Pastoral Letter April 2010
1 Corinthians 15:35-38; 42-50
Fellow Under-Shepherds in Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life:
Greek philosophy and culture ridiculed the idea of the physical resurrection of the body. Today also the here and now existence of this world is the most important thing. No one wants to think about the inevitability of death. In the beginning of chapter 15, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the reality of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead and therefore the reality of our bodily resurrection from the grave. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). Greek philosophy and culture ridiculed the idea of the physical resurrection of the body. Today also the here and now existence of this world is the most important thing. No one wants to think about the inevitability of death. In the beginning of chapter 15, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the reality of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead and therefore the reality of our bodily resurrection from the grave. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20).
Paul’s proclamation of the fact of the resurrection of the body raised all kinds of questions for the Corinthian believers. These all boiled down to the rational question, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come forth?” What about the fact that when our bodies are put into the grave, they decay and turn to dust. And what kind of bodies will these be? The Corinthians scoffed saying, “The resurrection of the body is an impossibility.” Today also we have many questions about how this could be possible. Many simply believe that dead is dead, and this life is all we have, so eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die. The Bible
describes death as a sleep from which we will awaken on the Last Day. The Bible does not tell us anything about what happens between death and resurrection day. You need to realize that we are in an area that is a mystery and beyond human understanding. We walk by faith.
How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come forth?
Let’s begin by realizing that we are asking foolish questions, when we try to figure out how all of this happens. We need to realize the principle of life, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” In nature there can be no life without death. The Apostle uses the picture of planting a seed. Jesus used this same illustration to try to teach His disciples about His death and resurrection. ”The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:23-24).
When the farmer or gardener wants a crop, he plants a seed in the ground. This seed then rots and dies. But out of the death of this seed comes a plant which is totally different from the seed. This plant produces a harvest of seeds. You plant a grain of wheat or a watermelon seed. There is nothing in the seed (size or color) itself that gives you an idea of what kind of plant it will produce. That seed will not produce a plant unless it is planted in the ground and dies. God, with the miracle of DNA, has determined what kind of body or plant will be produced by each seed. This is the miracle of life which we can observe but we cannot understand. A seed is planted; it rots and dies; then comes a new plant which is able to produce grain or fruit or flowers.
The Bible tells us foolish question-askers, “God has a plan for life. God created plants with the ability to produce life through death.” This is pretty amazing stuff if you think about it. It is this wisdom and power that the Creator God exhibited in the natural world that Paul now uses to make his point regarding our bodies after the resurrection from the grave.
“So it is with the resurrection from the dead!” The body that is planted into the ground is one kind of body. It is buried a lifeless corpse. Our present body which is sown or buried is perishable. The fact of death illustrates just how tenuous our hold on earthly life really is. Our present body is sown or buried in dishonor. There is nothing more dishonorable than seeing a corpse at an autopsy or morgue. Our present body is sown or buried in weakness. The weakness of our human body is revealed as we age and is punctuated by the fact of death. It is sown or buried a natural body. This term “natural body” means our earthly life. We were born in the image of sinful Adam who brought death into this world. We, like Adam, are dust men as our bodies return to the ground from where they were taken.
Our resurrection body will be totally different. We will be raised imperishable. Our totally new body (the plant that comes from the dead seed) will not be subject to the ravages of sin which place our present body in a constant state of dying. The resurrection body will not be subject to MS, heart disease, cancer, arthritis. Our resurrection body will be raised in glory. The glory of our resurrection body will reflect the glory of our resurrected Lord Jesus. There will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more dying. Our resurrection body will be raised a “spiritual body.” This phrase is difficult to understand because spirit and body seem opposites. Our new body will be spiritual. It will be a body lived on a perfect spiritual plane. Our resurrection body will be like Christ’s perfect and glorified resurrection body.
The conclusion is revealed in verse 50, “I tell you this, brothers, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” The term “flesh and blood” means the physical body. It refers to our natural body as it has been affected by sin. This body corrupted by sin and subject to disease, pain, and death cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This body which by its sinful nature is in a state of perishing cannot inherit the imperishable life in heaven. This corrupt and decaying body is not able to enter the glorious kingdom of heaven. This natural body (flesh and blood) will be changed in the resurrection victory on the last day.
We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. This is what we proclaim in our Gospel ministry. This is the message our present age needs to hear. Sometimes we get sidetracked by the world around us and wonder what we need to do to make the message attractive. We have the most powerful message in the entire world. Jesus died according to the Scriptures. He was buried. The third day He rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. The resurrection of the body needs to be proclaimed more than just on Easter or at funerals. We bask in the afterglow of Easter as we await the day of our resurrection.