1 Corinthians 15:50-58
The Resurrected Body: What’s It Like? (Continued)
Like the Corinthians of old, most Christians today, or so it seems to me, think that our existence in heaven will be something dreamy, insubstantial, or ghostly. Their thoughts bear more resemblance to those of the ancient pagan writers, much like Homer’s Odyssey, where the arms of Odysseus pass right through the dead when he visits the Underworld, than to the biblical writers. Just like those wrong-headed Corinthians and ancient and contemporary pagans, they either completely disparage the body thinking it of no consequence, or so highly value it that they worry over every intake of calorie, fat, or carbohydrate, spending themselves at fitness centers, charming themselves in mirrors. (I’m not opposed to exercise and have frequented fitness centers, and so know something about the mentality.)
My point is this: We shall be raised and we shall bear a body—a spiritual body. Now the question is asked, “What is a ‘spiritual body?’” It is a very relevant question. When Paul says, “spiritual body,” he does NOT mean something invisible or insubstantial, which terms are completely contrary to the definition of “body”; he means a body under the dominion of the spiritual world, which is under the dominion of the Holy Spirit. I said yesterday that to live in this world, we had to have bodies fit for this world; that is, under the dominion of the natural world. To live in the spiritual world, we must have bodies fit for that world and hence, spiritual bodies.
I take as our model the risen body of our Lord. When he rose from the dead, he rose with his body of flesh, as he plainly said, “Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). At the same time, he could appear right out of thin air (“the doors being locked,” John 20:19), thus indicating that he was not bound by the natural world. Yes, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” but I understand that to mean flesh and blood under the dominion of the natural world. So I take it that when Paul writes that both the dead in Christ and believers who are alive at his coming will be “changed,” that he means changed into the body of our Lord at his resurrection. This was also the understanding of the ancient Church which spoke, not of the resurrection of the body, but of the flesh—under the dominion of the spirit world, of course.
I am aware that some theologians speak of a further change that Jesus supposedly underwent when he ascended into glory. This is sheer conjecture. They assume this because Paul said, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” But as I explained, this does not include flesh and blood that is changed to be incorruptible and imperishable, as our Lord had when he arose. And as for our Lord’s transfiguration, I see no reason to believe that he ceased to be flesh and blood in that event, but instead that the glory of God shown through that very flesh and blood, as it shall one day shine through the flesh and blood of the redeemed. In short, I cannot imagine any other form of “spiritual body” deriving from a flesh and blood human being, but I will not argue the point with those who believe otherwise.
The most beautiful thing is that death will finally be defeated, killed, and executed, and that, once and for all. The reason for this is that sin will be no more. Our souls shall experience that final healing which the those who are redeemed so crave—the healing of our souls such that sin shall never tempt us again—which is what salvation is, which is what freedom is. And our bodies, which were corrupted because of our sinful souls, shall know total health because of our cleansed and sinless souls. We shall be what we were meant to be, but only better, as redemption is superior to innocence.
So rejoice, Oh Christian! Remain immovable in the faith, for we have a sure and certain inheritance awaiting us.