Monday, April 16, 2012

1 Corinthians 15:35-58 : OUR RESURRECTION !

TEXT : 1 Corinthians  15: 35-58
TITLE:   Our Resurrection !
Date    :  15th April 2012

This is the first Sunday after Resurrection Sunday. Last week   we saw and affirmed  the resurrection  to be  a central doctrine  and a foundation stone  for our faith  (1 Cor 15:3-11). Paul reminds us  that because Christ  lives  we , who hope in Him,  shall also live  even  if we must first die.  Christ is the first-fruits of those that are resurrected from the dead (15:20-23). So , we cannot leave this  15th  Chapter without saying something about our own resurrection  since, in fact, Paul addresses this  specific  subject of  our  bodily resurrection of  in verses 35-58.
Why is the subject important? Because  it is something that you,  dear believer  will experience in the future! It is as certain as your death.  Paul connects  your death and resurrection as  inseparable twins : “ For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive .” [1] (v.22)  
Before  we work  through our text, I want to make a vital connection of the resurrection  with the other doctrines  that lead to our salvation. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he speaks  about  a process that leads up  to our resurrection . In Romans 8:30 he writes  (the  context : “our future Glory“  vv 18-30) : “And those whom He predestined He also called , and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.”  God is involved in  the Christian’s  life from eternity unto eternity.  He begins the work of our salvation with our  predestination,  and our predestination  is made real in the effectual calling   with which we are first  called  and raised from our spiritual death (Eph 2:1) and    which then issues in our justification  (being declared righteous before God in Christ- e.g. Rom 8:1)   before we are glorified  (i.e. when we receive our resurrection bodies).

Exposition :  1 Corinthians  15:35-58
The question  is posed  by someone:  [35]… “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 
Now remember  that there has been some skepticism expressed  by some in the Corinthian  church concerning  the doctrine of the resurrection  (v.12). So there is that background to keep in mind , but it is shared  by many  in our day  who  find it equally  difficult to  believe  that  we can  be resurrected to life  from the dust  to which we return after  death.  

Here is  Paul’s  answer: [36] You foolish person! [literally  “ you mindless person” (Gr “aphron”  ) ] Not a very tactful response, but it shows   what an essentially stupid question this was in his estimation. This is elementary  stuff ; common sense! Here is his explanation   based upon  a common sense  illustration  from agriculture :  “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. [37] And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.”   The point is simple.  You put  a  seemingly dead seed taken from a plant that has died,  and you  put it  into the ground.  After a while  this little seed  springs up and produces  new life and fruit and  so Paul reasons , that  our  body which dies and is put into the soil will  soon  arise  to new life by the power of God. But Paul is not yet finished with this illustration! 
[38] But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. [39] For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. [40] 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. [41] 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.[42] So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. [43] It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. [44] It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.    In summary:  Paul makes  the point   that  the resurrection body will be of a  human form. It will not  assume another form or different order. Mankind will remain mankind  in eternity.  This  puts the Hindu  idea of reincarnation, from one form into another  ( e.g. from a human being into an hippo)  out of question.    However, it is also clear  that  the nature of the resurrection body  will differ from the one that we have presently. From v. 42 onwards,  Paul  explains: the resurrection body will not be perishable, but it will be imperishable. It cannot die again.  There will be no dishonor  attached to the  resurrection body. It will have  no physical  weaknesses. It will  not be like our ‘natural body’ (v.44). It will be  a ‘spiritual body‘ . 

To understand this analogy we must  continue to follow Paul’s reasoning: 
 [45] Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. [46] But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. [47] The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. [48] 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. [49] Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Paul, remember, had already introduced the analogy between Adam and Christ, the two representative men, in vv. 21-22. Here he uses the same analogy to make his point about the superiority of the resurrection body over that body which we presently  have.  We are taught here that the completion  of the saving work  in Christ,  at the second coming  and  our resurrection  will  not simply restore mankind to the situation that existed in Eden before the Fall. We will not just be redeemed Adam and Eve’s!  We will  not bear the image  of the man of dust. We will  not have a body of earthly dust.  Paul says that  we shall now bear the image of the second man  from heaven. We shall   be constructed of  material of  which  the heavenly man is composed (v.49). Therefore  this carries us on to a  still higher and more wonderful life. In fact, our present bodies would not  be able to  live in the state of heaven.

Listen to how Paul continues this argument:
[50] I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. [51] Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”[55] “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”[56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through  our Lord Jesus Christ. [58] 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. 

In vv.50 -58   Paul comes to a few important  conclusions:
(i)    v. 50 : the bodies we now have are not adequate for the life of heaven.
(ii)  v.51 There will also  be a generation  that will not experience physical death,  who will be alive  when Christ returns. These will  be changed  in an instant (a twinkling of an eye) and receive their resurrection bodies.
(iii)  v.52  The  dead will be raised at the sound of a trumpet and they will be raised imperishable.
(iv) v.53 explains this again: perishable bodies must become imperishable; mortal bodies must become immortal before they can go to heaven. As Philippians 3:21 explains, Christ will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”
(v) vv.54,55  Death cannot be part of the future culture of heaven. Therefore death is defeated. This is  what the prophets foresaw in  Isa 25:8  and Hosea 13:14.
(vi)  vv.56,57    Paul reminds us again firstly ,  that death came upon mankind because of sin. Secondly,  the  utterly holy, righteous    law of God made it impossible for us to escape from our sin. Only  Christ  can help us  here!  Hence v.57  “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through  our Lord Jesus Christ. “
(vii)  v.58  Paul ends where he began in  Chapter 15: (paraphrase) Therefore … hold on to the gospel which you have received brothers  !  Wait for the resurrection, and because you know that it is  coming  you may continue  to  be steadfast , immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord , knowing that everything you do is not in vain !


About the intermediate state  :  It is somewhat surprising  to note how little the Bible says about  the intermediate state -  that condition of existence  between a Christian's death and the resurrection of the dead when our soul is not yet reunited with our body.  Surprisingly, Paul says nothing about the soul after death and before the resurrection here.  But then , for him  the  great day is not our  day of death,  but the day of the  resurrection of the body.
We can say  therefore  that  the intermediate state  is not a ‘ natural state’ for us. We were not created for  a  disembodied existence. This is a temporal state.  We were created to be body  and soul, and therefore  after death  we will  not be complete until that time when  we will be clothed with our resurrection body.   The resurrection is  therefore  our glorification ( see Rom  8:30)   - the fulfillment and the completion of our salvation and the eternal life that we have in Christ.

How will we experience that intermediate state? Again , the Bible says very little about this.  Paul however  uses an interesting metaphor for  this period.  He speaks of those that ‘fall asleep‘ (1 Cor 15:18, 20, 51) [2]. Some [3] have for this reason have constructed  a  doctrine of ‘soul-sleep’   i.e. that we will be in a state of sleep like,  unconscious existence   between our  death and the resurrection.   The problem is that  this does not seem  to be   true  to Scripture. The dead  generally   appear to be very much alive!  A few examples will suffice:  Moses and Elijah  appeared  with Christ on the Mt. of Transfiguration in recognizable form (Matt 17:3) ;  The rich man  and Abraham recognized each other  and had a conversation after death ( Lk 16:19ff); Samuel   was recognized when he was called up by the witch of Endor  (1 Sam  28:12); The  dead in Christ  in Rev.6:9  who are seen by John as under the altar  are very conscious  of what is happening. The place of the dead  in the OT  (Sheol) is a  state of conscious existence – although not a happy one!  ‘Sleep’ is therefore used  metaphorically , just like the  reference to  the  human body  being ‘a seed’   that is sown back into the earth.    We must not get too hung up  about this  period of existence , because Paul doesn’t . His big point is  that  human beings which God had created, were designed by Him  to have  bodies.  The body ‘now’ is called a natural body; the body then  is called a spiritual body. The identity is your body . You are a body and your body is you. And if Christ saves you, then He saves not only your soul, but your body also.

This  leaves us obviously  with a number of  further questions, and I am not sure that we can answer  any of them  with  utter  certainty  :  What will my appearance be like?  Will  I look precisely  the way that I look now ? Will  we keep our identity ? Will we recognize one another ?  Jesus’ resurrected body is the model for ourselves.  He remained recognizable, but undeniably, the nature of  His body had changed.  It was not  subject to the laws  of nature.  For instance, He could appear and disappear as He pleased.
How old will we be?  The Bible doesn’t say .  All we can  say is   that time is no factor  in eternity .
What about marriage  ? Jesus  in response to this question  actually  told the  Sadducees in  Lk  20: 34-38,  that there will be  no marriage  in heaven and it seems that there will be no procreation in heaven , for no one can die  after the resurrection (Lk 20:36).

The Resurrection Day is also  the Judgment Day.  When Christ returns not only will  He resurrect  His people, but all people  ( the living and the dead- all that have ever lived  and who are alive  at Christ's coming )  will be raised  to eternal life .  This is what Jesus said in John 5:28-29:an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” 

For those who die without Christ, the Resurrection Day is a day of despair.  It is the final judgment.  There is no second chance.  In their resurrected bodies, unreconciled  people must face the eternal wrath of God.  This  aspect of Christ's teaching  offends many and is often cited as  the primary reason  for many rejecting the gospel. However   we must keep in mind  that  all this is  also part of Jesus' teaching , and we  do not have the liberty to choose whatever we like and reject what ever we like  of His  teaching  about the eternal state and destiny of mankind.  He had certainly given  ample warning  and calls  of  repentance to mankind. 

So, hear this once again  !  Once your death comes, your eternal state is sealed .  There is no doctrine of a second chance after death . There will be  no  turning back then. Everything  is contingent  upon your attitude towards Christ now ! 
Hear what  John  3:16-18 has to say: Here is both an invitation and a warning  :
 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

Where  are you  going to spend eternity ?

[1] This text does not  encourage  “universalism” i.e. that all will be  ultimately redeemed and resurrected in Christ . The text teaches mankind’s union  in Adam , whose original  sin we all inherit  ;  Being made alive in Christ   refers to  the   calling/ election of believers  alone , and does not apply to all of mankind .  
[2] see  also Jn  11:11 ( Lazarus ) ;  Acts 7:60 ( Stephen) ; 1 Thess 4:13-15
[3] E.g.  Seventh Day Adventists

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