1 Corinthians Chapter 15: Paul on the Resurrected Body
Key Verses: (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised 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. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
The questions that first-century Corinthians asked about the resurrected body are the same questions being asked today, and they have been asked during all the centuries in between. If we are senior citizens, we wonder if our youth will be restored in the afterlife. If we are among the seriously disabled, we wonder if our bodies will be restored to a fully healthy state.
None of us really knows the answers to these questions, but Paul provides eloquent perspectives on the matter in the verses of chapter 15. The analogy of a small, apparently dead or dormant seed being given new life as a thriving plant is what God can do for us as well. Just as God gives new life in His predetermined form to a seed, so He will determine the form of the resurrected souls of humankind.
Versus 42 and 43 contrast the sown body with the raised spiritual form. These words reassure us that God intends a new existence for us in the afterlife, a glorious one indeed. We are sown perishable and raised imperishable, sown in dishonor but raised in glory, sown in weakness but raised in power and sown as a natural bodies but raised as spiritual bodies. As Paul says in verse 46, “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.” He ends this lovely passage with, “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man” (v. 49).
A Moment to Reflect
Do we really need a precise answer to this mystery? Isn’t it better simply to leave it to God and rest in the assurance that we were naturally created in His image, but in the afterlife we will be transformed into a spiritual being like Him? Does Paul’s concept of the afterlife give you hope and encouragement?