Recently a friend told me he’d taken a “stacation,” meaning he wasn’t working but didn’t go anywhere. It’s kind of a strange language invention, a neologism that may or may not catch on, but the term got me to thinking about vacation and its root.
The word came from late Middle English, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, and its root is either Old French or Latin “vacatio(n-), from vacare ‘be unoccupied’ (see vacate).” It’s the translation of those root languages I noticed: unoccupied. So when we go on vacation, our homes are unoccupied.
And then it hit me. The same is true when a person dies. Their house is no longer occupied. Scripture refers to our physical bodies as “earthen vessels”: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Cor. 4:7)
Both Isaiah and Jeremiah referred to we humans as clay vessels. Pots. Our bodies are designed to hold something, then. But they are somewhat fragile, quite common. And temporary. They don’t last. At some point, that which the vessels hold will leave. Our bodies will be vacated because we’re all going on vacation.
But death is not an end. People who think it’s an end apparently think our bodies are not vessels at all, that our bodies are not made to contain something but are something on their own.
Well, they are part of something—the outer layer, if you will, the visible representation, much the way the case of a cell phone houses the internal computer elements that allow for texting and phone calls and hundreds of apps. The case itself is the phone, and when we’re looking for it, we aren’t looking for the internal elements. We’re looking for the physical representation of all that our phone can do.
So the vessel is and it isn’t the thing. It’s not really part of the thing—the case isn’t the source of picture-taking or music or phone conversations or text messages. It actually contains the thing, but the thing needs a place where it can be housed. And if we’re smart, we take care of the case. We protect the screen. We’re careful not to drop it.
Why? Because we think the case is so perfect? So beautiful? No. We care about the case because of what’s inside it.
Sadly, when it comes to us humans, we’ve gotten our thinking skewed. We want to take care of and preserve our vessel because we think that’s all we’ve got. We don’t get that the clay pot is the house, and that one day, we who occupy it will go on vacation.
But just like vacations in the here and now, there will be a coming home which the Bible refers to as resurrection. The cool thing is, while we’re on vacation, our houses will receive a make-over. When we return, the mortal will have taken on immortality, the flawed and frail will be clothed in newness of life.
Imagine going on vacation as those people who were on the show Home Make-over used to do, only to come back to a mansion. Their gorgeous new homes were on the same tract of ground as the old one. They still had the same address, the lot was still the same size, their neighbors still lived on either side of them and across the street. But the new buildings were state of the art, rebuilt models. Beautiful, stocked with brand new appliances and furniture and techno-gadgets.
In much the same way, our resurrected bodies will get the much needed make-over.
We only have Jesus as a model to know what resurrection looks like. No one before or since has gone on vacation and come back home. Oh, sure, we have examples of people who did stacations. They stopped working for a while, but then took up right where they left off, in their same body, without the make-over. Lazarus is probably the most famous example of this.
But Jesus received His new body, His glorified body. He still ate and drank, still had recognizable features (when he wanted) such as the nail prints in his hands. But His new body didn’t have to obey the laws of physics we know. He could vanish from sight, could appear in a locked room, could ascend to Heaven.
That’s the kind of body those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ have to look forward to.
Honestly I don’t know what those who reject Christ or who deny God have to look forward to. We don’t have a model to look at so that we can know with any clarity what they’ll face. What we do know is that they’ll face judgment.
God, being just and fair, won’t cheat anyone out of anything they deserve. In reality, what we all deserve is death and death and death—of our body, soul, and spirit.
What God offers is life and life and life, so that death becomes a vacation. So that we return to new mansions stocked with more good things than we can imagine and which will allow us to do what we’ve always wanted to do. In the center of our desires will be our joy at seeing and knowing and praising our God eternal who we’ll know with more clarity than we’ve ever known Him before.
It’ll be a great homecoming.