1 Corinthians 15: Resurrection of the Dead

Age conspires with God to take away our temporal hope. As disciples of Jesus, we want to have a growing and eager sense of anticipation of what we’re going to be like in the new heaven and earth. The clearest description in Scripture of what that will be like comes in 1 Corinthians 15.

Not Just a “Spiritual” Resurrection

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 in response to some who denied the resurrection of the dead. These false teachers probably held a dualistic view about the body and soul, assuming that the body would cease to exist at death and only the soul would continue to exist. Many preachers and theologians today teach something very similar. They speak of a spiritual resurrection but deny the possibility of bodily resurrection—either of Jesus or of His followers. But in doing so, they buy into a theological liberalism based on false philosophies and not on Scripture.

Paul refutes every attempt to “spiritualize” the resurrection of the dead by declaring that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is “of first importance” to the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). It is the foundation of our faith. If Christ was not raised, there is no hope for us to be raised either. In this case, Paul says, “our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (v. 14).

The Resurrected Body

Paul then answers another question: “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35).

Paul responds that this is beyond our grasp to understand. Instead, we can only think of it in terms of an analogy. Our present bodies are like seeds; our resurrected bodies will be like what grows from a seed.

Imagine for a moment that you have a tulip bulb in your hand. If you have never seen a tulip, you could never guess what would come out of the bulb. Yet when you see it happen, the continuity between the bulb and the blossom is evident. Or consider a caterpillar. Until you see it for yourself, who could guess that such a creature would one day become a butterfly? Yet, the caterpillar really does transform into a butterfly.

In the same way, there will be continuity between our present body and our resurrected body, but it will be a glorified body beyond anything imaginable. Paul can only capture this with a series of contrasts (1 Corinthians 15:42–54):

Our present body is:

  • Perishable
  • Sown in dishonor
  • Sown in weakness
  • Natural (i.e., tied to the first Adam)
  • Earthly
  • Mortal

Our resurrected body will be:

  • Imperishable
  • Raised in glory
  • Raised in power
  • Spiritual (i.e., defined by the Spirit of Christ, the second Adam)
  • Heavenly
  • Immortal

If we are in Christ, our death does not mean we will miss out on something from this world. Our eternal home will be far better beyond what we can imagine.

1 Corinthians 15: Resurrection of the Dead

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