The Resurrection Body
April 6th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
1 Corinthians 15
THE RESURRECTION BODY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:35-49
4-6-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the Easter message entitled The Resurrection Body. What kind of a body shall we have when we are raised from the dead? The reading of the text—and if you wish you can easily follow the message by following the text—the reading of the text is in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, 1 Corinthians chapter 15 beginning in verse 35.
But some man will say, 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 chance of wheat, or of 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: but there is one flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of birds, and another of fishes.
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but 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, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It 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. For there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
As 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 earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
[1 Corinthians 15:35-45, 49]
The Resurrection Body, the raising of the dead. This is a doctrine that is unique and peculiar to Christianity. The heathen and the pagan, by the light of natural reason, found by their feeble light of intuition the immortality of the soul; but it remained for Christ to bring to light the great affirmation of the resurrection of the dead.
Most any heathen, most any pagan, would have understood you, had you spoken of the living of the soul, the spirit, beyond death. For example, on Mars’ Hill, when Paul spoke to the supreme court of the Athenians, the court of the Areopagus [Acts 17:22]; had Paul spoken of the immortality of the soul, those Stoic philosophers, and those Epicurean philosophers, and all the other of the Athenians, would have understood and doubtless accepted everything that Paul said.
But when Paul preached the resurrection of the dead [Acts 17:30-31], the Epicureans laughed out loud and the Stoic philosophers bowed and smiled and said, “Well, we will hear you again of this matter” [Acts 17:32]. To them it was unthinkable and inconceivable that God should raise the dead.
Now the incredulity of that statement, of that doctrine, is ever present, and Paul mentions it here. “But some will say how, and what? How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come? How could such a thing be?” [1 Corinthians 15:35]
Then when Paul answers he says, “But God . . .” [1 Corinthians 15:38] the same kind of a reasoning that Paul said in the presence of Herod Agrippa II; he said, “King Agrippa, why should it be a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” [Acts 26:8]. Herod Agrippa was a Jew, and that meant he believed in God. And Paul said, “If you believe in God, why should it be a thing incredible that God’s power might raise the dead?”
Then in the passage as Paul answers the question, “How is it, and what is it this resurrection of the body?” [1 Corinthians 15:35]. First, he speaks of the analogy in nature. There is a body that is sown; it may be a bare grain of wheat, or some other. And God raises it up from the dead and gives it a body, and each seed after his own body [1 Corinthians 15:36-38]. Every springtime is God’s lesson in resurrection, and it is seen everywhere. It is not a peculiar thing; it is a recurring annual teaching from God, the lesson, the analogy in nature, God raising from the dead. It is a surprise to see a people who are starving, and the farmers of that stricken land will bury in the earth the very staff of life.
On the front page of our newspaper one time I saw a picture, in another country, where the people were dying of starvation, and the police were surrounding a shipment of wheat that the United States had sent for planting a crop. And the picture was of those starving people who were rushing the police and who were taking by violence and by force the wheat that meant life to them, but death only tomorrow. It is only, as Paul says, that by the planting and death that we reap an abundant life [1 Corinthians 15:42]. There is an analogy in nature [1 Corinthians 15:36-38].
Then he speaks of an analogy in creation. All flesh is not the same flesh: there is one of men, there is one of fish, there is one of birds [1 Corinthians 15:39]. Then the whole stellar universe: there are bodies terrestrial, and bodies celestial, and one has one glory and one another glory [1 Corinthians 15:40]. They are not all the same.
In creation if you plant wheat you don’t expect rye, and if you plant barley you don’t expect corn. And each one after its own kind: a man will give birth to a man, and an animal will give birth to an animal; each species after its own kind [1 Corinthians 15:39]. Now he says, so is the resurrection [1 Corinthians 15:42]. There are differences among us here. There shall be differences among us in the resurrection. Isaiah is not going to be Jeremiah, and John Chrysostom is not going to be George Whitefield, and Paul is not going to be John.
There are differences in God’s creation. There are not even two snowflakes, they say, that are alike. So in the world that is to come there is going to be difference. You are going to be you, and I shall be I, and we shall be we, and I am not going to be somebody else, and you are not going to be somebody else, each one after his kind [1 Corinthians 15:39].
And when your body is planted in the ground, God shall raise it up, not into another species, and not into another kind, but into you. You are going to be you, and I shall be I. God made it that way, a unity in diversity and a diversity in unity. I think God is pleased with that. He doesn’t want us all to be alike. He wants you to be you and He wants me to be me, and all of us to be ourselves.
Jesus was Jesus when He was raised from the dead. He had scars in His hands. He had a scar in His side [Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27]. It was the same Lord Jesus, “this same Jesus” [Acts 1:11], and you are going to be the same, you! That’s the way God made it.
Then He uses the analogy of teleology. Teleology would be the study, the science, of design and purpose. Now Paul says that in that resurrected world, in the world that is yet to come, we have to be fitted for it. And he says:
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. But I shall show you a mystery . . . we shall all be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:50-51]
Changed. God shall fit us in the resurrection for our new spiritual environment.
And that’s what I mean by the analogy of teleology. And I see it through all of God’s creation. A fish, for example, is made for water. Take a fish out on dry land and he is an impotent, helpless little creature; but the fish is made for water. And a bird is made for space and air. God made him that way. And a man is made to walk on the earth, needing warmth and food.
Well, Paul says that this earthy, mundane body is not fit for the spiritual environment in which we shall live in the other world. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God [1 Corinthians 15:50]. As long as I am in this house of clay I can’t see God’s face [Revelation 22:3-4]. As long as I am walking on these feet I can’t walk on the golden streets of the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:21]. This terrestrial body is not fit for the glorious world that is yet to come. But God is going to design a body for us. God is going to prepare us for that new environment. “We shall all be changed” [1 Corinthians 15:51].
And he uses the example of Adam [1 Corinthians 15:45]. The first Adam, the Adam of this human frame, was first made, but then God did something else to him: God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and that human frame made out of dust became a living soul [Genesis 2:7]. Now Paul uses that as an illustration of what God shall do for us as we prepare for the world that is yet to come. This body is made out of dust and earth. It is a part of the ground and as such is not prepared and is not fit for the glory of the spiritual life that is yet to come [1 Corinthians 15:45-49].
So God shall change us. We shall have another body, a resurrection body, an immortalized body, an incorruptible body, a glorious body. And we receive that body when we plant this one in the dust of the ground, and God raises it up in glory [1 Corinthians 15:42-43].
Then he speaks of the glory of that new body. So is the resurrection of the dead. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:42]: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power [1 Corinthians 15:43]: it is sown a natural body”—this body, this house of clay—”it is raised a spiritual body” [1 Corinthians 15:44].
Now isn’t that the most amazing contradiction in words you have ever read in your life? “It is raised a spiritual body” [1 Corinthians 15:44]. That language cannot contain the great truths of God Almighty. Language limps. It is a poor vehicle, but we have no other. A spiritual body: that is a contradiction in terms. The Lord Jesus, when He was raised from the dead, said, “Handle Me, and see that it is I Myself: for a spirit has not flesh and bones such as you see Me have” [Luke 24:39]. Body is one thing and spirit is another thing. Yet in the resurrection of the dead, we shall have a spiritual body [1 Corinthians 15:44]. God shall do a miraculous thing in raising us from the grave [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].
And I have in my mind a very poignant and dramatic illustration of that. When I eat, when you eat, inert matter becomes you. It is quickened into life, into flesh, into thought and love. It becomes you. That’s you, what you eat, and in the miraculous power of God it is quickened into you. Now when the Lord Jesus, raised from the dead, ate that broiled fish and that honeycomb [Luke 24:40-43], God’s power raised it one other step. It was not only quickened, the food was not only quickened into flesh and bone, but it was also quickened into immortality [1 Corinthians 15:54]. And that is the spiritual body, the power of God to raise us into a spiritual frame [1 Corinthians 15:45]. And the triumphant glory of it is indescribable. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:42]. It, you, the dust of the ground [Genesis 2:7].
God my Redeemer lives,
And ever from the skies
He watches over my dust,
Until He bid it rise.
[from “And Must This Body Die?” Charles Wesley]
Yeah, but I may be blown to the winds and a great oak tree may sink its roots and I become a substance in that great tree. Yes. I know. But God marks those particles of dust.
Strange to me, when I read mythology, how some of those pagans could see some of the great Christian doctrines of the Bible. For example, in ancient Egypt, Isis and Osiris; Osiris was killed and his body, piecemeal, was scattered all over the earth. And Isis, the goddess, fondly, lovingly gathered those pieces together and Osiris came to life again. And that feeling that the ancient pagan heathen had is something that you will find throughout all mankind.
Do you remember the poem by Rupert Brooke? “If I should die, think only this of me:” That in some foreign field there is a “dust concealed”–“in that rich earth a richer dust” shall be [from “The Soldier,” Rupert Brooke]
God marks it, and it is imperishable. Like a diamond that’s carbon, a dull lustless carbon. But under the power of God it becomes a brilliant, and it is imperishable. So in the resurrection of the dead: it is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:42]: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory [1 Corinthians 15:43].
How shall we be? Like the Lord Jesus. The Scriptures say we shall be like Him, raised from the dead [1 John 3:2]. Stephen saw Him [Acts 7:55-56]. When Paul saw Him He was so brilliant above the meridian noonday Syrian sun, that the sight of it blinded his mortal eyes [Acts 9:1-5]. That’s why flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Our eyes, as Paul, Paul went blind as he just looked at the glory of Jesus [Acts 22:6-11]. We are all going to be like that.
And in the first chapter of the Revelation, when John saw the blessed Lord he fell to His feet as dead, so glorious was that sight [Revelation 1:17]. You are going to be that way. Your resurrection body will be glorious like that of the Lord Jesus. It is sown in dishonor. All we do with our dead bodies is bury them out of our sight. “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” [1 Corinthians 15:43].
Weak; O Lord, how I know that. Yesterday in the hospital visiting, you, as you walk among family and friend, O Lord, the weakness, the weakness; the arthritis, the cancer, the attack, the fever, the age, the senility, the blindness, the crippleness, the weakness of this human frame. “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in strength, in glory, in power” [1 Corinthians 15:43].
I read the other day at Stratford on the River Bow in England, in the days of bloody Queen Mary, there was a stake at which they burned our martyrs. And one day there was lead to that stake a blind man and a crippled man. And bound back to back to the stake, when the fagot was placed to the wood and the flame began to rise the blind man began to cringe and to whimper. But the crippled man, throwing his staff away, said to his brother, “Be of good cheer, my brother. The fire will heal us both.”
Isn’t that something? In the resurrection body there are no crippled limbs. There are no blind eyes. There are no feeble frames. There is no age or senility, and death cannot touch it [Revelation 21:4].
This great thing God hath prepared for us who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]. My brother you were not made just to feed worms or to fall into corruption and decay. God made us to be like the angels in glory [Matthew 22:30]. And what He hath purposed God will faithfully do [1 Thessalonians 5:24].
How many times at a memorial service will I say to the family and to the friend, “We are gathered here as Christian people to reaffirm and to re-avow our faith that every promise of God He will surely keep.” No word of our Lord will fall to the ground [1 Samuel 3:19] and our commitment today is an everlasting, Yea and Amen [Joshua 21:45; 1 Samuel 3:19; 2 Corinthians 1:20]. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think [Ephesians 3:20].
And it was on that basis, and this is the invitation, and it was on that basis that Jesus extended His hands, His love and grace, that we might believe in Him.
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.
And I will raise him up at the last day [John 6:40]. This is what it is to be a Christian.
There are many pagan philosophies and many heathen metaphysics and there are many who philosophize and speculate and metaphize about the possibilities of immortality of the soul. To the Christian, that is heathen philosophy.
This is the Christian faith, that in Christ we shall live forever [John 3:16, 10:27-30], and death is but the transitional change between the laying down of this physical frame and the bestowment, the reception, the receiving of the glorious body God hath prepared for us who place our trust in Him [1 Corinthians 15:42-44].
What a faith. What a love. What a grace. What a joy. What a victory. What a triumph. And it is ours in Him.
Lee Roy, let’s sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, give your heart to Jesus today [Romans 10:8-1]. Put your life with us in the circle of this dear church today [Hebrews 10:24]. Do it today. And God speed you as you come. I’ll give you opportunity to go your way to the class, to the Sunday school, to the department. In this moment of appeal, all of us standing in the presence of God, asking God to give us souls this holy hour, and as we sing, you come. Make the decision now. There is a stairwell at the back, at the front, and on either side. And there is time and to spare. Into the aisle and down here to the front, “Pastor, today I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart to the Lord, and here I am” [Ephesians 2:8]. A couple, a family, or just you, do it now, make it now, as we stand and as we sing.