One: 1 Corinthians 15.35-58
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:35–15:58
Good Morning! Today we continue our series ONE on the book of 1 Corinthians, in chapter 15:34-58. During this letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he starts with the centrality of Jesus Christ crucified purchasing people from slavery of sin. He as challenged them for their sexual immorality and their tolerance for engaging with idol worship in the culture. The gatherings of this church are a circus so he spends several chapters detailing what is should look like when followers of Jesus come together to worship not themselves, but Him. In chapter 15 this letter reaches its crescendo of theological teaching as it focuses exclusively on the historical truth and implications of Jesus Christ not only crucified but risen from the dead. Last week we looked back at the significance of Christ’s resurrection in why we worship Jesus as God and King. No resurrection, not worthy of worship and we are all fools. This final section looks forward to what the resurrection promises to those who are in Christ as our death is swallowed up in His victory.
Human Questions Godly Answers v35-41
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
Paul’s teaching on the resurrection was what got him laugh out of Athens before he came to Corinth. Greek/Roman beliefs could not reconcile how dead bodies could have new life so the Corinthians mockingly asked Paul two questions:
How are the dead raised? The first question Paul simply doesn’t answer, God will do it! He will do it with His immeasurable power, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. The same power He will use to usher in a new heavens and a new earth. The same power He will use to put an end to all sin, sickness, brokenness, and death. This gospel of resurrection and restoration is so incomprehensible to our human experience. We just don’t get it. "Heaven's a little morbid. How do you get to heaven? Something terrible has to happen." (Don Draper) So we often default to asking all sorts of questions about details we miss the point of what God has done to preview what He is going to do.
With what type of body do they come? This is the zombie question. Reincarnation could make sense because they believed the soul was completely separate from our bodies that always seem to decay so there is an assumption even if we were raised it would be some sort of reanimated corpse. This leads us to ask other sorts of questions like; “If I have a limb cut of and buried a distance from the rest of my body will it be re attached.” “If a baby dies will it come back as a baby or as an adult?” “If I die at 90 can I come back as a 25 year old but with all my wisdom?” “What about cremation does that mean I can’t be raised from the dead?” Some questions we can’t answer, some we can, but where scripture is silent we should be silent also. This scripture is clear, no reincarnation, no reanimation, only transformation.
Paul points us to the Creator and how He has hardwired resurrection into His creation through planting and growth, in part, so we can begin to understand this supernatural concept. In order for a seed to grow into a plant it has to be sown, more specifically it has to be buried if it’s going to produce anything. A buried seed begins to break down, literally is destroyed, as a new life begins to sprout and take shape. It is a miracle of God. Jesus also talks of seed. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24. We cannot will a seed to become a plant and we cannot wish the dead to be raised. God does it and when He does the transformation is both dramatic and beautiful. When you look at a single seed there is almost nothing remarkable about it and if you didn’t know the process of sowing you would likely never assume that burying it could produce new and fundamentally different life.
When driving through eastern Washington this week on one side of the road was a recently sown field of winter wheat. It was just dirt, some blowing in the air with buried seeds, nothing inspiring. This other side of the road was a field of 5’ tall golden wheat ready for harvest, with a bit of a breeze it was epically beautiful, the things paintings are made of. The difference was striking. In the same way a type/individual seed produces a type/individual plant, there will be continuity between our “buried” body and what is to come. What is sown is related to what is grown. Yet the difference will be as dramatic a single kernel and a mature plant with new attributes we likely can’t imagine as we consider our current bodies.
Paul continues to point to God’s creation. God makes things regular but not uniform. People are different, from panthers, from eagles, and from salmon. Stars are different from dahlias. Because He made them each is glorious in their own way and each is made for its specific environment. Fish can’t fly and moons aren’t put under water. God makes things specific to the environments He intends them to dwell in.
Paul says, look at God’s portfolio of work; it is diverse and beautiful! He is a master artist. We don’t know exactly what our bodies will be like, because we only have a glimpse of what he is capable of. Who cares what each of the minute details are, just trust God it’s going to be awesome!!
First Adam and Last Adam v42-50
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shallalso bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Our bodies for this earth are suitable (if not perfect) for this world, but will not be for the one to come, they will have to be retired. In the beginning God created the world, including man/Adam good. 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Gen 2:7 God gave life, God gives life, God sustains life. Adam and Eve’s bodies were perfect and sinless. Through man's rebellion sin entered the world and infects every aspect of creation. All of humanity is defined by Adam and will ultimately experience death as a consequence of sin in our world, bodies, and hearts. Gen 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are dust! Dust made in the image and likeness of God, but dust all the same. Because our current bodies are made from this fallen world they are:
Perishable - Another word for this is corrupt or given to decay. Our bodies grow they mature, they get sick, but ultimately they breakdown. When our bodies have decayed so much they cannot function to sustain life we die. Yet the decay continues long after this life ends it cannot be halted it has to be buried.
Dishonor- This means a loss of citizenship. We were created to be in God’s kingdom but because of sin, literally treason against God, we have been exiled away from God’s kingdom. The grave is the ultimate humiliation for humans who were crowned in glory and honor to rule God’s creation. There is no death with dignity because death robs us of all dignity as we commit a lifeless body back to the ground.
Weak – No matter how hard you work to cultivate your body it is inherently a weak instrument. We have disabilities and impassable limitation. Professional athletes with the best resources our world has to offer still get injured or come to a point they cannot perform any better. This powerlessness is clearest in death.
These bodies, our lives, are a fragile, hopeless, and empty existence apart from the life-giving God. We cannot prevent our death any more than we could prepare our birth. We are completely incapable of reaching back up to a holy perfect God as Adam was to come up out of the ground on his own. Something had to be done. Jesus came down from heaven to experience our existence. He was born, grew, and lived like us. His appearance was as unremarkable as ours. He experienced temptation, fatigue, and hunger. His power and presence was limited. Rather than embrace Him as King, Jesus was rejected, dishonored, beaten and ultimately faced the same fate of us all, death, as he was executed on a Roman cross and put into the ground. Only Jesus wasn’t from the ground, his citizenship wasn’t of this earth, He is from heaven. Three days later He rose again displaying His nature to the world and guaranteeing a resurrected body for each of His people. Don’t make the mistake of over spiritualizing the resurrection and thinking it is less than what it is. When contrasting the natural and spiritual bodies it is not comparing a physical body with an immaterial spirit. It is comparing a body/person of “flesh and blood” only who is of this world, marked by sin and destined for destruction with a body/person who is in Jesus, sin covered by the blood of the cross, filled with the Holy “life giving” Spirit of God, and destined for eternity in the kingdom of God.
Romans 8:11 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
After this life we will not be ghosts or on some mystical plane of existence. We will have complete bodies with physical attributes, mind, appearance, and emotions. Jesus came and experienced this world and our bodies so those in Him can experience a new world and a new risen body that resembles His:
Imperishable- Our risen bodies will be eternally perfect with no ability to sin and no chance to decay.
Glorious- We are meant to participate in the Kingdom of God as heir to the King. Our risen bodies will be completely sufficient full citizenship in Heaven. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Phil 3:20-21
Powerful – We are made to be instruments that magnify the glory of God and steward/experience His creation. Our risen bodies will have unlimited power necessary to accomplish this without fatigue or failure.
We often say Jesus is the second Adam, which could imply there could be a third, etc. The text says he is the LAST Adam meaning there is no other savior coming in which to hope for there is only one name. (Acts 4:12) There are only two choices. The singular question that matters for now and forever is “Do you bear the image of Adam and this dusty world, or do you bear the image of Jesus Christ the King of Heaven?”
Verse 50 is explicitly clear, flesh and blood, those that identify with Adam and this world alone CANNOT inherit the kingdom of God because something corrupt and decaying cannot inherit something perfect and everlasting. The old cannot be part of the new. The old has to be buried for the new to come.
Return of Jesus and the Death of Death v51-56
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
Something has to change in us and too us. There will be a change, the Kingdom of God is not for those who are in love with this kingdom or with their own bodies. It’s not for those who see the decay of this world and want to just try to fix it up, maintain, or manage its decline so we can remain little kings and queens. As CS Lewis says “we are far too easily pleased.” It is for those who want more, so much more. It is for those who want a new world to come and desperately long for the return of King Jesus. The more we know about Jesus, the more we trust in Jesus, the more we follow Jesus, the more our spirit conforms to Jesus the more our perishable bodies groan under the strain of anticipating their demise and the freedom of a totally new body designed for the glory, power, and perfection of the kingdom. We look back to what Jesus has done on the cross and though the resurrection and we look forward His return. So we begin to ask WHEN? This leads us to charts and news articles trying to predict when Jesus will come back, when will this suffering end, and when will we be resurrected. The question is not when, that is a mystery, Paul doesn’t know or claim to know. What has been revealed is not when, but how, and what?
The what is we will be changed, those in Christ Jesus who have passed in history, those in Christ who live and die in future and those who are alive at the “last trumpet”. That is the last event in history of God redeeming his people from the corruption, dishonor, weakness of sin and death. It means the battle is finally over. Victory over satan, sin, and death. What will victory look like? All in Christ will be changed…. In a moment = Atomo/Atomic. Immediately.
1 Thess 4:16 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Paul later will tell the Corinthians to be absent from the body, dead, is to be present with the Lord, and Jesus tells the thief on the cross who had faith in Him “today you will be with me in paradise.” This answers questions like When we die will we have to wait for this day? Will there be a long season of growth or transition like a plant? Will we wait in soul sleep or purgatory? In the blink of an eye God’s people will go from dead field of bare seeds to a robust field of wheat clothed in splendor by God. We will not be found naked as in death, we won’t be left behind, or dressed in the worn out rags of our earthly bodies but clothed by the pristine righteousness of Jesus and in the presence of the King. The moment of death is when we’ll put on our Jesus suits and transition from this history into eternity with an imperishable immortal body. That moment, that blink, that trumpet blast is when the last battle is over, God will stand, death and sin will be defeated FOREVER, and all in Christ celebrate the death of death. God’s people will finally mock death. Where is your victory? Until Jesus, death had always defeated every man and women in all of history. Death is like a school yard bully who other children cower too before a stronger good kid came along and defeated him giving others freedom and hope. At the last day death will finally be vanquished.
Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
Second question is where is the sting? The sting is what we experience when we lose a loved one or hear of a tragedy that reminds us death is still at work and on the march. We read verses like this funerals of our believing loved ones who have passed because while we know the sting of them being gone from this world we know there is no sting for them and they are already experiencing the world to come.
The sting is also found in unforgiven sin. Death is not a natural and unpleasant phenomenon. “death is part of life” is NOT what was intended, it is a consequence of sin. It is punishment from God. It exists only because our rebellion against God exists. The ultimate pain or sting of death is to die unforgiven. Where sin hasn’t been dealt with death still lurks and wrath is still promised. Christ died for our sins, was raise on the third day so on the last day death will fall defeated forever. This is an accomplished fact of history.
Our Response: A call to worship, a call to work v57-58
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
We do not know when that last trumpet call will be, only that it will sound. On that day, on your last day you cannot share in the celebration of the death of death, you cannot enter the kingdom of God if you haven’t pledged allegiance to King Jesus. What God has accomplished in history on the cross and what He has promised His people at Jesus return is so glorious it should lead His people to respond today with:
Worship- We were defeated, we were doomed. God secures the victory we were hopeless to achieve and gives us the spoils we did nothing to deserve. This is grace. We respond with thankful, heartfelt worship. As we gather we can be excited about what God has done in our individual lives, in our families, and in our church. Praise Him for that! But we also remember full victory is not experienced now, it is to be realized later. So we are not to get disillusioned when our lives are still challenging or even boring. We hold fast and do not move from the fundamental truths of Gospel even in the face a pagan culture.
Work- Our worship and gratitude for what God has done for us does not cause us to simply wait for our death or his return. It should naturally lead us to work for His glory as our saving lord and our joy as His grateful servants. While our “big” victories in this life may seem insignificant in the life to come; we cannot be so “heavenly minded we are no earthly good”. What we do today actually matters to God. The Gladiator quote, “what we do in life echo’s in eternity,” is true, only if it is for His glory and not our own. We are called to always be overflowing, even excelling, in the work of the Lord. This means actually keeping God’s commands, loving our neighbors, preaching and teaching the gospel to unbelievers while applying it to our lives, and acting out kingdom values in our homes and communities. While this is achievable, powered by the Holy Spirit, we are given no promises this will be easy. In fact, we we’re told repeated it will be hard. It will be laborious, it will seem like toil, we will experience the fatigue that is involved in hard work. We are called to be steadfast, knowing that what we do is not empty.
Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, ”Thy will be done”; And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. ” - CT Studd
Christians are constantly being reminded of, and celebrating what Jesus accomplished in history, actively living like Jesus on mission in the present, and eagerly anticipating/hoping Jesus Return on the Last day.
Benediction 2 Cor 4:16-18
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.