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The Resurrection Body October 19, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.

Summary: Paul begins by addressing a potential objection to the truth of the resurrection of the dead – given the preceding discussion – namely:

  • how could a decaying human body be raised to life?
  • if the first point is admitted, how could that resurrected body not resemble its original human form?

Now he views this as a senseless objection, and he addresses it by appealing to nature – a seed must die in order to live. In particular, when a seed is planted, it does not resemble the plant that will be formed from it. In fact, God originally determined the form of the plant that would arise from a given seed. Paul also supports his argument by noting that a variety of forms can be found in the animal kingdom. He further supports his argument by noting that the sun, moon and stars exhibit forms that differ from those that can be found in the animal and plant kingdoms. In fact, even the sun, moon and stars exhibit different forms.

Paul then drives home his point: the resurrected body will not resemble its original human form; dead bodies must decay, while resurrected bodies cannot decay. Now he draws the following contrasts between the dead body and the resurrected body:

  • the dead body is unpleasant in our sight, yet we will admire the resurrected body
  • the dead body is powerless, yet the resurrected body will have powers beyond our comprehension
  • the dead body was adapted to an earthly existence, yet the resurrected body will be adapted to a heavenly existence

and he infers that if we accept the concept of a body that is adapted to an earthly existence, we must also accept the concept of a body that is adapted to a heavenly existence. Indeed, the Old Testament notes that Adam became animated by physical life – while Christ has inherent life and can give it to others. Also, the physically animated body prepares the way for the resurrected body. While Adam’s body was formed from the earth, Christ was clothed with a body that was adapted to a heavenly existence. In this regard, all mankind is identical to Adam – while all believers are identical to Christ. Believers possess bodies that are like that of Adam, yet they will possess bodies that are like that of Christ.

Now Paul asserts that the human body cannot dwell in the future kingdom of Christ, just as decay and permanency are incompatible. He then calls the Corinthians’ attention to the following divine revelation: not all believers will die, but all believers will receive bodies that are adapted to a heavenly existence. This change will occur instantaneously on the last day; the archangel’s voice will resound and all dead believers will be raised with glorious bodies, and then all living believers will receive new bodies. This stems from the fact that decay and death are incompatible with permanency and eternal life. After this awesome event, death will have been completely conquered, and the grave will have been completely overcome. It should be noted that death draws its power from sin, and sin draws its power from God’s moral law. Yet believers should be thankful that God has allowed them to triumph over death and the grave through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul concludes by exhorting the Corinthians to hold fast to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and strive to honor God in whatever works He has assigned them – as this doctrine promises them a glorious, eternal reward.

Thoughts: Verses 39-41 highlight the diversity of God’s creation as evidenced by the distinct forms of animals, plants, and heavenly bodies. Indeed, the handiwork of God can be seen in tiny organisms such as amoeba and massive flora such as giant sequoias. The handiwork of God can also be seen in active volcanic bodies such as Io and breathtaking interstellar clouds such as the Horsehead Nebula. It is simply mind-boggling as to how our Creator designed such a broad range of forms, especially when one considers that about 99 percent of all extant species are now extinct.

In verse 45, we see that Adam was endowed with physical life at his creation. Hodge offers some intriguing thoughts on this point:

However, from what he says here about the contrast between Adam and Christ, and about the earthly and perishable nature of the first as opposed to the immortal, spiritual nature of the second, it is clear that Adam as originally created was not, as to his body, in that state that would fit him for his immortal existence. We may infer that after his period of probation was passed, a change would have taken place in him analogous to that which is to take place in those believers who will be alive when Christ comes…The tree of life was probably the sacrament of this change in the constitution of his body, for when he sinned, he was excluded from the garden of Eden, lest he “reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). Some change, therefore, was to take place in his body to adapt it to live forever.

Hodge’s note raises some interesting questions. First, why did God create Adam in an “intermediate” state instead of giving him full immortality to begin with? He could have initially given him full immortality and then taken it away after he had sinned. Second, what did it mean for Adam to be in a “period of probation,” and how long would this “period” have lasted? If Adam and Eve had not sinned in Genesis 3, would they have passed God’s “test,” allowing them to immediately eat from the tree of life?

Verse 58 shows that given the certainty of our future resurrection, we should be spurred to serve the Lord faithfully. Hodge offers some thoughts on this point:

This was more than faith for Paul; it was knowledge. He knew that labor in the work of the Lord would not be in vain. The reward secured for it by the grace of God and the merit of Christ is a share in the glories of a blessed resurrection.

This is an important truth that believers should return to regularly. Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught up in the struggles of our daily lives; if we are not careful, we can become despondent on a regular basis. Even though our future resurrection seems to be a distant and uncertain event, we must be reminded that it is a certain event and that our future state will be more glorious and awesome than our current station in life.

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