The Corinthian church had been plagued with much internal division over issues such as disunity (1 Corinthians 1-4), immorality (1 Corinthians 5-6), marriage (1 Corinthians 7), personal freedom (1 Corinthians 8-10), worship (1 Corinthians 11), and spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14). Paul wrote this first letter to the Corinthians urging them to leave behind their arguments and fightings to make way for peace and maturity in their faith. Many of their differences could have been settled through understanding the truth and love for one another, so Paul penned this letter to bring clarity to all these issues. One of the only doctrinal issues dealt with in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was the resurrection of the dead.
Even though the Corinthians possessed the truth regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead, many in Corinth questioned its validity. Paul wrote this chapter to defend the resurrection of Jesus Christ (15:1-11) and ultimately our own resurrection from the dead (15:12-34). Those who questioned the reality of a bodily resurrection asked questions such as, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” (15:35). Paul answered the questions of the cynics by explaining that the current body cannot be resurrected anew unless the old body dies (15:36). Paul illustrates this concept by explaining that a seed is planted, decomposes in its current form, and then life comes from that dead seed (15:37) just as the old body dies and new life springs from it (15:38). God possesses the power to make this miracle occur.
God has created various types of bodies to survive in many kinds of environments (15:39), but He has also designed bodies suited for heaven (celestial) and earth (terrestrial), which Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:40-44). Paul details the distinctiveness between the two bodies, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption [death], it is raised in incorruption [no more sickness or death]. It is sown in dishonor [guilt for sin], it is raised in glory [no shame]. It is sown in weakness [gives into temptation], it is raised in power [no fear of sin]. It is sown a natural body [limited by time/space], it is raised a spiritual body [no limits by time/space]. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (15:42-44). The natural body descends from Adam, but the spiritual body is given by Jesus Christ (15:45-49), whose image we will bear for all eternity (15:49).
When will the body be changed? Paul answers this question by pointing to the time of the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), when Christ will return in the clouds to receive all those who believe to Himself (15:50-54). The bodies of the believing living and dead will ascend to heaven and be changed instantaneously. Not only will the bodies of the believing be changed, but death will finally be defeated (15:54-57). Death will no longer have power over those who have believed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for their sins. Because of this reality, Paul writes that the Corinthians should “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (15:57-58).
Dear God, thank You for the hope of a future resurrection!