by Rev. Chuck Muether
In this week’s Heidelbit, we reflect on Lord’s Day 22 of the Heidelberg Catechism. We will study two questions:
57. What comfort do you receive from the “resurrection of the body”?
That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head, but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like the glorious body of Christ.
58. What comfort do you receive from the article “life everlasting”?
That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, therein to praise God forever.
When we think of an aftermath, we think of a destructive consequence that results from an event that might be a deadly storm or an act of terrorism. Reporters who come on to such scenes often pronounce with harried voice the ubiquitous, “This is a war zone!” And so it is. Rarely is an aftermath seen as good except in the case of these Heidelberg Catechism answers. Consider the Christian pilgrimage.
Our first big stretch out of the womb is a significant event, but, as the psalmist says, “after seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). We are born in sin, and sin do we commit. Our life is a constant battle against the triumvirate of evil: the flesh, the world, and the devil. Sin is always crouching at the door.
Soon comes the moment of that last breath; however, we do not fly away in dust and ashes. No, we who are in Christ will “possess complete blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard.” And, provided we who are disciples of Christ, the good news does not stop after hearing these words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
While we ascend to heaven, we await that day when our bodies will be reunited with our souls in glorious consummation, as “we will be made like the glorious body of Christ.”
Now, dear believer, consider that amazing event while you ponder Genesis 1:23: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
The ugly aftermath of our first parents’ catastrophic fall into sin led to curse and death—a horrific loss of a special communion with God. No aftermath has ever rivaled the one that came when man partook of the forbidden fruit. That aftermath would beget aftermaths for generations to come, including what we see in our day in the massacre of human life.
But in the person and work of Jesus, the death, resurrection and ascension of our Redeemer-King, the certain aftermath of sin—death—has been replaced with an afterlife of glory. You could say the aftermath of death of the Messiah brought life to all whom the heavenly Father has called His own.
I often hear a saint or two say, “Can’t wait to step into life eternal.” Our catechism lesson teaches us that we now can feel in our heart the beginning of eternal joy. The apostle John explains why he wrote his first letter: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).
That’s eternal life that can be enjoyed today in the church militant and realized later in its fullest sense in the church triumphant. So you might ask, where can I enjoy this taste of heaven? Would you believe the answer is simply in the private and corporate exercises of worship?
Most are familiar with the line from the epic movie Field of Dreams: “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” Properly understood, every time you take that seat in the pew during true worship, you could ask that very question: is this heaven? And in part the answer is, yes, because you are meeting with God in a special communion, which is what eternal life will be.
I once told that to a catechumen who then smartly replied, “So eternal life will be like hearing long sermons 24/7?” To which I responded, “No, there won’t be any stuttering, or longwinded points, or even preacher tone—just pure divine communion, but if you listen to the faithful preacher carefully you will glean a foretaste of that ‘blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard.’”