The Resurrection Body
April 6th, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 15:35ff
THE RESURRECTION BODY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:35-40
4-6-69 10:50 a.m.
And thank you, sweet choir, for such a beautiful, Christ-honoring, resurrection, full-of-hope song. On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
The title of the pastor’s sermon today, Easter Sunday, is The Resurrection Body. What kind of a house shall we live in, in glory? If God raises us from the dead, what kind of a body shall we have? And this is significantly and minutely answered in the Holy Word of our Lord. I read—and you can easy follow the whole course of the sermon if you would like—I read from the First Corinthian letter, chapter 15. And the message is an exposition of the heart of this chapter, beginning at verse 35:
But some will say, How and what the resurrection of the dead? How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
Foolish one, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may be wheat, or some other grain:
But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body.
All flesh is not the same flesh: there is one kind of a man, another kind of beast, another of fish, another of birds—
same diversity in the great universe above us—
There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: and the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead—
It is not one big glob, there is distinction, there is individuality, there is personality, there is you, you, you—
A body is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
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. There is a natural body—
this is it—
there is a spiritual body—
that is it—
So it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; but the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
[1 Corinthians 15:35-45, 49]
The doctrine, the teaching, the revelation of the resurrection of the dead is the unique and alone doctrine of the Christian faith. It is not found in any other system in the earth. Religious, metaphysical, philosophical, rational, scientific, it is alone a Christian doctrine, uniquely so.
By the feeble light of human reasoning, the ancient pagan came to the conclusion of the immortality of the soul. There must be a life beyond this one, so the Greek had his Hades, and the River Styx, and all of the ancients had their mythology of some kind of a shadowy life beyond the grave, but not the resurrection of the dead body.
When Paul preached the gospel of Christ on Mars’ Hill before the supreme court of the Athenians, before the court of the Areopagus [Acts 17:22], had he spoken of the immortality of the soul, of the life extenuation of the spirit of man, they would have thought, “We think of that. We believe that.” But when Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead body [Acts 17:30-32], the Epicureans laughed out loud. And the Stoics, being more gracious and gentlemanly bowed, and smiled, and said, “We will just hear you later of this” [Acts 17:32] and walked away. The resurrection of the dead is the unique doctrine of the Christian faith.
Now how could such a thing be? How and what such a thing? It is almost incredible just to say it, much less to think of it being a reality, an actuality. So he starts here with the question that all of us and all history and mankind would ask: how could such a thing be? How are the dead raised up, and what kind of a body is it in which we live when it is raised from the dead?
Now the answer to that question is in God. And Paul says, “But God, but God” [1 Corinthians 15:38]. As Paul, when he was speaking before Herod Agrippa II, he said, “Herod Agrippa, why should it be thought a thing incredible to you, that God should raise the dead?” [Acts 26:8]. By that he meant, he was talking to a Jew, and a Jew believes in God, and a Jew believes in the Bible, the Old Covenant, the promises of the patriarchs, and of a lawgiver, and of the prophets; “Why should it be thought a thing, why should it be thought a thing incredible to you, that God should raise the dead?” [Acts 26:8]. So the answer of the apostle, as he speaks of this question, what kind of a body is it will God raise up, and how could such a thing be? And he turns and answers, “But God” [1 Corinthians 15:38]. It is something God does.
Then he uses three analogies. First, he uses the analogy of nature: “God giveth it a body.” There is seed planted, and there is no life except it be planted and die; but if it be planted, and if it die, if it be sown, then it is raised and God giveth it a body [1 Corinthians 15:36-38]. And that we see every springtime. Every spring is God’s lesson on the resurrection. We plant seed or the roots in the ground, and look what happens. What an astonishing and an amazing thing! What happens from the seed that is buried in the ground? And this you will find among farmers as they plant in the earth the very staff of life.
I saw one time a picture on the front page of our daily newspapers here in Dallas. One of these countries across the sea was starving to death. The people were dying of famine, and the United States government had shipped to the nation wheat to be planted for a coming crop. And the picture was, the starving people had overwhelmed the police, and by violence were taking the wheat lest they starve to death; yet, that means death and not life.
The only way for life is for the seed to be planted in the ground to die [1 Corinthians 15:36]. And if it is planted, and if it dies, then it lives. It brings forth aboundingly and abundantly [1 Corinthians 15:37-38]. “So” Paul says, “is the resurrection of this body. If it is planted and if it dies, then God gives it a glorious body” [1 Corinthians 15:35-38]. And every springtime you have God’s lesson in the resurrection of the dead all around you. Look! Look, the miracle of God at Easter!
Then he has the analogy of creation: around us, he says, there is the flesh of a man, the flesh of a fish, the flesh of a beast, the flesh of a bird, and above us the bodies, celestial and terrestrial, and one glory of one, and one glory of the other, even the stars differ in glory, he says. So it is in the resurrection of the dead [1 Corinthians 15:39-42].
Now what he means is, when God made this universe He didn’t make it one big, infinite, immeasurable blob, but He made it a vast diversity. There’s a star, and another one. There’s a constellation, and another one. Here’s a whole Milky Way and a sidereal universe, and there’s yet another; the diversity of God. Then Paul says, the same down here in this earth: this earth and the life on it is not one big mass, one big indiscriminate blob, but it is made all kinds of ways and things in it. There is this, and there is that, and there is the other, and all of them differ. These scientists say that there are not even two snowflakes that were ever alike.
Now Paul says, that’s the way it’s going to be in the resurrection [1 Corinthians 15:42]. Our lives are not enmeshed and lost in some limbo of nothingness. But in the resurrection, we shall be distinct; you are going to be you, and I shall be I, and we shall be we. God will make us to differ as He has made us to differ in this life and in this flesh.
I’d hate to think that I was going to be lost in one illimitable, unfathomable, immeasurable, eternal mass of nothingness! What would that be, except another word for extinction, and darkness, and nothingness. But as God has made the great universe around us and above us to differ, so in the resurrection we shall differ. You will be you, and you will be you, and I shall be I, and all of us shall be we, and we shall live as such, separate entities, in the glorious resurrection that is to come [1 Corinthians 15:39].
Then he uses another analogy. He uses the analogy of teleology; teleology, the science, the study of design and purpose. Now here in this life we see that analogy worked out in every area of observation. God fits the body for the environment in which it lives. A fish is made to live in water, and a fish out of water is a helpless creature. But a fish is made for water. And a bird is made for space and air. And a man is made to walk, and needs warmth, and clothing, and food, and shelter. And God fitted for each one its environment; He fitted the creature for the world in which it lives.
Now Paul says the same thing about us. God will fit us for this other world and the spiritual world in which we’re going to live. Now he says, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” [1 Corinthians 15:50]. As long as I am in this flesh, I cannot see God’s face. And as long as I am walking on these feet, I cannot walk on the golden streets of the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:21]. I have to be changed. I have to be remade. I have to be fitted for the new environment, and the new world, and the new spiritual life that is yet to come. So when Paul says:
I tell you brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. But I show you a mustērion . . . we shall all be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:50-51]
All of us, all of us; God shall fit us for the glorious world that is yet to come. Then he uses an illustration: the first man Adam was made a living soul [1 Corinthians 15:45], he had a body that was alive, and that body made out of the dust of the ground walked, and breathed, and talked. But the second Adam was made a quickening spirit [1 Corinthians 15:45]. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” [Genesis 2:7]. So it is with us, Paul says. We have this physical body, the animal life, but God is going to do something else for us. God is going to raise us, quicken us, yet higher; and we shall have a spiritual body and a spiritual life [1 Corinthians 15:45-49]. As there is a natural body, this made out of dust [Genesis 2:7], so there is a spiritual body; that the one God shall create for us to live in the glorious world He is preparing for us in heaven [1 Corinthians 15:45-49].
Now isn’t that an unusual thing, a spiritual body? [1 Corinthians 15:44] The very nomenclature is contradictory. Spirit is one thing; body is antithetical, it’s another thing. A spiritual body, that’s antithetical, it is contradictory in itself. For example, when the Lord was raised from the dead, the disciples couldn’t believe it for joy [Luke 24:41]. He said, “Come here, and handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as ye see Me have” [Luke 24:39]. A spirit is one thing, a body is another thing. Yet Paul says we are to have a spiritual body that is [1 Corinthians 15:44], God is going to quicken us one step higher in this resurrection from among the dead.
Now I want to illustrate that. When the Lord stood before the disciples and He said, “Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as ye see Me have” [Luke 24:39], “And when they yet believed not for joy” [Luke 24:41], they were incredulous, it was inconceivable, God raising a dead man from the grave, and yet He stood there before them. And He said, “Have you here any meat, anything to eat?” And they gave Him a broiled fish, and they gave Him an honeycomb, and He did eat it before them [Luke 24:41-43].
Well, you say, “That is impossible!” Listen man, that’s the kind of a world we live in every day of our lives. Look at you. Look at you! You take dead inert matter and you eat it. And God, in that miraculous thing that we call assimilation, the metabolism of life—God takes that inert, dead, quote, “matter,” and He quickens it. It becomes living; it’s you! That matter we eat becomes love, and life, and joy, and knowledge, and perception, and will, and purpose, and dream. It’s you; it’s you! The miracle of God when we eat.
Now in the resurrection and we shall eat; we’re going to sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9], and eat and drink with our Lord. “I will not henceforth drink of this fruit of the vine, until I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” [Matthew 26:29]. At the marriage supper of the Lamb, we shall sit down with the Lord and with God’s saints in God’s kingdom, and we shall eat. “Ah, how gross!” No!
And when they believed not for joy, the Lord said, Children, have you here anything to eat?
And they gave Him a broiled fish, and an honeycomb. And He did eat before them.
And what happened was this: in the first stage, what we eat is quickened into living flesh, into mind, and soul, and heart, you! But in the second stage, the one above, it is quickened into that spiritual body. It is raised one step higher and becomes incorruptible and immortal. “But God” [1 Corinthians 15:38]; and God is showing us these things and illustrating these things, that we might believe [John 20:31]; God does it.
Then Paul describes the indescribable. He speaks of the ineffable, the glory of that resurrection body. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption” [1 Corinthians 15:42]. It becomes imperishable, like a diamond; dull, lusterless charcoal, but in the hands of God it becomes imperishable, for a diamond is forever. That’s what God does with our dust [Genesis 2:7].
“But pastor,” again incredulous, that God should mark the dust, that God should see where I fall—maybe a giant oak will send down roots through this frame; maybe I would be devoured, and digested, and certainly I shall decay if He delays His coming; the dust.” But God marks it, and God sees it.
And you know, one of the strangest things of life is the intuitive sensibility of the human soul to that very thing. The ancient Egyptian worshipped Isis and Osiris, and the mythological story that laid back of the worship was this: Osiris, the handsome young man—Osiris was slain and his body in piecemeal scattered over the earth. But the goddess Isis lovingly and fondly gathered up those little particles until Osiris lived again. What an amazing thing!
God, my Redeemer lives,
And even from the skies
Looks down, and watches o’er my dust,
Until He bid shall bid it rise.
[from “And Must This Body Die?” Charles Wesley]
Or again, the sentiment by Rupert Brooke, the incomparable young English poet who was killed in the First World War. Rupert Brooke’s famous poem:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
[from “The Soldier,” Rupert Brooke]
God sees it. There’s no missionary that falls on a foreign field but that God marks the place. We may forget, but God doesn’t forget. Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, immortal, imperishable [1 Corinthians 15:42].
“It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory” [1 Corinthians 15:43]. In dishonor, what do you do with your beloved dead? Hide them out of your sight. As Abraham said to the sons of Heth, “Let me buy this cave of Machpelah that I may hide my dead out of my sight” [Genesis 23:4]. Of whom is he speaking? Of Sarah! Of Sarah, who gave him a son when she was ninety years of age, when Abraham was a hundred years of age [Genesis 17:17, 21:5]. Something God did; yet when Sarah died, “that I might hide her out of my sight” [Genesis 23:4]. Sown in dishonor, this corruptible, corrupting, decaying body, but raised in glory! [1 Corinthians 15:43].
Well, what’s that like? The Scriptures say that we shall be like Him, like Him. We shall have a body like Him. We shall be like Him, raised in glory [1 John 3:2]. Ah! When Paul met Him on the road to Damascus, the Lord stood before him above the brightness of the midday Syrian sun, and Paul fell down at His feet blinded [Acts 22:7]. “I could not see,” he said, “for the glory of that light” [Acts 22:11].
Glory, ah! What shall that body be like? It shall be raised in glory! [1 Corinthians 15:43]. Right now, we couldn’t even see it. It would blind our physical eyes, the glory, glory, glory. When John, the sainted apostle John, on the island of Patmos saw the Lord Jesus in His glory and he describes Him, he fell at His feet as one dead, dead [Revelation 1:9-17]. We just can’t bear the light, the iridescence, the glory. That’s what we’re going to be; “Sown in dishonor; raised in glory” [1 Corinthians 15:43].
“It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” [1 Corinthians 15:43]. Sown in weakness. Ah! And how weak; arthritis, blindness, crippling, cancer, age, senility, and death; weakness, weakness. I went to the hospital yesterday. Do you not think of these things as you see the circle of your family beginning to dissolve, as you see loved members in weakness? “Sown in weakness, raised in power” [1 Corinthians 15:43].
In the days gone by, at a place called Stratford, on the Bow River in England, in the days of bloody Queen Mary, there was a stake there at which they burned the martyrs of Christ. And upon a day, there were led to that stake a blind saint, a blind Christian, and a crippled one. They were tied back to back with that stake between them. When the fagots were placed to the wood and the flames began to leap upward, the blind man who couldn’t see began to whimper. But the crippled man threw his staff away and said, “Courage, my brother. This fire shall heal us both!”
No blind eyes in glory, no crippled limbs in glory. No feeble age in glory, and no death shall ever touch it; sown in weakness, in failing health, in senility and age, in disease and decay. Yes, I know. I understand, but by the promise of God, raised in power, indestructible, imperishable, glorified, transfigured [1 Corinthians 15:43]. This is the Christian faith; this is the heart of the gospel of the Son of God.
And in the appeal, in the appeal, that same thing is said by our Lord:
This is the will of Him that sent Me,
that every one that believeth on the Son of God. . .may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
There it is. There it is. “This is the will of God, that every one that believes on the Son shall have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:40]. That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to give your heart to Jesus. And that’s what it is to die, to die in the faith, but God is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, that not a word or a syllable of His promise will fall to the ground [Ephesians 3:20]. This is the illustration, this is the promise, and the assurance of it is in my soul.
We must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing the song, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, to give yourself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], would you come and stand by me? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Make the decision now, where you’re seated. Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. There’s a stairway at the back and at the front, and on either side, into the aisle and down to the pastor, “Here I come, pastor. We’re making it now.” A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, do it now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.
of resurrection of the dead peculiar to Christianity
Ancient pagan believed in immortality of the soul, some life beyond – but not
resurrection of the dead body
Paul preaching on Mars’ Hill of the resurrection laughed at(Acts 17:32)
II. How are the dead raised, and what kind
of a body is it?(1 Corinthians 15:35)
answer – “But God, but Godâ€¦” (1 Corinthians
to Agrippa(Acts 26:8)
It is something God does
uses three analogies
analogy in nature(1 Corinthians 15:36-38)
An analogy in creation – identity in diversity(1
a. In the resurrection,
we shall be distinct
An analogy in teleology(1 Corinthians 15:50)
a. God fits the body
for the environment in which it lives
b. We must be changed,
to be a contradiction(Luke 24:39)
is going to quicken us one step higher
a. Food is quickened into
you – miracle of assimilation
b. We shall eat in the
resurrection (Matthew 26:29)
III. The marvelous transformation
in dishonor, raised in glory(Genesis 23:4, Acts
22:11, 26:13, Revelation 1:13-17)
Sown in weakness, raised in power
appeal (John 6:40)