We love superheroes. When I was 7 years-old I just about gave my mother a heart-attack by dressing up as Batman and climbing onto a high, narrow wall and casually strolling along it. Thankfully, she managed to cajole me down. We especially like it when superheroes are “normal” first, then something odd happens and they discover that they have superhuman strengths and abilities. I think we like these “superhero” movies and TV series because God has placed in all our hearts a desire for a better body. It seems we all have a built-in dissatisfaction with our present bodies.
The reality is that we live in a fallen world with decaying bodies. Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed their creator, our entire world is in bondage to decay. The whole creation, including our bodies, is finite, fallen and decaying. The Bible looks forward to a new heavens and new earth with no more decay, or death, or sin, that will be established when Jesus returns (cf. Genesis 1:1 & Revelation 21:1-3). Until then, we get hayfever, get sick, get kidney failure, get diabetes, get cancer and we all die – Christians are not immune from any of these things. No matter who you are – a prince or a pauper, puff daddy or a street sweeper, you will get sick, get old and die. The good news is coming.
Jesus saved my soul?
However, the Apostle Paul reminds Christians in 1 Corinthians 15 that death is not the end. Just as Jesus rose from the dead and received a glorified, transformed body; so will all who belong to Christ.
V35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”
Some of the Corinthians doubted the resurrection of Christians. They doubted that Christians would be given renewed, transformed bodies. They thought, like many today, that the body was not that important and what really matters is the soul. This led the Corinthians to have a low view of their bodies and they even thought they could sin with their bodies and it didn’t matter. The Bible, however, has a very high view of the body. Our bodies are called temples of the Holy Spirit and one day we will receive renewed bodies.
No Zombie Apocalypse
Some of the Corinthians were thinking that a resurrection might be like a zombie apocalypse. They were wrongly influenced to think of the resurrection of believers as resuscitation and patching up of corpses. Quite rightly they rejected this notion, but then, wrongly, rejected the notion of bodily resurrection altogether. They tended to deny the bodily resurrection and think more of body-less spirits floating through space for all eternity. Paul reminds them and us that Jesus was raised with a glorious, new body, he was not a resuscitated copse, and Christians can look forward to the same.
Look at plants
V36 …What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
The resurrection of believers will be much like a seed that is buried in the ground to die and then spring forth as something more glorious than could have ever been imagined. So too, after a Christian dies, they will spring forth with a glorified, resurrection body. If you have children in Primary School I’m sure you’ve grown beans. You plant a plain, measly, white been and a splendid, green plant grows. Picture planting an acorn and a majestic oak tree growing. The Bible says that’s how the resurrection will be: not our parched-up old bodies, but transformed, new, better bodies.
You will be you
v38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
The Bible says “to each kind of seed its own body”. In other words, there will be continuity with what’s planted. You plant an apple seed, you get an apple tree. You plant an avo pip, you get an avo tree. You will be resurrected as you, not as someone else.
v39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 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.
What I think Paul is saying is this: not all flesh is the same, but God knows how to make a body, whether it is for animals, fish or planets; and those bodies are totally appropriate for their environment. Our future, new bodies will be transformed bodies and totally appropriate bodies for our new existence in the renewed universe.
Buried or cremated?
What a minute you say, do Christians need to be buried (like a seed)? What about Christians who were cremated, blown up in explosions, lost at see or were eaten by lions in the Colosseum? What about those buried hundreds of years ago and whose corpses are now dust? If God could create the sun, moon, stars, planets, animal life, plant life, and human life; God can certainly take our dead bodies and resurrect us in new, glorified bodies.
The dead in Christ
In 1 Thessalonians 4 the dead in Christ are pictured as returning with him. When Christians die, they go to be with Jesus. When Jesus returns, those that have died trusting Jesus will return with him and God will give them (and those who are alive at the time) transformed, new, appropriate bodies. The Bible says that the God who made all things can certainly make us new bodies.
Paul then contrasts our present bodies to our future bodies:
V42 …What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
Our present bodies are perishable. We get old, get wrinkles despite using Dove soap, lose our hair, get hair where we never had hair before, get sick, get IBS and die. But our future bodies will be raised imperishable, not subject to decay and not suffering effects of sin for there will be no sin. There will be no cancer, no diabetes and no death In the renewed universe there will be no need for hospitals, cemeteries, Discovery Health or pharmacies.
v43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory.
God views our bodies as good. After creation God saw everything that he had made and said it was very good, including bodies. As Christians, we don’t need to somehow “escape” our bodies or “punish” our bodies to be more spiritual. For example, in past ages monks thought it was more spiritual to sleep on the floor and not a mattress. Our bodies are good. However, compared to our glorious, future bodies, our present bodies can be said to be dishonourable. We have stinky toes, bad breath, waxy ears, and we get rashes and sores. Our bodies can indeed be a bit dishonourable! But our future bodies will be glorious.
V43 It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
Our present bodies are weak. It doesn’t take much to injure ourselves. I fell off my mountain bike three weeks ago and it still hurts. As we grow older, we feel our weakness more and more. We can’t run as fast, we’re not as strong as we were and no matter how many Nespressos we drink in the morning we still feel frail. But we will be raised in power, no longer bearing the consequences of the sin.
v44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
A natural body is our present, earthly body. We will be raised with spiritual bodies. Note that they are spiritual “bodies”. Spiritual here is contrasting “natural”, not “body”; spiritual does not mean a spirit floating around, but a super-natural body, a body designed for a supernatural, not-of-this-present-world existence. Our future, physical bodies won’t need a doctor or personal trainer.
The preachers of the “Prosperity Gospel” have their timing wrong. These preachers (usually on TBN and very charismatic churches) expect Christians to have transformed bodies that never get sick now. The Bible teaches that our transformed bodies are for the world to come. God may heal our present bodies if he chooses too, but we shouldn’t demand or expect healing in this fallen, decaying world.
Flesh and blood
Why is so important that we receive transformed, glorious, powerful, strong and imperishable bodies? V50 tells us plainly:
v50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
The last trumpet
When will all this resurrection happen?
v51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound…
The Bible says that Jesus will return with the holy angels in the Father’s glory. All will see him and every knee will bow either in humble worship or horrifying fear. God will judge every person that has ever lived. If we belong to Christ, we will escape God’s judgement for Jesus has already borne the punishment we deserve in our place. Those who belong to Christ will enjoy the renewed universe with new, transformed bodies. Those who rejected Christ are cast into hell where they receive the just punishment for their sins against an infinite God. (cf. Revelation 20:11-15) All this will occur on the day of Christ’s return when the “last trumpet will sound”.
When believers die their immaterial soul is separated from their material bodies. The body goes to the grave or crematorium. Their immaterial soul goes to be with Jesus is paradise. When Jesus returns our immaterial souls will be given new, glorious bodies.
A Christian’s funeral is radically different from a non-Christian’s. Christians grieve with hope because of Jesus. Jesus kept God’s law; he took our sin and died in our place; then he rose giving us victory over sin and death. We still die, but death’s venomous sting has been removed (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Often in our church we say the Apostle’s Creed together to remind us of the grand truths of the Bible, including “the resurrection of the body”.
Here is my earlier post on Why we believe in the resurrection of the body.