On the Resurrection of the Righteous

 

New Bodies for Old!

by Lambert Dolphin


In spite of vigorous medical research, better drugs, superior treatment protocols, the mortality rate for the human race remains a flat 100%. In under developed countries disease and poor diets sometimes mean the life expectancy was only 35 or 40--or less.

Solomon tells us our appointed time is 70 or sometimes 80 years

"The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away....So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:10, 12)

Death as it is described in the Bible does not mean we cease to exist, nor does it imply cessation of consciousness. Furthermore the Hindu idea of reincarnation is refuted by the Bible (see Hebrews 9:27).God alone has real life--all life comes from Him. Jesus is called "the Author Life" in Acts 3:15. In simple terms those persons who have a live connection with Jesus possess self-renewing eternal life--here and now.

Job's Hope

This is not a detailed discussion on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and details of what the Bible says about future resurrections of both believers and non-believers. In this brief study we want to focus especially on what we can infer about the nature and characteristics of the Christian's resurrection body.

Biblical revelation is progressive in time. Old Testament revelation about life after death is vague and obscure. Sheol is "the grave" but few details are given, it seems to be a place of gloom and mystery. God's purposes for Israel are national. Obedience to God would bring secure land, crops and cattle, prosperity, deliverance from enemies, good health and family happiness. A glorious future for the nation is described, but little is said about what happens to an individual when he or she dies. Hannah understood God was responsible for life and death, and He has the power to impart life, " The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up." (I Samuel 2:6)

In the midst of his trials, suffering, and bad advice from his friends Job indicated he had a personal hope of resurrection, "Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were graven in the rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:23-27). (For a study of Job see Beyond Suffering - Expository Studies in Job, by Ray. C. Stedman).

The historic choice made by our first parents, Adam and Eve, cut the race off from a relationship with God--we are all born mortal--it is in our very genes. (See Arthur C. Custance, "The Seed of the Woman.")

The Man who is Now in Heaven

 From the pen of A. W. Tozer, Pastor at Moody Bible Church in Chicago, about 50 years ago:

The teaching of the New Testament is that now, at this very moment, there is a Man in heaven appearing in the presence of God for us. He is as certainly a man as was Adam or Moses or Paul; he is a man glorified, but his glorification did not de-humanize him. Today he is a real man, of the race of mankind, bearing our lineaments and dimensions, a visible and audible man, whom any other man would recognize instantly as one of us.

But more than this, he is the heir of all things, Lord of all lords, head of the church, firstborn of the new creation. He is the way to God, the life of the believer, the hope of Israel, and the high priest of every true worshiper. He holds the keys of death and hell, and stands as advocate and surety for everyone who believes on him in truth. Salvation comes not by accepting the finished work, or deciding for Christ; it comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as his own and paid it, took our sins and died under them, and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ; nothing less will do.

The Bible often talks about the multitudes who do not as yet know God--people who have not been reconnected to the Source of Life. These are already "dead." It is by believing in and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord that spiritual rebirth occurs. Ephesians 2 describes this process:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Quite a number of supernatural events take place when a man or woman, boy or girl, opens his or her heart to Jesus the Lord. The dormant spirit of that person, out of touch with God until now, is now connected to the Holy Spirit of God. The individual is then the immediate possessor of eternal life and can never die.

"He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may [continue to] believe in the name of the Son of God." (I John 5:10-13)

The new believer in Jesus is taken by God out of from under the evil government of this present world system and placed under the direct government of Christ, while still remaining in the world,.

God..."has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us [translated us] into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:12-14)

God also blots out all our sins, cut us off inside from the fallen life of Adam by circumcision of the heart. We are immersed by the Holy Spirit (baptized) into Christ so that we are once for all identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, (see Romans 6:3-9)

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:12-14)

We are already made into totally new persons (2 Cor. 5:17). For the rest of our lives on this present earth we will experience the realization of this newness of life. Our bodies and spirits are made new and our physical bodies, though not yet redeemed, experience resurrection life and renewing from God.

And if Christ is in you, although your body is still dead because of sin, the spirit in you is alive because of [Christ's] righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to quicken [revitalize] your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.(Romans 8:10-11)

The beginning of the process, our being "born again," or "born from above" as described in John Chapter 3 sets in motion all that follows, and is called "regeneration."

"For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:3)

The rebirth experience also causes us to be born into God's family and also we are adopted so that our membership in the household of faith is dual. We are adopted into the family as adult sons. My friend Glenn Miller of the Christian Think Tank notes that God's mercy goes into a prison and unchains guilt prisoners under sentence of death for their sins. The prisoners are taken out of jail and set free in front of the detention facility. Then, God's grace sends a limousine to the curb, picks up the released sinner. He is now a royal son adopted into the household of the king as an immediate heir of the king's estate!

Salvation cleanses and renews man in the core of his being--in his spirit. The soul (mind, emotions, will) are also renewed, washed, reconstructed and refreshed completely by the recreating workings of the Holy Spirit. Over time the Christian continues to experience a process which the Bible calls "sanctification." Technically the word in Greek or Hebrew means "set aside for the purposes of God, "or "put to the proper use intended by the Creator." However Ray Stedman notes that a better meaning we can readily understand is the term "to make whole."

Sin is a violation of God's intention for humanity. It is a destructive force that wrecks and ruins the full glory and beauty of humanity as God intended it to be. A mere glance at what is happening in society will convince you how true this is. I firmly believe that the Bay Area is the most beautiful, most enviable place on earth. I have traveled all over this globe and I have never found any place more desirable than this area. It has a marvelous climate -- neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter. Spring comes in February, winter does not come until the middle of December, and even then it is very mild. The Peninsula, we are told, has the highest per capita income of any place in the world. Unemployment is relatively low. There is freedom here to follow any lifestyle you want. Yet people in this area are just as hurting, lonely, and miserable inside; life is just as empty and as painful as it is anywhere on earth. Why is that? It is because of sin. But they do not know that. They do not understand what causes all the pain, hurt, and loneliness. They ascribe it to a lot of different sources, but when those are corrected the same pain, the same emptiness remains.

So what do they learn from watching transformed people in the church? They learn that the reason for their pain is that they are out of touch with basic reality. They are trying to play the game of life without any reference to the One who sets the rules. The first thing they learn when they see people who have been inwardly transformed by the presence of the Spirit releasing to them the life of Jesus is that here are people who have found the secret of life. Here are people who like themselves have suffered all the hurt and the loneliness of life who now have found the secret of calmness, peace, and forgiveness. They discover for the first time that the nature of sin is to ignore the One in charge of life. "They sin because they do not believe in me," Jesus declares. The secret to life, therefore, is to believe in and come to the Lord Jesus.

The second thing the world will learn, Jesus says, is the source of the gift of wholeness. "Righteousness," he calls it, but righteousness is a term for what the Old Testament calls "holiness."

I confess I have never liked the word "holiness." When I was growing up I likened holiness to grimness. Holy people never smiled and never enjoyed anything. In fact, if they did enjoy anything, they felt guilty about it! I never liked this word until I learned to substitute for it another word that says exactly what holiness is, and that is the word "wholeness."

I have never met anybody who does not want to be a whole person. What do we mean when we sing "Holy, holy, holy"? God is "whole," he is perfect. There is nothing out of balance or eccentric about him. That is what he is seeking to produce in this world -- "whole" persons. That is what the word "righteousness" means.

The good news of the gospel is that we do not have to make ourselves whole. Everybody is born into this world with the idea that the way to be "whole" is to work at it until all the pieces fit and he finally gets himself together. Have you ever said to yourself, "I'm going to get myself together!" That is an expression of a desire for wholeness. What the world will learn from Christians is that the only way to find that wholeness is to come to Jesus. That is the first thing he gives you, an inner gift of wholeness. You are made righteous. Here is how Paul describes it in his second Corinthian letter. "He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," {cf, 2 Cor 5:21 KJV}. That is it. The world will discover that the way to wholeness is to come to Jesus. This is done by means of the Spirit. That is what Jesus means when he says here, "because I go unto the Father and you see me no more." All along he has been saying that when he goes to the Father he will send the Spirit, and the first work of the Spirit is to give us what we could never earn -- righteousness, inner wholeness before God.

The Old Testament has a wonderful term for that: "The beauty of holiness." We are talking about inner beauty. One of my favorite psalms says, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us," {Psalm 90:17a KJV}. There is something beautiful about whole people. They attract us, they capture our attention. The truly beautiful people, therefore, says Jesus, will be those who, despite all the failure and the weakness and the stumbling folly of their lives, have, by faith in Jesus, been made whole inwardly, and that inner wholeness then begins to transform, in a process, all of the outer life until they gradually reflect it in their behavior. That is what the world will learn. (Ray C. Stedman, Expository sermons on the Gospel of John)

"The Body is Dead Because of Sin, But Your Spirits are Alive..."

It is through the sense organs of the physical body that we are aware of the physical world in which we live. The bodies we now have are mortal bodies--the Bible calls them "natural bodies." If in fact we now possessed our new spiritual bodies which will be given to us at the coming resurrection, we would see that we are already in the midst of heaven. We are surrounded by angels, and in fact we are also now "seated in Christ Jesus in the heavenly places"! (Ephesians 2, quoted above),

and

"... you have [already] come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24)

It takes a bit of getting used to--the nature of time and eternity. We are connected to the old creation and the present fallen world system through eyes, ears, touch, taste, smell and contact with planet earth and people around us--through our old sinful, unredeemed bodies. We are also prisoners in a one-dimensional time frame. Our present natural, or mortal bodies, (because of the Fall) allow us to experience a flow of time from the future through the present and into the past--only. This kind of time is known as "linear time" and we can not escape this imprisonment in time as long as we still inhabit our fallen present bodies.

It is true that in spirit and soul, regenerated people already are in touch with eternity, we already possess eternal life and are aware of qualities of time in the heavenly places they we were not aware of before coming to know God. Arthur Custance eloquently discusses the many dimensions of time in his books "Journey out of Time" and "Time and Eternity".

Now for the interesting part of resurrection. A number of passages in the Bible tell us exactly what happens we a Christian dies. One key passage is 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 which says this:

"For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, [Greek: skenos, a tent] is destroyed, we have [present tense] a building {Greek: oikos, a permanent building] from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him."

The apostle likens our present bodies to tents used for camping purposes. They are flimsy and easily torn. They are subject to mildew. The winds blows easily through the cracks, the floor is rocky and uncomfortable. The best of tents are too cold in winter, too hot in summer. and the rain finds a way to get in no matter what. They are not very durable. They are for temporary use, not intended as permanent dwellings!

Paul tells tells us in the above passage that our new spiritual (resurrection) bodies (solid, substantial oikos) are already in existence! These bodies are waiting to be put on as a man would put on a new suit of clothes. Using the different Greek word oikos he tells us that the new body is solid, substantial and permanent, unlike a camping tent.

To assure us that no intermediate state awaits us when we die, he alludes to the fact that we are usually uncomfortable when we are naked. We would likewise be uncomfortable if we stepped out of our present bodies and walked around as mere naked spirits. Instead , he tells us in this passage, that we are immediately "clothed" upon by our new resurrection bodies. We will not be found naked at death, we will step immediately out of time into eternity and immediately put on our "space suits"--marvelous resurrection bodies which will never wear out nor grow old!

When we die we step out of time and enter eternity--"to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord"--that is clear. Our immediate experience is to arrive at point in the heavenly dimension where eternity invades time--an event we call the resurrection of the righteous dead. It is described for us in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. We believers from the age of the church all arrive together and we all put on your new bodies as if there a set of fine clothes and we were dressing for a magnificent wedding (which is the actual situation).

I Corinthians Chapter 15 contains the most complete description we have in the Bible concerning the nature of resurrection of believers and resurrection bodies. The late Scottish Bible scholar William Barclay offers helpful comments about what we know and do not know about the life which is to come. He writes as follows,

JESUS' RESURRECTION AND OURS

I CORINTHIANS 15, to which we now turn, is at one and the same time one of the greatest and one of the most difficult chapters in the New Testament. Not only is it in itself difficult, but it has also given to the creed a phrase which many people have grave difficulty in affirming, for It is from this chapter that we mainly derive the idea of the resurrection of the body. The chapter will be far less difficult if we study it against its background, and even that troublesome phrase will become quite clear and quite acceptable when we realize what Paul really meant by it. So then before we study this chapter there are certain things we would do well to have in our minds.

(i) It is a point of very great importance to remember that the Corinthians were not denying the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; what they were denying is the resurrection of the body; and what Paul is insistent upon is that If a man denies the possibility of the resurrection of the body he has thereby denied the possibility of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and has therefore emptied the Christian message of its truth and the Christian life of its reality.

(ii) In any early Christian Church there must have been two backgrounds, for in all Churches there were Jews and Greeks. At these two backgrounds we must now look. First, there was the Jewish background. To the end of the day the Sadducees denied that there was any life after death at all. There was therefore one line of Jewish thought which completely denied both the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. (Acts 23: 8). In the Old Testament itself there is very little hope of anything that can be called life after death. According to the general Old Testament belief all men, without distinction, went to Sheol after death. Often Sheol is wrongly translated Hell. Sheol was the abode of all the dead. It was a gray land, beneath the world, where the dead lived a shadowy and a ghostly existence, without strength, without light, cut off alike from men and from God. The Old Testament is full of this bleak, grim pessimism regarding what is to happen after death.

For in death there is no remembrance of Thee: In the grave who shall give Thee thanks? (Psalm 6: 5).

What profit is there In my blood when I go down Into the pit? Shall the dust praise Thee? Shall it declare Thy truth? (Psalm 30: 9).

Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee? Shall Thy loving kindness be declared in the grave? Or Thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall Thy wonders be known in the dark? And Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10-12).

Sheol was the land of the dark and of the forgotten dead,

The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. (Psalm 115:17).

The grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. (Isaiah 38:18).

O spare me that I may recover strength, before I go hence and be no more. (Psalm 39: 13).

To him that is joined to all the living there is a hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything...Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither Thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9: 4, 5, 10).

Who shall give praise to the Most High in the grave? Ecclesiasticus 17: 27).

The dead that are in the grave, whose breath is taken from their bodies, will give unto the Lord neither glory nor righteousnesss. (Baruch 2: 17).

J. E. McFadyen, the great Old Testament scholar, has said that this lack of a belief In immortality in the Old Testament is due "to the power with which those men apprehended God in this world." He goes on to say, "There are few more wonderful things than this in the long story of religion, that for centuries men lived the noblest lives, doing their duties and bearing their sorrows, without hope of future reward; and they did this because in all their going out and coming in they were very sure of God."

It Is true that In the Old Testament there are some few, some very few, glimpses of a real life to come. There were times when a man felt that, if God be God at all, there must be something which would reverse the incomprehensible verdicts of this world. So Job cries out,

Still, I know One to champion me at last, to stand up for me upon earth. This body may break up, but even then my life shall have a sight of God. (Job 19: 25-27. Moffatt).

The real feeling of the saint was that even In this life a man might enter into a relationship with God, so close, so precious and so intimate that not even death could break It.

My flesh shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol; neither wilt Thou surfer Thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is foulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16: 9-11).

Thou hast holden me by Thy right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. (Psalm 73: 24).

It is true that in Israel the immortal hope did develop. Two things helped that development. (a) Israel was the chosen people, and yet her history was one continued tale of disaster. Men began to feel that it required another world to redress the balance. (b) For many centuries it is true to say that the individual hardly existed. God was the God of the nation, but the individual was an unimportant unit. But as the centuries went on religion became more and more personal. God became not the God of the nation but the God who was the friend of every individual man; and so men began, not certainly, but dimly and instinctively, to feel that once a man knows God and is known by God, a relationship has happened which not even death can break.

(iii) Now we turn to the Greek world. When we do we must firmly grasp one thing, which indeed is at the back of this whole chapter. On the whole the Greek did believe in the immortality of the soul, but the Greek would never have dreamed of believing in the resurrection of the body. It is true that the Greek had an instinctive fear of death. Euripides wrote, "Yet mortals, burdened with countless ills, still love life. They long for each coming day, glad to bear the thing they know, rather than face death the unknown." (Fragment 813). But on the whole the Greek, and that part of the world influenced by Greek thought, did believe in the immortality of the soul. But--and here is the difference--the immortality of the soul involved for the Greek the obliteration, the extinction, the complete dissolution of the body. The Greeks had a proverb, "The body is a tomb." " I am a poor soul," said one of them, "shackled to a corpse." " It pleased me," said Seneca, "to inquire into the eternity of the soul--nay! to believe in it. I surrendered myself to that great hope." But he also says, "When the day shall come which shall part this mixture of divine and human, here, where I found It, I will leave my body, myself I will give back to the gods." Epictetus writes, "When God does not supply what is necessary, He is sounding the signal for retreat. He has opened the door and says to you 'Come!' But whither? To nothing terrible, but to whence you came, to the things which are dear and kin to you, to the elements. What in you was fire shall go to fire, earth to earth, water to water." Seneca talks about things at death " being resolved into their ancient elements." For Plato "the body is the antithesis of the soul, as the source of all weaknesses as opposed to what alone is capable of independence and goodness." We can see this best in the Stoic belief. To the Stoic God was fiery spirit, purer than anything on earth.

That which gave men life was that a spark of this divine fire came and dwelt in a man's body, a spark of God. When a man died, his body simply dissolved into the elements of which it was made, but the divine spark returned to God and was absorbed in the divinity of which it was a part. So, for the Greek, immortality lay precisely in getting rid of the body. For him the resurrection of the body was unthinkable. Personal immortality did not really exist because the life which gave men life was absorbed again in God the source of all life.

(iv) Paul's view was quite different. If we begin with one immense fact the rest will become clear. The Christian belief is that after death Individuality will survive, that you will still be you and I will still be I. Beside that we have to set another immense fact. To the Greek the body could not be consecrated. The body was matter, the source of all evil, the shackle, the handicap, the prison house of the soul. But to the Christian the body was not evil. It could not be after the incarnation. Jesus, the Son of God, had taken this human body upon him and therefore the body is not despicable and contemptible because it had been inhabited by God. To the Christian therefore the life to come involves the total man, body and soul. Now it is easy to misinterpret and to caricature the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. Celsus, who lived about A.D. 220 and who was one of the first to attack Christianity, did it long ago. How can those who died rise with their identical bodies? he demands. " Really it is the hope of worms! For what soul of a man would any longer wish for a body that had rotted?" It is easy to produce the case of a person smashed up In an accident, dying of cancer, maimed, disfigured, broken. But Paul never said that we would rise with the body with which we died. He insisted that we would have a spiritual body. What Paul really meant was that a man's personality would survive. It is almost impossible to conceive of personality without a body, because it is through the body that the personality expresses itself and is recognized. What Paul is contending for is that after death there Is no absorption in some vague deity; there is no loss of the self or of the personality; the individual remains. He did not inherit the Greek contempt of the body. He believed In the resurrection of the whole man. What that life will be like no one can say. But the Christian belief is that not part of the man, but the whole man will rise again. He will still be himself; he will survive as a person. That is what Paul means by the resurrection of the body. Everything of the body and of the soul that is necessary to make a man a person will survive, but, at the same time, all things will be new, and body and spirit will alike be very different from earthly things, for they will alike be divine,

THE RISEN LORD I Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to make clear to you the nature of the good news that I preached to you, that gospel which you also received, and in which you stand, and through which you are saved. I want to make clear to you what account I gave you of the good news, an account which can save you if you hold fast to it, unless your belief is a random and haphazard thing. In the very forefront of it I handed on to you what I myself received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was laid in the tomb, and that He was raised up on the third day according to the scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas and then by The Twelve, and that then He was seen by more than five hundred brothers all at the one time, of whom the majority are still alive, although some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, and then by all the apostles, and last of all, as if by the abortion of the apostolic family, He was seen by me too. For I am the least of the apostles; In fact I am not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. It Is by the grace of God that I am what I am, and His grace to me has not proved ineffective, but I have toiled more exceedingly than all of them; but it was not I who achieved anything but God's grace working with me. So then, whether I be the preacher or they, this is what we preach and this is what we have believed.

HERE Paul is recapitulating the good news which he first brought to the Corinthians. It was not news which he had invented. It was news which had first been delivered to him, and it was news of a Risen Lord.

In verses I and 2 Paul says an extremely interesting series of things about the good news.

(i) It was something which the Corinthians had received, The good news is always something which comes to us from someone who already possesses it. No man ever invented the gospel for himself; in a sense no man ever discovered it for himself. It is something which he receives. Therein indeed Is the very function of the Church. The Church is the repository and the transmitter of the good news. As one of the old fathers had It, "No man can have God for his Father, unless he has the Church for his mother." The good news is something that is received within a fellow-ship.

(ii) It was something in which the Corinthians stood. The very first function of the good news was to give a man stability. In a dangerous and a slippery world it kept him on his feet. In a tempting and a seducing world it gave him resistance power. In a hurting world it gave him power to withstand a broken heart or an agonized body and not to give in. Moffatt finely translates Job 4: 4, "Your words have kept men on their feet." That is precisely what the word of the gospel does.

(iii) It was something in which they were being saved. It is interesting to note that in the Greek this is a present tense, and not a past tense. It would be strictly correct to translate it not, "in which you have been saved," but, in which you are being saved." The very glory of salvation is that it goes from glory to glory. It is not something which is ever completed In this world. It takes another world to open to any man the full treasures of salvation. One of the greatest characteristics of the Christian life is just its limitlessness. There are so many things in this life which we can exhaust, but the meaning of salvation is something which a man can never exhaust.

(iv) It was something to which a man had to hold tenaciously. Life makes many an attempt to take away our faith. Things happen to us and happen to others which baffle our understanding; life has its problems to which there seems to be no solution and its questions to which there seems to be no answer; life has its dark places where there seems to be nothing to do but to hold on. Faith is always a victory, the victory of the soul which tenaciously maintains its clutch on God.

(v) It was something which must not be held haphazardly and at random. The faith which collapses is the faith which has not thought things out and thought them through. For so many of us our faith, our belief, is a superficial thing. We tend to accept things because we were told them, to possess them merely at secondhand. If we follow out the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really and truly and inalienably ours, in such a way that nothing can ever take it from us.

In the list of appearances of the Risen Lord which Paul quotes there are two which are specially interesting.

(i) There is the appearance to Peter. In the very earliest account of the Resurrection story, the word of the messenger in the empty tomb is, " Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter." (Mark 16: 7). In Luke 24: 34 the disciples say, "The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon." It is an amazing thing that one of the first appearances of the Risen Lord was to the disciple who had denied Him. There is all the wonder of the love and grace of Jesus Christ here. Others might have hated Peter forever, but the one desire of Jesus was to set this erratic disciple of His upon his feet. Peter had wronged Jesus and Peter had wept his heart out; and the one desire of this amazing Jesus was to comfort Peter in the pain of his disloyalty. Love can go no further than to think more of the heartbreak of the man who wronged it than of the hurt that it itself has received.

(ii) There is the appearance to James. Without doubt the James who is referred to is the brother of our Lord. Now it is quite clear from the gospel narrative that Jesus' own family did not understand Him and were even actively hostile to Him. Mark 3: 21 tells us that they actually sought to restrain Him because they believed Him to be mad. John 7: 5 tells us that His brothers did not believe in Him. One of the earliest of all the gospels which did not succeed in getting into the New Testament is the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Only fragments of it remain. One fragment preserved by Jerome reads like this, "Now the Lord, when He had given the linen cloth unto the servant of the priest, went unto James and appeared unto him (for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour wherein he had drunk the Lord's cup until he should see Him risen again from among them that sleep)." So, the story runs, "Jesus went to James and said, 'Bring ye a table and bread.' And He took bread and blessed it and break it and gave it unto James the Just and said unto him, 'My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from among them that sleep.'" We can only conjecture what lies behind this. It may well be that the last days turned the contempt of James into wondering admiration, and that then when the end had come, James was so torn with remorse for the way in which he had treated his brother that he swore that he would starve unless his brother came back to forgive him. Here once again we have the amazing grace and love of Christ. He came to bring peace to the troubled soul of the man who had called Him mad and who had been His enemy and opponent.

It is one of the most heart-moving things in all the story of Jesus that two of His first appearances when He rose from the tomb, were to men who had hurt Him cruelly and who were sorry for it. Jesus meets the penitent and the contrite heart far more than halfway.

Finally, In this passage we have a vivid light thrown on the character of Paul himself. To Paul it was the most precious thing in the world that Jesus had appeared also to him. That was at one and the same time the turning point and the dynamic moment of his life. But verses 9~II tell us much about Paul.

(i) They tell us of his utter humility. He is the least of the apostles; he has been glorified with an office for which he felt he was not worthy. The one thing Paul would never have claimed to be is a self-made man. It was by the grace of God that he was what he was. He even takes what may well have been a taunt against him. It would seem that Paul was a little and an unhandsome man (2 Corinthians 10: 10). It may well be that the Jews, after his conversion to Christianity, referred to him contemptuously as that abortion of a man." It may be that the Jewish Christians who wished to impose the law and circumcision upon Christian converts, and who hated Paul's doctrine of free grace, declared that, so far from being born again, Paul was an abortion. Paul was so conscious of his own unworthiness that he felt that no one could say anything too bad about him. Charles Gore once said, " On a general review of life we can seldom feel that we are suffering unmerited wrong." Paul felt like that. His was not the pride which resents the criticisms and the taunts of men; it was the humility which felt that it deserved them.

(ii) They tell us at the same time of the consciousness of his own worth. He was well aware that he had labored beyond them all. Paul's modesty was not a false modesty. But even at that, he spoke always, not of what he had done, but of what God had enabled him to do.

(iii) They tell of his sense of fellowship. He did not regard himself as an isolated phenomenon with a message that was unique. He and the other apostles preached the same gospel. His was the greatness which bound him closer to the Christian fellowship. There is always something lacking in the greatness which divides a man from his fellow men.

IF CHRIST BE NOT RAISED I Corinthians 15: 12-19

If it is continually proclaimed that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some among you say that the resurrection of the dead does not exist? If the resurrection from among the dead does not exist, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then the proclamation of the faith Is emptied of its meaning, and your faith has been emptied of its meaning too. If that is so we are shown to have borne false witness about God, because we witnessed about God, that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, If Indeed the dead are not raised up. If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised your faith is worthless, you are still In your sins; and, if that is so, those who died trusting In Christ have perished. If It is only In this life that we have hope In Christ, then we are more to be pitied than all men.

HERE Paul attacks the central position of his opponents at Corinth. They said flatly," Dead men do not rise again." Paul's answer is, " If you take up that position it means that Jesus Christ has not risen again; and if that be so, the whole Christian faith is wrecked."

Why was it that Paul regarded a belief In the Resurrection of Jesus as so absolutely essential? What were the great values and the great truths that it conserves? The Resurrection of Jesus proves four great facts, which, if they are proved, can make ill the difference to a man's view of life here and hereafter.

(i) The Resurrection proves that truth is stronger than falsehood. According to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus said to His enemies, "Now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth." (John 8: 40). Jesus came with the true idea of God and of goodness His enemies procured His death because they did not want their own false view of God and of goodness destroyed. That is to say, if the enemies of Jesus had finally succeeded in obliterating Him, falsehood would have been stronger than truth. On one occasion the Earl of Morton, who was the regent of Scotland, sent for Andrew Melville, the great Reformation leader. "There will never be quietness In this country," said Morton, "till halff a dissone of you be hangit or banished the countrey" "Tushe sir," said Melville, " threaten your courtiers in that fashion. It is the same to me whether I rot in the air or in the ground.... Yet God be glorified, it will nocht ly in your power to hang nor exyll His treuthe " The Resurrection is the final guarantee of the indestructibility of the truth.

(ii) The Resurrection proves that good is stronger than evil. Again to quote the Fourth Gospel, in it Jesus is represented as saying to His enemies, "You are of your father, the devil." (John 8: 44). The forces which crucified Jesus were the forces of evil, and if there was no Resurrection then these forces of evil were triumphant. J. A. Froude, the great historian, wrote, "One lesson, and only one, history may be said to repeat with distinctness, that the world is built somehow on moral foundations, that in the long run it is well with the good. and In the long run it is ill with the wicked." But if the Resurrection had not taken place. it is that very principle of the moral order of the universe which would be imperiled. and we could never again be certain that goodness is stronger than evil.

(iii) The Resurrection proves that love is stronger than hatred. Jesus was the love of God incarnate.

"Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine."

On the other hand the whole attitude of those who procured the crucifixion of Jesus was an almost virulent hatred. It was a hatred so bitter that in the end it was capable of ascribing the loveliness and graciousness of the life of Jesus to the power of the devil. If there was no Resurrection It means that the hatred of man in the end conquered the love of God. But the Resurrection is the triumph of love over all that hatred could do...

The Resurrection is the final proof that love is stronger than hate.

(iv) The Resurrection proves that life is stronger than death. If Jesus had died, never to rise again, it would have proved that death could take the loveliest and the best life that ever lived and finally break it. During the war years a certain city church In London was all set out for harvest thanksgiving. In the centre of the gifts there was a sheaf of corn. The service was never held, for, on the Saturday night, there came a savage air raid and the church was laid in ruins. The months passed on and the spring came, and someone noticed that, on the bomb site where that church had stood, there were shoots of green. The summer came and the shoots flourished and in the autumn time there was a flourishing patch of corn growing amidst the rubble. Not even the bombs and the destruction could kill the life of the corn and its seeds. Life was stronger than death. The Resurrection is the final proof that life is stronger than death.

Paul insisted that if the Resurrection of Jesus was not a fact then the whole Christian message was based on a lie that those who had died believing in it had died trusting in a delusion, that without it the greatest values in life have no guarantee. "Take away the Resurrection," said Paul, "and you destroy both the foundation and the fabric of the Christian faith."

THE FIRST-FRUlTS OF THOSE THAT SLEEP I Corinthians 15: 20-28

Now then Christ has been raised from among the dead, the firstfruits of those who sleep. For, since it was through one man that death came, it was also through one man that the resurrection of the dead came. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. Each comes in his own rank. Christ is the firstfruits, and then those who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes. After that comes the final end, when He will hand over the Kingdom to God, His Father, when He has reduced to helplessness every other rule, and every other authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. Death will be the last enemy to be reduced to helplessness. For God has subjected all things to Him. (When we say that all things have been subjected to Him, that of course does not Include Him who subjected them to Him). But when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be subjected to Him who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

THIS for us again Is a very difficult passage because it deals with ideas and conceptions which are strange to us.

It speaks of Christ as " the firstfruits of them that sleep." Here Paul is thinking in terms of a picture which every Jew would know and recognize. The Feast of the Passover had more than one significance. As everyone knows, it commemorated the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. But it was also a great harvest festival. It ~l just at the time when the barley harvest was due to begin to be ingathered. The law laid it down, "Ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before Jehovah, to be accepted for you; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." (Leviticus 23: 10, II). The law laid it down that some sheaves of barley must be reaped from a common field. They must not be taken from a garden or an orchard or from specially prepared soil. They must come from a typical field. When the barley was cut it was brought to the Temple. There it was threshed with soft canes so as not to bruise It. It was then parched over the fire in a perforated pan so that every grain was touched by the fire. It was then exposed to the wind so that the chaff was blown away. It was then ground In a barley mill, and the flour of it was offered to God. That was the first fruits. And it is very significant to note that not until after that was done could the new barley be bought and sold in the shops and bread be made from the new flour. The first-fruits were a sign of the harvest to come; and the Resurrection of Jesus was a sign of the resurrection of all believers which was to come. Just as the new barley could not be used until the firstfruits had been duly offered, so the new harvest of life could not come until Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Now Paul goes on to use another Jewish idea. According to the old story In Genesis 3: 119 it was through Adam's sin that death came into the world. Death was the direct consequence and penalty of that sin. The Jews believed that all men literally sinned in Adam. It is easy for us to see that Adam's sin might transmit to his descendants the tendency to sin. As Aeschylus said, "The impious deed leaves after it a larger progeny, all in the likeness of the parent stock." As George Eliot wrote, "Our deeds are like children that are born to us, they live and act apart from our will; nay, children may be strangled, but deeds never. They have an indestructible life both in and out of our consciousness." Nobody would be likely to deny that a child can inherit a tendency to sin, and that the fathers' sins are very literally visited upon the children. No one would deny that a child can inherit the consequences of a father's sin, for we know all too well that physical conditions which are the consequence of an immoral life can be transmitted to the child. But the Jew meant more than that. The Jew had a tremendous sense of solidarity. He was sure that no man could ever do anything that could affect only himself. He was bound up in the bundle of life. And the Jew held that all men sinned in Adam. He, to them, was the father of the race. The whole world of men was, as it were, in him. And when he sinned all sinned. That may seem a strange idea to us. It may seem to us unfair. But that was the Jewish belief. All had sinned in Adam, therefore all were under the penalty of death. So we have a situation in which all men are sinners and therefore all men must die. But with the coming of Christ that chain was broken. That situation was invaded by something new. Christ was sinless. Christ conquered death. And just as all men sinned in Adam, so all men escape from sin in Christ; and just as all men died in Adam so all men conquered death In Christ. Our unity with Christ is just as real as our unity with Adam and this unity destroys the evil effect of the old. So we get two contrasting sets of facts. First, there is Adam--sin --death. Second, there is Christ--goodness--life. And just as we were all involved in the sin of the man who was first created, we are all involved in the victory of the man who recreated mankind. Whatever we think of that way of thinking today, it was convincing to those who heard it for the first time; and whatever else is doubtful it remains true that with Jesus Christ a new power came into the world to liberate men from the sin and the death In which the human situation was Involved.

Verses 2428 read very strangely to us. We are used to thinking in terms in which we put the Father and the Son on terms of equality. But here Paul quite clearly and deliberately subordinates the Son to the Father. What Paul is thinking of is this. We can only use human terms and analogies. God gave to Jesus a task to do. That task was to defeat sin and to vanquish death and to liberate man. The day will come when that task will be fully and finally accomplished, and then, to think of the thing in pictorial terms, the Son will return to the Father like a victor coming home and the triumph of God will be complete. It is not a case of the Son being subject to the Father as a slave or even a servant is to a master. It is a case of one who has accomplished the work that was given him to do, and who returns with the glory of complete obedience as his crown. As God sent forth His Son to redeem the world so in the end God will receive back a world redeemed, and then there will be nothing in heaven or in earth outside the love and the power of God.

IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION I Corinthians 15: 29-34

If there is no resurrection at all, why do people get themselves baptized for them? Every day I take my life in my hands, I swear it by the pride If there is no resurrection, what will which I have in you In Christ Jesus our Lord. What good is it to me--looking at it from the human point of view at Ephesus I had to fight with beasts in the arena? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Don't deceive yourselves evil friendships destroy good characters. Turn to sober living. as it is only right that you should, and don't go on sinning. Some of you boast about your knowledge, but you have not a vestige of knowledge about God. It is to shame you that I speak.

ONCE again this passage begins with a very difficult section. People have always been puzzled about what being baptized for the dead means, and it cannot be said that even yet the problem is definitely and finally settled. The preposition that is used for for in the phrase for the dead is the Greek word huper. In general this word can have two main meanings. When used of place, it can mean above or over. Far more commonly it is used of persons or things and means instead of or on behalf of. Remembering (hen these two meanings, let us look at some of the meanings which have been given to this phrase.

(i) Beginning from the meaning of over or above, some scholars have suggested that this refers to those who get themselves baptized over the graves of the martyrs. The idea Is that there would be something specially moving in being baptized on sacred ground with the thought of the unseen cloud of witnesses all around. It is an attractive and rather a lovely Idea, but, at the time Paul was writing to the Corinthians, persecution had not yet broken out in anything like a big way. Christians might suffer ostracism and social persecution, but the time of the martyrs had not yet come.

(ii) It is in any event much more natural to take huper in the sense of instead of or on behalf of. If we take it that way there are three possibilities. It is suggested that the phrase refers to those who get themselves baptized in order to fill up the vacant places in the Church which the dead have left Again it is a great thought. The idea is that the new believer, the young Christian, comes into the Church like a new recruit to take the place of the veterans who have served their campaign and earned their release. There is a precious thought there. The Church ever needs its reinforcements. its replacements, and the new member of the Church is like the volunteer who fills up the depleted ranks.

(iii) It is suggested that the phrase means those who get themselves baptized out of respect for and affection for the dead. Again there is a precious truth here. We know it to be true that many of us came into the Church because we knew and remembered that someone whom we had loved and who had loved us had died praying and hoping for us. There are many who have in the end given their lives to Christ because of the unseen influence of one who has passed over to the other side.

(iv) All these are lovely thoughts, but In the end we think that this phrase can only refer to one custom, a custom which existed in the early Church, but which has quite correctly passed out of Church practice altogether. In the early Church there was a custom of vicarious baptism. If a person who had intended to become a member of the Church, who was actually under instruction, who was, in fact, a catechumen, died, sometimes someone else underwent baptism for him after he had died. It was a kind of baptism by proxy. The custom sprang from what is really a superstitious and magical view of baptism, the view that, unless a person was baptized, he was excluded from the bliss of the faithful and of heaven. It was to safeguard against this exclusion that sometimes people volunteered to be baptized literally on behalf of those Who had died. Here Paul neither approves nor disapproves that practice. He merely asks if there can be any point in it at all if there is no resurrection and if the dead never rise again.

From that Paul passes on to one of the great motives of the Christian life. In effect he asks, "Why should a Christian accept the battle and the danger and the perils of the Christian life if it is all to go for nothing?" He quotes his own experience. Every day he is in jeopardy of his life. Something terrible of which the New Testament has no record happened to Paul at Ephesus. He refers to it again in 2 Corinthians I: 810: he says that in Asia that is in Ephesus, he was in such dire peril that he despaired of life and had the sentence of death passed upon him. To this day in Ephesus there is a building which is known as Paul's prison. Here he calls it fighting with beasts. The word he uses is the word that is used of a gladiator who in the arena had to fight with the lions. The later legends tell us that Paul actually did so fight and that he was wondrously preserved because the beasts would not attack him. But Paul was a Roman citizen and no Roman citizen could be compelled to fight in the arena. Much more likely he used the phrase as a vivid picture of being threatened and ill-treated by men or by a mob who were as savage for his life as a wild beast might have been. In any event Paul demands, "To what end is all the peril and the suffering and the scars if there is no life beyond?"

The man who thinks that this life is all, and that there is nothing to follow it, may well say, "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die." The Bible itself quotes those who spoke like that. Isaiah (56: 12) speaks of those who say, " Come ye, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day and much more abundant." The preacher, who held that death was extinction, wrote, "There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor." Ecclesiastes 2:24, cp. 3: 12; 5: 18; 8:15; 9:7). Jesus Himself told about the rich fool who forgot eternity and who took as his motto, "Eat, drink and be merry." (Luke 12: 19). Classical literature is full of this spirit. Herodotus, the Greek historian, tells of a custom of the Egyptians. " In social meetings among the rich, when the banquet is ended, a servant carries round to the several guests a coffin, In which there is a wooden image of a corpse, carved and painted to resemble nature as nearly as possible, about a cubit or two cubits in length. As he shows it to each guest in turn, the servant says, 'Gaze here, and drink and be merry, for when you die, such will you be.'" Euripides writes in the Alcestis (781789, A. S. Way's translation):

"From all mankind the debt of death Is due,
For of all mortals is there one that knows
If through the coming morrow he shall live?
For trackless is the way of fortune's feet,
Not to be taught nor won by art of man.
This hearing then, and learning it of me,
Make merry, drink; the life from day to day
Account thine own, all else in fortune's power."

Thucydides (2: 53) tells how when the mortal plague came to Athens people committed every shameful crime and eagerly snatched at every lustful pleasure because they believed that life was short and they would never have to pay the penalty. Horace (Odes 2: 13; 13) gives as his philosophy, "Tell them to bring wines and perfumes and the too short-lived blossoms of the lovely rose while circumstances and age and the black threads of the three sisters (the Fates) still allow us to do so." in one of the most famous poems in the world the Latin poet Catullus wrote, " Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love, and let us value the tales of austere old men at a single half-penny. Suns can set and then return again, but for us, when once our brief light sets, there is but one perpetual night through which we must sleep." Take away the thought of a life to come and this life loses its values. Take away the idea that this life is a discipline and a preparation for a greater life to come and the bonds of all honor and morality are loosened. It Is useless to argue that this should not be so, because men should not be good and honorable for the sake of some reward. The fact remains that the man who believes that this is the only world will inevitably live as if the things of this world are all that matter.

So Paul insists that the Corinthians must not associate with those who say that there is no resurrection. To associate with such is inevitably to risk an infection which can pollute life. To say that there is no resurrection is not a sign of superior knowledge; It Is a sign of utter Ignorance of God. Paul is unleashing the lash that very shame may bring these wanderers back into the right way.

THE PHYSICAL AND THE SPIRITUAL 1 Corinthians 15: 35-49

But perhaps someone says, "In what form are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" That is a foolish question. When you sow a seed, It cannot be made alive, unless it first dies. It is slot the body which is going to come into existence that is sown, but a seed which is not clothed in a body at all, it may be of corn, or of some other of the crops. But God gives it a body as He wills, and to each of the seeds He gives its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh. But there is one kind of flesh of men, and another of beasts, and another of birds, and another of fishes. There are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies. The splendor of the heavenly bodies is one thing, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one splendor and the moon another splendor and the stars another splendor. I say stars, not star, for star differs from star in splendor. There Is the same difference between this body and the body we shall have in the resurrection of the dead. Our body is like the seed. It is sown in corruption; It is raised in Incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; It is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body. For if a physical body exists, so does a spiritual one. For it stands written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." it is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical, and after that the spiritual.

The First man is of the earth and was made of earth; the second man is from heaven. Such as are made of earth are like earth; such as are heavenly, are like the heavenly one; and, as we have borne the image of that which is of earth, so we shall also bear the image of Him who is of heaven.

BEFORE we begin to try to interpret and understand this section we would do well to remember one thing--all through it Paul is talking about things that no one really knows anything about. He is not talking about verifiable matters of fact, but about matters of faith. He is trying to express the inexpressible and to describe the indescribable, and he Is doing the best he can with the human ideas and the human words that are all that he has to work with. If we will remember that it will save us from a crudely literalistic interpretation and will make us fasten our thoughts on the underlying principles which are in Paul's mind. In this section Paul is dealing with people who say," Granted that there is a resurrection of the body, even if we go so far as to allow that that is so, with what kind of body do people rise again?" Paul's answer has three basic principles in it.

(i) He takes the analogy of a seed. The seed is put In the ground and dies, but in due time it rises again, and It rises with a very different kind of body from that with which it was sown. Paul is showing that, at one and the same time, there can be dissolution, difference and yet continuity. The seed is dissolved; when it rises again there is a vast difference in the body that God gave It; and yet, in spite of the dissolution and in spite of the difference, it is the same life, the same seed. That argument proves that our earthly bodies will be buried and will dissolve; they will rise again and the form in which they rise may be very different; but the fact remains it is the same person who rises, however different the resurrection body may be. We may be dissolved by death; we may be changed by resurrection; but it is still we who exist.

(ii) The second basic principle which Paul lays down is that in the world, even as we know it, there is not one kind of body. Each separate part of creation has its own body. That argument proves that God gives to each living creature and to each created thing a body suitable for and adjusted for its part in creation. If that be so it is only reasonable to expect that God will give us too a body fitted for the resurrection life.

(iii) The third basic principle is that in life there is a development. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth. (Genesis 2: 7). But Jesus is far more than merely a man made from the dust of the earth. He is the incarnation of the very Spirit of God Himself. Now, under the old way of life, we were one with Adam, sharing his sin, inheriting his death and having his body but under the new way of life we are one with Christ and we shall therefore share His life and His being. That argument proves that it is true that we have a physical body to begin with, but it is also true that one day we shall have a spiritual body also.

All through this section Paul has maintained a reverent and wise reticence as to what that body will be like. It will be a spiritual body and it will be such as God knows that we need and we will be like Christ, but in verses 4244 he draws four contrasts which shed light on our future state.

(i) The present body is corruptible; the future body will be incorruptible. In this world everything is subject to change and decay. "Youth's beauty fades, and manhood's glory fades," as Sophocles the old Greek poet had it, but in that life to come there will be a permanence in which the lovely things will never cease to be lovely and beauty will never lose its sheen.

(ii) The present body is in dishonor; the future body will be in glory. What does Paul mean by this? It may be that he means that in this life it is through our bodily feelings and passions and instincts that dishonor can so easily come to life; but in that life to come our bodies will no longer be the servants of passion and of impulse but the instruments of the pure service of God, than which there can be no greater honor.

(iii) The present body is in weakness; the future body will be in power. It is nowadays fashionable to talk of the power of man, but the really remarkable thing is the weakness of man. A draught of air or a drop of water can kill him. We are limited in this life so often simply because of the necessary limitations of the body. Time and time again our physical constitution says to our visions and our plans,

Thus far and no farther." We are so often frustrated in life because we are what we are. But in that life to come the limitations will be gone. Here we are compassed about with weakness; there we will be clad with power.

"All we have hoped or willed or dreamed of good shall exist;
The high that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard."

On earth we have the "broken arcs"; In the life to come "the perfect round."

(iv) The present body is a natural body; the future body will be a spiritual body. By that, it may be, Paul meant that, as we are, we are but imperfect vessels for the Spirit and imperfect instruments of the Spirit; but in the life to come we will be such that the Spirit can truly fill us, as can never happen here, and the Spirit can truly use us, as is never possible now. In the life to come we will be able to render the perfect worship, the perfect service, the perfect love that in this world can only be a vision and a dream.

THE CONQUEST OF DEATH I Corinthians 15: 50-58

Brothers, I say this, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. Look now! I tell you something which only the initiated can understand. We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed, in a moment of time, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised up incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.. then the word which stands written will happen, " Death has been swallowed lip in victory." 0 death, where is your victory? 0 death, where Is your sting? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, beloved brothers, show yourselves steady, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your toil does not go for nothing.

ONCE again we must begin this passage by remembering that Paul is again dealing with things which defy language and which baffle expression. We must read this with the mind with which we would read great poetry, rather than with the mind with which we would dissect a scientific treatise. The whole argument follows a series of steps until it reaches its climax.

(i) Paul insists that as we are we are not fit to Inherit the Kingdom of God. We may be well enough equipped to get on with the life of this world, but for the life of the world to come we will not do. A man may be able to run enough to catch his morning train, but he would need to be a very different man to be able to run enough to run in the Olympic games. A man may write well enough to amuse his friends but he would need to be a very different man to write something which men will not willingly let die. A man may talk well enough in the circle of his club but he would need to be a very different man to talk well enough to hold his own in a circle of real scholars and experts. A man always needs to be changed to enter into a higher grade of life. First then Paul insists that before we can enter the Kingdom of God we must be changed.

(ii) Further Paul insists that that shattering change is going to come in his own lifetime. In this Paul was in error. But he looked to that change coming when Jesus Christ came again.

(iii) Then Paul goes on triumphantly to declare that no man need fear that change. The fear of death has always haunted men. Dr. Johnson, one of the greatest and the best men who ever lived, was haunted by this fear. Once Boswell said to him that there had been times when he had not feared death. Johnson answered that "he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him." Once Mrs. Knowles told him that he should not have a horror for that which is the gate of life. Johnson answered,

No rational man can die without uneasy apprehension." He declared that the fear of death was so natural to man that all life was one long effort not to think about it. Now wherein lies the fear of death? Partly it comes from the fear of the unknown. But still more it comes from the sense of sin. If a man felt that he could meet God easily then to die would only be, as Peter Pan said, a great adventure. But whence comes that sense of sin? It comes from a sense of being under the law. So long as a man sees in God only the law of righteousness he must forever be in the position of a criminal before the bar of God with no hope of acquittal and with the certainty of condemnation But it is precisely that that Jesus came to abolish. He came to tell us that God is not law, but love; that the centre of God's being is not legalism but grace; that we go out, not to a judge, but to a Father who awaits His children coming home. And just because of that Jesus Christ gave us the victory over death, and the fear of death is banished in the wonder of the love of God.

(iv) Finally, at the end of this chapter, Paul does what he always does. Suddenly the theology becomes a challenge; suddenly the speculations become intensely practical; suddenly the sweep of the mind becomes the demand for action. So Paul ends by saying," If you have all that glory to look forward to, then keep yourself steadfast in God's faith and God's service, for if you do, all your effort and all your striving will not be in vain." The Christian life may be difficult, but the goal is infinitely worth the struggle of the way....(William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1956)

 

What are Resurrection Bodies Like?

We know of one man who walked on earth having overcome death and having gained possession of a resurrection body. That man was Jesus of Nazareth.

"...[He] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel..." (2 Timothy 1:9-10).

Jesus has in fact gained a great and lasting victory for us,

"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus made a number of appearances to his followers. The following passages of Scripture shed light on what He looked like, how he behaved, and what He did during the next 40 days before his ascension. He was present on earth with people in his resurrection body:

It is helpful to read: Matthew 18:1-35, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 23:53-24:54, John 20:1-18, Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-35. Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-23, John 20:24-29, John 21:1-24, Matthew 28:16-20. Mark 16:14-20b, Luke 24:44-53, John 21:25, 20:30, 31; Acts 1:1-12, and I Corinthians 15:3-8.

From these passages we learn that Jesus had a tangible resurrection body which could be touched and handled. He was able to eat food. His body carried with it the nail wounds in his hands, feet and sides that remained as evidence of his crucifixion. He carries those same scars today. He was not a ghost, not a spirit. He had been dead, and was now alive again.

Jesus, after His resurrection, was able to conceal his identity from friends, as for example when he talked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter afternoon. He was able to enter and leave rooms through closed doors, and apparently could travel a hundred miles to Galilee with ease. At the time of His departure--the Ascension--he disappeared through a gate, a space-time gate taking him out of our physical world into the invisible world of the spirit which surrounds us on all sides.

In summary, in our resurrection bodies,

1. We will be able to recognize Jesus as He is now and has been for the past 2000 years. "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2)

2. We will recognize our friends and loved ones.

3. We can eat food, we can be touched and we will have our usual senses of sight, smell, taste, smell, etc.

4. We can, apparently enter and leave the physical world from the invisible realm of the heavenly places.

5. Our new bodies do not wear out and are imperishable. We are no longer subject to sickness, pain or grief.

6. We will be incapable of sin by nature. Thus the quality of all relationships with our fellow saints will be immensely improved.

7. Marriage will have ceased as an institution for us. We will not be sexless, nor will the differences between the sexes be eliminated, rather they will be amplified and extended. We will probably lack reproductive organs. However, our participation in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb implies an intimate unity not only with our Lord Jesus, but also with all the rest of God's people.

8. Because of the absence of sin, pleasure and enjoyment without fear of failure, inhibition or restriction will be greatly expanded. Any two believers can enjoy intimate fellowship of the highest quality."At the right hand are pleasures forevermore."

9. Our resurrection bodies will be equipped to be in tune with the spiritual world, the heavenly places, therefore time and space travel is a likely capability of these marvelous new bodies.

10. Based on our walk with God in this present life believers will possess varying capacity to contain God in heaven. The quality of time, and the quality of eternal life which each of us experiences will be greater for those whose lives have been lived out on earth is a closer walk with the Lord and obeyed Him most faithfully.

11. We should consider our present selves as mere smudges of greasy smoke, largely shadowy and transparent. The residents of heaven, on the other hand are "solid people." The best description of this state of affairs I know of is given by C.S. Lewis in his wonderful (fictional account) of a visit from the outskirts of hell to the gates on heaven in his perennially valuable book "The Great Divorce".

12. Resurrection bodies are not the same identical bodies which were laid in the grave which were then reconstituted. The new body is related to the former body, yet different.

Additional Commentaries and References:

Excellent further commentaries by Ray C. Stedman, Expository studies in First Corinthians, Messages 36-39. and also Ray C. Stedman, Expository Studies in Second Corinthians, messages 9-10.

My article Time and Eternity hopefully clarifies the difference between time and eternity as applicable to the physical vs. the spiritual world. Also discussed are the various kinds of subjective time we know in daily experience.

The Bible indicates that the unrighteous who did not receive Christ in their lifetimes will also be resurrected (separately) and given resurrection bodies, (Revelation 20:11-15). We know even less about the nature of these bodies which will last forever along with their occupants in a place of everlasting destruction.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:24-29)

 




Lambert Dolphin
lambert@ldolphin.org
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February 4, 1998