With what kind of body are the dead resurrected?

PURPOSE

The resurrected body is described in 1 Corinthians 15 as “spiritual.” According to 1 Corinthians 1, Jesus was resurrected as “a life-giving spirit” (v45).

JESUS’ RESURRECTED BODY

Jesus, after He was resurrected, suddenly appeared in the midst of His disciples in a locked room.  They were frightened and thought that they were seeing a “spirit,” but He told them to touch Him and see, “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:36-42).  Jesus, therefore, was not resurrected as a spirit being.  He had “flesh and bones.” Nevertheless, He had a different kind of body that was able to do different things.

THE DEAD WILL BE RAISED.

1 Corinthians 15 is a well-known resurrection chapter.  The phrase “the dead” appears 13 times in this chapter (v12x2; 13, 15, 16, 20, 21, 29×2, 32, 35, 42, 52).  “The dead” are “those also who have fallen asleep” (v18, 20; cf. v51).

Paul introduces the topic of resurrection from death by stating that THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF THE GOSPEL is that “Christ died for our sins … was buried … was raised on the third day … and … appeared” to more than 500 people (vv1-11).

He continues that “Christ … has been raised from the dead” (v12, 20) as “first fruits” (v20, 23).  “Those who are Christ’s (will be raised from the dead) at His coming” (v23).  If there is no resurrection, he argues, then the entire gospel is “vainfalseworthless” (vv12-19).  But, just like death came “by a man” (Adam), so resurrection from the dead also comes “by a man,” namely Christ.

RESURRECTED BODY

Somebody asked Paul:

How are the dead raised?
And with what kind of body do they come?
” (v35)

With a different kind of body

Paul firstly answers that there are different kinds of bodies and that the human body that is resurrected is different from the body that dies (v36), similar to the differences between:

    • The grain, which is sown, and the plant that emerges from the ground (v37);
    • The bodies of men, beasts, birds, and fish (v39);
    • Heavenly bodies” and “earthly bodies” (v40);
    • The bodies of the sun, the moon and the stars (v41);

In these verses, the term “heavenly bodies” possibly refers to the sun, moon, and stars.

With a spiritual body

Paul secondly responds that humans currently have “a natural body” which bears “the image of the earthy,” and which is perishable, mortal, lacking in honor, earthy and weak.  But Christ’s people will be raised with “a spiritual body” that is imperishable, immortal, glorious and powerful (vv42-54), and which bears “the image of the heavenly” (v49), for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (v50).

This does not mean that the dead will be raised without bodies, for Paul already was at pains to explain that there are different kinds of bodies.  “A spiritual body” (v44) is still a body.  By “flesh and blood” Paul means “perishable:”

FLESH AND BLOOD cannot inherit the kingdom of God;
nor does the PERISHABLE inherit the imperishable
” (v50).

But it does mean that the resurrection body will be very different from our current “perishable” bodies:

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and
which have not entered the heart of man, all that
God has prepared for those who love him
” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Life-giving spirit

It is in the midst of this discussion, Paul wrote:

The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.
The last Adam became a life-giving spirit
” (v45)

The last Adam” is Jesus.  He is humanity’s New Adam, as is stated in verse 22 and also in the letter to the Romans:

Through ONE TRANSGRESSION” by one man (Adam) all men were condemned (Rom. 5:15, 17-18). 

Similarly, “through ONE ACT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS” by “the one Man, Jesus Christ” “the gift of righteousness” becomes available to all men (5:15, 18).

We must not understand “a life-giving spirit” as that Jesus was raised without a body, because Jesus did say, after His resurrection, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).  We should rather understand “spirit” in this verse as “spiritual;” a word that is used twice in the preceding verse in opposition to “a natural body.”  Christ’s body, therefore, bears “the image of the heavenly” (v49). 

SUMMARY

Jesus, after His resurrection, suddenly appeared in the midst of His disciples in a locked room.  They thought that they were seeing a “spirit,” but He showed and told them that He has a body of “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:36-42).  Jesus, therefore, was not resurrected as a spirit being, but He had a different kind of body.

1 Corinthians 15 is a well-known resurrection chapter.  The phrase “the dead” appears 13 times in this chapter, identified as “those also who have fallen asleep.”  However, since Christ … has been raised from the dead” as “first fruits,” “those who are Christ’s (will be raised from the dead) at His coming.”  

Someone asked, “with what kind of body” are the dead raised (v35)?

DIFFERENT KINDS

Paul firstly explains that there are different kinds of bodies and that God’s people will NOT be raised with THE SAME BODY as the body that dies (vv36 to 41).

SPIRITUAL BODY

Paul secondly wrote that the current “natural body” (v44-46) is mortal, perishable, earthy and weak (vv42, 47), but “the dead … is raised a spiritual body” (vv42-44) that is imperishable and immortal (vv50-54), and that bears “the image of the heavenly” (v49), for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (v50). 

This does not mean that the dead will be raised without bodies, for Paul is at pains to explain that there are different types of bodies.  “A spiritual body” (v44) is still a body.  But it does mean that the resurrection body will be very different from our current “perishable” bodies.

JESUS’S BODY

That Jesus was resurrected as “a life-giving spirit” (v45) also does not mean that Jesus was raised without a body, because He said that He has a “flesh and blood” body (Luke 24:36-42).  We should rather understand “spirit” in this verse as “spiritual” and as bearing “the image of the heavenly” (v49).

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For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.