what heaven is like is the land of Narnia in CS Lewis’s storybooks. Narnia is a universe of itself within our more familiar universe. So in Narnia, there are countries and continents and seas and skies and suns and moons. But the children in the stories access this entire universe through a portal in *this* universe (through the wardrobe, or into a painting, etc). Heaven is like that. It is a real space that has tangibility and physicality, where people walk and play and sing and live, except it doesn’t “take up space.” Scientifically put, perhaps it exists in higher dimensions than the 4 dimensions the world we see exists in.

This gets us back to the original question of where Jesus’ resurrected body is now.

The short answer is in heaven. Heaven, as described above, is not incapable of housing tangible objects, including Jesus’ perfected body. While Scripture does seem to indicate that we will exist in heaven without bodies for a time, this doesn’t rule out bodies existing there. And our eternal destiny is to receive perfected bodies when Jesus brings heaven and earth together in complete perfection. This will result in a new reality that is both continuous and discontinuous with our present reality (1 Corinthians 15; Revelation 21-22).

 

At the moment, Jesus is in heaven in his resurrected body. (I imagine Enoch and Elijah are as well, since they didn’t die on earth but were taken up in their bodies into heaven.)

I know this kind of heaven is not what we are often led to conceive of when the church speaks of heaven. But it is the picture of heaven we actually get in the Bible. The reality is that heaven is truer, realer, and thicker with beauty than this world, not less so.

If the body dies, do the mind and heart die too?

This question comes from the diagram I used to describe the soul. It depicted the heart at the center, then the mind, then the body, followed by our relationships, and finally the soul. While our soul is a whole where each part interacts with and influences all the others, there is at least a sense where the soul can survive without all its parts. This is most clearly seen with our bodies.

For example in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 John says the sees the souls of those who have died on earth. These are beings that exist without a body, and he still calls them souls. I believe this is because they are still distinct beings, even if they are awaiting the final resurrection for their completion. These bodiless beings are still capable of calling out to God.

Another place this is addressed is in Matthew 10 when Jesus says to his disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This indicates that the soul can continue on without the body. However, I would contend that without the body the soul is incomplete. This is why the final resurrection is so important and is a part of the good news.

If our consciousness is chemical, does consciousness continue when we die? (And if so, how does it continue?)

I have two responses to this–one based on belief in the truth of Scripture and one is conjecture borne from the science of quantum physics.

The Bible seems unequivocal in asserting that consciousness continues after death. To go a step further, individual consciousness continues, not just a shared consciousness of “oneness.” There are spirits that interact with living people (1 Samuel 28) and the souls I mentioned in the last answer who cry out to God even while apart from their bodies. So based on faith in Scripture we would say that consciousness does continue, but this doesn’t answer how it continues.

A speculative answer to how it continues comes from the science of quantum theory. (I am way out of my depth here, so if any of you know more about this, please chime in!) In particular, tests in quantum physics that explore “entangled particles.” These particles remain connected so that an action performed on one has and effect on both, even when they are separated by a great distance. This indicates a real and verifiable impact being made without visible or physical connection (at least in dimensions we can see). Applied to consciousness, could this mean that there is a verifiable, but invisible and non-corporeal aspect that drives it? Again, this is venturing into areas where I’m not even a novice, but quantum theory suggests there are aspects of reality much different from what we see and would assume.