A New Body
1 Corinthians 15:35-49
Corinth was a real city with real people. I don’t think they had Netflix, Amazon Prime, or even movie theaters, but they were just as fascinated with sex and violence as any city in our world. They may not have had electricity, but they were people just like you and me.
At the Preaching of Apollos and others, some of the residents of Corinth came to Christ. They put their faith in Jesus for salvation and formed the First Church of Corinth. Because of its location and significance in the transportation and shipping industry of the day, Corinth was exposed to ideas from all over the Roman Empire and also catered to the appetites of many travelers. As a result, the Corinthian church spawned heresies and errors almost as rapidly as YouTube.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth to correct some of these errors. He corrected their allegiance to various teachers and sectarianism. He corrected ideas about morality, incest, lawsuits, marriage, communion, spiritual gifts, the resurrection and other issues. One letter was not enough. So, we have two of the letters he wrote to Corinth in our New Testament. Having these letters helps us since the ideas and errors that sprung up in the Corinthian church keep springing up even to this day. Two thousand years may have brought advances in medicine and technology, but just as our world still fights with cancer, our churches still fight with the same errors and heresies that appeared in Corinth. Some of these errors have to do with life after death.
We do not become angels after we die. We will not remain disembodied spirits forever. We will not live on clouds or play golden harps forever. Any number of ideas and caricatures are popular which misrepresent or run contrary to what the Bible teaches.
One of the issues that came up in Corinth is the after-life and the resurrection. I want to spend a few weeks going over some of the Biblical truths associated with what happens after a person dies. This is actually a broad topic and we will cover just a few of the questions involved. What happens after we die is an integral part of our Christian faith. If this life is all there is and there is no life after death, then faith, Christianity and church are a waste of time.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul addresses some questions about the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of the dead is not limited to the question of life after death. It takes us into questions of what will happen to the bodies we have buried.
Apparently, some of the Corinthian believers had landed upon the popular idea that the body would not be resurrected. So, the Apostle makes a statement. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-14, he writes:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14 ESV)
In this statement, we see that the resurrection of the dead is an essential part of our faith. Paul shoots down the idea that the dead are not resurrected.
After explaining that the dead will be raised, the Apostle brings up two objections that would be raised. In 1 Corinthians 15:35, he writes:
But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" (1 Corinthians 15:35 ESV)
The first objection is the question, “How are the dead raised?”
The “how” in this question is a question of “by what power or means.” According to Matthew Henry, popular opinion of the day also taught by the Jewish Sadducees, was that God could not make mortal men immortal or revive the dead. The Apostle Paul does not take much time to answer this objection. He says:
You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (1 Corinthians 15:36 ESV)
Of course, the God who created all things out of nothing should have no difficulty bringing the dead back to life. The Old Testament contains examples of the dead coming back to life. The widow at Zarephath, for example, received her son back from the dead through the prayers of Elijah. The New Testament as well contains records of the dead coming back to life. The resurrection of Lazarus is a well-known example. However, the Apostle Paul does not refer to these examples. He refers to something we see in nature all the time. We plant seeds in the ground and they come up with new life. The seed must first die to produce life. Paul in essence is saying, “How can you see this constant and consistent miracle in nature and still doubt God’s power to raise the dead?”
After this brief answer to how the resurrection of the dead could take place, the Apostle Paul writes a long answer to the question of what kind of body the resurrected body will be.
The first thing he says about the resurrected body is that it is different from the body that dies. He writes:
And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:37-38 ESV)
The statement, “what you sow is not the body that is to be,” indicates that the resurrected body will be changed. “To each kind of seed its own body” indicates that although the body will be changed there will be continuity between the body that dies and the body that is resurrected.
Jesus is a good example of what the Apostle is talking about. After the resurrection, Jesus’ body was changed. He still had flesh and bone. In Luke 24:39, He says:
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (Luke 24:39 ESV)
The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost, an impression that was reinforced by Jesus suddenly appearing in their midst. The door was locked to the room that they were standing in. Jesus takes the time at this point to establish the fact that He was not spirit. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul spends quite a few verses explaining that there are earthly bodies and there are heavenly bodies, and tied into Jesus’ proof that He was not a disembodied spirit, we can understand that the heavenly body Paul is referring to is still a physical body. Like Jesus demonstrates the resurrected body will have flesh and bone, and yet be different from the physical bodies we now have.
Jesus also demonstrated the continuity between the resurrected body and the body that dies. For one, Jesus was recognizable to His disciples. They could not believe what they were seeing, therefore they thought they were seeing a ghost, but they knew who they were looking at. Jesus confirmed what their eyes were telling them because they thought they were seeing an apparition rather than the real person. Nevertheless, the continuity was there. They recognized that this was Jesus, the one they had known so well.
Although the body will be changed, we will not become angels. We will still be human. Jesus still has a human body, but it is imperishable. It does not age. It does not grow weak, sick or diminish in any way. The Apostle speaks of the body being made imperishable when he says:
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:42 ESV)
The new bodies we will receive will be immortal, and as such will have new qualities. Paul continues to explain this with the following:
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.” (1 Corinthians 15:43-44 ESV)
The dishonor spoken of in this passage is the result of sin. Our bodies are not evil because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of God. However, because of sin our bodies break down, grow weak and feeble and die. The dishonor is not inherent in the flesh itself, but along with all creation, the body must be set free from the consequences of sin. So, sown in dishonor, the resurrected body will be free from the consequences, the effects and the presence of sin. We will be all that God meant for us to be.
The bodies we have now are weak in a number of ways. We weaken physically as years pass. This is one kind of weakness. We lust after what we should not have, we covet what is not ours, we are jealous of what others have. This is another kind of weakness. The power we will be raised with will be physical and moral. Physically we will not age or get sick. Our strength will not diminish. According to this passage, we will be immortal. Morally we will not be tempted by evil any longer. We will still have free will and be able to choose, but sin, jealousy, envy and lust will not be a part of us. We will be raised in power with victory being ours.
Much more could be said, and I would encourage you to study this passage in 1 Corinthians 15 for yourself. However, consider with me that we will all either die or be transformed when Christ returns. Those without Christ have much to fear from death because after death we all must face judgment.
But for us believers, Paul gives the following thought:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV)