Concerning Our Resurrection Bodies
Topic: 1 Corinthians Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:35–15:49
Concerning Our Resurrection Bodies
Pastor Allen Snapp 8/23/15
1 Cor. 15:35-49
In the short story, The Monkey's Paw, a British major, returning from India, is visiting his friends, the White's, when he begins to tell them about a mummified monkey's paw that he was given while in India. The paw supposedly has the power to grant three wishes, but when those wishes are granted they always bring grief and heartache as well. The man who had the paw before the Major asked for three wishes, and his last wish was to die. After telling this dark tale the Major suddenly throws the monkey's paw on the fire but Mr. White retrieves it and, against the Major's warnings, he and his wife and their grown son Herbert later decide to use the paw to wish for a modest 200lbs to pay off their home.
The next day a man from their son's company is at the door, sadly telling them that their son was caught in machinery and killed, and that as an expression of their sympathy, the company wanted to give them 200 lbs - the exact amount they had wished for. Ten days go by and they are both consumed with grief at the loss of their only son when Mrs. White has the idea of wishing for her son to be alive again. Mr. White tries to talk her out of it, telling her that their son had been so mangled by the accident that he could only recognize his body by the clothing, and now he has been in a grave for ten days, his body experiencing further decay. But she is fiercely determined so finally he gives in and wishes that their son would live again. They wait in anxious silence, the mother looking out the window anxiously. Just as they are about to give up hope they hear a soft knock on the front door. Then a second knock. And a third. The mother runs to the door but her husband grabs her. Don't let it in! he cries, but the mother is desperate to see her son again. The knocking continues and reverberates through the house. As the mother struggles to unbolt the door, Mr. White grabs the monkey's paw and makes his third and last wish. The knocking stops just as the mother opens the door. There is no one there, and as he runs out to the gate, the light of a flickering street lamp shows nothing but a quiet and deserted road.
What was it that Mr. White feared about seeing his raised son? It was that his son would still bear the mangled, decaying features of the body that was buried - he'd be a corpse that has been resuscitated. In some strange way the Corinthian church seemed to also believe that the bodily resurrection of believers would simply be the reanimation of dead bodies, the resuscitation of corpses from the grave. And this was yet another reason why some in the church had stopped believing that there would be a physical resurrection of the dead.
Paul identifies and corrects this misunderstanding beginning in vs. 35: But someone will ask, 'how are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?' It seems like a fair question - I'd be interested to know what kind of body the resurrected people will have - so why does Paul call them foolish for asking it? Because Paul knows they aren't raising this question out of a desire to know the answer, but as a way of ridiculing the concept of a resurrection. They envision the resurrection, much like Mr. White envisioned his returning son, as a bunch of corpses brought back to life and the idea is repulsive to them. So when Paul calls them foolish, he's using the term fool the way the OT does - not describing someone who is an idiot, but someone who has failed to take God into account. When we don't take God into account in any and every aspect of life, the Bible says we're being foolish. It reminds me of the question the Sadducee's thought would stump Jesus about a woman who was married to seven brothers in succession as each of them died. Their question was, whose wife will she be at the resurrection, since all had been married to the woman at some point. Jesus told them, "you are in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God!" (Matt. 22:29) The Corinthians are being foolish because they aren't taking the power of God into account when they envision the resurrection.
The resurrection isn't about reanimating the dead - it's about transforming the dead. Jesus wasn't resuscitated from the dead, he was resurrected from the dead. And Paul begins to answer the question of what our resurrected bodies will be like.
I. The resurrection body will be different than the buried body
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. (vv.36-37)
When you sow a seed into the ground, you don't expect that seed to pop out of the ground the same way you put it in. What comes out of the ground is very different than what went into the ground. The plant that comes out of the ground is the germination the seed that went into the ground.
The resurrection body is the glorification of the body that is buried in the ground and it will be different than the body that went into the ground. Just as God made people different than animals, and animals different than birds, and birds different than fish, so God will make the resurrected body different than the buried body. Just as God made heavenly bodies differ from one another - planets and stars and moons all differ - the sun is different than the moon, the moon is different than the earth. The sun is different than other stars and stars vary in glory from one to the other. God has coded all of creation with differences and all of this is to help us realize that the body which is laid in the grave is very different from the body that will be raised from the grave. There will be continuity, and there will be change. We will be transformed into something different than anything we have ever seen.
1. It is sown perishable - it is raised imperishable
Perishable is all around us. Food is perishable. When I was single a couple of us were invited to another single guys apartment to hang out. He offered us cake and coffee and he pulled out cake from a birthday party that happened the month before - the cake was uneatable. But at least there was coffee…only as we poured cream into the coffee, chunks fell out of the cream container into our coffee. The food in his fridge was not only perishable, it had perished! Food is perishable.
Our bodies are perishable. Overall we stop growing and start dying at age 21. The brain starts aging at 20, which means the number of brain cells starts to decline. By 40 we can be losing up to 10K brain cells a day. That's over 400 brain cells per hour. Some of us will be dumber by the end of this message than we were at the beginning! I don't feel like I started life with a lot of brain cells to spare so the idea of losing 10K a day is a scary thought! Our bodies are perishing.
But they will be raised imperishable. That's the difference between Jesus and Lazarus. Lazarus died and was raised, but as soon as he was raised he started perishing again and eventually he died again. Jesus rose never to die again, and that is how our resurrected bodies will be. There will be no decay, no disease, no death. Think about that for a minute: for all of eternity our resurrected bodies will remain strong and vibrant and alive. We will be imperishable.
2. It is sown in dishonor and weakness- it is raised in glory and power (vv. 43)
That word, dishonor, can be translated humiliation. There is a humiliation to our physical bodies, especially when we are at our weakest. The strongest and most capable among us live with an inherent weakness and humiliation, but we can see that humiliation and weakness very clearly in the bodies of those who are physically ravaged by disease or accident.
Joni Earickson Tada became a quadriplegic from a diving accident in the 60's. For almost 50 years now she has been unable to move anything below her neck. She writes this:
I still can hardly believe it. I with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness - powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope this gives someone spinal-cord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis?...No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodes, hearts, and minds. Only in the gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.
One day she was speaking to a class of mentally handicapped Christians and they thought it was great that she would one day get a new body. Then she said, "and you're going to get new minds." The class erupted in cheers.
There is an inherent weakness in our bodies, even the strongest are inherently weak and frail in comparison to what God has in store for us. We will be raised in glory and in power.
3. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body
God created us to be physical beings. When a believer dies, their spirit is instantly with the Lord. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But while that interim period will be wonderful, we will long to be reunited with our bodies. What a joy it will be when the person who died a quadriplegic or twisted by cerebral palsy is reunited with a new and healthy body at the resurrection!! What child-like happiness when the elderly man or woman whose body has been overcome by the years and is unable even to get out of bed, finds new legs, new strength, new youth coursing through their resurrected bodies!
When Paul says we will be raised a spiritual body, he doesn't mean that the resurrection is going to make us unphysical or non-material beings. Jesus was physical after he was raised. He walked and talked and ate and people could touch him. He was spiritual…and physical. We will be the same person we are now…and at the same time transformed into something different than what we are now.
In our resurrected bodies we will have all our memories and personality and identity. If we didn't retain our identity into heaven, then we really wouldn't enter heaven - it would be somebody else. But our personalities will shed all the fallenness - arrogance, pride, insecurity, fear, laziness, bipolar disorders, anger, quirkiness - leaving us unguarded and free, loving and able to receive love openly and freely. We will be who we are now, only transformed.
We will retain our genders because that is a big part of who we are. If you are a female, you will forever be a female. If you are a male, you will forever be a male. Even though there won't be marriage in heaven (except between Jesus and the church) there will be genders because that is an essential part of who God created us to be.
The good things that God created us as human beings to enjoy and find satisfaction in won't go away - they'll just be exponentially better. In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn makes the case that we will eat and sleep and even drink coffee! That last one got me! Admittedly with this there is some degree of speculation, but he points out that these are all things that make up the cycle of life as God created it to be. Adam and Eve ate and presumably they slept. What will be done away with is hunger and thirst and sleep deprivation. There will be no sleep apnea in heaven! We will desire food and drink and maybe sleep, but those desires will always be perfectly satisfied and never denied.
In our resurrection bodies we will work and be productive. Work isn't a product of the fall, it's a gift from God. Frustrated work, ineffective and thorn-filled, weed-filled work is a product of the fall. God has kingdom work that will keep us joyously employed for all eternity. We will love working and we will be effective and fulfilled in our labor.
And we will always be learning and discovering new things. It's God who designed us to love to learn and discover new things, not Satan. God is infinite, and we will never stop learning and being amazed at new things we learn and discover about God and His creation.
In our resurrection bodies we will know and recognize each other. Where we may have failed or hurt others, there will be glorious opportunity to heal and restore those relationships. But we will love perfectly and be loved perfectly. There will be no guardedness, no insecurity, no unflattering or prideful comparisons. Our relationships with each other will be perfect, just as our relationship with our Creator and Father will be perfect.
We will be the same, and transformed into something different. Continuity and change. All of this is from Jesus. Vs. 45 says, Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. Adam received the breath of life from God when he was created, making him a living being. Jesus (the last Adam) has become a life-giving spirit. In other words, he doesn't receive life, he gives it. Jesus is the origin of life, the one who breathes eternal life into us. Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
II. Christ has conquered death forever (vv. 50-58)
Paul ends this chapter on a victorious note! Our flesh and blood bodies couldn't handle the eternal kingdom of God. We simply don't have the capacity to handle the eternalness of it, or the glory of it, or the perfection of it, in these temporary, fallen, bodies.
The Mayfly has a life expectancy of 1 -24 hours. Their entire life span is over in a day, if they're lucky. You'd never go to a Mayfly and ask them to be the executor of your will. On every level a Mayfly doesn't have the capacity to inherit our world. In the same way, as flesh and blood we don't have the capacity to inherit the kingdom of God…but we will! Because there's a mystery Paul lets us in on. We won't all sleep (die) - there will be some who are alive when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on earth, but in that moment all those who believe in Jesus, whether alive at his coming or lying in a grave, all will be changed, transformed, into our resurrection bodies at his coming. The graves will open and those who died in Christ will be raised imperishable and those who are alive will metamorphose into their glorified bodies so that all perishable bodies put on imperishable and all mortal bodies put on immortality. And in that tsunami of eternal, resurrection life, death is going to be swallowed up by life. Death will have no power over our resurrected bodies.
All of this because Jesus removed the sting of death, which is sin, at the cross. What power does sin have over me if Jesus paid for all my sin and I have been completely forgiven? God has given us victory in life through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, Paul says, be what you are in Christ: steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Here's what I love about the way Paul ends this exhortation. The hope of the resurrection doesn't leave us just sitting around waiting for that day. It doesn't disengage us from this fallen world. It doesn't make us "so heavenly minded that we're of no earthly good." No, it inspires us to work for Christ, to live for Christ, to risk for Christ, and to spend our energy, skills, money, and time for Christ knowing that in Christ, our investment won't come up empty.
Let's let his closing words be our benediction this morning: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.