Our Resurrection Body

I Corinthians 15:35-49

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2012

Before we look at our passage for tonight, I want to do a little review from last week. Last week, we looked at an important lesson found in I Corinthians 15. Paul says, “Evil company corrupts good morals”. We saw that evil is contagious and there were two applications from that principle.

One lesson was to avoid false teachers. Paul was telling the Corinthians to avoid people who taught that there was no resurrection. There are some people today, saved people, who go to liberal churches week after week. That affects not only what they believe but how they live.

A second lesson was that we should avoid associating with people who live an immoral lifestyle. There are several levels of contact. It is not wrong to work with some of these people or go to school with them but they should not be our close friends, people we hang out with and spend a lot of time with. Let’s read our passage for tonight – I Corinthians 15:35-44

Paul begins by answering two questions in 15:35. What are the two questions? The first question is, How are the dead raised?. It is the kind of question a skeptic would ask, perhaps someone on a university campus. Is resurrection really possible? The second question is, With what kind of body will they come? What did Paul think of these questions? He thought they were foolish (15:36).

Some questions are foolish. Some people ask questions not because they want to learn but just to argue (If God is all-powerful, could he create a rock that he could not lift? or How can you possibly believe the Bible when it is full of contradictions?). Other people can ask many of the same questions and be sincere and really want to find out the answer.

Paul answers these questions but the way he does it is quite interesting. He appeals primarily to nature. There are many things in the world that illustrate spiritual truth. The whole universe is like a spiritual blackboard.

The physical world in many ways is analogous to the metaphysical world. Paul was observant of nature. He was observant of animals and cosmology and even gardening and he used all of these to illustrate the resurrection.

Every time you go out in the garden, you learn a lesson on the resurrection. What is Paul’s answer to the first question? He says, “When a seed is planted in the ground, it dies” (15:36). It doesn’t literally die or it would not produce a crop. It dies as a seed. It must cease to exist in its original form as a seed before it can come to life in its final form as a plant.

It is just an analogy. It is not a perfect analogy. Seeds germinate. Dead bodies in the grave don’t germinate. Paul is not proving the resurrection. He is just giving an analogy. If the Corinthians wanted proof for the resurrection, all they have to do is to look at the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He rose from the dead twenty-five years before Paul wrote I Corinthians.

The second question Paul answers is, With what kind of body will they come?. That brings us to our topic for today, the topic of the resurrection body. What is our resurrection body going to be like? Will we recognize one another? Will there be gender in heaven?

Jesus said that in heaven we would be like the angels? Will there be marriage in heaven? Will we be able to eat with our glorified bodies? Scripture does not tell us everything that will happen when we have glorified bodies.

Paul wrote earlier, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). There is a lot that we don’t know about what life will be like in the resurrection but there are some things that we do know. I wasn’t to share with you four facts about the resurrection body and a few characteristics of that body from the text. This is a fascinating topic to me. This topic will blow your mind.

Facts about the Resurrection Body

1. We will have a BODY for all eternity.

Some of us like our bodies and some of us may not. Not everyone can look like me but for all eternity we will have a body. We will not just be immaterial spirits floating around on clouds for all eternity. God could make us like angels after the resurrection. Angels are spirit beings. They do not have a physical body.

We will be like angels in some ways but we won’t turn into angels. We will be like the angels in the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36) but we do not become angels. If you do not like your body now, wait till I describe what the resurrection body will be like.

2. This body will be a PHYSICAL body.

This body will be a body that you can touch. It will be physical and material. How do we know this? Cf. 15:47-49. Paul says, “Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man (Adam), so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (Christ)”. We will bear the likeness of Christ in our resurrection body.

The Bible says that when Jesus returns we will be like him (1 John 3:2). In fact, it specifically says that our body will resemble His body (Philippians 3:20-21). Our body will be like his body. What was his body like after the resurrection?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus arose in his spirit, not his body. The Bible teaches that Jesus was raised with a physical body (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:37-43; John 20:24-27). There’s a one problem with this.

If we will have a physical body in the resurrection, then why does Paul call it a “spiritual body” in 15:44? What Paul meant by the word “spiritual” is completely different from what we mean today when we use that word. Spiritual does not mean immaterial, it means supernatural.

In fact, nowhere does Paul use the word spiritual to mean “non-physical”. The RSV rendering of 15:44 (“It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body”) is completely inaccurate. He mentions two kinds of bodies – a natural or literally a soulish body (σωμα ψυχικόν) and a spiritual body (σωμα πνευματικόν).

A soulish body does not mean that our body is composed of soul. Our body is material. Likewise, a spiritual body does not mean a body that is composed of spirit. Just as our body now expresses the soul within in it, our resurrection body will express the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will have complete control of our bodies.

3. Our resurrection bodies will be SIMILAR to the bodies we have now (15:35-41).

It will not be completely new and different. Paul illustrates this truth in I Corinthians 15 using gardening. Every gardener knows that there is a continuity between the seed and the plant.

There is a connection between what goes into the ground and what comes out of the ground. When you plant apple seeds, you get apples. If you plant corn, you do not get cucumbers. What goes in comes out. The same is true of the resurrection.

Paul also illustrates this truth with zoology and astronomy. Notice what Paul says in 15:39-41. Paul says that all flesh is not the same kind of flesh. He illustrates this from zoology. He mentions four different types of flesh on earth (men, birds, animals, fish).

God not only made a lot of different animals, He made a lot of different kinds of animals. God could have made one spider. Instead, he made 30,000 different types of spiders. How many people are in the world today?

The total number of people living on the planet is 6.93 billion. Not only did God make a lot of people, he made them all different. Most of the seven billion people in the world do not look alike. They come in different sizes, shapes, colors, races. They all have different abilities and speak different languages. There is incredible variety in God’s creation on earth.

Paul points out that this variety continues in the rest of the universe. Paul says that stars differ from other stars in glory and splendor (15:41). The stars are all different kinds (red stars and blue stars). There are actually seven types of stars in order of decreasing temperature. The planets are all different.

Some are really big and some are smaller. Some have a hot temperature (Venus averages at 460 degrees) and some have a cold temperature (Uranus which averages -224 degrees). Some have an atmosphere and some do not (Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, is the only one that does not).

Some have a solid rocky surface and some are mostly made of different gases. Some have moons and some have no moons (Mercury and Venus are the only ones without moons). Some can support life and some cannot. Paul applies this principle to the resurrection in 15:42.

What is the lesson here? The bodies God gives are all different. They come in different forms and have different degrees of glory. That is true on earth. It is true in outer space and it is true in heaven. I want you to think about something that you may not have thought about before.

Our resurrection bodies will not all be exactly alike either. We will all be different. There will be variety. We will retain our individual identity forever. Your individual personality will survive death. That could be a scary thought.

I hope it doesn’t mean that there will be any annoying people in heaven but we will retain our individual identity forever. I believe that this implies that we will have gender in heaven . Jesus retained His gender after His death and resurrection. He was raised as a man and will be a man for all eternity (the God-Man).

Our genders are a part of who we are. God is not going to give everyone the same body, the same sex and make us all look alike. How boring would that be? We won’t have to wear name tags to tell each other apart. You will be you for all eternity. You will have the same name in heaven. You are not going to be Tony in this life and John in the next.

Our names are written in the Book of Life. Jesus had the same voice in his resurrection body that he had before he was raised. Mary recognized him (John 20:16) by his voice. Special intervention was needed to prevent two disciples from recognizing him (Luke 24:16).

You will be you for all eternity and people will know who you are. People always ask if we will recognize our loved ones in heaven. D.L. Moody was once asked that question and he said, “You don’t think we will be dumber then than we are now?” Death produces consciousness, not unconsciousness and one of the best ways to see this is in Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-26).

In that passage, the bodies of both the rich man and Lazarus were dead but their souls were not. They were conscious. The dead rich man could see (even though he had no eyes). He could hear, even though he had no ears. He could talk, even though his mouth was dead and buried in the grave. He could remember things.

He remembered that he had five brothers, so there will be memory in the next life and he could recognize people, even though he had no brain. He recognized Lazarus and Abraham and Abraham had been dead for two thousand years. In the same way the Apostles recognized Moses and Elijah in the Transfiguration, even though they had been dead for hundreds of years.

4. Our resurrection bodies will be DIFFERENT to the bodies we have now (15:42-44).

Muslims believe the resurrection body will be the same as it is now. That is why terrorists blow themselves up so they can go to heaven and be with seventy virgins.

Muslims believe paradise in heaven will be a place of physical and spiritual pleasure, with lofty mansions, delicious food and drink, and young virgin companions . Jesus said that in the resurrection there will be no marriage and if there is no marriage there will be no sex, because God created sex exclusively for married couples.

You say, “If there is no sex there, who would want to go there?”. Well, keep in mind, just because there is no sex in heaven does not mean that heaven will be no fun. There will be pleasure in heaven that is far greater than the pleasure we have on earth (Psalm 16:11).

This is just an analogy but when we were two years old, there were certain things we did for fun. When we become older, we do other things for fun. We would be bored doing the things we did when we were two or three.

Paul uses the analogy of gardening to show that the body we die with is not the body we are raised with. The plant that emerges from the ground looks very different from the seed that was planted.

We cannot tell by looking at the seed what the plant will look like. A tree does not look at all like an acorn. A butterfly looks nothing like a caterpillar. A flower seed looks nothing like a beautiful flower. Our resurrection body will be very different from our present body.

Characteristics of the Resurrection Body

Paul mentions five very interesting characteristics of our new resurrection body.

1) This body will be POWERFUL (15:43)

Our bodies will be strong. We will not need to exercise to get strong. We won’t need to watch what we eat, although we will be able to eat.

•  We will be able to DO all kinds of things with our resurrection bodies that we can’t do with our earthly bodies.

•  This body cannot get hurt. No more aches and pains. It will not get weak or tired. We won’t need to take naps. They will not experience pain on the inside as well (no more sorrow, crying or tears).

•  This body will not age. It will never get old. It will not start to slow down after a million years.

2) This body will be IMMORTAL (15:42).

We will not just have immortal souls, we will have immortal bodies. They will never die. We won’t need to have oxygen, food and water to survive like we do on earth. It will be impossible for this body to die.

Our resurrection bodies will live forever. Death will be destroyed (15:26). Death will die. It will be swallowed up in victory (15:55). Right now death is swallowing people up but eventually death itself will be swallowed up.

3) This body will be GLORIOUS (15:43)

Our bodies on earth have all kinds of flaws and imperfections. Some of them are ugly. Our resurrection bodies will all be characterized by gory. A body that is glorious is a body that is characterized by great beauty and splendor, a body that is magnificent.

It is a body that is characterized by God’s glory. They will be healthy and fit bodies. They will be bright and radiant. These bodies will be so bright, they will shine like the Sun (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:36-43) the way Jesus’ body did at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2).

4) This body will be SPIRITUAL (15:44)

Our bodies on earth are often motivated by our sin natures. Our resurrection bodies will be perfect. We will be sinless for the first time in our lives. Everything we do will be prompted and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We sin. We sin every day. Can you imagine living in a body in which you never sinned? You never did anything wrong. You never had one bad thought. You didn’t say anything that you later regretted.

Free Will in Heaven

If there is no possibility of sin, does that mean we will no longer have a free will in heaven? Do we lose free will in heaven? By free will what we really mean is freedom of choice.

There is a sense in which we will have free will and there is a sense in which we will not have free will in heaven. It all depends on how you define freedom. There are two ways to understand freedom.

One view is that there is no freedom of choice unless you are able to choose one of two different possibilities (called libertarian freedom). In heaven we will not be free in that sense because we will be sinless.

We will have no evil desires and no temptation to sin. The Bible teaches that we will be confirmed in holiness NOT able to sin (Revelation 22:11) but we will still have freedom in another sense.

If you go to McDonalds, you can get a Big Mac or a fish sandwich. What if you hate fish sandwiches and never eat them. Every time you go, you get a Big Mac. Would it be a problem if fish sandwiches were removed from the menu?

Would that affect your freedom of choice? No. Another way to understand freedom is the freedom to make choices without anyone compelling you to do something against your will (called compatibalism).

Christ’s servants will serve him in heaven (Revelation 22:3) and the word “serve” is in the active voice in Greek. They will not be forced to serve him against their will. They will CHOOSE to serve Him and WANT to serve him. We won’t be robots in heaven.

Does this mean that we will not have freedom because we cannot sin? No. It means that we will be like God. God is sinless. He is perfectly good because that is his nature. He cannot sin. It is impossible for God to sin. Does that mean that God is not free? Of course he is but, based on the libertarian logic, He would not be free.

5) This body will be MYSTERIOUS (15:51)

There are some things about this body that we will not understand. That should not surprise us. There are some things about our earthly body that we do not understand. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and we are still learning new things about this body. We didn’t really know about DNA until the 1950s. It has not even been one hundred years.

There are some things about the resurrection body that we do not understand. We will be able to do some things with that body that we cannot do with this body. It will not subject to the same laws of nature that out body is subject to. Jesus’ resurrection body was able to appear and disappear (Luke 24:31). Jesus’ resurrection body was able to go through doors or walls.

On Easter Sunday, the disciples are in a house with the doors locked because they were afraid and all of the sudden Jesus shows up in the room (John 20:19). A week later, he does the same thing and this time Thomas is there (John 20:26). Our resurrection bodies will be able to go right through solid objects.

Jesus’ resurrection body was able to travel great distances faster than the speed of light. He appears to believers in Jerusalem and Galilee. It ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-10) not apparently subject to the law of gravitation. Our resurrection bodies will be able to travel fast without a car or plane.

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