After patiently answering question upon question about the resurrection, Paul finally got to the heart of the issue that concerned the Corinthian congregation: But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” (1 Corinthians 15:35, NLT)
Much has been written regarding his response to the church, but to simplify, I see Paul’s response under three headings. The first heading is CONTINUITY. Reading on, Paul writes, “What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory” (1 Corinthians 15:36-41, NLT).
Paul wants the reader to know that there is continuity between our earthly bodies and our resurrection bodies. Rather than seek understanding from an abstraction, Paul simply reminds his readers that the hold the answer in their hands. It’s like a seed that is planted beneath the soil. In time, the seed sprouts and shoots up through the soil in a glorious new form. The seed itself doesn’t come through the soil, but it comes in a new form that is something superior and beyond compare. While the difference between a seed and a plant is obvious, the identity is the same. After all, if you plant corn you expect to raise corn. Burial of the seed (death) is necessary for the new form to appear, such as is true with our bodies. In the resurrection we will be raised in a new and glorious form, but we will not lose our identity.
The second heading is TRANSFORMATION. Verse 42 continues, “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, NLT).
While we do not lose our identity in eternity, we must still be appropriately fitted for our eternal living environment. Transformation is necessary in order for believers to enter their heavenly existence. We will have a body in eternity, but not the same body. Resurrection is not the same as resuscitation of a corpse! To help the reader understand the transformation, Paul uses comparison language.
Our present bodies are subject to decay, while our resurrection bodies will never decay. They will be “deathless.” Our present bodies are buried in “brokenness,” literally dishonor. The word dishonor is the word used of those who had lost the rights of citizenship. Those who lost their citizenship lost their rights. Hence, “dishonor.” But though the body is buried in dishonor, it is raised in glory where there is no shame.
Our present bodies are buried in weakness, meaning they require air, food, water, and shelter for their existence. Our resurrection bodies, on the other hand, are raised in power to live independent and free of the things we relied upon while on earth.
The final broad heading I would use is the word PROTOTYPE. The final words of this section begin in verse 45, “The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:45-49, NLT).
Paul is simply saying that our earthly bodies come from an earthly prototype, Adam. Our heavenly bodies will be different because God will use a new prototype, Jesus!
Tomorrow I’ll finish up this section on the resurrection body by describing how this teaching from Paul provides a hope that endures the deepest challenge any of us will ever face: death.