cup of wrath

Resurrection of the Body

  • We've established that the Resurrection of the Dead is divided into two parts.
  • Now we will look at what actually happens to a person in the Resurrection of the Dead.
  • There are natural bodies, but there are also spiritual bodies.
  • The true nature of the Resurrection of the Dead, is the changing of a soul into a spiritual body.

In the Resurrection of the Dead, each person will receive a spiritual body that will replace their original flesh body.

When a person dies their soul separates from their flesh body, and goes to either heaven or hell (Hades). That person then continues on as a disembodied soul, having neither a flesh body, nor an angelic spiritual body. The Resurrection of the Dead is best characterized as a "raising up" from this degraded state of disembodiment, to one of completeness and incorruption, by the changing of a soul into a spiritual body. The person's original flesh body is superfluous to this process. It doesn't matter whether it was cryogenically frozen, mummified, or cremated, it will ultimately return to the dust from which it came (see Psalm 90.3, Psalm 103.14, and Ecclesiastes 12.7). There will also be people in the last generation who are resurrected while they are still living in their flesh bodies, but the key point is to understand the Resurrection of the Dead as a raising or "lifting up", from a lower state to a higher one, by the power of Christ.

In 1st Corinthians 15, Paul goes into detail about the true nature of the Resurrection of the Dead, specifically the resurrection of the righteous, "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened [made alive], except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body" (1st Corinthians 15.35-38 KJV bible). You wouldn't sow the stalks and leaves from last year's corn crop, because rather than rejuvenating they'd simply rot away. Instead, you'd sow a portion of the individual kernels or seeds from last year, and each one would sprout and grow to become a whole new plant. The kernel or seed is representative of our souls, which are the essences of us that continue on after we die. Just as it pleases him, God will give to each soul a whole new body, entirely separate from the body that was. The seed must die first, in the sense that it breaks open and sprouts, changing its form. So we can think of the resurrection as a changing or germination of souls.

"All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory" (1st Corinthians 15.39-41 KJV bible). This passage is pretty straightforward when we break it down. Paul is explaining how there are different types of bodies. There are celestial bodies like the stars and planets, and there are also earthly bodies like we have. Now looking at these two categories, earthly and celestial, we can also recognize that there are different kinds of bodies within them. The flesh of birds is different from insects, and insects are different from plants, etc. In the case of celestial bodies, stars are different from planets, and planets are different from moons, and moons are different from comets. So all the different kinds of bodies have their own uniqueness or glory that is different from the others. Finally, stars are one specific kind of celestial body, but even they differ from each other in characteristics such as brightness and quality of light, so that no two are exactly alike.

The intent of this analogy is to instruct us about the differences between spiritual bodies and physical bodies. Planets, stars, animals, and plants are all different kinds of physical bodies, but there is also an entirely different class of bodies known as spiritual bodies. These come in many different types as well, such as archangels and cherubims, etc. So just as there are different kinds of physical bodies, with variations even among individuals of the same type, there are also different kinds of spiritual bodies with variations among individuals of the same type.

"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1st Corinthians 15.42-44 KJV bible). We've already discussed how there are natural and there are spiritual bodies. Our bodies are sown as natural bodies, but at the time of the resurrection they will be raised as spiritual bodies. They will be sown in dishonour, frailty and weakness, but raised in glory and incorruption.

These verses are commonly interpreted to be saying that the person's spiritual body will rise up from the remains of their flesh body. However, it's not saying that the body which is raised will emerge from (or be in any way connected to) the body that is sown. The scripture is simply referring to "our bodies" as whichever body belongs, or will belong to us. In other words the "it" in, "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption...", is whichever thing or creation given by God that acts in the capacity of a body, but not the same body. For example, consider the following statement, "the middle school was torn down and rebuilt amidst controversy". This doesn't necessarily mean that the new middle school is the same building, made of the same bricks, in the same location as the old. Rather the implication is that it's a new building that functions in the same role of middle school. The scripture has already made clear that the new body will be separate from the old, "And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain" (1st Corinthians 15.37 KJV bible). So in a generic sense the "body" is sown in corruption and raised in incorruption, but the new body will emerge from the kernel or soul that remains, not the old body.

"And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1st Corinthians 15.45-49 KJV bible). Just as Adam preceded Christ, the flesh man precedes the spiritual man. The earthly ones, meaning flesh and blood people, naturally bear the resemblance of the first man, Adam, because they are his descendents. In contrast, the heavenly ones, being the angels, bear the likeness of the heavenly man who is Christ. As the saints have borne the image of the earthly man Adam, they will also bear the image of the man from heaven, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1st John 3.2 KJV bible). This is the nature of the resurrection of the righteous, the changing or metamorphosis of ones (whether on Earth or in heaven), to the spiritual likeness of Christ.

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1st Corinthians 15.50 KJV bible). Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Flesh bodies grow old, they get sick and hurt, and inevitably deteriorate. However, that which is spiritual is built to last, being fully set free from the decay of the material world. This is why Paul refers to spiritual bodies as our eternal dwellings in the heavens, "For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life" (2nd Corinthians 5.1-4 NASB bible). Our flesh body is our earthly tent or house, in which we feel naked, but we look forward to being clothed with our eternal dwelling out of heaven, wherein we will be made whole. The house of flesh will not be taken into the eternity, but torn down, and replaced with an eternal one.

The saints who are alive on Earth at the time of the first resurrection will be changed while they are still living in their flesh bodies. These are the ones being referred to when it says that the "mortal will be swallowed up by life", because in their case the spiritual will overcome the physical. This same event is being described in Philippians when it says, "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3.20-21 KJV bible). At the resurrection of the righteous, those who are alive on Earth and abiding in Christ, will have their bodies of low-estate transformed like unto the Son of God from heaven.

Paul also looks forward to this future event, when he says, "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (1st Corinthians 15.53-54 KJV bible). This speaks directly to the final generation of God's people, who will not sleep, but be delivered out of tribulation to rejoice in triumph at the resurrection of the righteous. In holding fast to the testimony of Jesus Christ, their corruptible flesh bodies will be overtaken by incorruptible spiritual bodies, and they will have obtained an everlasting victory over the power of death.

However, the saints who dwell in heaven will not be resurrected from the flesh, but be transformed in heaven, "Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God...and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Revelation 20.4 NASB bible). For them, the resurrection will be from life in Paradise (see ch.4 Souls in Heaven), into greater life within the eternal Kingdom. Instead of being resurrected from flesh bodies on earth, they will be raised up into spiritual bodies in heaven.

Beyond changing into spiritual bodies, God's elect will be raised into an eternal place and inheritance with him.

Part of the spiritual reality of becoming a Christian is that those who receive Christ are ransomed from the bondage of sin and death, by the price that he paid for them on the cross, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1st Corinthians 6.20 KJV bible). However, though Christians are bought and spoken for with Christ's blood, they have not yet been fully received back to the Lord. To this end, they are given the Holy Spirit as a pledge or deposit that looks forward to that day of reconciliation, "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest [deposit or pledge] of the Spirit" (2nd Corinthians 5.5 KJV bible). They are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the hour that they will be fully redeemed back to the Father, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4.30 KJV bible).

This is the deeper nature of the resurrection of the righteous; that beyond just changing into spiritual bodies, it will be the moment when the faithful ones are reconciled back to the Lord as the possession he has purchased from death, "in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest [deposit] of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1.14 KJV bible). All of the saints, both asleep in heaven and alive on Earth, have received this seal of the Spirit. They are awaiting the first resurrection when they will be taken in by God as his eternal children, and brethren of Christ, "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body [or the body of us]" (Romans 8.23 KJV bible).

At the resurrection of the righteous, the body of the true church (which is the ones who are called, chosen, and faithful in Christ), will be adopted into the eternal house of God. As Christ is the firstborn from the dead and the heir of all creation (Revelation 1.5), he will raise up all of the sanctified ones to share in his Kingdom. This includes God's elect from the first covenant, who will be gathered in with the rest of their brethren, "they [the righteous ones] wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11.38-40 KJV bible).

Though the saints rest in heaven, none of them have yet arrived at their eternal destination. They are awaiting the first resurrection, in which they will be perfected or completed in Christ. It is at this time that they will each receive the promise they have faithfully sought; an everlasting place and inheritance in God's Kingdom, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1.3-4 KJV bible). This is why the Spirit is called the earnest or deposit of our inheritance, because it looks forward to when this inheritance is received at the first resurrection, "Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1.14 KJV bible).

This inheritance is also the same incorruptible treasure that is being stored up for the righteous in heaven, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6.20-21 KJV bible). So whereas receiving Christ in this life is the purchasing of souls out of the bondage of sin and death, the resurrection of the righteous will be when they receive the eternal reward that is awaiting them. It will be the final destination and planting of God's people, when they are resurrected into an incorruptible place and inheritance in the eternity.

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