1 Corinthians 15:41-42
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars…
A dewdrop, so says the Oriental fable, hung on a rose leaf. It was a summer morning; and delighted with itself and the calm loveliness around, it could have hung there for ever. But, alas! it soon fell to the ground. What a change! Earth for the bright sky, and darkness for the ten thousand hues of nature's loveliness! But through its dark prison-house in the earth it gradually passed till it reached a river, by which it was conveyed to the ocean; and there, deposited in one of its rocky cavities, it became a brilliant and costly gem. In due course the hand of man reached it; and from its long rest in isolation and darkness, it was taken, polished, and set in gold — finally terminating its career by occupying the place of honour in the very diadem of majesty itself! Such is the fable which illustrates the principle of development affirmed here. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be," etc. Our connection with this world is very insecure, and in a moment that connection may be dissolved. We hang like the dew-drop on the odorous petals of the rose; and some of us, perchance, would be willing to hang there for ever. But a touch suffices to loosen the attachment, and downwards we are carried to the darkness of the earth. Are we then extinguished? Far from it; we have only passed from one domain of creative instrumentality to another. The river of God will bear us to the ocean at length. There our resting-place shall be provided; but from the secret recesses of the spirit-world we shall emerge again, like a gem of purest water and costliest price, to adorn the diadem of the King of kings. The apostle asserts that this principle of development universally prevails throughout nature, and that the "glory" of mundane arrangements is mainly dependent upon it. Childhood has its glory; so has youth; so has mature manhood; so even has old age; and when man reappears at the resurrection, it will be to supply another illustration. As sun, moon, and stars all differ from one another in glory, so will the risen and immortal man be distinguished from man fallen and immortal.
I. ALL THE REDEEMED ARE ON THEIR JOURNEY TOWARDS MENTAL AND CORPOREAL PERFECTION; AND ALL THE PHENOMENA OF THE PRESENT LIFE HAVE A BEARING ON THAT DESTINY. There are two preliminary stages of human existence — the first beginning at birth and ending at death, the second commencing with death and terminating at the resurrection. Everything in the universe proceeds by steps. The acorn does not bound in an instant to the dimensions of the full-grown oak. Why should not man, therefore, the most wonderful of all God's works, be Divinely carried through many preliminaries? Before birth man passes through various stages of development, and could we but realise our arrival at physical perfection, and take, in connection with that, the certainty that every stage and event going before contributes towards it, we world be much more patient under trials. The afflictions of the present life, being temporary, will soon pass away; but the obedient submission to the will of God, the compassion for the afflicted, and the other virtues which they have fostered and brought to maturity, are permanent improvements in our character, and may be needed even in eternity. So in the intermediate state influences are at work upon both which bear with prodigious force on our final perfection. What we shall be in eternity is as much the result of causes operating there, as the full-grown man is the product of the causes which carry the infant from childhood to maturity. Such reflections ought to mitigate the fear of death, and comfort all mourning friends.
II. WE MAY ARRIVE AT SOME EXPLANATION OF THE FACT ITSELF.
1. The Shorter Catechism, in answer to the question, "What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?" says, "The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection." The body, although left behind to decay, is not forgotten; it is still "united to Christ." The living Christ in heaven regards it, even then, as part of His spiritual body .... not dead, but only sleeping," and by that repose preparing for the awakening of the resurrection day. And as, when children or other loved ones go to rest, care is taken to provide a place of security for them, and, if need be, a guard set; over their slumbers, so, we may be sure, there is a special superintendency of the dead, with a view to prepare for what is to come. The crooked may be made straight, the defective supplied, the hideous made beautiful. And who is to affirm that there may not be influences in nature quite competent to produce this result? The acorn has a wonderful power of extracting such substances from the earth as are fitted to constitute an oak; and so is it with every other seed. Nay, it is within the competency of science and skill greatly to modify and improve the various products of the vegetable creation. There are chemical affinities also whose operation can exhibit the most extraordinary changes. What is so cheap and worthless as a piece of charcoal; what so precious as a diamond? — and yet in constitution they are absolutely identical. The grave may thus become the alembic in which the clay of man's fallen humanity is transmuted into the gold of the kingdom of heaven.
2. Then again the believer is a temple of the Holy Ghost. The effect of this is to consecrate the body, or to make it holy. Why, then, should we imagine that the Holy Spirit should maintain His union with the soul, and abandon altogether the body? The separated spirit cannot but think much and often of its ancient and close companion, and God the Spirit cannot possibly be divorced from any member or fragment of that temple wherein He had a loved abode.
(J. Cochrane, A.M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.