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THE GLORY OF THE RESURRECTION
1 Corinthians 15:35-58
Key Verse 15:49
“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
It’s been a blessing to study Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Especially chapter 15 is unique in the way Paul presents the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul presents the Gospel as the supreme power that not only saves sinners but as the one truth which can solve all of life’s problems. So chapter 15 is dedicated to the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but mostly the resurrection. No one had ever explained the resurrection in the way Paul does. The chapter may be divided into three parts. M Rene delivered the first part— verses 1 through 10— mainly focusing on the Gospel of our salvation. In other words, faith in the Gospel saves us from our sins. M Mark then delivered the second part— verses 11-34— focusing on the “power of the resurrection”. In other words, the resurrection has the power that helps us a new life in Christ. The third part— verses 35-58— deals with the “glory of the resurrection”. In other words, the resurrection is glorious.
But before we understand what the “glory of the resurrection” means, we need to look at the three stages of the Christian’s experience of salvation.
- The first stage of salvation is called “justification”. Justification happens when the status of the soul changes in the sight of God from guilty to not guilty— from condemned to justified or vindicated. In other words, a soul stands guilty before God until his or her sins are forgiven— justified. When a sinner repents their sins and asks God’s forgiveness through Jesus, their sins are forgiven and considered not guilty anymore in the sight of God. This we call “justification”.
- The second stage of salvation is called “sanctification”. Sanctification happens when the condition of the soul or inner person is changed from “not-clean” to “clean” or from “not-holy” to “holy” in the sight of God. A person is or unclean or unholy before God until the heart is washed from the stain of sin that that heart not-clean or unclean before God. When a person repents for his sins— from a filthy heart and filthy living, and that person believes in the Blood Jesus shed on the cross for him— God then applies that Blood to his heart which makes his heart clean in the sight of God. He is sanctified! His situation changes. He is now able to live the life God called him to live. This is “sanctification”.
- But this is not the end of the process of “salvation” we Christians must go through. It’s only the beginning. The last stage of our salvation is called “glorification”. Glorification is the process of our growth as Christians, until we attain to the image of the Lord Jesus. This process of growing takes a lifetime— as we slowly change and become more Christ-like in our character. “Glorification” will be finalized when we finally go to the kingdom of God where we’ll wear a new body and be made perfect in Christ. Just as a child bears the likeness of his father and mother, so also we will bear the likeness of our Lord Jesus.
In this 3rd part of chapter 15, Paul talks about the third stage of salvation, the process of “glorification”. He talks about the resurrection body the Christian will wear when we finally appear in heaven. We wonder, however, why do I need to even think about this subject— what my body will look like in heaven? First of all, I need to know because as a Christian I should know what is happening on the inside of me while the resurrection power is at work in my heart transforming me. Second of all, I need to know because I need to keep my hearts set on Jesus who made all this changer possible for me. What Paul explains in this last part of this chapter is not easy to understand at all. It is very theological. But we should study it anyway until we can understand it by the wisdom the Holy Spirit grants us to understand the deep things of God.
To begin with, Jesus’ resurrection is not a fantasy. It’s a beautiful and wondrous reality! Some Christians cannot comprehend Jesus’ resurrection, let alone their own resurrection. Some think that they will be some form of a ghost when they rise. Others think that they’ll be angels. It was the same with the Corinthian Christians. Read verse 35. “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’” The Christians of Corinth could not even imagine what a resurrected body might look like. They were sarcastic enough to even criticize this Christian teaching. So Paul explains to them about the resurrection body of believers! He said to them, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” (36) And that’s true! For example, unless a seed is buried in the ground, it cannot germinate nor grow. So it is with the resurrection. Before one can rise with a resurrection body, he or she must first die.
Everything born in this world will eventually die— death is the end of all things. But to the Christian, death is not the end. Death is a necessary prerequisite to the resurrection, and the doorway to heaven. So we will not enter the kingdom of God with our present decaying bodies. Rather, we will enter with the new body God will give each of us at the resurrection. We call that body the “resurrection body”. And this resurrection body starts out as a seed when the moment a man or woman is born again. And in this life, this new body is growing towards maturity until that time when God clothes us completely with the resurrection body.
So how does the spiritual seed grow during my life? In the previous passage we studies last week, we talked about resurrection faith. Resurrection faith works in our daily lives to help us overcome the difficulties of life and matures us on the inside. For example, most people cannot overcome their fears nor their personal sins— whatever their sins might be. Because of that, they are unable to come to God and be personal with him. Nor are they able to serve God’s purpose of life for them. they cannot, because as long as they are living in fear or in sin, they are living in Adam— and that’s not a good thing. But suppose they accept the gospel, then God intervenes and he himself works in their hearts to help them overcome their fears and their sin problem. God helps them mature spiritually. The best part is that they are now “living in Christ” and not “living in Adam” any more.
How then does a person accept the Gospel which works to change him on the inside? It is all again a matter of resurrection. For example, to accept the gospel, a person must first put aside his doubts and his pride. In other words, he must die to himself or herself. Dying to one’s self is the same as “repenting”. A person puts aside— or repents— of his doubts and pride. He put aside— or repents— of his love for sin and accepts the gospel by faith. Faith in Jesus is also like dying to one’s self, because the person who repents decides to no longer trust in his or her own ability to change or to reform, but he now puts his trust in Christ’s power to reform or to change him. He or she then experiences a spiritual resurrection— a new birth. That seed is sown or put in the ground, and so it begins to grow. He or she is now different. He is no longer dead in his sins. He is now alive in Christ. He can now struggle against his sin to be more like Jesus. That is how the resurrection works in our lives.
The resurrection is especially true for the after life as well. Dying to our physical nature is important if we want to become a spiritual person. I say this because many Christians want to grow and mature on the inside but they don’t like to die to themselves. But the death of the physical body— denying ourselves— is important for the resurrection body to come out of the decaying physical body. For this reason, Paul compares the resurrection to a seed which is planted and comes up as a plant. The plant that comes from the seed does not look anything like the seed itself. It’s completely different in shape and size and such. Why? Because the seed died and it came up in a different body form.
Read verses 37 and 38. “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.” There is a difference between what the seed looks like and what the plant that comes from it looks like. Most seeds aren’t pretty. But the plant that comes from the seed is usually beautiful. Also, the world of the seed is different from the world of the plant. The seed lives in the underground world— a cold and dark world. But the plant lives in the world above— a world of sunlight. The worlds of the seed and its plant are completely different, separate and incomparable. In the same way, my earthly bodies and the world it lives in cannot be compared with my resurrection body and the kingdom of God it lives in. So, according to the Bible, our physical bodies are nothing but seeds. And their death becomes their ticket to glory— to a new world. But because not everyone knows this truth, most people end up living only for the glory of the earthly body. And only few decide to live for the heavenly glory. Let me explain this.
First, people who live for the glory of the physical body! Physical glory is the glory of the flesh. It is that which glorifies the flesh, such as worldly desires or selfish ambition. For example, a fancy car or job or position in the world glorifies a person in this world of superficial standards, even though the man himself may be a shallow and hollow person. For example, some makeup and jingling jewelry and credit cards may glorify a woman, even though that woman may be shameful and immoral in her heart. How sad it is that worldly glory sometimes becomes the measure of a person’s worth! The world is full of things people run after to glorify their bodies. Most people live only on the physical level. To receive worldly glory, they do unheard of things. To become rich and famous, they trample those who are unfortunate. Some want to be attractive and desirable even if they have to sell their soul in the process. Earthly glory is like a glorified seed that remains only an ugly seed, buried in the dark ground. Most people waste their lives trying to get some worldly glory. But all they’re doing is polishing their seed. And the tragedy is that all their worldly glory is perishing.
Second, Christians who live for the heavenly glory! What is the alternative to worldly glory? Heavenly glory of coruse! People who live for physical glory do not know anything about spiritual glory. But the Christian is different! A Christian knows that he or she has a soul which cannot be happy until it gets heavenly glory. A Christian knows that his or her physical life is only a seed compared to the spiritual life God wants them to live. So they seek spiritual glory with all their hearts. In most people, the spiritual nature which God gave us at birth is suppressed by the physical nature. But we cannot deny that it is there. And anyone can tap into it and discover it and revive it to life. Spiritual glory raises the soul, trapped in a physical body from the dead and gives it the life in God. Spiritual glory begins with faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus sparks the spiritual nature to life and it begins to grow in the image of God.
God made us to seek him and to seek spiritual things. God gave every one of us the chance to cultivate our spiritual qualities until we can live as a spiritual person. And we can learn all these things and how they work from the Bible. The Bible is the most beautiful book ever written. The Bible gives us all the grace we need to clothe ourselves with heavenly glory. If we do not live our lives according to the Bible, something other than the spiritual nature will grow in our hearts. So what should we do? We should take care of our spiritual nature and allow our soul to grow in Jesus. But we cannot do this on our own. God has to do it for us. And God did. He first planted in each of us a desire to renounce the glory of the flesh and a desire to seek the heavenly glory. Next, he gave us the strength to do so through resurrection faith. From then on, it is a spiritual war we have to fight and win during our lifetime. But, with Jesus, the Captain of our souls, we are promised that the victory is assured.
So far we have said that we have a spiritual nature which seeks the spiritual glory. And we achieve spiritual glory through faith in Jesus. But we must deal with our sin problem first. Sin damages life. It damages the heart and mind and puts a stamp of dishonor on us. Sin damages the character and personality until we cannot be the person God wants us to be. But God didn’t leave us in this situation. God prepared salvation for our soul— salvation from sin and from the decay of this sinful body of death. Read verses 42-44. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” God has promised a new body of resurrection for those who believe the gospel. Those who believe inherit a resurrection body of glory and splendor. They shed this old body of sin and death and receive a new one. And this resurrection body is not necessarily something we receive after we die. The Bible tells us that the resurrection body is born in the heart of those who are born again in Jesus. When we repent of our sins and are born anew into God’s family, the resurrection body is formed in our hearts and begins to grow.
Read verse 45. “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” In Adam we are born in sin and live in sin and we are dead to God because of sin. But when we come to Jesus and put our faith in him, Jesus takes care of our sin problem through his grace and gives us a new life. Not only that! Read verse 49. “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” At birth, we have the likeness of the earthly man, Adam. It means that from Adam, we inherited a sinful nature. Whether we like it or not then, we are born in this body of sin, and we are caught in the corruption of heart and mind. This is what “living in the first Adam” means. But God sent the second Adam, Jesus, to rescue us from the corruption inherited from the first Adam. And Jesus has already done it. He has already provided the way through the gospel for all who believe.
So, what should we do? Actually we must hate our sins enough to desire to change. Then we must turn to Jesus with a repentant heart. After that we experience a change of heart and mind. What happens is that the gospel begins its life-giving and transforming work in our hearts. God himself cleanses our heart and mind and soul. We receive God’s forgiveness. A sense of new beginning wells up in our hearts. This new beginning is itself the new birth- the new life that Jesus gives us. When we are touched and healed by Jesus, the man from heaven, the image of God in our hearts begins to grow. A Christian, then, is a person whose earthly form is dying- but whose heavenly form is growing in glory until the kingdom of God comes. Paul warns us that we must take God’s word in this matter seriously. Read verse 50. “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
Read verses 51-53. “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” When Jesus comes again, it will be the final call, the hope of all Christians and the tragedy of all the faithless. Even now Jesus saves anyone who calls on him in faith. Every person is only a step from salvation because God is merciful and kind and wants to see all people rescued from sin. God speaks to every heart and calls it to come home. (Ro.10:13) But when Jesus’ second coming arrives, it will be all over for those who did not believe but continued running after physical glory. There will be no more chances given. Jesus will come to take home those who believe and he will judge those who don’t. This is absolutely the truth of the Bible. (2Cor.5:10)
What then will happen to those whose hope is in Christ? Look at verses 51-53 again. Christians will be changed to be like Jesus. This is the final transformation— the last stage of “glorification”. In this life, when our faith is in Jesus, we are changed, we are transformed into a “new creation”. This new birth, however, does not free us from the principles at work in this world. In this world, for example, we still suffer. We are tempted. We occasionally fall and recover. We struggle and repent and grow stronger spiritually. What is happening to us is that our resurrection body is constantly maturing in our hearts until the day we are finally clothed in the new resurrection body God has prepared for us. Surely the physical glory is perishing and the spiritual glory is what matters. Praise God that he has sent Jesus to forgive us, to sanctify us and to glorify us. Praise Jesus who has given us the gospel message through which we can put aside sin and live a new life in Christ. Praise God that we no longer have to live on the physical level, but we can live on the spiritual level because Jesus conquered death by his resurrection from the dead. Praise God that we too can rise from the dead even now as we put our hope in the resurrection and make it the focus of our new life in Christ. Read our key verse 49 again. “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” Now read verse 58. “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”