Today is Ascension Thursday, when the Church commemorates Christ’s return to Heaven 40 days after His Resurrection, and awaits His return for the Last Judgment at the end of time. So this is a good opportunity for us to think a bit about what we’re going to look like, when that day comes. Are we going to have all our real or imagined physical flaws corrected?
For those unfamiliar with the belief in the resurrection of all the dead, this is not a zombie apocalypse theory. It’s actually a core Christian belief, one which was dividing the Jewish community of Jesus’ day, between Pharisees who professed it and Sadducees who dismissed it. The idea is, all the dead are raised and given perfected bodies of some sort, and everyone undergoes the Last Judgment, after which some go to Heaven, and some to Hell.
A few spiritual thinkers suggest that when the day arrives and the dead come back, we’re going to end up looking about what we were like around our “Jesus year”, i.e. 33 years old, the approximate age Christ was when He rose from the dead. I can see how for a lot of people that’s not a bad place to be, particularly if you’re freed from any illnesses or conditions that might have caused you pain at that age. At 33 you can still be as active as you would like, but you are less reckless or careless about it than you were at 23.
However there’s also the issue of perfectionism when it comes to a resurrected body, which I wonder how God is going to take care of. Do we get to have that face or body we’ve always wanted? Is God going to treat us like a piece of claymation, making us look any way we’d like, so that we can be “happy” about our appearance? What will make us happy about the way we look, if we’re being given eternal life and eternal bodies to go with it?
Truthfully, we don’t know for sure what we’ll look like, other than some hints we might glean from the Gospels about Christ’s appearance to the disciples after His Resurrection. For example, we know that He could enjoy material things if He chose, for when He appears to the Apostles in the Upper Room he eats some fish they give Him, to prove He’s not a ghost. Later still, Jesus even cooks the Apostles a hearty breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (Perhaps this means God will allow us to have bacon in eternity, but we shall have to wait and see.)
For the Christian, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with imagining, every now and then, what it’s going to be like if we make it to Heaven. It’s only natural that we will wonder about what we’ll look like, or what we’ll be able to do once we get there. Yet at the same time, the focus and the goal must always remain on doing what we need to do to get ourselves right on the inside, worrying less about the outside, in order to reach that eternal destination. God’s not going to care how many beauty pageants you won or how many pounds you could bench, if you never bothered to follow the Commandments He left you to live by.
In the end I suspect that, if and when we get there, how we look will be little more than an afterthought. We’ll be so unconcerned with our BMI, our wardrobe, our hair, and so on, that all of these concerns about perfecting our appearance will seem to have been little more than a colossal waste of time and resources. Oh in the meantime I’m still going to comb my hair and pick out snazzy argyle socks, of course, but if I make it upstairs at the end of this life, I for one am really, really looking forward to never ironing again.