Teaching series from 1 Corinthians

Resurrected Bodies

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Teaching t22457


Paul wrote this letter because the Corinthian Christians were reverting to living by “the wisdom of the world” (WOW; human speculation that justifies a self-centered way of life) rather than “the wisdom of God” (WOG; divine revelation that exalts God and His love and motivates an other-centered way of life).

In 1Cor.15, he addresses another important area in which they were reverting to WOW—their view of the afterlife. Greek culture scorned bodily resurrection as crass; they believed that our bodies are “the prison-house of the soul”—temporary shells from which we will be liberated into a purely spiritual existence.

Paul takes the Corinthian Christians to task on this. He calls them back to the biblical view of salvation, which is not only spiritual reconciliation with God, but also bodily resurrection into life on a glorious physical New Earth. He insists that only this hope will motivate and sustain a life of vigorous service to God and others.

We need to hear this, because American evangelical Christianity has succumbed to the same error. Most of us do not believe deeply in God’s eternal kingdom as a fully material place that we will experience in a full embodied state. And we do not realize how our vague, ethereal conception of “heaven” is gutting us of the motivation to live full-out for Christ. Let’s get straightened out by listening to Paul’s answers five key questions about our bodily resurrection...

“How can this be possible?”

Paul starts at the beginning, by addressing “How can this be possible?” Read 15:35-41. There are always people who say that such an idea is impossible, and who mock it by saying things like “Only uneducated, unscientific people believe in such things as a crutch.”

Paul calls this posture “foolish” because it presumes (believes blindly) that a Creator God doesn’t exist (Old Testament “fool”). If He exists, He is certainly able to give us resurrected bodies. In fact, He has already done many things analogous to this.

If He has created a virtually limitless variety of bodies for life-forms in this world, why is it impossible for Him to give us bodies suited for the next world?

If He is capable of creating heavenly bodies with different degrees of radiance, He is certainly capable of giving us a new body with greater radiance.

If He can transform an oak’s “body” from an acorn to a huge tree through the “death” of the acorn (SLIDE), certainly He is capable of raising our present mortal bodies from the dead and transforming them into immortal bodies. God can do this!

“What are they like?”

Let’s stay with Paul’s analogy of the seed as we consider the second question: “What are they like?” On the one hand, there is continuity between an acorn and an oak tree (chemical properties; DNA). On the other hand, there are dramatic differences in size, appearance, longevity, etc. The same thing is true of our present bodies and our resurrected bodies. There is continuity (same “it”—not “one” and “the other”)—it is the same, material body (just as the empty tomb demonstrates that Jesus’ resurrected body is the same body). But they have dramatically different characteristics. Specifically, our resurrected bodies will be completely purged of the effects of sin and infused with dramatic new powers. Think of the ultimate upgrade to your favorite software. It’s not totally new; there is substantial continuity with the previous version. But all of the bugs have been removed, and it can do far more. Paul describes four areas of “upgrade,”already demonstrated by Jesus’ resurrected body...

Read 15:42. PERISHABLE: Our present bodies are subject to malfunction and injury, and inevitably to aging and death. While marvelously made, they start to “wind down” once we hit about 30 years. Billions of dollars are spent every year to forestall this (MEDICINE: restorative & preventative), to hide it (COSMETICS; COSMETIC SURGERY), and finally to dispose of it (CEMETERIES; CREMATORIUMS).

IMPERISHABLE: Our resurrected bodies will have overcome physical death and all malfunction, injury or aging connected to it. They will be “bionic” in the truest sense of the word. Imagine never needing a doctor or dentist or medical insurance. Imagine never attending another funeral. Imagine always feeling far more vigorous than you felt on your best day at the peak of your life.

Read 15:43a. DISHONOR: “Glory” means “greatness manifested.” As creatures made in God's image, we were designed to manifest God's invisible greatness not only morally, but even visibly (as a PRISM refracts light). Because of the Fall, our bodies not only don’t do this—they wind up manifesting death instead of God’s life. Your present body, on its best day, is far more deformed from what it was meant to be than the most deformed person’s body is from yours.

GLORY: The beauty of God’s perfect and magnificent character will visibly radiate through our bodies so that we each uniquely manifest His glory (Dan.12:3), as Jesus did (Matt.17:2; Rev.1:14-17). When humans are permitted to see angels, they are overwhelmed by this reflected glory (see Dan.10:5-11). Heb.2:7 implies that our new bodies will be greater than this. COSMETICS and FASHION CLOTHING will be utterly superfluous.

Read 15:43b. WEAKNESS: Our bodies are subject to rather extreme physical limitations: e.g., running speed; can’t fly; comparatively poor sight and hearing; etc. Much of our technology is designed to overcome our physical limitations (TRANSPORTATION; COMMUNICATION). And utter weakness (physical death) is our bodily fate.

POWER: Our resurrected bodies will not be limitless, but they will have tremendous physical power, greatly strengthened senses, and (maybe) additional senses. Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances give us a glimpse of this. He could enter a room when the door was shut (Jn.20:9), vanish from sight while talking with others (Lk.24:30,31), remain unrecognized by others until special perception was granted (Lk.24:15,16,31; Jn.20:15,16), and defy gravity in ascending from the earth to disappear in the clouds (Acts1:9). I think humanity’s fascination with super-heroes (Greek gods; super-hero comic-book characters) are an expression of our hearts’ sensing that we were created to one day possess this power.

Read 15:44. NATURAL: This body is suited for life on land, but not for life under water. If I want to visit the ocean floor, I have to wear SCUBA gear—but if I wanted to permanently live there I'd need some substantial changes to this body. In the same way, our present bodies are suited for life in this portion of reality which Paul calls “natural.” But the next life will be a different order of reality, and this body is presently not suited for it (15:50). Specifically, because they are polluted by sin, they cannot survive (let alone thrive) in the full presence of God (Ex.33:20; 1Tim.6:16).

SPIRITUAL: Our resurrected bodies will be physical, not immaterial ghosts. But, like Jesus’ resurrected body, they will be perfectly suited to live in the very presence of God (Rev.22:4) and his new universe.

This raises two more questions for me...

“How can I get one?”

God is willing to give you a resurrected body as a free gift, no matter how badly you’ve messed up your life. The only condition is that you must become a descendant of the first One to get a resurrected body. Read 15:45-49.

How did you get the “earthy” body you have now? It was given to you because you descend from your parents. And how did they get their bodies? The same way, all the way back to Adam and Eve—the first humans to be given a physical body.

Paul says that Jesus is a second/new Adam. He is God-incarnate who entered humanity to lay down His perfect life for our sins and be raised to become the Inaugurator of a new humanity. This is what Isa.53:8a,10,11 predicted (read NLT). His resurrected (“heavenly”) body is passed down to all who descend from Him.

But how can I become a descendant of Jesus? He had no biological children. This is where the news is even better. We get our earthy bodies by physical descent from Adam without our consent. But we get our heavenly bodies by spiritual descent from Jesus by our decision. And you can become His descendant by personally entrusting yourself to Him as your/the Savior and receiving/welcoming Him into your life (Jn.1:12). Have you done this? Every other decision you have ever made or will ever make pales into insignificance compared to this one! 10 billion years from now, you will still look back on this decision—either with inexpressible joy or with unimaginable regret.

“When will I get mine?”

So, “When will I get mine?” It must be in the future, because Christians die like everyone else. Paul answers this question in 15:50-57.

Read 15:50-53. A “mystery” is something not previously revealed in scripture. The Old Testament (Dan.12:2) and Jesus (Jn.5:28,29) revealed that there would be a resurrection of all believers at the end of the age. But God has revealed something more about this resurrection to Paul.

All Christians will receive resurrected bodies, but some will receive theirs without first experiencing physical death! As Paul also relates in 1Thess.4:15-17, sometime shortly before the return of Jesus to the earth, He will lift up all believers to meet him in the air. Those who have already died will receive their new bodies at that time; those still living will have their bodies transformed instantaneously. This is what Christians call the “rapture” (based on the Latin word for “lift up” in 1Thess.4:17). Then our victory over from death will be complete (read 15:54-57).

NOTE: Those who die believing in Christ before the rapture go to be consciously and personally with him in heaven (Lk.23:43; Phil.1:23), but they don't receive their resurrected bodies until this event.

“So what?”

SUMMARIZE questions #2 - #4. Now we need to ask the “So what?” question. How should this affect my life? How would my life change if I really believed that all this is true and focused my attention on this? Paul gives us part of the answer in 15:58a (read).

His first answer is: It should change the way we respond to suffering and difficulties. We will become more steadfast and immovable instead of being despondent or enraged over them or checking out because of them. Why? Because these things will soon be replaced forever by being in God’s kingdom with the resurrected Jesus in his resurrected body. Then all this will be like waking up from a nightmare and having its power dissolved by the sunshine. Have you ever noticed how much more resilience to adversity you have right before going on vacation? What if you really are about to go on the ultimate vacation?

How quickly do you rebound from suffering and adversity? What does your answer tell you about how much you believe in and/or focus on your resurrection?

Read 15:58b. His second answer is: It should motivate us to build a lifestyle that revolves around serving others, pointing them to Christ, and helping them grow in Christ (quote Col.1:28,29). We should resonate increasingly with C. S. Lewis: “I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.” This is not only far more important than getting the next new toy, fighting for the next move up the ladder, getting more “me” time for comfort and entertainment, etc.—it is also ultimately far more fulfilling.

RECENT MEMORIAL SERVICE: cars, clothes, career choice vs. his “relational portfolio.” Do you think he has regrets abounding in the work of the Lord? Do you think he’s thinking now: “How I wish I had bought more cars, I wish I had dressed more fashionably, I wish I had amassed a huge fortune, and I definitely wish I had played more video games!”? He believed this passage, so he gave himself to love people for Jesus, and to humbly and creatively point them to Jesus, and to encourage them to keep going with Jesus. (And he was “steadfast and immovable.”)

What kind of work are you abounding in? What does your answer tell you about how much you believe in and/or focus on your resurrection?

Recommend Heaven, by Randy Alcorn—and read his 7 questions on pp.469,470.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10.