1 Corinthians 15:35-44
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?…
I. THE DIFFICULTIES IN WHICH THAT FACT SEEMS INVOLVED. The resurrection is exhibited in the Bible, not as a speculative truth, but as so intimately bound up with our salvation, that to prove it false were to prove the human race unredeemed (vers. 16, 17). It were useless, then, to adduce proofs from revelation, seeing that we have it explicitly declared that, unless the dead rise, Christianity would be reduced into fable. The question, then, is whether there lie such objections against the resurrection as make it incredible, and thus justify us in rejecting the testimony of Scripture.
1. Can we demonstrate that the resurrection falls without the limit of possibility, and that the effecting of it would overpass Omnipotence? If we are not prepared with such a demonstration, it is childishness to argue against the resurrection from its difficulty. If the Bible had ascribed it to a finite agent, reason might fairly have argued that the disproportion between the thing done and the doer furnishes ground enough for rejecting the statement. But will any one declare that the resurrection exceeds the capability of Him who is to achieve it? No man who admits that God created everything out of nothing should hesitate to admit that God can raise the dead.
2. We allow, however, that this general demonstration is scarcely sufficient for the case; and we proceed, therefore, to consider certain difficulties which still suggest themselves. We begin by warning you against the idea that, provided the soul be hereafter united to a body, it will matter nothing whether it be the same body which it tenanted on earth. The grand use of the resurrection is that the same beings may stand in judgment as have here been on probation; but they are not the same beings unless compounded of the same body and soul. But our bodies, it may be said, are here perpetually changing. Yes, but such change in no degree interferes with the thorough sameness of the person. Suppose a man to have committed a murder, and that after thirty years the guilt is brought to light, and the assassin put on trial, what would the judge and jury say if the criminal should plead that, because in thirty years his body had been often changed, he was not the same person as committed the murder? And supposing, that in place of being discovered by his fellow-men, the murderer had remained undetected till arraigned at the judgment bar of Christ, in what body must he appear in order that the identity of the man may be rigidly preserved? Certainly it will not be necessary that he appear in the very body which he had when he took away a fellow-creature's life; nothing is necessary but that his soul be clothed in matter which had once before clothed it. It is unquestionable that the same matter must enter at different times into the construction of different bodies; nourished by seed, which seed is itself nourished by the earth, which earth is the receptacle of the dust of human kind: it is indeed possible that there are component particles in the arm which I now lift which have entered successively into the limbs of men of bygone generations, and that the portion wrought up into the members of the men of one age will yet again be moulded into flesh. And if the same matter may belong successively to different men, to whom shall that matter belong in the resurrection? We observe on this that the man is the same man if his future body be composed of particles which at any time have made up his present. It is not necessary that all the dust which hath ever been wrought into his corruptible members should hereafter be wrought into his incorruptible: indeed, we know not how small a portion of the same matter may suffice for the preservation of identity: this we know, that the man is the same man in the vigour and efflorescence of health, and when wasted by long sickness into a skeleton: the abstraction at one time, and the addition at another, of large masses of animate matter, interfere not at all with personal identity. Hence it is evident, that, even if much which now belongs to my body belonged at other times to the bodies of other men, there may yet be enough belonging exclusively to myself, and kept distinct by the omniscience and omnipotence of God to cause, when wrought into a dwelling-place for my soul, that I shall be the same individual who now pleads in the earthly sanctuary, and tells his fellow-men of re-opened graves and quickened generations.
II. WHAT ANSWER MAY BE GIVEN TO THE QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT? The grand characteristic of our resurrection bodies is to be likeness to the glorified body of Christ (Philippians 3:21). Now there is every reason for concluding that Christ when transfigured appeared in that glorified humanity in which He now sits at the Father's right hand. And if Christ, when transfigured, exhibited humanity in its glorified condition, we learn that our bodies, though made wondrously radiant, shall be distinguished, as now, the one from the other, by their characteristic features. The Saviour was not so altered as not to be known. And if we would examine more minutely into the change which shall pass upon our bodies, enough is told us in this chapter.
1. "It is sown in corruption": the principle of dissolution is in this framework of matter, and, whatever for a time its comeliness and vigour, it is the heir of death, and must say to corruption, "Thou art my father," etc. But "it is raised in incorruption," imperishable and unchangeable.
2. "It is sown in dishonour." Here the body is a degraded thing, and the grand business of a Christian is to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts." But "it is raised in glory": no longer the seat of unholy propensities, no longer furnishing inlets by its senses and appetites for manifold temptations.
3. "It is sown in weakness." Who feels not how the body is now a clog upon the spirit, impeding it in its stretchings after knowledge, as well as in its strivings after holiness? But "it shall be raised in power": no longer needing rest, no longer subject to waste, the body shall be an auxiliary to the soul in all her searchings after truth.
4. "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." The body of the risen Redeemer, though certainly material, yet it had in a high degree the attributes of spirit, for it could be made invisible, and could enter a chamber with closed doors, thus proving itself no longer subject to the laws which matter now obeys; and so matter shall partake much of the independence of spirit, and the body be fitted for accompanying the soul in all her marchings over the area of the universe, and in all her divings into its most secret recesses. The natural body is a structure which belongs fitly to the natural man who "receiveth not the things of God." Conclusion: We are told nothing of the body with which the wicked shall come. The natural body may remain the natural, and if the resurrection consigns this to be sown a natural body and to be raised a natural body, you reach the summit of all that is terrible in conception; when you suppose the grave thus sending up the drunkard thirsting for wine where there is no wine, and the miser always hankering for gold where there is no gold, and the sensualist to be galled by the impress of voluptuousness where there may exist the sense, but not the objects, of concupiscence. Seeing, then, there is no escaping the resurrection, ought not each one of us to ask himself solemnly the question, "With what body shall I come — with the natural or with the spiritual?"
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?