Why Does the Bible Say our Bodies Will Shine in Heaven?

by Randy Carlson

Some people have asked me if our resurrected bodies will shine. They cite two passages: “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43) and “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3, NASB).

On the one hand, Jesus didn’t have a halo after His resurrection, and there’s no reason to believe we will either. Christ’s body appeared so earthly and normal that the disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t notice He was the resurrected Lord (Luke 24:13-24). However, at this point He was not yet glorified.

During Christ’s transfiguration, His clothing “became as bright as a flash of lightning” (Luke 9:29). Since this portrays Christ as King, it makes sense to think He will literally shine in His kingdom on the New Earth. John says of the city, “the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 22:23). As noted earlier, John saw Christ in the present Heaven as a powerful shining being, not someone who would blend into a crowd (Revelation 1:12-18). Moses and Elijah, who joined Christ on the mountain, “appeared in glorious splendor” (Luke 9:31). After Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on the mountain, Moses’ face shone (Exodus 34:29-30).

Many believe these descriptors are figures of speech. Yet in some cases (including Moses’) it was clearly literal. Since God Himself is consistently portrayed as existing in brilliant light, it shouldn’t surprise us to think that in His presence we too will partake of His brightness. I believe that as resurrected beings, we will indeed bear this physical evidence of being God’s image bearers and living in God’s presence. To be glorified appears to mean that, among other things, we may literally shine.

If this seems hard to imagine, think of a person with drab, grayish, malnourished skin, and then imagine the same person as vibrant and healthy. Couldn’t you say the person shines? Have you heard it said of someone “she’s radiant”? I’ve met people so full of Jesus that they seem to have a physical brightness. If God Himself is bright, then it seems appropriate that we, His image-bearers, will reflect His brightness.

Now, moving beyond that weak analogy of our present condition, imagine people in the very presence of God, who are so righteous, so beautiful, so devoid of sin and darkness, so permeated by the very righteousness of God, that they have a literal physical radiance. That’s not so hard to imagine, is it?

Shining speaks of glory, the outward display of greatness and majesty. Gloryis a word associated with rulers. Kings had glory. We understandably hesitate to attribute glory to ourselves, but God doesn’t hesitate to ascribe glory to us. As God’s children we should bear His likeness. It’s He, not we, who declares that we are royalty—kings and queens who will reign with Christ.

A. B. Caneday reminds us, “God is the original; we are the organic image, the living copy. We do not rightly speak of God as King by projecting onto him regal imagery because we think it is fitting for God. Rather, bowing before God who has dominion is proper, for man as king over creation, is the image of kingship; God, the true king, is the reality that casts the image of the earthly king.” [1]

Hence, our glory as lesser kings and queens will serve to magnify His greater glory as the King of kings. We won’t absorb and keep the glory given us, but we will reflect it and emanate it toward its proper object: Christ Himself. This is evident in the fact that God’s worshiping children will “lay their crowns before the throne” (Revelation 4:10).

What prepares us to participate in God’s glory? Our current sufferings (Romans 8:17-18; 1 Peter 5:1-4). “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Provided we draw our strength from Christ, the greater our troubles now, the greater our glory then.

For more on the eternal life that awaits us, see Randy’s book Heaven. You can also browse additional books and resources on Heaven available from EPM.

[1] A. B. Caneday, “Veiled Glory,” in John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth, Beyond the Bounds (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2003), 163.



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