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First Corinthians: The Resurrection Body

January 30, 2008

Some in the Corinthian church were doubting the resurrection from the dead. Paul summarized their objections:

1Co 15:35 But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”

To answer these questions, Paul used three lines of reasoning:

1) He used the analogy of a seed. A seed is removed from its host plant and “dies” (ceases to grow and to be nourished) and is planted in the ground. Then it germinates and a new plant is formed. Similarly, when our bodies die, we will receive a new body.

2) He reminded them that there are a variety of types of bodies in this world. God gave to each part of creation its on body, suitable for that creature. Similarly, God will give us a body suitable to the world where we will live after the resurrection. That body will be different from the one we have today:

1Co 15:42-44 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

3) He reminded them how God changed things by sending Jesus. Man descended from Adam, who was created from the dust of the earth. But Jesus came from heaven, as a “life-giving spirit.” The physical man (Adam) came first, and later the spiritual man (Jesus). On this earth we are like Adam, but in heaven we will be like Jesus.

1Co 15:45-49 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

So Paul reaches the conclusion of his argument. We will not enter the kingdom of heaven with our present bodies. Instead, we will receive an imperishable body at the resurrection.

1Co 15:50-53 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

It is worth noting that Paul was not only writing for the church in his day, since he wrote “We will not all sleep…” He probably did believe that Jesus would come back in his generation, but the Holy Spirit who inspired those words certainly knew there would be many more generations of Christians who would read these words. We are part of Paul’s “we.” We really are not just reading someone else’s mail when we read this letter.

We will be changed at the resurrection. We will get new bodies. We will not be disembodied spirits. Our bodies will be different in some dramatic and unimaginable ways from our present bodies. The language of this chapter gives us a general idea of what will happen, but we do not know the specifics.

Paul presented this explanation to answer the doubters who were questioning how the resurrection could be possible. At the resurrection, it becomes a whole new ball game. We will be imperishable. Our new bodies will not die.

1Co 15:54-57 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

By the grace and power of God, we will overcome death. We will look back on death as a paper tiger. What a day that will be!

1Co 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Let’s persevere to the end, so that we can enjoy that victory!

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