Study Notes for I Corinthians 15:35-58
(click here for Study Sheet)
In this passage of 1 Corinthians, Paul is attempting to explain something outside of our reality. A resurrection body is not possible for us on sinful earth. Paul seems to have two major concerns. First, he assures the Corinthians that the resurrection is guaranteed. Second, he explains that our resurrected physical selves will be as different from the bodies we have now as the mature wheat plant with full heads of grain is different from the single grain that sprouted it.
Paul expands the metaphor of the sown seed producing a full plant by saying that our perishable bodies will be planted or sown in the earth, but they will rise imperishable. Just as a seed has to "die" to produce the glory of a plant, so our bodies will die to yield to a new, eternal body.
Paul can't be absolutely specific about the nature of these new bodies, though, because right now we're limited by time and space; we cannot understand the nature of an eternal body. They will be as different from our flesh and blood, however, as the sun and the moon are different and as the animal families are different from each other. Our resurrection bodies will be "imperishable" (v. 42) and glorious. They will only exist when Jesus comes again, and we will be face to face with Him forever!
Our new bodies will be part of our redemption. Jesus redeems our spirits at the moment we accept him. He brings them to life and connects them to himself with the indwelling Holy Spirit. From that moment we have eternal life; we will never die. (John 11:26)
When Jesus returns to earth he redeems our bodies as well. When he comes he brings with him "those who have fallen asleep in him," (1 Thess. 4:14), and he reunites our spirits with new bodies. We become whole persons once more.
Our mortal bodies are our human heritage; our resurrection bodies are our spiritual heritage. Adam bequeathed death to us; Jesus bequeaths life. Our new bodies will be "spiritual" as opposed to natural because they are gifts of God.
The First and Second Adams
When Adam sinned he changed the nature of reality for humanity. His sin tainted every human from then on; every baby born throughout the millennia has been inherently sinful. Before a human is capable of choosing to "sin", that person is a sinner. Sin, the dead souls with which we are born, is part of our natural flesh and blood. Because Adam sinned, every human is born separated from God. Because of Adam's sin, death has reigned over human hearts.
Even if it were possible for us never to perform a sinful act, still we would be spiritually dead (and physically dying) because of our inheritance of Adam's sin. Our own sins are not what make us sinners; we are sinners by inheritance-by the act of one man, our father Adam. We are born as enemies of God; without our response to Jesus' love and forgiveness, our inherited sin will drive us deeper and deeper into destructive and dangerous behaviors.
The miracle is that just as Adam's sin doomed all humanity to death, so Jesus' gift restores life to all humanity. Just as we do not have to commit sins in order to be sinners, we do not have to be sinless to have eternal life. Eternal life is the sovereign gift of God granted to us because Jesus died our inherent death and gave us a new inheritance: life.
When we were born we were Adam's sons and daughters. When we accept Jesus' gift, we become God's sons and daughters. Our inheritance changes; we become new creations. Adam gave us flesh and blood; Jesus gives us resurrection life in both our spirits and our bodies.
When we accept Jesus we truly pass from death to life; we literally become new creations. We receive living instead of dead souls, and our inheritance is spiritual-righteousness-instead of flesh and blood-sin.
Inherit the Kingdom
"Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," Paul states, "nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." (v. 50)
The resurrection grants us bodies that will live eternally in the presence of God. Flesh and blood is our natural inheritance; it is intrinsically sinful and limited to existence inside space and time. But the kingdom of God is eternal, and our salvation insures that we will be changed in order to spend that eternity with Jesus.
The kingdom of God, however, is not just in the future. According to Jesus it is here among his followers now. The kingdom of heaven is within us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Flesh and blood, however, cannot inherit the kingdom. Yet here we are, firmly enveloped in flesh and blood, and the kingdom of heaven is among us. How can that be?
Part of the mystery of salvation and godliness is that God changes part of our flesh and blood inheritance-our dead souls-now, inside our natural bodies. When we accept Jesus' gift if death and resurrection life, our spirits wake up. The Holy Spirit comes to us and claims us IN OUR SINFUL FLESH for his own.
When we respond to God's desire for us by allowing him to bridge the fixed gulf between us and him, we have eternal life at that moment. Nothing can ever separate us from him, not even our sinful flesh and entrenched habits that still house our now-alive spirits.
The miracle, however, doesn't stop with simply creating living souls. The Holy Spirit changes us from sinners into saints. Jesus' own righteousness becomes ours. His sacrifice cleanses us from sin. Even though we still have the DNA of flesh and blood, it no longer rules over us. Now the Spirit is our guide and Jesus is our Master. Now our loyalty is to Truth instead of deception, to God instead of Satan.
Eternity is in our temporary flesh and blood. The kingdom of heaven indwells our living spirits by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Thank God for Victory
"The sting of death is sin," Paul continues, "and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (v. 56, 57)
When Jesus returns and makes everything new, death is the last enemy that will disappear.
"The sting of death is sin," Paul says. Death is not benign; it is not a natural part of life. Death is not a "friend" whom we must learn to embrace. Death is the result of sin. Death is the end stage of a dead spirit-eternal separation from God.
"But thanks be to God!" Jesus has given us the victory over death by being victorious over sin. The malignant center of death is the separation from our Rest, Jesus. He, as our Creator, took responsibility for our sin, and he died the ultimate death that we were supposed to die.
Our victory for which we praise God is the victory over death. We do not achieve the victory over sin; Jesus did that. Only God, the eternal Creator, could break the power of sin. Because Jesus conquered the death-inducing core of evil, separation from God, he was able to give us the victory over death. Because he paid the debt of sin and rose from death, his resurrection is our promise of eternal life.
God gives us the victory over death through the sacrifice and life of our Lord Jesus Christ. We never have to worry about having the victory over sin; indeed, we can't win the victory over sin. Jesus took care of the victory over sin. Once for all he died; he broke the power of sin, he bruised the serpent's heel (Gen. 3:15), he conquered sin. The victory God promises us is the victory over death. We inherit life as new creations in Jesus. The resurrection is ours!
Sin is a defeated foe. We never need to worry about it again. Now we are in relationship with the God of the universe, with our Creator! He has dealt with sin for us, and we can live in the joy of certain victory over death.
Because we know that we live in victory, we can "stand firm". Jesus' promises are certain. No matter what happens, we can trust him, and because we know we live in his rest, we can do the work he gives us to do.
No longer do we have to struggle to know and do the work of God. Now we live in rest while God presents us with His work. And with the work, God always gives us his strength and energy and insight so we can do what he wants us to do. Our work is no longer OUR work. What we do is the outworking of God in us. It is his will and his love flowing into the world through us.
God calls us to embrace the reality of his life. He asks us to live with joy in his victory over sin and, through him, our victory over death. He asks us to trust his Spirit in us and to move into the work he asks us to do.
God calls us to surrender our lingering fears of death to him and to accept the eternal life that is ours now. He asks us to stop fretting about sin and instead respond with trust in the Holy Spirit who works in us to make the victory over death real to us now. He asks us to walk boldly into the truth he reveals, whatever it teaches us, and to trust him to hold us in his heart as we awaken to the accountability he asks of us.
God asks us to release our tight grips in which we hold our lives. He calls us to rest in his love and to be confident in our victory through him.
God calls us to live with confidence in His resurrection and to embrace his life-which is ours.
All contents copyright (c) 1999-2000 Graphics
Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised October 7, 2000.