The Corporeality of Angels and the Redemption of Bodies
The Scholastic theologians debated in the middle ages whether angels had ethereal bodies or whether they were bodiless spirits. The majority of Christians accept the position of Thomas Aquinas that angels are non-corporeal beings.
This may seem like an utterly irrelevant debate, but I believe it has great significance in the development of a truly cosmic soteriology.
I believe the Bible indicates clearly that angels have bodies that are different from ours, yet which are not completely different. Angels are consistently presented in Scripture in physical terms. Angels look like people and even eat manna (Psalm 78:25). More controversially, I believe that the best interpretation of the Sons of God in Genesis 6 is that they are angels and they indeed had sex with humans in utter perversion of God's purposes.
The fact that angels are physical beings has significance in the salvation of the cosmos.
Angels dwell in heaven at the centre of God's government. They experience God's presence in a way which we do not know here in this world. That God should have physical beings as his closest servants and dwelling in the midst of His glorious celestial presence shows that the physical world matters to God. It shows us that the material creation has a purpose in God's plans.
That angels are physical beings shows us that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is a true physical resurrection. He rose bodily from the dead. Despite what rationalist theologians may maintain, it is not sufficent for our Lord to have risen as an immaterial spirit. His flesh did not see corruption for it now lives.
Some Christians maintain that angels are bodiless spirits but they sometimes manifest themselves as bodies. The Jehovah's Witnesses teach the same thing about angels. That is all well, but horribly they also teach this about our Lord. The JWs teach that our Lord rose only spiritually and that in His resurrection appearances He only manifested Himself as a body, while still being a bodiless spirit. This is a falsehood. The Lord Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave. He shall return and men shall see His body. They will also see the bodies of the angels that accompany Him at His glorious arrival.
We too shall be raised bodily from the grave, unless we remain to His coming and are changed. Our future glory will not be spent lving as disembodied spirits, but our flesh shall be raised. The fact that the angels of God and their heavenly dwelling is physical should re-inforce in our minds this great hope.
We shall not be raised in bodies that are like the kind of bodies we have now. We shall no longer have corruptible bodies, but bodies that are incorruptible. We shall have bodies that are in some sense spiritual, with different properties.
This is re-inforced by the fact that our reseurrection is compared to angelic existence. Our Lord tells us:
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
We shall be a different kind of flesh, an ethereal flesh:
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory.
1 Corinthians 15
We shall have celestial bodies as the angels do. For in Christ we have entered into an heavenly life and we are fitted for an heavenly existence:
3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus.
18 ¶ For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
19 and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
20 (for they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
21 and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
22 but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
Heaven, not earth is our home.
Yet heaven, that physical place above shall have union with the material world of earth. For in the apocalypse, we see the heavenly city of the New Jerusalem descending to earth. The throne of the heavenly Christ shall be found on earth.
God created this world and it is good. At this time, the presence of God is only fully known and experienced in heaven, the third heaven to be specific. Yet the whole of creation shall come to know God. For we see in 1 Corinthians 15:
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
God will be all in all. The whole of the cosmos shall become the dwelling place of God and will be united to Him, experiencing His love and His life. The creation will deified and divinized by the energy of Christ who is reconciling all things to God, both things in earth and things in heaven.