The Next Life and Its Implications

New Bodies that Last Forever

Teaching t07523


We have been examining the biblical view of the afterlife by contrasting it to other views (EXAMPLES). Here is another difference: its view of the body.

Spiritism teaches that we will be disembodied spirits. Pantheism sees the body as the prison-house of the soul and teaches that salvation is release from your body to absorbed into "God." But the Bible teaches that being human involves bodily existence. Salvation is holistic in this sense—not deliverance from our bodies, but the deliverance of our bodies into a perfected state (Rom. 8:23).

There are literally dozens of passages that educate us on this subject. We will look at many of them this morning, using 1 Cor. 15 as our base text to answer four questions . . . 

What are they like?

In general, they will be like Jesus' resurrected body (read 1 Jn. 3:2). This means that the descriptions of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances shed light on what our bodies will be like. In this passage, Paul explains that this means two things:

There will be continuity with our present bodies. Read 15:35-38. Like the relationship between a seed and the plant that comes from it, they are very different in shape, have different properties, etc.—but the plant is organically connected to the seed from which it came. Like a caterpillar that undergoes metamorphosis into a butterfly, there is essential continuity.

So it was with Jesus' resurrected body. It was not a totally new body, or it would not be called a "resurrected" body. His disciples could recognize it as his, including the holes in his hands and side (Jn. 20:27), it was a real body with "flesh and bones" (Lk. 24:39), he could eat food (Lk. 24:41-43), etc.

So it will be with our bodies. And they will be recognizable. We will recognize other redeemed loved ones, and other believers we never knew in this life (1 Thess. 4:13,17; Matt. 8:11).

DISCONTINUITY (15:42-44): But our resurrected bodies will be infused with vastly different properties and abilities. Jesus will transform this body into bodies like his new body (read Phil. 3:20,21). It will both be free from all imperfections and suited for eternal life in God's eternal kingdom. Paul mentions four aspects of this transformation:

PERISHABLE: Our present bodies are subject to congenital defects, disease, injury and aging. While marvelously made, they are "winding down" from the moment we are born. We spend billions of dollars every year to forestall/counteract this through medicine or to hide it through cosmetics.

IMPERISHABLE: Our resurrected bodies will not be subject to malfunction, injury or aging. They will be able to eat, but they don't need to eat (1 Cor. 6:13,14). They will be bionic in the truest sense of the word.

DISHONOR: As creatures made in God's image, we were evidently designed to manifest God's invisible greatness not only morally, but even visibly—as a prism refracts colorless light into its constituent bands, or as angels manifest God's glory (read Dan. 10:5-11). Because of the Fall, our bodies simply do not do this.

GLORY: Our resurrected bodies will somehow visibly manifest God's greatness and splendor. Heb. 2:7 implies that our new bodies will do this in a way even greater than angels' bodies do.

WEAKNESS: Our bodies are subject to rather extreme physical limitations. We marvel that athletes can long jump over 29 feet, but we don't ever expect them to go 2900 feet. Much of our technology is designed to overcome our physical limitations (INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION for strength; TELECOMMUNICATIONS for distance).

POWER: Our new bodies will not be omnipotent, but they will not be subject to the same limitations of physical matter or the laws of nature that we now experience. Jesus' post-resurrection appearances make this clear. His old body didn’t disappear in the tomb; it was transformed in such a way that it passed right through the grave cloths, leaving them intact (see Jn. 20:6-9). He could enter a room when the door was shut (Jn. 20:9), vanish from sight while talking with others (Lk. 24:30,31), and defy gravity in ascending from the earth (Acts 1:9).

NATURAL: Our present bodies Paul calls "natural," or literally "soulish." As he says in the following verses, they are "earthy" in the sense that they are suited for life in this material portion of reality. But reality is more than this realm. There is another portion, normally unseen to us, that is just as real (DARK SIDE OF THE MOON). It is normally invisible to us simply because our bodies are not equipped to sense it. Angels are evidently equipped with bodies that enable them perceive both portions of reality (2-WAY MIRROR).

SPIRITUAL: Our new bodies will be real, not immaterial. But they will be "heavenly"—like the bodies of the angels (Lk. 20:36)—and perfectly suited to perceive and interact with life in the supernatural and eternal kingdom.

This should raise an obvious question: How do I get one? Paul answers this question indirectly in 15:45-50 (read).

How do I get one?

Paul tells us that Adam and Jesus are similar in that they are both inaugurators of a race of humans. Because Adam's body is made of earthy materials, those who descend from him also receive earthy bodies (vs 48a,49a). Because Jesus' resurrected body is made of heavenly materials, those who descend from him receive heavenly bodies (vs 48b,49b).

What does all this have to do with how to get a resurrected body? The point is this: body-type is determined by descent. In order to have an earthy body, you must be a descendant of the first one to have one—Adam. In order to get a new body and enter God's kingdom, you must be a descendant of the first one to have a new body—Jesus.

This passage echoes a conversation Jesus had with one of the most religious people of his day (read Jn. 3:3-7). If you want to get a new body, all the religious activity in the world won't cut it. You must not only be born physically ("of water" as in amniotic fluid, not water baptism); you must also be born spiritually ("of the spirit"). And Jesus went to explain how to be born spiritually (read Jn. 3:14-16)—by personally choosing to entrust yourself to him as your Savior who was lifted up on the cross to die for your sins.

Isn’t this wonderful? None of us has any choice about being born physically—what kind of body we get, what family we have, etc. But because God sent Jesus to die for us, we can all choose to be born into God's family, and be forgiven by him, experience his love, and receive a new body suited for eternal life with him. No matter how old you are, no matter how much you have ignored or rebelled against God, no matter how much of a mess you may have made of this life, you can still choose to start all over again in the most important way of all. Have you made this choice? Here's how . . . 

When do we get them?

The answer to this question is: when Jesus returns. Read 1 Cor. 15:21-23. God is overcoming physical death in two stages: first when Jesus was raised from the dead, and then when those who belong to him are raised from the dead when he returns at the end of the age.

Paul adds some additional information in 15:51-53 (read). All who have received Christ will receive new bodies at this time, but some will not experience physical death. Those who have died will receive their new bodies at that time; those still living will have their bodies changed instantaneously, as we are caught up in the air to meet Jesus (1 Thes. 4:17).

NOTE: If we die (as Christians) before this time, we do not go into some unconscious state as some teach; rather, we go to be consciously and personally with Christ in the presence of God (read Lk. 23:43; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8). But we don't get our resurrected bodies until Christ returns.

When this happens, our salvation will be complete (read 15:54-57). The same Jesus whose death delivers us from the guilt of our sins will deliver us from the consequence of sin—physical death.

What difference does it make in this life?

Read 15:58. Paul says "therefore." If you have received Christ and know you will overcome death, this knowledge should change the way you live this life.

I've asked a friend of mine, Joey Mullen, to share with you how knowing these truths has made a difference in his life . . .