An analogy of seeds and bodies. 15:35-44
Arguing against those who can handle the idea of the soul leaving the body and ascending to heaven, but who have difficulty with a bodily resurrection, Paul makes the point that the resurrection of the dead, an event which entails a transformation from one form to another, is well illustrated in nature. The amazing transformation of a sown seed evidences the principle of continuity and transformation, while the wonder of the creation, both here on earth and in the cosmos, evidences the principle of distinctive difference. God will give believers, sown with a death-bound body, a supernatural body in the day of resurrection.
v35. Paul further develops his argument for a bodily resurrection of the dead in the day of Christ's return by posing a likely question from an opponent. The "what kind of body?" question allows Paul to present the analogy of the seeds which serves to illustrate the transformation of the body on the day of resurrection to that of a spiritual body, v44a, a body which is incorruptible, v52.
v36-38. "You fool, when it comes to the resurrection body, nature illustrates what kind of body is raised." We learn a number of things from the act of sowing and reaping. First, what is sown dies in the ground before it is raised to life. Second, there is continuity between the seed and the plant which has burst to life, but there is also a transformation of the "bare kernel" that was sown. God transforms the dead body planted in the ground; to each kind of seed a new transformed body. "The same is true of the resurrection of the dead. I who die will be raised alive, but changed into a different form", Paul Barnett.
v39-41. The substantial difference between the bare kernel and the lush plant is further illustrated in the variety, the difference, of various kinds of terrestrial (earthly) and celestial (heavenly) entities. Each seed has its own body exhibiting a diversity of form and character. The glory of each is different, as is the glory of the risen Lord, a glory we will share at the resurrection of the dead.
v42-44. For believers, their is a "natural body", buried in the ground, which will be transformed and raised a "spiritual body" in the day of resurrection. By "natural body" Paul means one suited to life in this world, and by "spiritual body" he means one suited to life in heaven. Seeing we now possess this "natural body", there must also be a "spiritual body" - a body which can inherit eternal life, inherit heaven.
The resurrection body
Paul argues for a resurrection of the physical body in the same form as Christ rose from the dead. Everything a Christian believes depends on Christ's resurrection. Forgiveness of sins, justification, sanctification.... salvation itself, depends on the resurrection of Christ. As Christ is, so we shall be, so we are becoming, so we are. If Christ did not rise then we are lost.
In the day of resurrection, at the return of Christ, what will we be like? What form will we take? The Bible doesn't give us a finite description of the resurrection body. Yet it does tell us a number of things about this new body we are to inherit:
i] Continuity. It is of the old, but new. What we are will be caught up in the new resurrected body. In that sense, it will not be a totally new body, a totally new self. The old self is still there, and we will recognize that self. The best example of this is Jesus. His body did not remain in the tomb in Palestine. It came alive and was incorporated in his resurrection body.
ii] Transformed. There will be a transformation of the old into the new. The illustration Paul uses is of a seed sown in the ground and springing to life into a sheaf of wheat. The illustration we use is often that of a caterpillar moving to the chrysalis stage and then emerging as a butterfly.
iii] Suitable. It will suit the environment of heaven. It will fit in there, work there, just as our natural body works well here; just as a seed works well here, or a fish works well in it's environment.
iv] Spiritual. Paul uses three words to describe this body. It is imperishable, glorious and spiritual: it will never die; it is wondrous; it is of the stuff of heaven; it is supernatural.
v] Christ-like. The most profound truth about the resurrection body is that it is the same body as the "man from heaven". Christ has already taken the form of this resurrected body. It is the way he is now, and the way he is now is the way we will be. We will be as Christ already is. To be as Christ is, what more wondrous future could be offered to us?
When we look at the risen Christ we get an idea of the form of the resurrection body. When Jesus rose from the dead he was able to communicate with his friends, even eat a meal with them, yet at the same time appear and disappear and walk through solid walls. Of course, the form of Jesus, as he appeared to his disciples, was most likely not the final reality of the resurrected body. When Jesus met Mary of Magdala at the tomb he said to her, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father." This is a rather cryptic saying, but in it's many double meanings there lies the idea that Jesus was not yet in the form he would finally take in heaven. He was still in the process of transformation and he did not want Mary to hold onto the natural man that was being changed into the man from heaven.
The form we will take is similar to what Paul saw on the Damascus road. He saw no mere natural man, he saw the risen Lord in all his glory, and that vision blinded him. This was indeed a manifestation of the glorious risen Lord. This glory of the man from heaven will one day be ours.
It is commonly held that the soul leaves the body at death and ascends to heaven. So, at a funeral, we tend to view the body in the coffin as an empty shell and the loved one now situated in heaven. How does this opinion fit with what Paul is saying? How should we view a deceased person at that their funeral? Discuss how burial traditions are often a preparation for resurrection.
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