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1 Corinthians 15:35-44 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 18 secs

The Reality and Mechanics of Resurrection; 1 Cor 15:35-44

In the first part of this chapter, from verse 1-34, the focus has been on the reality of the resurrection. Can there be such a thing as resurrection? This dealt with the whole question of physical bodily resurrection from the Greeks. We always have to remember that the Bible is interpreted in the time in which it was written so we have to understand the historical context of the situation before we can properly interpret the passage and then see its application for us.

Acts 17:16 NASB "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. [17] So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing {Gentiles,} and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. [18] And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,"— because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection." Right there from the start the resurrection is a prominent feature of the content of Paul's evangelism.

Acts 17:19 NASB "And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?' " Of course, this is the doctrine of resurrection. They don't have a belief in a bodily resurrection. In Greek thought the ideal is that you can just get rid of this scratchy old body and go off into the ideal, your soul is finally free and you can realize everything you were meant to be by getting rid of this physical-material limitation. They thought that this was a strange doctrine. [20] "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean."

Acts 17:32 NASB "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some {began} to sneer, but others said, 'We shall hear you again concerning this'." This was their reaction to the resurrection. Paul had just made the point that God had raised Jesus Christ from the dead. [33] "So Paul went out of their midst." They mocked Paul; they just rejected the whole idea. This was the embedded presupposition of Greek thought. The Greeks just thought it was common sense not to believe in the resurrection.

There was another group that had rejected the idea of physical bodily resurrection and that was the Sadducees. So there was a segment of religious Jewish culture that rejected the concept of resurrection. We see this is Acts 23:6-8. This was when Paul has gone to Jerusalem and has been arrested because of the trouble he caused among the Jews by preaching the gospel. "But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul {began} crying out in the Council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead! [7] As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. [8] For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all." Paul makes the statement that the whole issue is that he is teaching resurrection. That just got the Sadducees and the Pharisees in a huge battle with each other. The Pharisees believed in a physical bodily resurrection and the Sadducees did not. 

Then there were others among the Jews who had a distorted view of resurrection. There were some rabbis at the time who misunderstood and misapplied such passages as Job 19:26 NASB "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God." Job is talking about the resurrection and so this passage is taken to mean that the resurrection bodies that we would receive in the future would be identical in every way to our present earthly bodies. In other words, God was just going to bring out from the grave the bodies we have right now with no basic change. This was considered to be undesirable and not very pleasant. Why would we want to come back and have the same old corruptible mortal bodies that we have right now. So there was a question about that because they misunderstood the nature of resurrection.

 1 Corinthians 15:35 NASB "But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?'" Paul now begins to deal with a second issue: the mechanics of resurrection. As we look at the text we see that there are two questions: How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? These two questions really focus the rest of the chapter. He is going to explain how the dead are raised and the kind of body that we get in resurrection. The first word "but" is a strong contrastive conjunction in the Greek, alla [a)lla]. This indicates that he is changing the subject. He is moving from the reality of resurrection to the mechanics of resurrection; "someone will say" is in the subjunctive mood which suggests that someone may come up with this objection. It is simply a debater's technique for raising the issue of what the opponent might say to what he has taught. So they come up with these two questions. The next decision we have to make is whether the second question is simply an expanding of the first question. And that is how we should understand it. These are not two distinct questions. In other words, in what sense is a physically dead body raised? What kind of body do they receive? So the second question is merely an expansion and development of the first question.

Another thing to note here is that when we look at these two questions we have some important vocabulary which also indicates the transition in the chapter. In the first question the Greek word for "dead" is nekros [nekroj]. It is used eleven times so far in this chapter. This isn't talking about simply the dead, it is talking about the dead body. The word for body, soma [swma] has not yet appeared. This word now appears in verse 35 for the first time in the chapter, and between verses 35 and 49 soma is going to be used ten times. nekros is used another three times in this last section but only as a reference back to what has been said in the previous chapter. The key issue now is going to be what happens to this body and what kind of body we are going to have.

John 11 records death of Lazarus.  John 11:1 NASB "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. [2] It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. [3] So the sisters sent {word} to Him, saying, 'Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.' But when Jesus heard {this,} He said, 'This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it'." Jesus knows that Lazarus is going to die and He knows the significance of this is that He is going to bring Lazarus forth from the grave.

John 11:17 NASB "So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. [19] and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning {their} brother." John uses the term "Jews" in a technical way. He is really talking about the religious elite, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes; these are the ones who are also present. [20] Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. [21] Martha then said to Jesus, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died'." Her question doesn't exhibit a lot of faith but the faith is there. [23] "John 11:23 Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' [24] Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day'." So she has a firm belief in a future resurrection. [25] "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, [26] and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'"

John 11:39 NASB "Jesus said, 'Remove the stone.' Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, 'Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been {dead} four days'." That is the clue. His body was corrupting in the grave. They had no concept of what is going to happen. The power of God is such that He is going to call forth Lazarus from the grave, and he will be completely resuscitated and there will be a reversal of that corruption.

We see a similar type of episode in Matthew 27:52, 53 NASB "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many." It is clear that the graves were opened at the time of the crucifixion. Then, the word "after" is the Greek preposition meta [meta] and it clearly means after His resurrection. All of these people simply received back a renewed physical body that they had once had. The body was still corruptible, still mortal, and it would still eventually die. They didn't receive resurrection bodies.

What Paul is describing here is the fact that we are going to receive a new body. There are similarities with the old body but it is a new body. So he is going to develop this in the next section.  

1 Corinthians 15:36 NASB "You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies." He uses the word aphron [a)frwn], a compound word. It has the alpha privative at the beginning, equivalent to our English 'un,' it negates the word; phron come from the root meaning to think, and the alpha there means to not think. So you are unthinking, you're stupid, you're ignorant. Then he gives an illustration from agriculture. Paul emphasizes the principle here that what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. A seed has to die before it can bring forth life. So we see an analogy that God has built into creation for seeds. There is biological life in trees, in vegetation, but it doesn't have life in the biblical sense; it doesn't have nephesh, the key word in the Old Testament for what life is; it is not life in the same sense that animals and human beings have, it is a different kind of life. So the death of plants and that which is part of the seed dying and bringing forth new life is not a death that is related to sin.

1 Cor 15:37 NASB "and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else." So if you look at the seed it doesn't look anything like what it is going to produce. Here Paul is applying an analogy that they would all understand because their culture was based on agriculture and everyone was familiar with these things. [38] "But God gives it a body just as He wished [willed], and to each of the seeds a body of its own." In other words, there is a correlation between the seed and the body it produces.

Genesis 1:10 NASB "God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. [11] Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, {and} fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them"; and it was so. [12] The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good." So God creates everything to reproduce according to its kind. So there is a stability of kind. The point of Paul's analogy here is that our present corporal body must die before there is a transition to this new body, but it will be of the same kind as the present body. We are still going to be able to recognize each other.

Then he develops the analogy. 1 Cor 15:39 NASB "All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one {flesh} of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish." Verses 39-41 give us a clear understanding of what is going on back in Genesis in the sense that there are different categories, different kinds. There are specific designated kinds. [40] "There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the {glory} of the earthly is another." The glory of the sun, for example, is self-generated. The glory of the earth reflects, like the moon. [41] "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory." The point of this whole analogy is that God is going to give us a resurrection body that is comparable to what we have today but it is going to be different in its glory.

Something that is embedded in this whole illustration here is that there are going to be different grades of glory for us in heaven. And that is a part of rewards, a distinction in rewards. All believers do not have the same thing when they get to heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:42 NASB "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable {body,} it is raised an imperishable {body;}" This is the answer to the question: How are the dead raised up? They are raised up in incorruption. They now have an incorruptible body, not subject to failure in any way. [43] "it is sown in dishonour [in death], it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; [44] it is sown a natural [yuxikoj, i.e. without a spirit; born an unbeliever] body, it is raised a spiritual body [regenerated]. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual {body.}" So there is a movement from what we have in this present mortal body to a new kind of body.