There are really only two kinds of people in this world: those who are part of fallen humanity, who have had the image of God within them, marred due to Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden; and those who are part of redeemed humanity, who belong to Jesus Christ and have had their sins atoned for by His innocent shed blood. As great as the sin of the first man, Adam, the grace and mercy of the second man, Jesus, is far greater still. The Bible says, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Romans 5:15). The sole requirement to experience the grace of God, and therefore become part of this redeemed humanity, is to believe by faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

When one believes in Jesus, an amazing thing happens. A sinner is not merely forgiven of their sins, not only granted eternal life, and not just filled with the Holy Spirit, but in God’s gracious act of regeneration, they are reborn and made anew. The image of God in man, which had been marred by sin, is remade. The sinner always possessed God’s image, but it was like a fractured mirror. In Christ, the mirror is mended; the cracks and fissures are fixed. The one who is saved by Jesus finds the image of God is saved, too.

But, though the image of God in man is mended in Christ, there is more to be done. The body of flesh is still under the curse of sin and will experience disease, sickness, and eventually death. While it is the tendency of Christians to forget what God has promised, the truth is that a person is incomplete until they have experienced the future resurrection that God has promised. It is not enough to spiritually be brought into the presence of Jesus at death (though that does happen when the Christian dies). The soul must one day be reunited with a resurrected body. The image of God in man will not experience its full unveiling until the Lord restores the flesh of man to his pre-fallen state. In fact, more than this, the image of God will not be fully unveiled until the Christian experiences the glorification promised through the future resurrection of the dead. And, coupled with this promise of the fully unveiled and mended image of God in man through the future resurrection, is a promise of a future restoration of all things upon this earth.

The Future Restoration of Creation

Gnosticism is, at the most basic level, a belief that the physical is bad and only the spiritual is good. This belief, though damned as heretical, has continued to permeate through much of popular evangelicalism—so much so that many Christians believe the eternal state is to simply exist as an ethereal soul in the presence of Christ in Heaven forevermore. After all, if disease, sickness, and death exist within the physical realms, and if sin is committed in physical bodies, would it not make more sense for the physical to be destroyed and for the spiritual to exist eternally?

But this is not what happened to Jesus. He was physically raised from the dead with a resurrected, glorified, and physical body. In Heaven, He has retained His humanity, and will dwell in a physical body forevermore.

Furthermore, to live eternally as merely spiritual beings is not the promise of God’s Word. The physical will be raised and restored to its perfect state, prior to the Fall. Far from being bad, the physical was created good. In fact, before Adam and Eve sinned, God created the cosmos, including the celestial spheres, the earth and all that is in it, and all unseen things too, and He pronounced mankind to be very good (Genesis 1:31).

What does this mean for creation as a whole, then? In part, it means that when Jesus returns to this earth to make all things new, He will wipe out sin completely. Sin, along with all evil and wickedness, and those who refuse to repent, will be raised to only then be judged and cast into the eternal lake of fire, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8). The new earth and heavens, then, will be the dwelling place of God and His people, and “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

This is what creation itself longs for. When Adam and Eve sinned, all of creation itself was subjected to sin’s penalties and curses. But it now eagerly awaits the full redemption Christ has promised. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-23:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

There is an eager anticipation, not only in the Christian, but experienced by all of creation, for the day of Christ’s return and redemption of all things.

The Restoration of the Body

Sinners will be cast into the Lake of Fire, but Christians are never going to experience God’s judgment or condemnation (Romans 8:1). This means that, when Jesus returns to this earth, something incredible will happen: those who have been waiting in Heaven, in an intermediate state, will return with Jesus to be reunited with their physical bodies. Those who are still living will, likewise, be caught up into the air, experiencing glorification in that same moment, to welcome Jesus to His Kingdom on the earth. And, as Jesus goes forth to war to finally trample His enemies underfoot, so we—as His people—will march the earth with Him.

The Apostle Paul explains the chain of events in this way in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

So we will always be with the Lord, physically upon the new earth. But what will be of our bodies? We know they will be glorified, but in what way? First Corinthians 15 offers many great assurances, like our corruptible bodies being made incorruptible, and our mortal bodies being made immortal. But will they look different? Will they act differently? What will they really be like?

The honest answer is that the Bible doesn’t exactly tell us what these glorified bodies will be like. We know they’ll somehow be like Jesus’, and we know they will be incapable of sinning, incapable of experiencing sickness or disease, and incapable of dying. Somehow, they will evidently be able to stand in God’s presence. But, probably the best answer of what the glorified body will be comes to us from the Apostle John:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

It is safe to say that whatever we imagine the glorified body to be, it will be significantly greater than anything we can possibly imagine. And, even greater than a glorified body, even greater than redeemed creation, will be the fact that we are in the presence of the Lord eternally, to work the earth and glorify His name.

Download the rest of October 2023 issue of Theology for Life on the Image of God.​

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