But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! 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. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 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. 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.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; 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. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. – 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 ESV
The idea of the resurrection of the human body from death has always been difficult to comprehend. And it was no different for the Corinthians to whom Paul was writing. What made it even more unfathomable for the Corinthians was the influence of Hellenistic dualism, the philosophy that taught the separation of the body from the soul. For the dualist, the body was essentially evil and of no value in man’s pursuit of spiritual fulfillment.
“The Corinthians are convinced that by the gift of the Spirit, and especially the manifestation of tongues, they have already entered into the spiritual, ‘heavenly’ existence that is to be. Only the body, to be sloughed off at death, lies between them and their ultimate spirituality. Thus they have denied the body in the present, and have no use for it in the future.” – Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians
The thought was, if the body is evil, what good would it be to have it resurrected? And even if you could resurrect the body, what kind of body would it be? That is the very question with which Paul begins this section of his letter. “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” (1 Corinthians 15:35 NLT). If you think about it, the first part of this question seems logical and worthy of asking. After all, who hasn’t wondered how God is going to restore a fully decomposed body and restore it to its original pre-death condition. And what is God going to do about a body that was buried at sea and eaten by fish. While we know that nothing is impossible with God, we can’t help but wonder at the seeming impossibility of it all.
But rather than acknowledge the validity of these questions, Paul refers to anyone who would ask them as a “foolish person.” They don’t get it. They are focused on the wrong thing. When the hear of the resurrection of the body, they are thinking the human body as they know it, the only body with which they are currently familiar. But Paul uses a series of analogies to help them understand the true nature of the resurrected body. First he uses seeds. “When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting.” (1 Corinthians 15:36-37 NLT). He goes on to point out that God gives the seed a “new body.” It comes out of the ground different than how it went in. And it has to “die” first. The shell encasing the seed must decompose and release the “life” that exists within. The body after death looks dramatically different than it did before. And it is all up to God. “God gives it the new body he wants it to have” (1 Corinthians 15:38 NLT).
Then Paul points out that there are different kinds of bodies in nature. Humans have one kind of body, while birds, fish and animals each have their own kind. We have no problem seeing that validity and necessity of these different kinds of bodies. The human body was not made for living in water. The body of a fish was not intended to sustain life on dry land. So why would we think that the human body, as we know it, could survive life in heaven. It will be a different existence requiring a different an altogether different kind of body. And speaking of heaven, take a look at the planets and stars. Each has its own kind of “glory”, Paul says. They each have their own purpose.
So, Paul concludes, “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:42 NLT). Using the seed analogy, Paul states that our bodies, after death, will be buried in the ground, only to come out in new life and in a different configuration. “Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:43-44 NLT).
Paul makes an interesting pronouncement that goes against the whole premise behind dualism. After the resurrection, we will have spiritual bodies. They will be no separation. There will be no dual aspect to our nature in eternity. We will spiritual beings with bodies, albeit, a different kind of body. In our current bodies, we resemble our ancestor, Adam. In our resurrection bodies, we will resemble our Savior, Jesus Christ. “Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:49 NLT). The bottom line is that, after death, we will have to have new bodies in order to live with God in eternity. “What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever” (1 Corinthians 15:50 NLT). As impossible as the resurrection of the body may sound, it is a necessity. Without it, men could not exist in the rarefied atmosphere of heaven, any more than a fish could exist out of the water. Our new home will require that we have new bodies. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul puts it this way:
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT
New home. New bodies. New life. New nature. New heaven. New earth. It’s all coming some day. And it is the past resurrection of Jesus Christ and the future resurrection of our bodies that make it all possible. “And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5 NLT).