NOTE: In the November 1990 issue I discussed the vital subject: THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, with 1 Corinthians 15:1-26 as the basis for the study. I believe that this Scripture, as well as many others, refers to the resurrection of this body in which we live, move, and have our "being"! Even though this body dies and goes back to the dust of the earth, God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit have all declared in plain words that there is to be a resurrection of the dead, meaning mans mortal body. If that is not true, the apostle Paul declared that this would mean that the mortal, physical body of Jesus was NOT raised from death either, as set forth in the previous study. The resurrection of Christ from death demands and guarantees the resurrection of all the dead. Dont worry about it; God can and will handle it.
Now lets pursue the other questions raised by Paul in 1 Cor. 15: 35:
"But some one will say, 'How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?'"
These two questions the apostle Paul then proceeded to answer. First, lets notice that in the second question above, Paul put the question this way: "with what body do THEY come"? That plural pronoun "they" is a key word. He is not talking about an "it", the Jewish nation, a new religious order, nor a composite or unit of people as a whole. The term "the dead" includes all the dead; but the plural pronoun, "they", breaks it down to each individual. As the whole, "they" constitute "the dead"; but spoken of as "they" it is a picture of all individuals, each one of the dead. There is no question in Pauls mind that the dead will be raised; he had already shown that this is a coming reality. He now discusses "how" the dead are to be raised; and what "kind of body" the resurrected body will be.
Paul's first reaction to the questions is found in 1 Cor. 15: 36-37:
"You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 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."
Paul is not calling the questioners "fools", but rather foolish, unthinking ones. Then he uses an illustration to help them understand. It is a reality and common occurrence in nature with which they were all familiar. When you plant "bare grain", you know that "you do not sow the body which is to be, but bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else." You plant the bare grain, but in the germination process the "body" changes into or takes a new form. Surely we all understand this analogy.
In verse 38:
"But God gives it a body just as He wishes, and to each of the seeds a body of its own"
Each kind of seed has a "body" or "form" of its own, each kind differing from the other. This is merely an illustration of how the "body" of one seed sown comes up with a different form, but the original seed is inherent in the new and different appearance. There is continuity.
In verses 39-41, Paul uses other illustrations to show the different kinds of "flesh" or "bodies". He says: "All flesh is not the same flesh." Everyone who has considered this knows Paul is correct. Paul further says: "there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another flesh of fish." We understand this. In verse 40 Paul affirms that "there are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another." The point is that each "flesh" or "body" is different from all the other forms or kinds. In verse 41 we are told: "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." Again the same point: Each "kind" of "body" or "flesh" differs from the other. God gives to each the "body" that is proper for the time and purpose.
In verse 42 Paul draws his conclusion from all he had illustrated: "So also is the resurrection of the dead." That is, as illustrated in what he had just written, "so", or in like manner, "is the resurrection of the dead." He means that the "body" that dies or is dead will be resurrected. He refers to this physical body in which we dwell here on earth. Even though "it" dies and goes back to the earth from which "it" came, "it" will be resurrected from the hold of death, even if in another form! The pronoun "it" refers to the dead body of man.
Lets read verses 42-44: (Note the "it"!)
(1) "IT" is sown a perishable body, "IT" is raised an imperishable body:
(2) "IT" is sown in dishonor, "IT" is raised in glory;
(3) "IT" is sown in weakness, "IT" is raised in power;
(4) "IT" is sown a natural body, "IT" is raised a spiritual body."
What does that "IT" refer to? Can there be any doubt? Unless one has some preconceived "scheme of things" to prove or harmonize with this great chapter, no one would ever get the notion that Paul is here referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70! Keep in mind that the advocates of the A.D. 70 "scheme of things" do NOT believe that there will be a resurrection of this body. That is, those with whom I have talked. Their view is that when death claims this human frame it is forever; there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead in this sense. It is incredible disbelief, in my view. This would mean that Jesus did not rise from death, for as Paul put it, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised". Unless Christ bodily rose from death He can never be, therefore, victorious over death, hades, and the grave.
Once more: What does the "IT" refer to in Pauls argument? Obviously "IT" refers to this present, natural, earthly, perishing, dying physical body; our tabernacle of clay in which the immortal spirit (our real, never-dying self) dwells. James wrote that "the body without the spirit is dead" (2:26). Death brings on the separation of the spirit from the body, hence leaves the body dead. But that is not the end of the body! God did not give us this special, unique body that death can claim forever! Death and the grave will indeed be victorious if the grave is the final destiny of this body.
Remember our "IT" (our body) is the same kind of body in which our Lord and Savior dwelt while upon this earth before His death. Paul wrote: ". . . Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness [sameness of bodily substance] of men. And being found in the appearance as a man [He was man in His physical body (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5)], He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus was God in flesh, incarnate.
When Jesus died on the cross IT was His physical body that died. IT was buried in Josephs tomb. On the third day that same body was raised from death, changed and made immortal - no longer subject to dying or death. It was in that "glorified", "spiritual", now immortal body in which He appeared to His disciples on various occasions. It was in that resurrected body that He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
It is in that glorious, resurrected body that I expect to see Him on that glorious resurrection day at the end of this world! Praise be to God, our gracious, loving Father in heaven.
Paul plainly writes about the same "IT " - the physical body - and tells of the glorious "change" that will occur in the resurrection of all the dead. In 1 Thess. 4:13-18, Paul wrote: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." This has reference to what is called "the second coming" of Christ; and we are told that when the "second coming" takes place God will "bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus". In verse 15, Paul says that "we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep." Some people will be alive when the Lord returns, but many will have died throughout all the centuries past. However, the saints who are alive on earth at the coming of the Lord shall not go to meet the Lord before those saints who have died. "The dead in Christ shall rise first," that is, before the living saints go to meet the Lord. "THEN we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the saints raised from the dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord." The bodies of all the dead will be raised and re-united with the spirit; and the bodies of the living saints will likewise be changed, and all together shall rise to meet the blessed Savior in the air, and go on with Him. What a great day that will be!
In the last part of 1 Cor. 15:44, Paul writes: "If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body. " That is his conclusion. The "natural body" when raised from death will come forth "a spiritual body," like our Lord had after His resurrection. There is indeed a change, but identity and continuity remains!
Let me briefly refer to verses 45-49:
V.45:"So also it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." Jesus said: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them [note that plural pronoun!] life, even so the Son of Man also gives life to whom He wishes." Jesus raised the dead while He was here on earth. Surely He can do the same now.
V.46: "However, the spiritual [body] is not first, but the natural [fleshly]; then the spiritual." Like the "seed" planted is first, then the stalk, then the fruition or final body, even though changed.
V.47: "The first man [Adam] is from the earth, earthy; the second man [Jesus] is from heaven." The "first man, Adam," was made from the earth, the dust of the ground. The "second man" came from heaven, as the one to pay the price to free the "the first man" from the hold and clutches of death, by His resurrection from the dead. He said: "I am the resurrection and the life" and indeed He is because He will raise all the dead.
V.48: "As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy," meaning all human beings are, in our present state, earthy and subject in our fleshly bodies to death and decay. Then he says, "we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." And "the heavenly" refers to the type of body Jesus had after His resurrection. The redeemed ones will be bodily raised from death, changed into a heavenly body of the same nature that Jesus had after His resurrection.
V.49: "And just as we have borne the image of the earthy" - mankind is made or born fitted to live on this earth for a time. However, when we are raised from the dead, along with those who are living at that time, we shall all be "changed" from the physical to a spiritual body, and then we all "shall also bear the image of the heavenly," such as Jesus had after His resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:21).
Now we come to the glorious close on this vital subject, verses 50-58. Lets take it verse by verse:
V.50: "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." The point here is that flesh and blood, mans body as it now is, being corruptible, cannot enter the heavenly state. Paul is still answering the question, "With what bodies do they come?" He no longer uses an analogy. Now comes what Paul learned by direct revelation, what he has been taught by the Spirit of God. Blood is everywhere the type of this lower animal life. Blood is the life of the flesh; and so, though Jews might eat the flesh, they were not allowed to eat the blood, which is the life thereof (Gen. 9:4). All offerings which typified the offering up and sacrifice of "self" - the lower sinful self - were sacrifices by shedding of blood, without which there was no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22). When Jesus made the ultimate, the supreme sacrifice at Calvary the blood was shed - once for all; for all time and for all people!
When Jesus showed His resurrection body to His disciples He did not say, "A spirit does not have flesh and blood, as you see that I have." He said: "A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39). The blood of Jesus is never spoken of as existing after His crucifixion. He made the supreme sacrifice of Self to God. The blood - the type of human self - was poured out forever. Hence, we can learn from this that one characteristic of the resurrection body is that it shall be bloodless! That "crimson flow", the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins forever ended at the cross! It started in the beginning with righteous Abels sacrifice and it continued through all time until the death of the One Ultimate Lamb of God.
V.51-52: "Behold I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, and the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we [those living at the time] shall all be changed."
Paul now proceeds to reveal to them something of the process of the resurrection. The "mystery" is not merely something unknown to the reader, but something ascertained only through divine revelation, or the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This mystery was that those who are alive at the coming of the Lord will experience a change that shall fit them for participating in the eternal kingdom of God; just as those would who arose from the dead.
This same truth is set forth in 1 Thess. 4:13-18, which should be read for more information. This change from the earthly to the spiritual body is absolutely necessary. To some the change will come through the process of death and the resurrection of the body from the grave. To those still living at the time, it will come in an instantaneous "change"from mortal to immortal. Thus Paul answered the question which would naturally occur to some in view of the declaration that "flesh and blood" cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They will all be "changed" from a natural to a spiritual body. All of this will occur "at the last trumpet" and "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." This "change" or transformation is something like the ugly caterpillar changes into a beautiful butterfly. Or, like the seed of corn "changes" into a stalk.
V.53: "For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality." This further shows the necessity for a change in the nature of the resurrection body. In Ellicotts Commentary, he points out that there is "an additional thought introduced here. Not only must the resurrection body be suited to the condition but also to the duration of the new life. As a spiritual body, it will be adapted to the needs of a spiritual state; and as an immortal and incorruptible body, it will be adapted to a life which is everlasting." Amen!
V.54: "So when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory." Paul contemplates that glorious time when all of this will be accomplished, which is an absolute moral necessity. In his language we can sense the intensity of the apostles own belief in what he is revealing/teaching; and his desire for that glorious day. He tells us that "then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory." How can death be swallowed up or destroyed or fully overcome? In no other way than in the resurrection of all the dead from the hold of death.
Jesus had earlier proclaimed this same truth: ". . . for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth . . ." (John 5;28-29). Only dead bodies are in the tombs or graves. "They" shall come forth! Paul referred to this glorious time when he said: ". . . I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; having hope in God . . . that there shall be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" (Acts 24:14-15). He even claimed: "I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead" (Acts 23:6). Paul wrote that Jesus was "declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead . . ." (Rom. 1:4). The ultimate, final proof that Jesus is the Son of God was His resurrection for the dead. Everything hinges on this one vital truth. This is the great arch upon which all belief and hope rests. Read 1 Cor. 15:12-17 again. Is death to be swallowed up in victory? Indeed so, when "this mortal will have put on immortality, then . . . Death is swallowed up in victory." Through Jesus Christ the victory is won.
V.55: So the victor can say with Paul: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Death and the grave will give up all the dead they hold as a result of the final resurrection of all the dead.
V.56: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law . . ." Ellicotts Commentary puts the meaning as follows: "Death is pictured as a monster, and it is armed with a sting. Its sting is sin. If there were no sin, death would not be capable of inflicting pain, and the strength of sin springs from the fact that it is a violation of Gods law (Cf. Rom. 5:12; 7:7)." I agree.
V.57: ". . . but thanks to be God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ", who was totally victorious over death, hades, and the grave, and who will at the end of this old world raise all the dead from the hold of death. Hence, we can believe, shout and sing: "Victory in Jesus!" And this victory will be total and complete in its time.
V.58: In view of the great hope the Christian has, Paul concludes: "Therefore [in view of all he had written], my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." He had given them the proof and assurance of the resurrection of the dead; and, based upon this great hope, he urges their faithfulness "in the work of the Lord". In view of what follows the resurrection, it makes doing the work of the Lord seem like "My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Oh, dear brother and sister, let us commit ourselves steadfastly to abounding in the work of the Lord. You can know "that your toil" will not be in vain. Many other scriptures teach this same vital truth.
As far as I know, of all the religious groups who claimed to believe in God, in the time of Christ and the apostles, only the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead. This same belief is still alive and spreading in 1991, even among the disciples of Christ. How sad. Beware! -- CAH