Christian faith asks questions, seeks understanding, both because God is always greater than our ideas of God, and because the public world that faith inhabits confronts it with challenges and contradictions that cannot be ignored. It is my hope to offer some information and insights in response to questions about God, the Bible and faith, that will add to the conversation without offering set, absolute answers. Please feel free to communicate any additional questions or your own experiences, comments, responses and insights as they relate to the questions taken up here.
“Do people age in heaven?”
Well, certainly, this could be made into a nice compact response just by saying, “I don’t know.” But, such a response short circuits the whole idea behind engaging the questions of faith that move through our lives. As with any question regarding heaven and what it may or may not be like, there is a broad range of thought and possible answers since no one has been able to provide a complete eyewitness, first-hand report. Certainly, Christian book stores carry a number of titles that recount individual experiences that have been interpreted or understood to be heavenly exposures. I confess I have read none of them to date.
Scripturally, we have several accounts we might want to consider. First is the parable of Lazarus and Rich Man (Lk. 16:19-31). Each died, but was recognizable to the other. In the synoptic accounts of the Transfiguration (Mt. 17; Lk. 9; Mk. 9) two figures from Israel’s history make an appearance and, despite the lack of description of their physical appearance, they were recognizable as by people who would never have known what they actually looked like. Finally, we have the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, prior to the Ascension. In the forty days between Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus would not really have noticeably aged. The difficulty with these accounts are: the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is just that, a story. Elijah’s and Moses’ presence at the Transfiguration might presume they were from heaven, but gives no indication of their age, which if they had aged, would have accounted centuries. Since the Ascension, Jesus has not yet returned, thus we have no way of telling whether he is presently in heaven growing somehow visibly older (how would we even know?).
One group may believe that people exist in heaven at an “ideal” age. Other groups may believe that heaven is populated by people “stuck” at the age they were at the time of death. Ultimately, any conclusion we draw is flawed, at best, with no one being wholly right or wrong. Aging is an inevitable consequence of living in a broken, fallen, human world. If we trust that God is eternal, we have to somehow get our minds around the idea that God is timeless, outside of any time structure that we might imagine or invent. “For a thousand years are like a day in your sight,” (Ps. 90:4) and “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) Aging in heaven seems to be inconsistent with the heavenly ideal, or so it seems to me. What do you think?