1 Corinthians 15:35-44
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?…
(with Philippians 3:21): — When the fact of the resurrection has been established, there remains a number of very interesting and important questions concerning the manner and the time of the resurrection, and the relation of the resurrection-body to the present one. These questions are not simply for the delectation of our curiosity, because clear views of the nature of our future life and of the transformation which our present life is to undergo through the energy of the power of Christ cannot fail to influence our present life and to inspire us with enthusiasm for the Lord whose glory we are to share.
I. WHAT, THEN, ARE THE PRINCIPLES OF THE RESURRECTION AS GIVEN IN THE WORDS BEFORE US?
1. Take first of all the passage in Philippians, and you will find it assert the following principles —
(1) In the resurrection the spirits of the just will appear not in a disembodied, but an embodied, state.
(2) Between these two bodies there is a relation of continuity.
(3) The transformation is effected through a spiritual energy within us. The word here translated "working" has an intensely "inward" significance. It means in-working, a working in the heart of things, and particularly in the spiritual processes of life. The "working of the power by which Christ subdues all things to Himself" is the spiritual force with which He floods the centre of things, and so leavens and transforms the whole. So the power that forms the new body must be sought in spirit.
(4) The complete resurrection-body is not existent until the final appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(5) The power and principle of this resurrection have their type and origin in Christ.
2. Now, if you turn to the passage in Corinthians, you will find several of these principles over again, with some supplementary matter.
(1) The transition from the body of humiliation to the body of glory is effected through a development which is in the truest sense natural, that is, in accordance with the laws of ideal human life.
(2) The natural and the spiritual body are not to be conceived as consisting of identical particles, but as different stages in a process of development, which are said to be identical owing to the continuity of the life that fills them.
II. Having these definite principles to check and to direct us, we wish to EXAMINE IN THE LIGHT OF THEM SUCH CONCEPTIONS AS ARE, OR MAY BE, FORMED OF THE MANNER IN WHICH THE RESURRECTION-BODY SHALL COME INTO BEING AND BE UNITED TO THE SPIRIT TO WHICH IT BELONGS. The Scripture-phrase, "the resurrection of the dead" does not refer either to spirit or body in separation from one another, but to the reappearance of the complete human life in a state of glory. The theory that flings the body away as a temporary fetter, and denies it a share in the resurrection-life is clearly and emphatically condemned. It is in violent opposition to the whole genius of Christian thought. It is foreign to all that we know of the mind of Jesus Christ and His apostles. The "ego" of Christ's conception is certainly not an independent spiritual essence, whether embodied or disembodied. It is always the entire life in its association of soul and body. Whether He directs his attention to this life or the next, the human "unit" is always a complex one. How, then, is the resurrection-body produced, and what is its relation to the body which is placed in the grave? If we turn to our principles we shall find that they clearly contradict the resurrection of the identical particles laid in the grave. The whole spirit of the passage in Philippians is in opposition to it, for instead of the idea of an inert mass being indued with life again after a long period of death, the passage glows with the conception of a continuous energy, and a great transformation effected by an informing process of life. The passage from the epistle to the Corinthians is still more explicit in its testimony. For the two principles we found there, viz., that the resurrection-body is produced by a development in accordance with true laws and processes of life, and, that it does not reproduce the identical particles of the earthly body — are both in direct contradiction to the commonly received theory of the resurrection. Probably the misconception has arisen through mistaking the bearing of Paul's beautiful series of antitheses respecting the resurrection. When Paul says, "It is sown .... It is raised," he is not speaking of the body only, but of the entire man as be appears first in the earthly, and afterwards in the heavenly, state. It is this earthly life of ours that "cannot be quickened except it die," and that through death shall inherit incorruption. The transition, therefore, is one of spirit and life. It is a living transition from the present living association of soul and body to a higher form of such association, the development of the "higher" body requiring as its necessary condition the death of the lower body, as the living seed flings off its old body that a higher embodiment of the life of the seed may take its place. Some obscure questions remain, which may become clearer to Christian thought by and by. They are such as these: Does the new body co-exist at any period with the earthly body, and has it already reached any stage of development at the hour of death? Or is it at death only a "latency," ready to leap into full development and activity at the appearing of Jesus Christ? If so, how will this non-development affect the present life of the blessed dead? These questions open up a vast field of thought that has scarcely been entered except by one here and another there. But we may lay down one thing more as clear and certain, namely, that the full development of the "body of glory" will not take place until the Lord appears.
III. I trust that this discussion will have impressed upon you that THE SCRIPTURE-TEACHING CONCERNING THE RESURRECTION-BODY TRENCHES UPON GREAT QUESTIONS OF DIVINE POWER AND GLORY, AND EMBODIES GREAT PRINCIPLES OF TRANSFORMATION AND DEVELOPMENT THAT MAY WELL IMPRESS OUR IMAGINATION, AND, EVEN THOUGH BUT OBSCURELY UNDERSTOOD, MAY PROFOUNDLY INSPIRE OUR LIFE.
1. One result of this faith is, that it gives fulness and substantiality to our future life. The human body is no encumbrance fastened upon the spirit, like a fetter on powerful wrists, so that the spirit would be more complete without it. God never loaded a life with a useless encumbrance of that kind. Rather, the body is necessary for the complete life of the man, to give it individuality and fulness. We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed — such an anticipation would be too shadowy and ghostly.
2. Belief in the resurrection-body is ultimately bound up with faith in the foundations of Christianity. I do not say that disbelief in the full resurrection of the dead is at once and always attended by disbelief in the central truths of Christianity. Fortunately or unfortunately, men are not always consistent, and may for a time hold together beliefs that are destructive of one another. Yet I have no doubt that disbelief in a resurrection-body is a logical denial of the foundations of Christianity, and must be constantly exerting an influence that tends to draw away a man from the heart of Christian truth. For it must be noted that the distinguishing feature, the very soul of Christianity is belief in a person. Jesus is infinitely more than a mark in history to suggest noble ideas. He is life, and the certainty of life for us. In Him we see, in full view on the stage of human life, the battle of humanity fought and won. If any one attenuates the saints' future life into an intangible "ego" he cannot heartily believe in that living, I may almost say earthly, portraiture of immortality which Christ gave. Generally you will find such an one attach ever lessening importance to the earthly life of Jesus, until His Christianity is a philosophic rationalism, with the name of Christ meaninglessly attached to it.
3. The Christian view of the resurrection sets great value on our present life, even on its physical relations. Therefore, it is able to say with an authority of its own: Give to God the full service of body, soul, and spirit, for eternity shall glorify you in the whole range of your life.
(John Thomas, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?