What will it be like, this life after death thing? What will we look like, where will we be, of what will our existence consist? If living forever is the desired end result produced by our faith, its really reasonable to ask what that life will be like. Surely we wouldn’t want to do this if we were going to be miserable later on, forever.
Apparently the Corinthians were not only questioning the notion of a resurrection and eternal life, they were asking about what it would be like, specifically what would their body be like. They could see that people die, are buried and that buried bodies rot away, so if the body is gone, and we are to live forever, how the heck does that work.
Paul sets out to answer that question in 1 Corinthians 15:35 and following. He starts out with an example from nature, a seed. A new plant does not grow except when the old plant produces a seed that is dead and the seed that is planted is not the plant that will come, and the body of the plant that grows from the seed is the one God has determined it should have.
In fact he notes, bodies of all kinds of animals, plants, birds fish, even heavenly bodies follow after their own type. There are different types of bodies for different types of things. When he speaks of heavenly bodies it is clear he is not speaking of celestial beings but of the physical forms of the sun, moon planets and stars because he refers to them specifically. Different bodies (or forms) for different things, all ordained by God and each with a splendor of its own.
So the form of those who are raised will have the following characteristics:
- It will be different from the current body in the same way that the plant is different from the seed from which it grew. (Since the type of plant that grows is dependent on the type of seed planted, does the type of eternal form depend on the one we “plant’ here on earth, or do we draw the analogy too far?)
- The form of the resurrection body is ordained by God
- The resurrection body will be suitable to its nature and purpose just as the bodies of birds, fish and men are suitable here.
- It will have its own splendor, different from the splendor we see now.
Paul goes on to note some differences between our bodies now and what can be expected in resurrection.
- Perishable vs. imperishable
- Dishonor vs. Glory
- Weakness vs power
- Natural vs. spiritual
There is then some discussion of the natural versus spiritual. He contrasts Adam to Christ, a living being versus a life giving spirit and notes that the natural came after the spiritual. The natural from the earth, the spiritual from heaven. And he says that, inasmuch as we have the likeness of the natural man through our natural birth we will have the likeness of the spiritual man through our rebirth in the spirit. This is of a piece with the notion of our shared life in Christ (shared sufferings, etc.) leading to sharing all of the aspects of His life including eternal life and in this case, an eternal form.
And then Paul declares with triumph the victory of Christ over death and sin and hell and the certainty of the resurrection of those who are found in Christ “Death is swallowed up in victory”. And he concludes with a therefore.
He says that because of the great victory Christ has won at great and grievous cost we are not to be moved, but stand firm int he faith and give ourselves fully to the cause. Why? Because we know that while we should be considered fools if we were wrong, we are not wrong. Jesus has been raised, we need no longer live in our sin and fear death and we are not working in vain.