1 Corinthians 15:35-49
The Resurrected Body: What’s It Like?
So naturally the question arises: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” It is a sensible question. I mean, what about people eaten by sharks—three centuries ago? How are we to understand the resurrection of a body which has so thoroughly decayed that there is nothing left of it, indeed, which nutrients have gone to form countless other bodies of the earth? The doctrine seems wholly impossible, fantastic, and, therefore, unbelievable. Indeed, were it not taught in Scripture and proclaimed by the Church as a necessary doctrine of the faith from the very beginning, I dare say that I would believe it myself.
But Paul answers our unbelief with, “You foolish person!” He then goes on to explain, using an analogy from agriculture, that what is sown “does not come to life unless it dies,” referring to the seed which is transformed into the grain. This prepares us for his discussion of heavenly bodies and earthly bodies in which Paul employs a number of antitheses to describe what happens to our bodies upon death: We are sown perishable and raised imperishable, sown in dishonor and raised to glory, sown a natural body and raised a spiritual body, sown a man of dust like Adam and raised a man of heaven like Christ, sown to bear the image of the man of dust and raised to bear the image of the man of heaven.
If I may elaborate: The body I bear now is of the man of dust, and it (I) shall one day die and return to the earth in some way, shape, or form, regardless how that death occurs. Let us call that body, “Stephen seed.” That seed shall remain in the earth until the day comes when God calls that body back to life, but not in the form of “Stephen seed” that it had before it (I) died, but now in the form of “Stephen fruit” which “Stephen seed” died in order to produce. “Stephen seed” is my current natural body which I have from Adam; “Stephen fruit” will be my future spiritual body I gain from Christ: imperishable, incorruptible, and undefiled. You see, we had to have natural bodies to fit us to live in this life; we shall have to have spiritual bodies which shall fit us to live in the next. And so Paul closes this passage with the wonderful promise: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” Of course, here we are only discussing the redeemed; the wicked, who bear the image of the man of dust now, shall bear that image in a rotting and putrefying condition in hell. And so we see the grace of God toward those who believe, and the severity of that same God toward those who do not.