We find the most in-depth insights into the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the resurrection chapter. Please read and ponder verses 35 to 50, in which Paul states his case and then illustrates it with several mini parables. He begins with two questions asking how the dead are raised and what kind of body they will have.
Question one is answered in the first part of the chapter. The dead are raised because Jesus has defeated death through his resurrection. Because Jesus has conquered death, we can, too, as we place our trust in him. Paul then turns his attention to question 2: With what kind of body will they come?
The Example of the Seed
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed, he gives its own body.
The seed is a body that first must die. In John 12:24, Jesus said unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. No doubt, Jesus was speaking about his impending death. He died as just one man, but his resurrection has cultivated many “seeds” – the billions of people following him.
That body (seed) dies, and God gives it a new body different from the one that perishes. That’s excellent news. Your resurrection body won’t have the same limitations of tiredness, hunger, and sickness endured by the human body.
As Kenneth E. Bailey says, “the new plant that arises from the soil is not created out of the vegetable matter found in the seed. Paul is not telling his readers that in the resurrection the (flesh) will magically reform and arise using the same bone and flesh with which it died.”
This is important because sometimes Christians are unsure about organ donation and cremation because they fear it may affect the resurrection. But your new body will be made of different stuff, so have no fear.
Flesh and Sun
Paul continues this thought in the following parable. The resurrected body will be different from the natural body we possess now. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.
He then speaks about Heavenly bodies. Paul isn’t referring to Hollywood actors here; he has the sun, moon, and stars in mind. The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon and the stars another, and each star differs in brilliance. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.
From our point of view, the sun dies each night and is resurrected in the morning. Even though the sun doesn’t move, we speak of it rising and setting. The moon and stars die each morning and get resurrected each evening. In the same way, death and resurrection are part of each day’s cycle.
Adam and Jesus
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 dishonour; 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.
Paul continues by using the example of the first man, Adam, and the last Adam (Jesus). The first Adam inaugurated the long chain of perishable human bodies. According to Bailey, “the last Adam, Jesus, launched a new age where the incorruptible will inherit the eternal kingdom in the new creation. Paul is referring to the coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness at the end of the age.”
In this present life, all people are like The First Man, having a natural body of the “dust of the earth.” (Genesis 3:19). Almost 99% of the human body’s mass is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Almost all of the remaining 1% comprises another five elements: potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. Our natural body, says Paul, is perishable, sown in dishonour and weakness as typified by the first Adam who disobeyed, lied to cover it up, blamed his wife, and then blamed God.
As was the earthly man, so are those of the earth. In other words, we can all relate to Adam’s story because it is our story too. We blame others and God rather than take personal responsibility. We are sinners, but that is NOT the end of the story. Like a seed precedes a plant, the natural body precedes the spiritual body.
Paul writes, “just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” Paul refers to Jesus as the last Adam, the second man, and the heavenly man, and makes several statements about the resurrection body which is:
Raised imperishable. The resurrected body will not decay or perish (John 3:16). It will be immortal.
Raised in glory. Possessing qualities of integrity, reliability, and wisdom.
Raised in power. The ability to express the life-giving power of love like Jesus demonstrated through the cross.
Raised a spiritual body. The natural (physical) body is sown into death, and, just like a grain of wheat, it springs up as a spiritual body. This body is constituted and directed by the Holy Spirit, thus one that cannot sin, as was God’s original plan.
A Body Like Jesus’
In the resurrection, we will acquire a body that is like Jesus’ resurrection body – tangible, physical. We will not be disembodied spirits floating around on clouds playing the harp. Thank goodness! After his resurrection, Jesus walked, talked, and ate food with people. He was seen by them but also vanished and reappeared in different places. He moved with ease between physical and spiritual dimensions.
Kenneth E. Bailey writes, “In the resurrection, the believer will have a Spirit-constituted physical body. The brokenness and decay of the old body will be gone. The new body will be a physical body like the resurrected body of Christ. Such a glorious vision and promise calls for an exuberant hymn of victory,” which is how Paul ends this chapter:
“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 the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
 Bailey, Kenneth E. Paul through Mediterranean eyes, p. 460.
Rob Buckingham is the founding pastor of Bayside Church, a thriving faith community located in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.