When modern Christians teach people the Gospel, we typically begin by trying to convince them they have a problem about which they are blissfully unaware. We try to teach them that their biggest problem is, “God is angry with you and will soon punish you forever.” In reality, the Gospel is actually far more simple and every adult is already aware of his or her biggest problem. Thankfully, the Gospel addresses that problem head on.
Regardless of his audience, Paul preached resurrection. When speaking to Greeks in Athens, he was mocked because he preached, “the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 17:32). When on trial before the Jewish council, he shouted, “It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial” (Acts 23:6). Paul believed and preached the future resurrection of our bodies was the answer to our biggest problem.
So, if resurrection is the solution, what is the problem? The problem is pretty self-evident, isn’t it? We die. We are mortal. As Ecclesiastes describes so well, regardless of how smart you are, how wise you are, how rich you are, or how much you accomplish, you are going to die.
As Paul lays out in his letter to the Romans and also in our text of 1 Corinthians 15, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (vs. 22). Humanity’s problem, ever since the Garden, has been lack of access to the tree of life. Sin, both Adam’s sin and our personal sin, is the cause of our problem, but our self-evident problem is death.
By offering himself as a sacrifice for sins and being raised from the dead, Jesus broke death’s grip on us (see Hebrews 4:14-15). We will die, but we are confident we will not stay dead. We will someday be raised, just as Jesus was raised.
Will Our Current Bodies Be Raised?
Sometimes people ask, “Is Paul talking about a physical resurrection?” They think maybe “resurrection” is just a fancy word for our spirits going to heaven. They reason, “Surely our dead bodies won’t be put back together and come out of the grave, will they?”
Here are three reasons why it must be our current bodies that will be raised, according to 1 Corinthians 15:
1. The word resurrection (“anastasis” in Greek) means a dead body getting up again or becoming alive again. If a person’s current physical body isn’t involved in the resurrection, then it cannot rightly be called a resurrection.
2. Jesus’ resurrection is presented as the “firstfruits” of the coming resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20). Contrary to common usage, “firstfruits” doesn’t mean the best, but simply the first with more to come. When you harvest grain, the first stalk is evidence of more to come. If our resurrection isn’t our bodies coming back to life and leaving the grave, then Jesus’ resurrection cannot be called the “firstfruits.”
3. Our resurrection bodies will be transformed versions of our current bodies. At the end of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul focuses on the “change” our bodies will experience. But if our current bodies are not involved in the resurrection, then Paul would be wrong saying our bodies “will be changed.”
For these reasons, it is not biblical to think of our bodies as unimportant or disposable. It is not biblical to assume the dust into which our bodies will turn will remain dust. According to 1 Corinthians 15, we will experience the same thing Jesus experienced, our bodies will be gathered back together, made alive, and be radically transformed.
How Will We Be Transformed?
Don’t worry though, our resurrection bodies will not be plagued by weakness, disease, or deformity. Our resurrection bodies will be radically transformed bodies. But what does that mean? What will our bodies be like? We naturally want answers to these questions. Paul doesn’t give us all the answers, but according to 1 Corinthians 15, we know our resurrection bodies will be:
1. Immortal – Not subject to death
2. Imperishable – Not able to be corrupted
3. Powerful – No longer plagued by the weakness of the flesh
Some might wonder what Paul means when he says our bodies will be “spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:44-46). In today’s vernacular, we often use the word “spiritual” to mean not physical, not made up of matter, or “incorporeal.” However, Paul does not use the word “spiritual” this way.
Paul is NOT contrasting “spiritual” bodies and “physical” bodies. He is contrasting “spiritual” with “natural” bodies. Our current bodies are natural, they are the result of natural procreation and originally they came from the dirt. But our resurrection bodies will be so much more. Our resurrection bodies will be “spiritual” because they are the result of the Spirit’s power and work. They will be “spiritual” because they are not the result of mere natural procreation, but of God’s supernatural work of recreation.
One thing is absolutely certain to me from reading the whole of 1 Corinthians 15, we will not be “spirits” in the resurrection. A “spirit,” by very definition, is a disembodied being, a being who has no “body.” A being who has a body is not a spirit, and God’s people are promised bodies. Therefore, we cannot be “spirits” when we are resurrected.
Our resurrection bodies will no longer be weak, perishable, or mortal. They will be spirit-powered, immortal, and imperishable. This is what Paul means when he says we will no longer be “flesh and blood” when we inherit the kingdom of God. We will be so much more than flesh and blood, no longer plagued by weakness, sickness, or death.
When it comes to sharing the Gospel with unbelievers, we should focus a lot of attention on death and resurrection. Everyone already knows they will die. Everyone fears death to one degree or another. So, let’s help them understand that Jesus is the only one who gives immortality. Jesus is the one who is offering to solve their biggest problem, death.
I love you and God loves you,
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to read the other articles in this series, “What is the Gospel?” and subscribe to the e-mail list so you don’t miss the next post in the series.