WILL WE EAT IN HEAVEN based on Rev. 22:1-6
By Glenn Pease
Benjamin Franklin formed a very close friendship with a Frenchwoman, who was 40 years younger than himself, when he was the American Minister in Paris. They wrote numerous letters to each other and though she refused all his proposals, she did finally agree to marry him in heaven, and live on roasted apples. If that was the best he could hope for, he wrote back and endorsed the plan. In the next world he said, they would eat the apples of paradise roasted with butter and nutmeg and they would pity those who were not dead.
People tend to get fanciful in romantic settings, but the question we want to focus on is this-will the pleasure of eating be one of the pleasures that we enjoy at God's right hand forever? Will there be literal eating in the eternal kingdom? Most people who give the matter any thought feel it would be a shame to waste one of God's best ideas-the sense of taste. This is the sense that gives us, here in time, a great deal of pleasure. The average person eats about one ton of food a year, and this means taste is a ton of pleasure a year. If the other senses will be a part or our resurrection bodies, then why not this one? We will certainly be able to see and enjoy the jewel-splendored New Jerusalem, and hear the joyous praise of the angelic choir. We will be able to touch the golden streets of gold as we walk with our Lord, and smell the perfume of heaven, referred to in Rev.8. Why should it be doubted that we will enjoy the sense of taste?
The reason for doubt is the powerful anti-body influence that began in the 4th century. The heroes of the Christian faith were, at that time, those who were ascetics. They denied the body the pleasures of life, and devoted themselves to a focus on the soul. They renounced sex and stayed celibate. They wore drab clothes, and ate only basic foods, avoiding anything fancy or too tasty. The better saints lived on bread and water. The body was the enemy, and the source of all our sins. To deny it was the highest virtue. This movement within the church got it's greatest spokesman with the conversion of St. Augustine. He was a wild liver, satisfying his lust with every woman he could. He lived with a woman who bore him a son, and he wrote in his confessions, that he had descended to the dark hell of lust.
When he was converted, he discovered that segment of the church that stressed the evil of matter, and especially the body. The flesh was carnal, and the goal of the Christian was to escape all it's carnal desires. This led to his thinking about the joy of heaven as being anti-sensual. The joys of heaven were to be pleasures of the soul, and not of the body. The mystical was the essence of heaven. It was eternal meditation and spiritual ecstasy, with the body ignored.
It makes sense why this happened, for if the physical pleasures of the body were seen as evil, how could they preach that they would all become good in heaven? Christianity had taken a radical turn toward rejecting the body and it's senses, as having an eternal place in God's plan. Christians were to focus on spiritual beauty. The goal was to set the soul free from the body and it's senses. St. Augustine said the mental and the spiritual is all that matters for eternity. This had a powerful impact on the history of Christian thinking about heaven. The ideal life was an escape to the monastery, where you denied your body to develop your soul. For centuries, through the dark ages, Christianity became an anti body religion, totally contrary to the revelation of God's Word. The very idea of physical pleasure in our resurrected bodies was a scandal. This has influenced Christians to this very day.
St. Augustine was a slave to his lust, and it was God's will that he be saved from his body-centered life style. The body is the tool Satan uses to lead us into temptation. The flesh does war against the spirit. The body does need to be controlled, or it will lead us astray. But to throw out the baby with the bath water is folly. The goal of salvation is not just to save the soul, but the body as well. The body is to be delivered, sanctified, and glorified.
The resurrection of the body is what sets Christianity apart, as unique, in the religions of the world. Christianity says that the body is good. It is made by God, and He said it is very good. His Son took on a literal body in the Incarnation. He raised up His body and took it to heaven in the Ascension. His plan is to raise up all the redeemed in their bodies. The body is a key part of God's plan for man. God intends to save the bodies of men forever.
The value of looking at a subject like eating in heaven, is that it helps us get back to a balance view of the role of the body in God's plan. All through history Christians are influenced by the times, culture, the circumstances, and their own personality, to teach things that are not Biblical. That is why the Bible has to be our soul authority for faith and practice. Even the best of godly men can be led astray if the Bible is not the foundation for their views. So let's look at the Biblical evidence to support the idea that the resurrected bodies will enjoy the pleasure of eating.
The most conspicuous evidence is the tree of life. Verse 2 says it bears 12 crops of fruit, a new crop every month. The implications are numerous. We will stay on the yearly cycle in heaven, with 12 months in a year, and we will all belong to the fruit of the month club. Will we get to eat this fruit? That is what it says in verse14 where we read, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life..." It is not much of a right if you don't get to eat this heavenly fruit. Even if we did not have this verse, it would be a logical conclusion that we would enjoy this fruit, for it keeps growing a new crop every month, and, therefore, it must be harvested and eaten. If this was not the case, the new Jerusalem would be a heaven for fruit flies only, for it would become a garbage pit.
The tree of life grows on both sides of the river, which flows down the middle of the great golden street. That is 1,400 miles on each side, which means an orchard 2,800 miles long, producing a new crop of fruit every month. This is a flow of fruit that would feed multiplied billions every month. This whole picture is meaningless if this fruit is not enjoyed by the saints in glory. The picture conveyed here is that we will enjoy the best of both worlds-the city life developed by centuries of civilization, and the ideal environment of the original paradise in Eden. The city and the country lovers will all be satisfied.
To add to this picture, we have the wedding supper of the Lamb in Rev. 19, which is the way heaven will begin. A wedding feast with all the color, music, and luxury that is worthy of the Son of God being united with His Bride-the Church. It is hard to get excited about a wedding supper if there is nothing to eat. We have no reason to reject the idea of literal feasting, for the Bible clearly reveals that the resurrection body can enjoy the consumption of food. Jesus ate in His resurrection body on at least two occasions. He even made His disciples a fish breakfast one morning on the beach. He not only ate in His resurrection body, He taught that eating and drinking would be a part of the eternal kingdom. In Matt. 26:29 Jesus said, after instituting the Lord's Supper, "I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." Beyond the cross and the grave, Jesus said I will again enjoy with you the pleasures of the table.
Will the apostles go on eating and drinking in their resurrected bodies? It is a matter of clear revelation. Jesus said to them in Luke 22:28-30, "You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel." It is a rejection of Christ's promise to deny the reality of eating in heaven. Jesus enjoyed eating in time, and He will go on eating with his own for all eternity. He was not embarrassed about the image of heaven as a feast. He said in Luke 13:29, "People will come from the East and the West and North and South, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." Jesus told parables depicting the Kingdom of God a a great banquet. Jesus was not anti-body at all. He had no place for a heaven without the body.
On the first Easter evening, when He appeared to the disciples, they were fearful and thought they had seen a ghost. Jesus cleared this us immediately and said in Luke 24:39-43, "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, do you have anything her to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence."
Eating was the final proof that Jesus was no ghost, but a real live body. By His Easter eating, Jesus proved the resurrection is not just a spiritual event of the soul, as heretics all through history have tried to teach. It is a physical event of the body, and thus, the body will be a part of the eternal kingdom of God. The disciples could accept that Jesus returned as a ghost, that is, a disembodied spirit. This has been a universal belief. But the message of the resurrection is not about the immortality of the soul, but it is about the immortality of the body. No man is fully Christian in his thinking until he believes in the resurrection of the body. It sounds spiritual to be concerned only about the soul, but that is being more spiritual than Jesus was, and this means it is really being unspiritual, for anything that is not Christlike, is unspiritual.
When Peter shared his testimony of experiencing the reality of the resurrection to the Gentiles, he made a point of telling of the food they enjoyed with Jesus after His return from the grave. In Acts10:39-41, we read, "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree. But God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people. But by witnesses whom God had clearly chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead."
What was the key evidence of the reality of the physical resurrection of Christ's body? It was the fact that after He died He came back to eat and to drink again-the main acts of a living body. The resurrection body is a body that eats and drinks. We do not know how many meals the disciples shared with Jesus, but in 40 days we can assume it was quite a number. It is folly to spiritualize the resurrection, as many have done. It is a flat rejection of God's Word to do so. The resurrection body is physical, and it enjoys the physical pleasures of eating and drinking. Since every picture we have of heaven includes feasting, there is no logical reason to deny that we will enjoy the pleasure of eating forever.
In the first letter of the seven letters to the churches, Jesus gives the first of His promises to the church of Ephesus. We read in Rev.2:7, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." This is not a very enticing offer if it is only symbolic, but there is no reason to doubt it is literal.
In Rev. 7:16 we are told that those who suffered great tribulation will never again be hungry, and never again suffer thirst. The spiritualizers say it is because they no longer have taste buds, and no longer a need for water. The literalists, who take the Bible at face value, say it is because there will be abundant provisions to meet their needs forever. The Shepherd will lead them to springs of living water and they will feast at His table forever.
Jesus portrayed the rich man in hell, as having the capacity to enjoy a drop of water on his tongue. What a paradox that would be if He gives those in hell bodies with taste buds, but denies them to the saints at the wedding feast in heaven. One of the great values of the heavenly hope of enjoying food forever, is that it makes it easier to face our limitations in time. We all know we have not tasted all of the delights God has created in this world. There are thousands of dishes we have never had a chance to try. There is every reason to believe that in heaven we will be able to taste everything God has created, not only on this planet, but everywhere else in the universe.
Are there foods in the universe, which are not on this planet? The Bible reveals there is at least one. Psalms 78:23-25 has this fascinating account, "Yet He gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; He reigned down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of heaven. Men ate the bread of angels;..." The grain of heaven, and the bread of angels, could just be poetic language, but it also could point to the reality of foods in heaven. Maybe we will enjoy a real angels food cake in heaven. It is likely that we only know a faction of the foods that God has made possible in this universe. For all we know, none of the 12 fruits on the tree of life will be fruits that we have tasted. They could all be new ones, just made special, for the Bride of Christ. Would anyone dare to say that God exhausted His creative ability, when He made this universe. The Bible tells us it is but the work of His fingers. What might God be able to make with both hands? The point is, it is a foolish limiting of God to think that eternity will lack abundance and variety beyond our imagination. The Bible says we only have a taste now of the things to come. The best is yet to be.
The disciples did not fast when Jesus was with them, but Jesus said they would when He, the Bridegroom, left them. Fasting is not appropriate for a time of joy, which is to be a time of feasting. Those who portray heaven as an eternal fast have missed the whole point. It is an eternal feast, for we will be with the Bridegroom forever.
The communion table is symbolic of the hope of believer's to one day be with Jesus, at His table in the Father's house. This symbolic meal shows forth His death till He comes. It is but a taste of the good things to come. It is of interest that Jesus wanted us to remember Him always, by means of this symbolic meal. Eating with Jesus in heaven will be the fulfillment of all that He did for us on the cross.
Charles Spurgeon preached, "Heaven is a place where they shall eat and drink and rejoice together. Heaven is the meeting place of those that triumph, and the state room of them that feast. All the enjoyments that can be imagined, and more, belong to the beatific state of the glorified." Horatius Bonar put it in poetry-
Feast after feast thus comes and passes by
Yet, passing, points to the glad feasts above,
Giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy
The Lamb's great Bridal feast of bliss and love.
If God surprises us with something we cannot now conceive, that is all the better, but until then, the literal hope of the enjoyment of eternal eating is, not only legitimate, it is demanded by the revelation of God's Word. Until someone can explain just what that greater pleasure would be, that is symbolized by eating, we have an obligation to thank God and rejoice in the hope of eating in heaven.
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We shouldn't focus too much on these kind of things nor should we be legalistic about these, but --- yes, these things matter if we want to understand the whole counsel of God and enjoy the full richness and beauty God's Word has to offer. We must also realize that what we believe about seemingly trivial things like these can have great implications. Besides, wouldn't it be good to have an answer ready in case people ask us these kind of questions?
This is a well written essay, bringing out good points. I can't understand why someone would rate it a '1'. In my opinion it deserves much better than that.
Yes it does! We are to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, and so every issue that Christians have dealing with Bible interpretation matters.
My kids (and others) have asked me this very question! You have given an insightful explaination, thanks! - Jay Cookingham
Does It Really MATTER???