Paul’s tour de force on the resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15. It was prompted by the denial of the resurrection by some in the Corinthian congregation (15:12). Paul first gives evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Paul notes the Scriptures and the many eyewitnesses which include himself. To deny the resurrection is to deny Christ’s resurrection. For Christ not to have been raised, then faith is futile, we are still in our sins, and we are of all people the most to be pitied. But Paul will have none of that: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. The resurrection of Jesus is connected with the future hope of Christians. Jesus is the basis of our hope.
But questions remain: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35-58) Maybe the deniers were troubled by these questions. Greeks typically believed in a life after death without resurrection. Many Jews had a crude conception of resurrection. If you died lame or blind, you were raised lame or blind. Paul gives us our best glimpse at the resurrection body.
Paul provides us with an analogy. Our physical body at death is like a planted seed. There is continuity between the seed and the plant to come, but there is also transformation. Paul reassures us that God knows how to create different kinds of flesh for different kinds of purposes, and He can bestow varying degrees of glory. In other words, resurrection is not a mere resuscitation but a glorious transformation.
Paul illuminates by a series of contrasts. Our physical bodies are perishable, but the resurrection body will be imperishable. Our physical bodies face the dishonor of death and decay, but the resurrection body will be raised in glory. We experience weakness now, but we will be raised in power. We have a natural body now. One suited to the current natural world. We will have a spiritual body.
We need to be careful when we see this word “spiritual” that we don’t think immaterial like Casper the Ghost. We need to hold on to the word “body” and remember that Jesus in the resurrection was solid and touchable. The spiritual body will be animated by God’s Spirit and suitable for the transcendent realm of the age to come.
We have to admit the details are few. We still likely have many questions about the resurrection. But the resurrection body is not a mere resuscitation of the old. It is a transformation. It is something more glorious and suited for eternal life with God.
It is enough to trust our Maker. Jesus conquered death in his resurrection. And death will be conquered for each of us in our resurrection. With that hope we live in encouragement knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain.