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Resurection! Christians to Eternal Life

July 15, 2009

“But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 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” (1st Corinthians 15:35-44)

Some people believe that death is the cessation of life. Others believe that death is an escape from the body (even some fellow believers I know have believed this). Some who believe in reincarnation think that after we die we come back to this life as someone else (or worse as something else). Still others believe that our bodies are an illusion and the only thing that survives in death is an impersonal cosmic consciousness. Only Christians believe that our physical bodies will be resurrected.

I have often wondered what resurrection will be like. Eternal life for the Christian is described with marvelous imagery. The scenes of heaven are too grand for us to comprehend so God describes them in ways that we can imagine as being spectacular (a city with a foundation of precious gemstones, pearl gates, a street of gold, a crystal sea, a river of life, a tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit and similar imagery).

The Bible gives us a glimpse of what resurrection will be like in passages like 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

The Seed

To inform our thinking about resurrection, Paul uses the imagery of a seed. Most of us can probably remember the days in grade school when we put a bean on a wet paper towel and watered it every day. The bean changed before our eyes. The bean was transformed into something new. The bean was still on that paper towel (it was not a not a “reincarnated” bean or a different bean). The bean had been transformed. The bean “died” and was “resurrected” with a new “body”.

The imagery of the bean’s transformation is helpful to our understanding of how we will be resurrected (see 1st Corinthians 15:35-44 above). “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 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. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1st Corinthians 15:42-57).

Spiritual Body

Paul says we will be “raised a spiritual body” (1st Corinthians 15:44). Some have mistaken this as the lack of a physical body. Jesus was resurrected as the “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1st Corinthians 15:20). When Jesus was resurrected, he still bore the scars of his crucifixion. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:27-28). Jesus’ physical body was resurrected and ours will be as well. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

It should also be noted that some the translation of “spiritual body” in 1st Corinthians 15:44 could read “supernatural body” (the footnotes in your Bible may refer to this as an alternate translation). The translation would then read “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a supernatural body” (1st Corinthians 15:44). In its context, the passage is talking about your physical body being transformed not eliminated. The “natural” man is not referring to a physical man, but a man who is controlled by human nature. Similarly, “spiritual” man is not referring to an immaterial man but to a man controlled by the spiritual nature.

Finally, in our resurrected bodies we will no longer be slaves to sin. We will truly be who we are in Christ. Currently we are positionally free from sin because of Christ’s substitutionary death, but we still struggle with sinful desires that we occasionally give in to. After our resurrection we will realize the fullness of our freedom from sin in Christ . (Revelation 21:3-5)  In the meantime, we wait eagerly for the day when Jesus returns to take us home. Come Lord Jesus!

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