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1 Corinthians 15:35-58: Raised Imperishable Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 31 January 2016

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I first really noticed it when I was in the 6th grade and the doctor told me that my pancreas was no longer working, at least not producing insulin. They were not sure when this happened or even exactly why, but they diagnosed me with diabetes. And every shot is a reminder. I noticed it as well a few weeks back when I went to play some basketball against the Risco Tigers, the team that Brandon coaches. On a couple of different plays, my mind and my heart wanted to run down the court and try to score or make a stop, but I just couldn’t, not like I could in high school. So I jogged and hoped nobody saw me! And just this week I was reminded again. One morning while getting ready, I leaned over to do something and tweaked my back just the wrong way. I wasn’t doing anything major (like trying to lift my six month old who looks like a twelve month old), just getting ready, but the pain stuck with me for a couple of days. Another painful reminder. To what am I referring this morning? The hard truth that my body is wearing out, has been for years. It doesn’t work like it used to work. It’s breaking down. Slowly but surely, the years are taking their toll on my flesh and my blood. And if the Lord tarries, it will eventually perish.

Some of you who are older might be saying: ‘You’re young, wait till you get my age!’ Some of you teenagers might be thinking: ‘I hope none of that ever happens to me!’ But the truth is, we are all breaking down and wearing out. None of our bodies will last much more than a hundred years and most of them will not last that long. They break down and wear out.  It seems that for some in Corinth, this was another reason to deny the future bodily resurrection of believers. How could Paul think that we will be raised bodily? He notes this question in verse 35. Look at that with me. People know that these bodies wear out and so how can Paul claim a future resurrection of our bodies? He answers by teaching us about our resurrected bodies. We can break up what he says into two headings: the nature of the resurrected body and the victory of the resurrected body. Let’s begin by looking at what he says about its nature.

The nature of the resurrected body (v. 36-49)

The first truth that Paul notes concerning our resurrected bodies is that they will be different. He uses two analogies to support this. The first is that of a seed in a field. Look at verses 36-38. Paul calls the person who would ask such a question foolish because they are not taking God into account. It is the fool who leaves out God. And it is God who teaches us the necessity and the power of transformation. Anyone who has ever planted and then harvested a field or any other plant would recognize this. What you put in the ground is not the same as what comes out of the ground. You put in a small, bare seed, and it grows into a fruit bearing plant. What comes out of the ground is different from what goes in. It is God who has ordered things in this way. When the farmer plants corn in the Spring, he can expect a crop of corn in the Fall. The dead seed will produce a life-giving crop.

The second analogy is another one found in nature. Look at verses 39-41. God has given His creation different types of flesh. The cardinal’s flesh is not like the cow’s flesh is not like the flesh of the clown fish. They are all different. In the same way, the radiance or glory of the heavenly bodies, meaning the sun and moon and stars, is different from the glory of earthly bodies. Even one star is different from another. God has appointed all of creation to be like this. We all have the bodies that He has given us now. And just as these bodies are different, so will our resurrection bodies be different.

Yet, how will they be different? Paul tells us in verses 42-44. Look at those with me. Notice the contrast in each of these. The bodies we have now are perishable, but the resurrected body will be imperishable. Our current body is wearing out, but our future body will last forever. Our current body is sown in dishonor, but the resurrected body will be glorious. Our current bodies are weak, but the resurrected body will have power to last forever. Our current bodies are natural, but our resurrected bodies will be spiritual, which doesn’t mean that they will be immaterial, but that they will be suited to last for eternity in heaven, unlike the natural one. Our resurrected bodies will be different in these ways. In all of this, Paul once again uses the seed language: ‘it is sown...it is raised.’ People used to refer to churchyards that had cemeteries as ‘God’s acre.’ It was His field that had been sown with His people and one day all those in Christ would be raised imperishable.

Paul further supports this transformation by considering the two heads of humanity: Adam and Christ. Look at verses 45-49. As sons and daughters of Adam, we all received from him the bodies that we have. They are natural and of the dust. But now that the last Adam has come, namely Jesus Christ who died and was raised again, now we will receive from Him through faith our spiritual or heavenly bodies. We have borne the image of Adam through our sin and corruption, but through faith we now bear the image of Christ which will be perfected when He comes. Paul is encouraging his readers to live that out through faith. Our future bodies will be different and we are called to live different lives even now.

The victory of the resurrected body (v. 50-57)

Building upon the idea that our resurrected bodies must be different, Paul now works out how that transformation will take place and what it will mean for us. He teaches that there is coming a day when we shall all be changed. Look at verses 50-53. The reason why we must all be changed is because the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable. There will be two groups of believers when Christ returns: those that have died or fallen asleep and those who are still living. Both of these groups must put on the imperishable in order to inherit the Kingdom. So how will this transformation happen? The dead will be raised imperishable, as Paul has already argued, and the living will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians that when the trumpet sounds the dead in Christ will rise first and then those living will be caught up with them (4:13-18). He is saying the same thing here. The last trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed immediately. At the moment, this perishable body will put on the imperishable and this mortal body will put on immortality. All of the believers in Christ will be changed in that moment!

And why is that so great? Because when that happens, when we put on our imperishable and immortal bodies, then we will proclaim together: Death is swallowed up in victory. Look at verses 54-57. Here is the climax of Paul’s argument concerning the resurrection. This is not just theological talk or ‘end times’ discussions. He is talking here about the greatest victory ever won. When believers receive their resurrected bodies, then death will have no hold them. Our current bodies are ravaged by living in a fallen world, but on that day, the sting of death, namely sin, will be completely defeated. And how has such a victory been won? We have victory over sin and death through the work of Christ at the cross. Through His death and resurrection for our sins, we have victory over all our enemies: sin, Satan, and death.

Over this past week, I have attended two funerals for believers. We buried Glenna’s grandmother in a beautiful spot in West Tennessee and they buried Sue’s best friend Jan in Cape on Friday. Both of these women loved the Lord, as evidenced by their lives lived in His service. Yet, they were both brought low by death. We placed both of their bodies in the ground. But they are just two more seeds planted in God’s acre. When that last trumpet sounds, they will get the last word over death. Standing in a graveyard can seem like such a defeat. Like the Enemy is mocking us and our faith in Jesus. But in the end, our Savior will get the last laugh. For He will come in the clouds and raise up His own imperishable. He will reap the harvest of His people. I love what he says to John in Revelation 1: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (v. 17-18). He has the keys! The gates of Death and Hell will not prevail against His own because He has the keys. On that Day, the Church will rise and sing over death: “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?”

How should we now live in light of such glorious promises for the future? If we are going to receive imperishable bodies on the last Day, how should we spend the days we have in this perishable one? Paul tells us in verse 58. Look at that with me. There are two commands here: we are to be steadfast and we are to be immovable. We are to maintain the course of faithfully following hard after Jesus and we are to let nothing move us off of that course. What does being steadfast and immovable look like? It looks like always abounding in the work of the Lord. Because we know that Christ is coming back to give us imperishable bodies, we spend the time in one we have on Him. We love each other as believers, we labor together for each other’s sanctification, we keep our eyes on the cross which binds us together, and we do everything we can to get the glorious good news to anybody and everybody we can. We abound in the work of the Lord. Why? Because we know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. The promise of imperishable, resurrected bodies in the future should lead us to faithful service in the present. I can willingly give my life away today because I know of the one to come. Living for Christ is never a waste. May the promise of our resurrected bodies encourage and empower us to live crucified lives for Christ every day we are given. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 15 February 2016 )

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