1 Corinthians 15:50-54
Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.…
I. THE GENERAL LAW.
1. This carries with it its own proof: for, obviously, darkness might as well become light, or death life, as that which is corrupt rise into the incorruptible. On this point St. Paul is earnest and absolute. The exception of ver. 51 is only an apparent one. Those who are alive when Christ comes will nevertheless be changed (ver. 52).
2. Note the significance of this law. Flesh and blood is a Scripture term for the lusts and. passions of our lower nature. Jewish readers would instantly apprehend its force. To them "the blood was the life"; and therefore it was shed in sacrifice. It was the seat of passion and desire, of all that is lawless and irregular; and therefore they were not permitted to partake of it. Their conception finds utterance to-day in such phrases as, "His blood is up," or, "A hot-blooded fellow." St. Paul uses the term here as the symbol of this life, these lusts, these corruptions, which cannot inherit incorruption.
3. Mark the different use of the phrases "flesh and blood" and "flesh and bones" in the New Testament. "Flesh and blood" cannot inherit; the incorrupt and heavenly kingdom, but "flesh and bones" may and do. After His resurrection Christ had flesh and bones (Luke 24:37-39); and Christians are
"members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones" (Ephesians 5:30). Christ's blood as the symbol of life has been shed for the redemption of the world: as the symbol of corruption, it is poured out, exhausted. "Flesh and bones" may still be retained even when the natural becomes a spiritual body; but the life that pulses through it is that of a higher than mortal existence.
II. THE TRUTHS AND HOPES WHICH UNDERLIE IT.
1. The truth for which St. Paul contends is not the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body. Centuries before Christ the Greeks had believed that the souls of the departed survived the pangs of death. But these souls were not themselves, they were but their shades. Elysium was as thin and unsubstantial in its avocations and joys as the poor ghosts that tenanted it. And as nature shrinks from disembodiment, the Greeks were accustomed to offer rich garments on the tombs of heroes, if so be that, being thus clothed, they might not be found naked, and a Corinthian queen is said to have appeared to her husband after death, entreating him to burn dresses for her as a covering for her disembodied spirit. We may smile at all this, but none the less we are touched by this naive childish testimony to the universal dread of disembodiment, the universal desire to be clothed upon with some vesture whether of earth or heaven. To men gazing thus sadly into the future St. Paul's strong hearty words must have been as health to the sick. So, then, they were not to become disembodied spirits, but to be clothed upon with a body more exquisitely attuned to the faculties and energies of their spiritual life!
2. In our Lord's risen body we have the express type of the spiritual bodies we are to wear.
(1) The body which His disciples recognised was essentially the same although it had undergone a mysterious change. What that change was St. Paul hints in the phrase, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Consequently we find that they did not instantly recognise Him when He came to them. They knew Him only as He was pleased to make Himself known. He was not bound by material laws. He is found present, no one knows from whence. He passes away, no one knows whither (John 20:19; Luke 24:31; Acts 1:9). In the person of Christ we see the whole man — body, soul, and spirit — raised from the grave. We see all the intelligent and passionate faculties of the soul held in perfect subjection to the higher claims of the spirit. The body is not simply restored to its pristine vigour and purity, but lifted To a higher and more spiritual pitch. It is not unclothed, but clothed upon. "The corruptible has put on incorruption, the mortal has put on immortality."(2) And this is the change that must pass on us, if indeed "Christ be in us, the hope of glory." Like Him we are to put on immortality and incorruption: not to break with the past, nor to lose our identity; not to be changed beyond our own recognition or that of our friends, but to be purged from the corruptible and baser elements of our nature, to be redeemed from our bondage to sense, and its laws; to be transfigured, that the spirit which Christ has quickened in us may dwell in a quick spiritual body — a body that shall not check, nor thwart, nor dull, but perfectly second and express, the untiring energies of our higher and renewed nature. As a man awaking for a moment from a mortal trance, so we may wake from the sleep of death, and say, nothing is lost, but, ah, how much gained!
(S. Cox, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.