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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Oh, To Fly Like A Bird...

A very close friend of mine recently flew to New York to visit for a week and to explore the city.   After he had returned, I called round to his home and asked him what was the U.S. border control like. He replied that this time he found it easier to get through than at previous times, but he still had to have his fingerprints scanned, along with his eyes scanned as well. He was then interrogated on what was his purpose for the visit and where he would be staying. Pretty intrusive stuff! If this was one of the easier occasions, I hate to think what he would have had to go through on a particular difficult one.

This is the Passport Security one now faces ever since 9/11. In my day, I did not have such a level of interrogation when I entered the USA. That was because I travelled during my bachelor days, before I married in 1999, two years before the World Trade Center was hit. But nevertheless, I have been randomly picked out by Border Control in 1997, when I arrived at Los Angeles Airport from Sydney. At Customs my rucksack was emptied out. When my Bible fell out with all the other items, the female officer became rather apologetic, and told me to re-pack and move on.

Perhaps a long haired, unshaven male in casual clothing, who had spent a sleepless night flying over the Pacific Ocean, would raise greater suspicion among immigration officers than a clean-shaven businessman in suit and tie. The same happened when I entered Australia at Cairns six weeks earlier. The only difference was that my baggage passed through a scanner, while everyone else on that flight from Singapore passed through Arrivals easily and I was alone at the small airport with two officers who, surprisingly enough, apologised for messing me about. I replied that if the Government paid me to do their job, I would have done the same.

Then there's that almost frightening moment when the Passport officer took my document, but instead of stamping the entry visa on a blank page, he starts to play around with it, flicking the pages back and forth and looking casually on. Then, as if on an afterthought, gives the passport to his companion who stamps the entry visa before handing the document back to me. Although I did not realise it then, it was a tactic to see how I would have reacted. If I had something to hide, they would suspect and escort me to the interrogation room. But a look of anxiety, wondering if I was about to be put on a flight home was enough for them to clear me through. They were highly trained for this sort of thing.

So goes the world of international travel, of which I'm still a fanatic. But as I ponder on these things, I find it rather ironic that we, the human species whom God created to be the pinnacle of all his creation, should suffer such intrusion from the authorities whenever we decide to step on to foreign soil. Then I think of the Artic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) - a rather small bird but with the amazing capacity to fly annually from Pole to Pole to stay with the ever-moving summer season.

The feet of the bird can land on any foreign soil as it pleases, and not a single human would approach to ask of proof of identity! No passports for them, no expensive air tickets, check-in queues, immune jabs, customs, currency exchange and all else which seem to be deviously designed to deter, demotivate or kill any desire for travel. Perhaps not for nothing had God made us without wings.

And our desire for travel isn't confined to the present generation. Some three thousand years ago, King David had just that desire. In Psalm 55 he wrote:

Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and to be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
Verses 6-8 KJV.

Although David was only expressing his desires, through him the Holy Spirit was making an accurate prophecy. We today do fly away to be at rest, far from home, away from the "windy storm and tempest" which comes with our daily responsibilities. Although we don't have wings of our own, we are willing to pay a large sum of money to "put on" so to speak, wings in the form of modern aviation. In this way, we are a far better off generation than those of our fathers.

Indeed we are! For me, nothing is so exhilarating than to sit by the window of an airline, soaring high above the clouds and looking down at the striking beauty of the landscape, the mountains, the contrast of coastline against the sea as the latter reflects the sunlight back to the sky, and the diverse forms of civilisation. By his loving grace, God has given me such opportunities, particularly in my bachelor days.

The Coastline of Kent, UK, after take off from London Gatwick Airport, 2011.

After the chat with my friend at his house, I got round to reading the 15th chapter of Paul's first letter to the Church in Corinth. Here Paul was settling the question the church as asking - will there be a resurrection of the body? There were some in the church who were following the teaching of the Sadducees, that there is no resurrection. In reply, Paul stressed that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus Christ wasn't resurrected either. If that had been the case, then they are still in their sins and their faith is futile. This has got me to ponder, what is the body resurrected like? And where is the connection between this and international travel?

The connection lies with the ability of our new bodies having the freedom to travel anywhere without any intrusion or restrictions imposed. In I John 3:2 we are told that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. If our future spiritual bodies will have all the properties of that of the risen Lord, then to get an idea of what we would be like, we only need to look at what Jesus was capable of doing after his resurrection.

One of his abilities was to pass through a closed door, John 20:19, 26. John made it clear that when the disciples had locked themselves in a room due to fear of the Jews, Jesus suddenly appeared to them twice, the second time to convince Thomas. In Luke's version, the disciples were first afraid of a ghost making an appearance, Luke 24:36-43. Not only did the Lord identify himself by the nail marks on his body, but he also demonstrated his ability to eat solid food. This is also backed up in John's version when the disciples had returned to their former occupations up north along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After a big catch, all sat for breakfast on the beach with a campfire in their midst. No doubt, Jesus was eating his share as he reinstated Peter and instructed them to return to Jerusalem to await the power of the Holy Spirit (John 21).

Finally, the new body of Jesus was able to defy gravity. This is demonstrated in Acts 1, where Jesus was taken up to Heaven in full view of his disciples. No propulsion there, he just floated up until caught in a cloud. This is how we will be like, the ability to fly without gravity or aerodynamic resistance. As a fan of Superman, I always have been intrigued on how this comic character was able to take off and fly with absolutely no air or jet propulsion, in complete defiance of all known physics. But our spiritual bodies will be able to defy gravity, and this is endorsed in both 1 Corinthians 15: 51-55 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Both sets of verses indicate a sudden transformation of the body - those who have already died in Christ to rise first, then those who are still alive will be instantly transformed to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be escorted to Heaven to face first, the Judgement seat, a rostrum for dishing out rewards for Christian living, followed by the Holy Communion in Heaven - a demonstration that it was the death of Christ crucified that had saved us all in the first place, and not any works we have done ourselves.

Our eternal home, I believe, will be the New Jerusalem, a city some 1,500 miles square, giving us an area 2,250,000 square miles (Revelation 21, 22:1-6.) In our new bodies, it looks apparent that we can get to one side of the city to the other instantly. There will be no gravity or aerodynamic resistance, neither the need for the sun or the moon to shine, as God Almighty will be its light. The city will sit upon a new Earth, to anywhere we can travel and arrive at our destination instantly. Within the city will flow a river, which on each side will be trees bearing fruit on a monthly basis. This looks like if we will be able to eat the fruit, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, but whether this is more for pleasure than nutritional subsistence - we can't be sure unless the spiritual body does need a level of nutritional intake. Was the resurrected Jesus really hungry when his disciples gave him a piece of cooked fish?

What a wonderful demonstration of the love and grace of God! We were born with a sinful nature within us, which separated us from God, who is pure and holy. God cannot abide with sin. But in his love he sent his Son to die to atone for our sins. All of us who truly believe will spend eternity in that fabulous city for ever.

No passports, no check-in queues, no heavy baggage, no security checks, no expensive air tickets, no threat of industrial action, no delays, no headaches. Just unlimited travel with the euphoric pleasure of praising God for all eternity.


  1. Preach it, Frank! I, for one, can't wait to be caught up in the air to meet with Him, and to spend eternity with Him and fellow believers in our glorified bodies!
    God bless,

  2. 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor mind imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him ' eh? How beautiful!
    Yes Frank we have enjoyed flying as well, and doesn't creation, like the beautiful bird in your post, tell us just what our God is capable of?

  3. We are surrounded by evil here and yet there are many good and beautiful things. I wonder what it will be like to live in place where there is no evil.

  4. You forgot to mention another thing Frank-no Ryanair either! Haha. Seriously, this is a really good post and works on a number of levels. Firstly, how lucky we are today to have low-cost flights and international travel and holidays; we do take it for granted a whole lot. I love travelling as well, not just arriving at my destination but actually enjoying the travel itself, watching the countryside go by, and through little towns and cities, watching all the people going about their business and looking at the shops and stores and pizza parlours and chippies; I love that a whole lot. Secondly, what Go has planned for us is so wonderful that probably we can't really grasp fully at this time; the New Jerusalem sounds wonderful; I just hope there's enough B & B's to take all us Christian tourists!

    The person who likes to travel is the person who always wants to see what's over the horizon; that's you and that's me. I love exploring North Wales but have been all over North Italy in the past; that was amazing. It's a wonderful country full of nice people, nice weather, great food and lots to see and do.

  5. There will be plenty of B&Bs Tim. Jesus says 'In my Father's house there are many mansions'

  6. Of course Brenda; how could I forget!!!?