The story was told of the old man who lived in the back blocks in times gone by. No electricity, radio or TV. No telephone, no newspapers, and hardly any visiting neighbours.
The old man became sick. He charged the battery of his barely operating and rusted old truck and drove into town to see the doctor. All neatly dressed up in a faded salt and pepper suit, with his felt hat on his head, he entered the doctor’s room for the first time in his life.
The doctor examined him and determined that his patient needed see a specialist in the city, hundreds of miles south from his little outback town.
So, through the physician’s receptionist, a call was made to his son who would come and pick him up and drive him into the big smoke.
Everything was new to our old patient: cars, trains, busses, taxis, traffic lights, thousands of people, shops and high rises.
They arrived at the address of the medical specialist where the old fellow saw a little bench in the foyer. He was both physically and mentally exhausted and beckoned his son to share the bench for a few moments while he caught his breath.
This was the first time in his life that he saw something which presented much confusion to him. People walked up to some cupboard and pushed some buttons in the wall next to it. Then the steel doors opened all by itself, they entered this space, the doors shut and everyone disappeared.
What flabbergasted him most was when an elderly lady, obviously obese and overweight, did the same. The doors shut, and just a few seconds later, as the doors opened, out she walked, now young, slim and attractive.
He looked at his son and said, “Son, this thing works miracles. As soon as we’re done, we are going to get your mom and come back here!”
After everything Paul writes in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians about the resurrection of Christ, we might be left with the lasting thought that because He overcame death, hell, sin and satan, the only benefit we derive from his atoning death, is that spiritually we receive a new life: our souls will not die, and when we end our days here on earth our souls will spend eternity with our Saviour in heaven.
Part of this is true: for the believers who puts their full trust in Jesus Christ who died and was raised for them, there certainly waits an eternity with their Saviour. Of this fact all of us hearing this message need to make sure, because death might overcome us in a most unexpected moment and we might no be ready to prepare our Saviour. This is what the apostle was talking about when he said that those who belong to Christ will be made alive (1Corinthians 15:23).
There is however another benefit we derive from the resurrection of Christ: our bodies will also re raised into glory, just as the body of Jesus was physically raised from the grave into a new and glorified body, so our bodies will be reunited with our souls on the last day. It will be raised in glory, and we will live and glorify God into all eternity in our bodies.
There will be a bodily resurrection
We will do well when we keep in mind that most of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians were replies on some questions they put to him. For instance, they asked questions about meat offered to idols, questions about being married to non-believers, and spiritual gifts. That’s why we get some paragraphs beginning with, “Now concerning …”; these were usually the beginning of his answer to their questions. The interesting aspect of his answers is that he did not always answered their question directly; he more or less gave them principles to work from.
So it is not impossible to understand that some questions they had about the resurrection included what they may have understood as preposterous about the resurrection. We already saw that they thought resurrection as such was a preposterous idea.
In our paragraph, verse 35, the question put was most probably meant to be mocking Paul’s teaching. We could paraphrase it with, “If you say that our bodies will be raised one day, what could they possibly look like?”
Death is a necessity
If anyone of the of Paul’s readers thought that one can bypass death to enjoy eternal life, Paul says such thought is foolish.
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (1 Corinthians 15:36, NIV)
He repeats it further:
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:50, NIV)
For this reason our earthly bodies is changed in death; it cannot last into eternity. If we are not going to taste death because of the coming of our Lord, something else will happen:
We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51–53, NIV)
When this happens, death will be swallowed up in victory (verse 54). Rightly understood then, we who believe are not punished with death, like Christ who died because He took our sins upon Him. The death we die is the result of our fallen world, but in the light of Christ’s atonement our death is our necessary passing over into eternal life. It is not final, yet. When everything will be made new, our souls will be reunited with our bodies in glory.
Our bodies will be raised
What sort of body? These bodies, but then made new and eternally glorious.
And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Corinthians 15:49, NIV)
Now, let’s listen carefully what the Bible teaches here. We will not live eternally as a flower in the garden of the Lord; we will not be a star twinkling in the midnight sky. You’ve heard all these things, and it may only be a way of talking. But this sort of talk can obscure the Bible message.
Paul exactly wanted to put an end to all speculation the Corinthians might have had.
When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps [ or, “for argument’s sake”] of wheat or of something else. (1 Corinthians 15:37, NIV)
In other words, when you sow a wheat kernel you expect wheat to come up. The plant looks different from the seed, but in essence it is still the same thing. Why? Paul gives an answer:
God gives it a body as He has determined (or ordained) , and to each kind of seed He gives its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:38, NIV)
Logically, then, the argument goes:
Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. (1 Corinthians 15:39, NIV)
Buddhists might believe one is reincarnated as a butterfly, or a cow, or an ant. But this is not what the Bible teaches. Paul continues: stars are stars and will remain stars; and in the life hereafter we will not become stars (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). This is also true about human beings: we will be raised as human beings. But There will be a difference.
We will be clothed with a glorious body
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42–44, NIV)
We are living human beings because we children of Adam. Our bodies are corruptible because we are children of Adam. Our natural bodies came first: we are from the dust, just as Adam was. We are from the earth just as Adam was. We are in the likeness of Adam we are naturally children of Adam. As Adam sinned, so we sinned, and if left on our own, we would face a natural, horrible death, with out God, without hope.
But this not the full message of the Bible: born of God by the Holy Spirit we got a new nature: Christ brought life, because the last Adam is a life-giving spirit (verse 45). We did not posses anything spiritual to inherit eternal life, but through Christ we inherited a spiritual life which is from heaven, because “as is the man from heaven, so are those who are from heaven” (verse 48). And now the climax:
… we [shall] bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Corinthians 15:49, NIV)
Our glorious body will be victorious
We now have to read something about this now form of existence. Let’s go to Revelation:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4, NIV)
Paul puts in these words:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54, NIV)
Death and corruption it will not see; sin will not be able to corrupt it, because there will be no more sin. No more walking sticks, hearing aids, dementia or Alzheimers, knee replacements or reading glasses. All will be as God intended in the first instance: very, very good – just better!
Labour in our present bodies is not in vain
While all these wonderful things awaits us in Christ Jesus, let’s not be so carried away that we might think the bodies we are now living in is of no use. On the contrary – although still heavily affected by the effects of sin and corruption, Christ’s work of redemption is already applied in our daily walk just now.
Paul writes in Romans 6:
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:8, 12–13, NIV)
Paul reminds the Corinthians:
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! (1 Corinthians 6:14–15, NIV)
We take all of what we read and heard about the resurrection of our Lord today and on previous Sundays and conclude:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 8th May 2016