1 Corinthians, chapter 15 gives us the most thorough description of the resurrection in the whole Bible and we’ve been learning a lot. So far, we’ve learned about
The Resurrection Evidence from the Church, the Scriptures, and from all the personal eyewitnesses.
The Order of the Resurrection: Christ the first fruits and then the rest of the harvest.
The Consequences of Denying a Bodily Resurrection
Resurrection Motivation for Salvation, Sacrificial Service, and living righteous lives.
Now, as we come to this next section, it’s important to note that throughout the whole chapter, Paul has been emphasizing the truth of a bodily resurrection. That is, when Christ was resurrected, his actual body was raised.
Christ’s physical body didn’t stay in the tomb. He didn’t transcend his body into a purely spiritual state. His body was resurrected and glorified and he still has a body, even to this day. In Acts 1:10-11, we are told that when he returns, he’s coming in the same way he left, which was in bodily form.
So just reviewing a little bit. The goal of redemption isn’t for our eternal spirits to live eternally outside our bodies, but for our bodies, our physical bodies, to be raised on the last day (John 6:44).
God is going to redeem every bit of us, body and spirit. Our bodies won’t be discarded and at the last trumpet we will be completely redeemed, raised in glory, and given immortality (see 2 Cor 5:2-4; Romans 8:23).
Now Paul is writing because the idea of a bodily resurrection is difficult for some to grasp,
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35)
It’s pretty obvious that these aren’t just honest people asking honest questions, because Paul answers harshly with “you fool!”
See, despite all that Paul had said previously, some people were refusing to believe in a bodily resurrection. They wanted to keep believing, as the Greeks did, in the immortality of the soul while denying the immortality of the body (John 5:28-29).
The immortality of the body isn’t a phrase you hear very often, but it’s a biblical one. The Bible teaches everyone’s body will be resurrected—not just believers, but all people. For example, John 5:28–29 says…
“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Everyone is going to experience a bodily resurrection, some to experience everlasting joy and others to experience everlasting punishment. Now, of course, Paul is emphasizing the resurrection of the believer's body in this section, but it’s good to remember what the Bible teaches about those who don’t believe.
So the Greeks didn’t believe in the resurrection of the body and many of these Greeks, who became Christians, had difficulty leaving their false beliefs behind. But many of the converted Jews also had problems understanding, because although most Jews believed in the resurrection of the body, they thought their resurrected body would be exactly the same body that had died.
For example, a rabbi in the early 2nd century said this: “The earth shall then assuredly restore the dead. It shall make no change in form, but as it has received, so shall it restore.” But his teaching isn’t exactly right because the Bible says our bodies will be resurrected but there is going to be a change in form.
So Paul rebukes them. He calls them fools because they aren’t being sincere with their questions and they don’t really want to learn anything. What follows is for the rest of us who do want to learn.
First, he makes the point that our resurrected bodies are going to be...
Different from our Present Bodies
He gives an illustration from the world of plants in 1 Corinthians 15:36,
You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies;
When a seed is planted in the ground, if it gets enough moisture and warmth, it germinates, which is just another way of saying the seed disintegrates and dies. And as it dies, it produces new life. The seed already has life, but when it dies it produces a different kind of life.
This is pretty easy to understand. Resurrection life occurs after we die in a similar way to what happens when a plant dies. Paul continues with the illustration in 1 Corinthians 15:37
and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
The plant that comes to life after the seed dies is from the same material as the seed but is obviously very different.
When we plant a seed, we don’t expect to get a seed in return; we expect something different. A plant may have come from the stuff in the seed, but after it breaks through the ground it looks a lot different because it is.
On the third day when Jesus’ physical body came out of the tomb, it was his same body, but it was also very different, because now it was no longer able to die, for one thing. How is this possible? Well, go back to the analogy of a plant in 1 Corinthians 15:38,
But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.
God does it. Humanly, of course, it’s all impossible. But since God is the one who gives us the body we have presently, He is also able to give us the body he wishes us to have in the future. Just as he’s able to make a tiny little mustard seed turn into a giant tree, so he is also able to turn our bodies into glorified bodies.
So our bodies will be different, but they will not be completely different. Like Christ, we, too, will have bodies that are recognizable (see John 12:24).
Will the older person be raised as a youth in their prime? Will an infant be raised as an adult? I don’t know, because the Bible doesn’t say. But God will do what is best and I’m sure none of us will be disappointed.
So like with the relationship between a seed and a plant, the plant looks a lot different from the seed, but they are still similar because one comes from the other. That’s the point of this first illustration.
The second point is that our glorified bodies are different from our present bodies, but they will also be...
Different from One Another
My body isn’t going to be exactly like your body. And, again, Paul looks to nature for an illustration. 1 Corinthians 15:39 says,
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.
See, there’s a similarity between the flesh of men and the flesh of animals, but it’s not exactly the same. Just like God can give us bodies that are different from animal bodies, so God can give us newly transformed bodies that are similar yet different from one another.
Making the point clearer, 1 Corinthians 15:40–41 says,
There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
No two stars are alike. Each one is unique. We’re going to be given a new, one-of-a-kind body and it’s going to be glorious.
Earthly bodies, like mountains, rivers, and oceans, are tiny in comparison with the heavenly bodies in space, but each has its own glory.
When we look out on a body of water, or a mountain, there is an amazing glory that we see. But there is also a glory that we see looking up into the heavens. The heavenly bodies and the earthly bodies both have their own glory, but it’s a different glory.
So we’re going to be different from each other, and we’re also going to be like Christ, but not exactly like Christ.
1 John 3:2 says we will have Christ-like bodies,
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
But will we be exactly like him? Will we all be 33 years old with male bodies? I don’t think so. Will we have the same scars he has? I doubt it. We’re going to be like Jesus, but not exactly like him.
All of us are going to retain many of the features that make us, us. All of us will radiate glory, but in a special, unique way.
Next, in verses 42-44 comes...
In school, I used to dread the essay question that started with compare and contrast. Well, that’s what Paul does here, but he makes it pretty easy for us to follow. 1 Corinthians 15:42 says,
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;
What Paul is saying is that from the very moment we are born our bodies start decaying. Every day we are alive is one day closer to death. That’s depressing but it’s the truth, and the older we get the more we realize it’s true.
When we die, our perishable bodies will be put in the ground like seed. But when they come out again, they will be imperishable, unable to die. Our new bodies will never get old. They will never decay again.
Now, some people teach that we already have an imperishable, incorruptible body. And if we just have enough faith, we’ll never get sick or experience disease. And I suppose some even believe that if our faith is strong enough, we’ll never die.
Well, that’s just wrong and it’s essentially a denial of what Paul is teaching here in chapter 15. We don’t already have imperishable bodies, their coming in the future with the resurrection.
Here’s another contrast. According to verse 43, our resurrected body is,
sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
When Adam fell, mankind was sown in dishonor. And from that point, all of us have continued to dishonor God in what we think, in how we live, and in what we do with our bodies. Each day we are alive, we continue to come face-to-face with our limitations. And when we die, these weak bodies will finish decaying and start to stink.
Now, originally, man was made very good in the image of God. That image, or glory, became tainted when Adam sinned, but it will be fully restored, and then some, when we are resurrected. So our bodies are sown in weakness but raised in power which means our resurrected bodies will no longer have any limitations.
Martin Luther said of our bodies, “As weak as it is now, without all power and ability when it lies in the grave, just so strong will it eventually become, when the time arrives, so that not a thing will be impossible for it, if it has a mind for it, and it will be so light and agile that in an instant it can float here below on earth or above in heaven.”
Wow, that will be really cool!
Here’s another contrast in verse 44,
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
What Paul means by “a natural body” is a body that is suited to this life. And when our bodies are resurrected, they will be “spiritual” or suited for the next life.
Both physical bodies and spiritual bodies are bodies. We won’t be disembodied ghostly spirits. When Paul uses the word “spiritual” he doesn’t mean immaterial; he’s referring to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit upon the physical body.
Actually, in Christ, our bodies have already become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 15:6-19). The holy spirit will completely transform us and fully prepare us for a new kind of existence.
OK, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Our resurrected bodies will be vastly different from what they are now. They will be unable to die. They will be powerful and spiritual in the sense of being completely transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Now, if we still don’t get it, Paul is going to make one last attempt to help us understand what our resurrected bodies will be like. Simply put, they will be...
Paul makes his final point in this section by appealing to scripture. If we won’t believe Scripture, then we won’t believe anything. 1 Corinthians 15:45 says,
So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Adam was the first person God created with a living soul. God gave him a perfect physical life, but to live eternally he had to pass a test. And if he passed the test, he would receive eternal life.
But Adam failed the test. Sin and death entered the world, and Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden to prevent them from eating of the tree of life and living forever in a sinful state (Gen. 3:22-24).
Now, the contrast with this first Adam is “The last Adam [who] became a life-giving Spirit.” Christ is the last Adam who became an eternal, life-giving Spirit when he conquered death through the resurrection. When Christ arose from the grave, he earned became a life-giving spirit, or in other words, he was authorized to make those who believed in him immortal.
So where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Christ, the second Adam, succeeded because he lived a perfect life without sin and then conquered death achieving immortality for himself and his people.
Paul continues in verse 46,
However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
Now remember the order of resurrection. First, we receive a natural body suitable for this life, but in the next life we receive a supernatural body suitable for life in the next. Paul continues the contrast in verse 47,
The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
Adam came from below, literally from the dust of the earth. But Jesus, even though he is fully man, has existed eternally and literally came to earth from heaven.
The KJV adds the words “and the second man is the Lord from heaven” which is true, but not in the original manuscripts, so we won’t emphasize his Lordship here.
Anyway, the point is that although Jesus and Adam both lived on earth, they came from different places. Adam is the mortal representative who came from the earth, but Christ is the immortal representative of the redeemed who came from heaven.
Paul sums it up in verse 48,
As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
The simple meaning is this: the redeemed have more in common with heaven than they do with the earth. Paul explains in verse 49,
Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
Presently we bear the earthly image of Adam and to a growing degree we bear the image of Christ. But in the future, we will fully bear the image of Christ. Then our bodies will be like his body, physically and spiritually.
Physically, after the resurrection, Christ appeared and disappeared at will to the disciples. But he could also sit and eat a meal. He still had his scars. He still spoke in Aramaic and could be understood, but he was also completely glorified amazingly.
We will be like Christ physically, but we will also be like him in spiritual holiness, too. We will still be ourselves, but minus all the sin. Imagine it, we’re going to be sinless, like Christ!
Everything that gets in the way of fully glorifying God is going to be gone. We will so perfectly reflect his image, we will radiate God’s glory!
OK, now one last verse to make this point. Matthew 13:43 says,
“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Wow! Imagine it. That’s our future!
So here’s a final thought to leave with. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We’ve talked a lot about our resurrection, but none of what we’ve talked about will happen if Jesus isn’t alive.
But Jesus is alive. His body isn’t in the grave anymore. He has risen. He’s alive! And because of this, he is the guarantee that all believers will have a new existence, with new bodies that will never sin or die.
By the grace of God, may we live eternally for the praise of his glory.