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The Ultimate Vision: Be Like Him, Part 2: Defining the Image of the Heavenly Man

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The Ultimate Vision: Be Like Him, Part 2

Defining the Image of the Heavenly Man

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Still, Paul writes earlier in the same letter that it has not “entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 1 Corinthians 2:9But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.
American King James Version×
). John writes later that we do not fully know “what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
American King James Version×
). New Testament scholar Johann Albrecht Bengel calls it a destiny “unspeakable, contained in the likeness of God” (Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament).

Fortunately, the Bible that promises a destiny so great also defines it—starting at the dawn of creation: “Then God [elohim] said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image according to Our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
).

The God Elohim—a veiled reference to God and the Word—declares with descriptive purpose that they would create a living being distinct from all others with the capacity of mind and the bodily form to shadow what the original already is and does—a mortal copy of the heavenly original, like the tabernacle of the Old Testament was a physical copy of the heavenly original (Hebrews 8:5 Hebrews 8:5Who serve to the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, said he, that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount.
American King James Version×
; 9:11, 23).

The mortal Adam that God created as a shadow of His being in mind and bodily form exhibits god-like characteristics unique to the human species. Man has a mind unlike any other species with the capacity to think, create and emulate, as well as a bodily shape that is the likeness of God giving him dominion over the rest of the created order. Stated simply, bodies have the capacity to act on their surroundings while mind has the capacity to influence.

Paul tackles these contrasts in his letter to the Corinthians where he makes the case for the resurrection from the dead. He describes different types of bodies from fleshly to the celestial. He contrasts the natural with the spiritual; the copy with the original; the first Adam with the last Adam; the living being with the life-giving spirit. In this context, Paul makes a statement about the natural and the spiritual body that forms the basis for the Bible’s definition of the “heavenly Man.”

“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44 1 Corinthians 15:44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
American King James Version×
). Did you catch that? Paul repeats the statement, “a spiritual body” twice in the same paragraph for emphasis. According to Paul, the heavenly Man is, or has, a spiritual body whose image and likeness we are destined to bear.

Paul did not learn this truth in philosophy school, or at the feet of Gamaliel. He learned this in his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road and when he was apparently taught by the risen Christ in Arabia (Acts 9:1-19 Acts 9:1-19 [1] And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, [2] And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. [3] And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: [4] And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why persecute you me? [5] And he said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks. [6] And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will you have me to do? And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do. [7] And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. [8] And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. [9] And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. [10] And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. [11] And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays, [12] And has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. [13] Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem: [14] And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on your name. [15] But the Lord said to him, Go your way: for he is a chosen vessel to me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: [16] For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. [17] And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. [18] And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight immediately, and arose, and was baptized. [19] And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
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; 22:6-21; 26:12-18; Galatians 1:11-12 Galatians 1:11-12 [11] But I certify you, brothers, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. [12] For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
, 17-18).

The idea that God—in this case the Son—has a body with recognizable features and form went against conventional thinking then, as it does today. But the Bible, in the words of Paul, is clear: “There is a spiritual body,” which a few paragraphs identify with the heavenly Man.

That the risen Christ described by Paul as “the heavenly Man” has recognizable features and form is confirmed in numerous biblical passages—not the least of which is the testimony of Stephen the martyr. Stephen was granted the privilege to gaze into heaven where he “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55 Acts 7:55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
American King James Version×
).

The spiritual body of the risen Jesus, described by Paul as a life-giving Spirit, had personal, identifiable features that Stephen immediately recognized as the person of Jesus Christ. That His body also had form is implicit in the statement that He stood at the right hand of God.

What is here implied is explicitly stated in Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:5-6 Philippians 2:5-6 [5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: [6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

This immediate context also describes the spiritual mind of the God who became man with the expectation that we shadow it—“Let this mind [of lowliness] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version×
).

Now that the Bible has established that the heavenly Man has a spiritual body with recognizable features and form that can act on its surroundings and that this Being has a spiritual mind that we are expected to emulate, we turn to the most descriptive biblical definition of the heavenly Man.

John, the aged apostle, was on the Isle of Patmos when he had a personal post-resurrection encounter with the heavenly Man, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10 Revelation 1:10I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
American King James Version×
).

Upon hearing the voice, John had a perfectly normal response, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band” (Revelation 1:12-13 Revelation 1:12-13 [12] And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; [13] And in the middle of the seven candlesticks one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle.
American King James Version×
).

Then John writes a series of descriptive definitions about the “heavenly Man”—both comparative and definitive: “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow” (Revelation 1:14 Revelation 1:14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
American King James Version×
).

John definitively states that the spiritual body of the heavenly Man had both “head and hair” but when describing the characteristics of the head and hair his language becomes comparative. He does not say that the head and hair were wool and snow rather they were “like wool, as white as snow” (Revelation 1:14 Revelation 1:14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
American King James Version×
).

John continues the series, “His eyes [were] like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14 Revelation 1:14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
American King James Version×
). That the heavenly Man had eyes is definitive, while the description of those eyes is comparative—“like a flame of fire.”

John continues to describe what he saw, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15 Revelation 1:15And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
American King James Version×
). That the Being he encounters had feet was both definitive and obvious—He stood upright on them. The description of the feet is comparative: “[they] were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace.”

Now John describes the voice (definitive) that he heard in comparative terms: “And His voice was like the sound of many waters” (Revelation 1:15 Revelation 1:15And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
American King James Version×
).

“He had in His right hand seven stars” (Revelation 1:16 Revelation 1:16And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.
American King James Version×
). Here John not only states that the heavenly Man had a right hand, he shows that the spiritual body had the capacity to act on its surroundings by holding seven stars in His right hand. Verse 16 continues: “Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (definitive), and His countenance (definitive) was like the sun shining in its strength (comparative).”

At this juncture, John’s response turns from the typical to the dramatic consistent with one who encounters the spiritual realm, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17 Revelation 1:17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
American King James Version×
).

What follows provides an insightful perspective into the mind of Christ as well as a spiritual body’s capacity to act on physical and spiritual surroundings, “But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid’” (Revelation 1:17 Revelation 1:17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
American King James Version×
).

Not only did the One John encountered have a “right hand”—it had the capacity to reach into the physical realm and touch him—not to strike him, but to comfort and tell him, “Do not be afraid.”

Now the heavenly Man speaks with a remarkable disclosure of identity, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen” (Revelation 1:18 Revelation 1:18I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
American King James Version×
).

“Amen.” So be it. The Bible does what men call “unspeakable”—it defines the image of the heavenly Man in terms that we can understand.

The final article in this series will focus on what it means to “bear the image of the heavenly Man” in both present and future realities.