The Expository Files


"How are the Dead Raised?”

1 Corinthians 15:36-58


 “But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?"  (1 Corinthians 15:35).

 We believe in the future resurrection from the dead. We are curious to know more about what it will be like. There are questions we sometimes have for which the answers are incomplete, at least at this time. But we know all we need to know, and we'll have to wait until Resurrection Day for greater details. 

            For now, we can speculate on the following questions, but that is about all”:  “Will we know one another?" "What will we look like?" "What will we feel like?" "How will our perceptions of our environment change as we gain new abilities and the spiritual equivalents of eyes and ears?"  "What will we sound like when we sing?" “Will the spiritual body of one who has died in old age be the same as one who died in infancy?” “Will we still bear scars and wounds?” Lots of questions! I'd like to look at some of the things the Bible says about it all. Facts we can know today about the resurrection body. 

The Resurrection

            All will be raised and judged, and the outcome of that judgment will be fair, righteous, and eternal. The results will be one of two of two possibilities: eternal life or eternal condemnation (John 5:28-29).  

            It will be a day of reckoning, and so we seek to please the Lord with our lives today, because we will be judged according to our deeds (2 Corinthians 5:7-10; Galatians 6:7-8; Hebrews 9:27).  

The song "Amazing Grace" describes the saved being there 10,000 years "bright shining as the Sun".  Certainly this description of the redeemed refers to the words of Jesus (Matthew 13:43). 

            The souls of the righteous dead will return with Jesus; receive their new bodies (this is the resurrection), and then those still alive who are in Christ will be "caught up" to be with them in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  

Body and Soul - a "Package Deal"

            In this life, you are a "package deal". Your body is the package; your soul, or spirit, is the real you (1 Corinthians 5:1;4; 2 Peter 1:13,14). Though body and soul are united in this life, the package (body) is perishable. The body will be laid to rest, but not the spirit. The body will be consumed in some way. It will decay. Without the spirit, it is dead (James 2:26). The part of you that will survive death is that part contained within the package.  

What Shall We Be?

 (Acts 1:9-11). After His resurrection, Jesus stressed that He was yet in His flesh to assure apostles it was He; and at other times doing things that simple flesh cannot do (John 20:26-28; Luke 24:36-44). But we know also that though the apostles watched Him ascend into the cloud bodily, that it was not that body of flesh that went to God's right  hand in heaven because flesh and blood cannot go there (1 Corinthians 15:50). We simply do not know what happened above the cloud.  

            There will be little or no recognizable correlation between the body you now have and the one you will have. The question we have been discussing is not a new one to Christians. Even in the first century, Christians were being asked about the resurrection by often skeptical unbelievers: “But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?"  (1 Corinthians 15:35). Christians had asked Paul about it. What kind of answer should be given? First, recognizing that this question was often not asked out of curiosity, but rather because of doubt of the resurrection, Paul says it is foolish. To deny that there is a resurrection just because we do not know what the body will look like makes little sense (v. 36). 

            But despite the foolishness of motive, Paul did give some information about it. In a nutshell, there is little or no similarity between the bodies we now have and the bodies we will have. Almost everything you can say about the two stand in stark  contrast.  

            How different is the physical body which we now have from the resurrection body that we will have? Take a watermelon seed; small, brown, lightweight, hard, not very tasty. Then take a watermelon: Large; Green on outside, red inside; heavy; not nearly as hard. Quite tasty. If a watermelon seed could think, and if it pondered what its next body would be like, do you think it could even imagine itself as a watermelon? They are so different!  This is essentially how Paul answers the question.  He uses an example of a seed being planted (1 Corinthians 15:36-38). 

            Then, Paul begins to contrast between different bodies. Some of them are very different. He illustrates by noting the difference in the bodies of animals and then the differences between the heavenly bodies: “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.  There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 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.” (1 Corinthians 15:39-41).  

            So why is it so difficult to understand that God has a completely different  body with a glory far beyond our present body waiting for us? That is how it is: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body”  (1 Corinthians  15:42-44). 

            But Paul isn't done. Here is another contrast; that between how Adam became a fleshly man and how Christ, upon His ascension, became a spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Remember what John said? We'll be like Jesus as He is now… spirit. We won't be like we are now in the flesh; or like Adam was at his creation. (see Philippians 3:20,21).  This change to new, spiritual bodies must take place, and if we have the faith we ought to have in the resurrection, we have a powerful motivator to remain steadfast and always abound in the lord's work. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). 

            We believe in the future resurrection from the dead. We are curious to know more about what it will be like. Lots of questions! We've looked at some of the answers. These are things we can know now. But like that watermelon seed would have no idea of the watermelon he would one day become, we will probably have to wait until our change comes. Until then, let us abound in the work of the Lord!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 15.3; March 2008