In this life, reality comes to us through the senses in such a way that we are distanced from that which is outside of us, our possessions and our parents as well as God Himself. Though God isn’t truly outside of us, He seems that way to us and allows us to be separate from Him in this way as we grow up. As St. John of the Cross once said: God distances Himself from us in the manner of a wise and loving mother who steps away from her child as he is learning to walk, letting that child fall occasionally. In the case of God, there is no true distancing as there is with a human mother, but He fosters an illusion of separation while we learn a proper sort of independence.
Even with our relationships with Creation, those with our tools and those with our loved ones, there also is no true separation. As Michael Polanyi, surgeon and scientist and philosopher, pointed out in various writings, including Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, our tools become extensions of our bodies as our brains adjust to treat them as such. You can see this in the fluid movements of surgeon or carpenter or cook. That scalpel or file or spatula is an extension of the human arm and their brain is aware of its possibilities and its dimensions in a way very similar to the brain’s awareness of that arm’s possibilities and dimensions.
Those who wish for friendship with Jesus Christ have an analogical relationship to the Body of Christ though we mortal men be more like the tool than the arm or the brain. Yet, each and every human being who willingly belongs to Christ is a living and self-aware extension of the Body of Christ. The resurrected can be more perfectly a part of the Body of Christ even as they are more perfectly human beings.
The relationship of a friend of Christ to the Body of Christ isn’t a matter of an over-excited religious imagination but rather a very real relationship as is the relationship that great mathematicians and metaphysicians have to abstract — but real — domains of truths. As is necessary in such a case, I speak analogically but it’s not wholly analogical. There’s a relationship that we can’t speak of directly in words or grammatical structures available to us and which won’t exist until we stretch and try to describe greater truths which seem so out of focus no matter how we squint the eyes of our minds. (See Abstract Mathematics and the Real Presence for a closely related discussion.)
A modern Christian has a strong tendency to shout out news of his personal salvation while talking as if the reality of salvation is but a dream with no connection to reality. My salvation is real when that claim helps me feel better but salvation is a pious illusion when that claim threatens to get in the way of my effectiveness in this real world which has no seeming connection to any real Heaven. (See A Thomistic Take on Madness and Modernism for a short discussion of the schizophrenic nature of much modern thought.)
As I’ve stated before, pre-modern Christians had a view of Heaven, of the next life, which was consistent with beliefs about the cosmos, the earth and all that encircled it. On the other side of the moon’s orbit lay ethereal stuff, pure stuff and not the dirt and flesh and blood of the earth. Hell, the place of damnation, lay below the surface of the earth. When modern empirical knowledge took this relatively simple view of the cosmos-universe from us, we Christians simply etherealized Heaven, giving up our ability to speak of Heaven or the resurrection or salvation in concrete terms. Heaven and the resurrection and salvation have become dream-like and unreal to many in the modern world, including many children raised as Christians.
In any case, we Christians need to pull ourselves together, to learn to think of Creation — all of Creation — as a unity though having different phases. We need to develop words and concepts to help us think of Heaven in concrete terms that make sense as speculations of a Creation in which this universe is but a phase. When we do so, then we can begin to see that the Body of Christ was first conceived in this universe and still grows in this universe even as that Body has reached a mature stage in Heaven, that is, the world of the resurrected. That Body is mature in Heaven but not yet complete Membership remains open to all who wish to share true life, the life of God Himself.