One of the questions most frequently asked by Christians is, “What happens after I die?” Christians know that they will be with God in heaven; their faith in Jesus Christ guarantees it. However, in what form will we exist? Will we simply be see-through spirits floating in the air? Will we all look the same? The Bible says that believers will enter eternity with a spiritual body. What is this spiritual body like? What does the Bible have to say about the believer’s spiritual body? First Corinthians 15:35-57 is the clearest, most complete, passage concerning the spiritual body in the New Testament. Let us see what it tells us about the “spiritual body”.
Jesus’ Resurrection is a Historical Truth
In I Corinthians 15:1-11 the apostle Paul presents a clear description of the basics of the Gospel. Not only does he describe the historical facts, but he also gives names of people who could verify that he was telling the truth. In this presentation of the Gospel, Paul designates those who were eyewitnesses to the death, burial, and many post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on in verse 12 through 18 to reprove the Corinthian Christians for doubting the truth of the resurrection. He tells them that if Jesus was not resurrected there is no basis for their faith, their forgiveness, even for their Christianity. The Christian faith has no other grounds than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ taking place in real historical setting.
Paul then tells these believers that Jesus’ resurrection is the reason they too will be resurrected (vv. 20-28). When Christians die, they go to be with the Lord. The apostle Paul ends this section by giving the Corinthian believers a stern motivational speech concerning how they should live their lives in light of the information he has just shared with them (vv. 29-34).
The “First” Adam’s Body and the “Last” Adam’s Body
Apparently, the Corinthian Christians had questions about the afterlife just as we do. The apostle Paul went on to write, “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”” (I Cor. 15:35). Christians today ask similar questions, “What are we going to be like in heaven?”
Paul explained that the Christian’s body must die in order for it to become what it will be in the afterlife. “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain” (vv. 36-37). A seed does not cease to exist when it is planted, but it is changed into something else. The seed dies in order to become something better than it was. In the same way, our spiritual bodies will be better than the bodies we now inhabit.
As much as we would like to know what we will look like or how old we will be in Heaven, the Bible does not give us that information. What it does tell us is that God is in control of making us what we will be (vv. 38-41). That fact should give us a great deal of comfort. After all, we trust Him during the time we are on this earth, sometimes facing hostile situations. How much stronger will our faith be when we are in His very presence; with no sin or temptation to dull or darken the richness of our fellowship with Him?
This passage also tells us that God has made different substances for different environments and applications. Fish have scales that are very different from our skin, but those scales are perfectly suited for the needs of the fish. The apostle Paul is helping his readers understand that our spiritual body will be perfectly suited for its environment. The mortal body we have now is not fit for heaven. He makes a similar statement when he says that ‘flesh and blood’ cannot inherit the kingdom of God (v. 50). The body that we inhabit while living on earth is fashioned after the first man, Adam, a “man of dust” (v. 48). We are flesh, blood, and bones and we are made to live on this earth. The body we will have in heaven will be a body like Jesus’ resurrection body (vv. 48, 49).
“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable” (vv. 42, 50, 51, 53, 54). No longer will we be troubled by sickness, disease, or death. So much of our earthly existence is concerned with maintaining our health. We try to eat right, get rest, take vitamins, and a multitude of other things to try to stay healthy. Our spiritual bodies will not be subject to the decay, disease, or and that our mortal bodies are.
“It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory” (v.43a). This verse can be taken in two different ways. First, whatever imperfections our earthly bodies had will be gone. We will inhabit the bodies that God intended for us before sin entered the world and did its damage. Second, we will no longer be encased in a body that has a history of sinning against our Lord. The ‘dishonor’ will be exchanged for a ‘glory’ that will never be spoiled again. The sinful desires and temptations of our mortal bodies will be gone with that old body. Our new ‘spiritual body’ will not be influenced by the old body of flesh.
“It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (v. 43b). The body made of frail and feeble flesh will be replaced with a body energized with the power of God. Many of us, especially as we age, long for a day in which we do not experience the physical pain of everyday existence. The spiritual body we will have in heaven will know that freedom. And that painless, powerful life will go on forever.
“This mortal body must put on immortality” (vv. 53, 54). Christians must remember that we are only passing through this world. Our ultimate home is in heaven with God. No matter how hard life gets here on earth, we always have the assurance that our stay with God in heaven will be forever. The apostle Paul said that the sufferings we endure here are earth are nothing compared to the glory of the life that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).
The Perfect Purpose for our New Spiritual Body?
In heaven, we will have a perfect body, a pure heart and mind, and all of eternity. What will we do? How will we spend the time we have been granted? We will worship the One who is worthy of all worship. We will be able to worship God as He intended for us to worship Him. No longer hindered by the limitations of the world, we can praise our God as we have never fully been able to praise Him. We can enjoy the full fellowship with Him that we longed to have during our earthly existence.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
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