Deacons in the Dunghill
Will we poop in heaven? This is an important question. It was put to me by a young man in church. It is deserving of a serious and thoughtful answer that is reasoned from scripture and science, always respecting the authority of God's word.
Here are two reasons why the question is important and useful:
We do a disservice to children when we raise them with a fairy-tale image of heaven and the New Earth that falls apart the moment they reach the age of logical thinking. (The popular image of sitting on a cloud and playing a harp for eternity is an extreme example). God is logical. Teaching an illogical story forces young people to choose between what makes sense and what they've been taught. Something has to give way, and all to often it is the faith of their fathers that goes by the wayside.
Being able to defend one's faith is an important skill. We refer to the giving of a reasoned defense as apologetics. The research and thought process in giving a scripture-based response to the question at hand are good practice for building and giving a defense on the more important aspects of our faith. We are not asked to have a blind faith. Rather, we are commanded to always be ready to give a reason for what we believe – I Peter 3:15
When Christians use the term heaven colloquially, we often are really referring to where we will spend eternity. Scripture makes clear that our ultimate destination is to dwell in the presence of God in a New Earth. My discussion that follows focuses upon that ultimate destination.
Note: I won't be dogmatic about the position I take in this article. It is a reasoned position that seems to follow logically from what I read in scripture. Yet I'm mindful that scripture does not directly address the specific issue of human waste in the New Earth. What you read here represents my current belief, but I do remain open to new insights as I study deeper into God's word.
"It was Good!"
God's original creation was good. The history in Genesis 1 makes that claim six times – once for each day of creation. God created animals and humans with digestive tracts that take in food and expel fecal material, and "it was good."
Genesis 2:7 makes clear that we were created with physical bodies. Adam's body was lovingly fashioned by our creator. It was a physical body with physical systems to keep it maintained. It was beyond good. On the sixth day our creator upped his game by calling what he had done very good.
God gave us food to eat. See Genesis 2:9 and 2:16. This was pre-sin. In God's good and perfect creation, man had physical bodies and the digestive system necessary to take in food to sustain those bodies and the life therein. It follows that we had the entire digestive system, including the food-intake and waste-extraction parts, and everything in between.
There is no record of God suddenly redesigning our bodies at the time of sin. Our digestive system existed from Day 6 of creation. and "it was very good."
The New Earth
What will the New Earth be like? Scripture provides some answers bearing on the question at hand. Let's begin with that word "new". Scripture teaches that the New Earth will be a recreation of our planet as God originally intended it to be. Revelation 21:1 tells us clearly:
"Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea."
The word "new" in this verse comes from the Greek word "kainon". Biblos gives the definition from several sources:
Strong's Concordance: fresh, new, unused, novel
Thayer's Greek Lexicon: as respects form, recently made, fresh, recent, unused, unworn
Fresh. Unused. Unworn. The sense here is of replacing our old, worn out earth with a fresh version, not with something completely different. The original Earth was "very good". Sin marred our planet. God will create our planet new again as it was intended to be, according to the same "very good" plan that he followed in the Genesis history. The New Earth is a recreation of our planet according to it's original and proper design.
Furthermore, we know that we will eat and drink in the New Earth. Mark 14:25 tells of Jesus drinking with us in the Kingdom of God. Similarly, Luke 22:16 finds Jesus talking of eating the Passover "again" when "it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God". (Presumably we will be eating right along with him). Isaiah 65:21 clearly and unequivocally states that we "will plant vineyards and eat their fruit."
Scripture indicates the New Earth will be a new and fresh version of our planet, and not some new and different planet. Scripture is clear that we will eat and drink. It follows that our digestive tracts will be intact, including the waste-disposal mechanism that is God-designed and very good.
Scripture speaks of a resurrection. Jesus speaks of it in John 11:25:
"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; ... "
The Greek word translated "resurrection" is the word "anastasis". Once again, here are some definitions:
Strong's Concordance: a rising again
Thayer's Greek Lexicon: a raising up
HELPS™ Word-studies: to stand up
We are laid down in death. Through Jesus' gift of salvation we rise up, or stand up once again, in life-everlasting. We will be raised first, and then our bodies will be changed. (See I Corinthians 15:52). It is a reasonable interpretation that we will receive essentially our current bodies, but with all the sinful defects removed and corrected.
Job speaks plainly of seeing God in the flesh – Job in his own flesh, and with his very own eyes. Check out Job 19:25-27 where we find one of the most heartening passages in all of scripture:
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
Job knew! He knew he would see God in his own flesh. We have that same hope.
Were we to receive different bodies of a different design, then we would be reincarnated. (One definition of "reincarnate" is to "undergo rebirth in another body"). We are not reincarnated. We are resurrected. Job knew. And now you know too.
The science supports our having a digestive system. Scripture is our authority. But science is useful in confirming a correct understanding from scripture. What we know about our digestive system makes it all but impossible to eliminate defecation without performing a complete redesign, and thus giving us completely different bodies, which in turn implies reincarnation, and we know reincarnation not to be true, but rather resurrection.
Our digestive system is designed for flow-through. Material must go in one end and out the other. One cannot simply close the anus or remove the intestines while keeping the rest of the system intact.
Following are some choice facts pulled from a quick read of the Wikipedia articles on the small intestine, dietary fiber, and the large intestine. Just a few facts show how our digestive system is a unified design. We can't eliminate the waste elimination part and keep the rest. We need it all. Here are some reasons why:
Our ability to absorb nutrients depends upon significant amounts of non-digestible material termed fiber, or roughage. That material mixes with water to produce a sort of slurry that must pass through the small-intestine. Most of our nutrient-intake occurs in the small intestine. We can hardly live without it.
That fiber's not optional either. It provides the bulk and viscosity necessary for the nourishing part of your food intake to move smoothly through your small intestine. Fiber also helps regulate sugar response and control lipid levels in your blood. And I've just scratched the surface. Fiber. Eat more of it. You can hardly go wrong.
All that non-digestible fiber needs to go somewhere, right? Enter the large intestine. We need to eliminate that non-digestible fiber (and other waste material), as well as reclaim all that water used to make the slurry in the small intestine. (Failure to reclaim water and electrolytes is why many die from diarrhea). The large intestine is our friend, reclaiming the water, concentrating the waste package, absorbing Vitamin K, and quite a bit more.
Dietary fiber provides plenty of proof all by itself that waste-elimination will occur. Fiber is non-digestible. We need it. We can't digest it. So it must be eliminated. Dietary fiber must enter our system, must pass through our system, and must therefore exit our system. That process is part of God's very good design.
Note: Some argue that God could redesign our digestive system. But why would God throw away his "very good" design? Occam's Razor applies here. Scripture gives no indication whatsoever of such a significant redesign. The plain and simple interpretation is that our bodies in the New Earth will operate according to God's original design, which he termed "very good."
Importance to the Ecosystem
Earth's entire ecosystem forms a part of the unified system God created. Learn from the dung beetle. These useful creatures work diligently to bury and consume dung. Their work improves soil structure. It improves nutrient recycling. It lowers the rate of disease.
Good soil fertilization depends upon fecal material. Benefits of the dung beetle's work are so immense that some countries – Australia is notable here – have taken pains to import dung beetles in order to improve their own soils, and hence their ability to raise food to feed their people.
Seeds for certain types of trees and plants are spread through fecal material. Birds eat seeds, fly some distance away, and eventually expel those seeds in their poop. This is just another example of how the digestive tract is part of a unified system encompassing not only our bodies, but also the ecosystem of our planet on which we live.
The End of the Matter
Poop will exist. You can make a strong, Biblical defense that it will be so. God created us with our current bodies, complete with digestive system. God gave Adam and Eve food to eat, and that food went in one end and out the other. The New Earth is a restoration. God will rebuild the Earth the way it was originally meant to be. We will receive new bodies in the resurrection. If the New Earth is a planet restored to the original plan, then it follows that our new bodies will be restored to their original plan, including digestive tract. We will eat in the New Earth. There will at least be the marriage supper of the lamb, right? (See Revelation 19:9). We will be eating and drinking with Jesus. It is illogical to expect the food to go in and just take up space for eternity. It follows naturally that our new bodies will have waste elimination just as our current bodies do.