Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 22
Lord's Day 22
What comfort does
the resurrection of the body
Not only shall my soul
after this life
immediately be taken up
to Christ, my Head,
but also this my flesh,
raised by the power of Christ,
shall be reunited with my soul
and made like Christ's glorious body.
What comfort do you receive
from the article about
the life everlasting?
Since I now already
feel in my heart
the beginning of eternal joy,
I shall after this life
possess perfect blessedness,
such as no eye has seen,
nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived –
a blessedness in which to praise God forever.
Q. & A. 57 Yet in My Flesh Shall I See God
- In this LD the church confesses the benefits which the Lord will give to it after this life. Hence, it is linked closely to the preceding LD.
- At death, soul and body are separated. But this will not continue for ever. Hence, one can speak of an “interim state,” i.e. for the period between death and resurrection. Scripture does not say much about this interim state. It directs our attention mostly to Christ's return. Then will come about that which will remain for ever. But we can say about the interim state that at death the soul receives a preliminary salvation or judgment, while the body will decompose.
- The soul of the believer will Immediately be taken up to Christ, our Head, after death. The child of the Lord closes his eyes here on earth when he dies, but re-opens them immediately in glory (see Lk 16:22, 23). Rev 14:13 says: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord Henceforth."
My soul will then be taken up to Christ, My Head. It was already joined to him. It already shared in his life and that will then continue fully. The dead-weight of sin of this life will fall away. The body of sin will fall away (Phil 1:23).
- The body is committed to the grave. When Christ returns, he will raise it. (Jn 5:27-29). We are unable to comprehend the idea of the resurrection of the body. It has been denied and ridiculed from of old. The Catechism says that it happens “by the power of Christ.” That is our “explanation.” His resurrection is our guarantee. (See LD 17, Answer 45, 3rd part). Our Flesh, our own bodies in which we lived, will rise (BC, art. 37), but with totally different, glorified qualities. Then it will be completely a suitable tool of the soul. In 1 Cor 15 Paul describes the difference between our present body and our glorified body in the following contrasting terms: perishable/imperishable; dishonour/glory; weakness/power; physical/spiritual; mortal/immortal. “Spiritual” does not mean that the resurrected body will not be physical, but that it will be completely subservient to the spirit, and be suited to the life of glory. Then it will no longer need food and there will be no marriage any more. For that which changes and grows will then be exchanged for that which is eternally complete. (1 Cor 6:13; Mt 22:30).
Scripture also speaks about the resurrection of the ungodly. They shall awaken to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan 12:2), and to “the resurrection of judgment” (Jn 5:29). The curse will then continue fully in their bodies. This resurrection is not “by the power of Christ,” but in consequence of God's righteousness and truth. Through this resurrection they will not inherit eternal life, but eternal death.
- No serious person believes that everything is finished at death. The nature of our present life is too provisional to give such a belief credence.
- Cremation, formerly forbidden, is of heathen origin and does not become those who live in the expectation of faith.
- The doctrine of the sleep of the soul (psychopannychy).
- The Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory.
- What is the subject matter of this Lord's Day as compared to the preceding one?
- What happens at death? Will that continue?
- What do we know about the “interim state”?
- Does the Bible say a lot about it? To what does it direct our attention principally? Why?
- What happens to the soul of a believer when he dies?
- How is that possible? What does Rev 14:13 say?
- What happens to the body at death? What happens to the body when Christ returns?
- What is our guarantee for the resurrection of the body?
- How will our body be raised? What is a spiritual body?
- What does the Bible say about the resurrection of the ungodly? Do they come to life through their resurrection?
Q. & A. 58 I Live and You Shall Live
- Life eternal is not the life of today extended in eternity. That would be “nothing less than a constant death” (Forms for the Baptism of Infants and of Adults, Prayer before Baptism). Rather, it is the true, the real life! It awaits us after this life. No one can describe what it will be. No eye has seen it, no matter how much beauty it has observed; no ear has heard it, even though it may have heard many beautiful sounds; and whatever the heart of man can conceive, it has not been able to comprehend life eternal (1 Cor 2:9). We can only say: No hunger, No thirst, No troubles, No sorrow. But what positive things can we say about it?
- Immediately after death the soul enters eternal life. But it is received into that life only in a preliminary and interim way. Only when the body also receives eternal life and the number of the multitude of the redeemed is full, will eternal life commence in complete joy. Then it will be enjoyed on a new earth where the tabernacle of God will be with men (Rev 21:3). The Bible uses many metaphors to teach us something about the wonder of this bliss. Then we shall Know God. And then we shall know his works; no longer in part, but we shall see them in all their beauty. And it will be a state in which we shall praise and glorify God. That is also why we shall receive it.
- Although all the redeemed will be saved, so that none of them will have any feelings of want, there will a difference in their glory. When we fill ten unequal glasses with water, then they are all full (saved), but one glass contains more water than the other (difference in glory). Thus, one person will have a wider and richer knowledge of God and his glory than the other. That is how God “rewards” (LD 24, Q. 63).
- The believer already enjoys inexpressible joy in the service of the Lord in this life. This is a service of love for him and the gospel of the forgiveness of sins enlarges his heart and fills him with joy. Ps 26:5 (rhymed version) says:
"Thy praise will I record.
I love Thy house, O Lord,
The place where all Thy glories dwell. . . ."
This joy is but a beginning. It will grow into the eternal joy. He who misses the beginning, will not inherit the fullness.
- Holy Scripture also speaks about the eternal death of the wicked. (Mt 24:21; 25:30; Lk 13:28; Rev 19:20). Just as in the case of eternal life, so also in respect of eternal death, the Bible speaks in metaphors, such as “lake of fire” and “outer darkness.” Also in this eternal death there will be differences in the degree of suffering. (Mt 11:20-24; and see especially Lk 12:47, 48; and LD 4, Q&A 11).
- The doctrine of conditional immortality.
- Is eternal life an everlasting continuation of this life?
- What can you say about it?
- When does the believer receive it initially? When completely? For what purpose does he receive it?
- Will there be differences in life eternal? In what respect?
- What does the believer enjoy already in this life?
- How does the Bible speak about eternal death? Who will receive the heaviest punishment?