Spiritual Bodies … A Contradiction of Terms? (Part II)
Everyone wants to live forever. Both rich and poor, famous and common seek immortality. However, many think, act, and live as though this earthly life is all there will ever be. They want to experience all the pleasure, achieve all the prestige, and acquire all the possessions possible during this life; then hope that they’ve been just good enough to merit God’s favor in the hereafter. Others blindly follow false gods and the false promises of the men who made those gods to a paradise that doesn’t exist for them.
Either way, they end up ignoring or rejecting the life-giving truth proclaimed by Jesus, himself. “…whosoever believes in him will not perish (spiritual death) but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
They disregard the profound warning that Jesus issued regarding the eternal life or death consequences that a person’s belief system and life’s pursuit would bring: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark 8:35-37).
What many don’t fully grasp is that immortality is a reality, but only on their Creator’s terms … according to God’s eternal plan for the human race. But this existence will either be Life or Death. Life in spiritual bodies equipped to live in heaven forever. Or, what Scripture calls the Second Death … eternal separation from God also in a body but one that is spiritually dead. One that is more like the Walking Dead depicted in the television program of the same name, but without the Hollywood imitative inaccuracies.
Resurrection to Life? Or, resurrection to Death? We have a choice.
In last week’s Part I article, we examined what it is that has compelled and persuaded millions of people since the first century AD to place their personal trust and destiny in Jesus Christ. Permit me to quote from that article (in italics).
We are compelled by the amazing love of God expressed in his Grace freely bestowed through the precious gift of his son, Messiah Jesus. It is the greatest gift ever given, purchased by the highest price ever paid (not our purchase with good works or self-worth, but God’s purchase), the very blood and life of Jesus Christ—the righteous for the unrighteous, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty.
We are persuaded by the very cornerstone of our belief and trust: the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Son of God, Son of David, and Son of Man reigns from heaven and will soon return to reign on this earth … in the same glorified, spiritual body that was his when he left the grave. All other religious founders or leaders are still in their graves. But not the Lord. Our Redeemer lives!
Now let’s take an up-close and personal look at the who, what, how, and when of the mysterious, but nevertheless astounding actuality of the spiritual body. Because without this transformed body which is a new extreme make-over of our original earthly body, there’s no way that we will be equipped to live forever in heaven. Or be able to do extraordinary things on this earth during our rule and reign with the King of all kings … our Lord and Savior Messiah Jesus.
If you like, think Superman … without the kryptonite! But for a vastly superior purpose: To worship, praise, and serve the true and living God, undefiled. Without the earthly hang-ups and baggage that the very best of men and women bear daily on this weary, wicked world we live in. To fellowship and rejoice with the host of heaven in a paradise so wonderful that even the most vivid human imagination cannot envision or comprehend.
Who Will Live Forever with a Spiritual Body? (Who is Qualified?)
Scripture precisely and powerfully proclaims in dozens of passages that only those who personally believe in the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ will be saved from the penalty of their sins, which is eternal separation (death) from God. Instead, we have been freely given the awesome privilege of everlasting life with an immortal body that will surpass our highest expectations or attainable aspirations.
This Gospel is both simple and profound, easy to understand yet difficult for so many to believe; because they mistakenly think that they must do something to earn whatever kind of salvation they have imagined or have been taught by (their) religion. How much they must do or how much will be enough depends on the religion they follow.
As I have said several times in prior Eye of Prophecy articles: Christianity is not a religion. It is the only belief system which asserts that God did for the human race what it could not do for itself through good works, self-worth, or meritorious conduct. That is why it is called the Gospel, which means, Good News. Jesus Christ did it all! He perfectly fulfilled the Law of Moses, so that mankind can stop trying to earn salvation by keeping the law, which couldn’t be done in the first place. Moreover, the very essence and heart of the Christian faith is a personal relationship with God available to all those who have been restored and reconciled to God by simply believing and receiving Jesus Christ and what he accomplished on the Cross. Then confirmed by his mighty resurrection from the dead. That same resurrection will be graciously given to all who have placed their faith in Christ. The same spiritual body possessed by Messiah Jesus after he arose from the dead will be part of the believer’s eternal inheritance.
Let’s return to I Corinthians Chapter 15 and quote again Paul’s definitive summary of the Good News: “…Christ died for our sins … was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” (Verses 3-4).
Yet even some believers in the Corinthian Church doubted whether there was or would be such a thing as a resurrection from the dead. Others believed in a resurrection, but only of the human spirit, not the body; in spite of the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was seen bodily, not merely as a spirit. Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after he arose. She touched him … the Bible intimates that she most likely hugged him! By very definition a spirit cannot be touched.
Jesus dispelled all doubt to his disciples (and hundreds of others) who at first couldn’t fathom that he had arisen and returned from the dead as a whole person. When Christ suddenly appeared to them behind locked doors, “…the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost! ‘Why are you frightened?’ he asked. ‘Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do’” (Luke 24:37-39).
What an absolutely stunning reality this was to the disciples!
Then he actually ate some food to further prove that he was not merely spirit. Since when do ghosts eat food?!
Thus, Paul challenges and even reprimands the Corinthians by asking: “But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either” (I Corinthians 15:12-13).
Paul continues: “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam (born physically), everyone who belongs to Christ (born again spiritually) will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (I Corinthians 17-23).
Those who belong to Christ, by means of believing and receiving Him as Lord and Savior, will qualify to be part of the spectacular harvest of brand new spiritual bodies when the Lord takes his people to heaven at the Rapture.
What Is a Spiritual Body & How Is It Possible?
The Apostle Paul then goes on to pose a probing but perfunctory question; yet, it was not his own query. Instead of embarrassing the Corinthians by directly accusing them of asking such a question, Paul politely points to a hypothetical “someone.” With, however, the not so subtle inference that even some of the believers were harboring the same thoughts as non-believers, which is expressed by Paul as follows:
“But someone may ask, ‘How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?’ What a foolish question…!” (I Corinthians 15:35-36)
Let’s pause here for a moment and return to the word oxymoron, discussed in last week’s article. Which is a glaring contradiction of two terms or ideas. With the first part of the word referring to someone or something that is quite sharp … meaning (intellectually) perceptive or even brilliant. And the second part of the word denoting something or someone rather dull … more like foolish. In fact our English word moron is the second half of this word!
To some extent Paul is using such a strong word (foolish) to chide those who would pose these kind of questions, but that is not his primary purpose. Rather, he’s employing the word foolish in the oxymoronic sense. That the concept of resurrection from the dead is a profound spiritual and physical fact (as he had already demonstrated by reminding them that Christ arose from the dead); but also an obviously simple thing to grasp in case someone is not seeing the forest because of the trees.
How else will those in Christ be raised except bodily, as part of the great harvest of believers when Christ returned? What other kind of form would they have but one like the Lord’s? What was it that Christ arose from? Answer: The grave, the dead. Before he could arise, he had to die. Thus, Paul seizes the opportunity with an analogy to the most fundamental explanation of life:
“…When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish” (I Corinthians 15:36-39).
When Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying clear instructions from God, death entered the world. From that point the cycle of life was only possible when the seed of all living things first died, thereby, producing life again. Until the biological seed of plants or the sperm and egg seed of animals and humans first dies, there’s no way that life can begin. And when it is born and does begin, it’s a whole new and different form of life from the original seed that died. Paul initially refers to the seed of plants because without plant life there could be no other life … birds, fish, animals, or humans.
Paul then amplifies this analogy with the example of heavenly bodies possessing their own glory, or distinct innate essence, each different from the other (Verses 40-41).
Then he drives the point home by completing the correlation.
“It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory (meaning a new and much better essence or being) … They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies” (I Corinthians 15:42-44).
*Note: Jesus used a similar comparison when he said that all who wanted to live forever in the Kingdom of God must be spiritually reborn. Just like we are born physically with our earthly body, so can and must we be born-again spiritually if we are to live forever with the Lord in heaven. (John Chapter 3).
So, Paul is saying that it’s silly to think that there is no resurrection. Didn’t Christ, himself, rise from the dead? Or, once past that point of doubt, to think that we would be raised with the same earthly body in which we were born. As a result of sin, it was all too clear that our bodies grow old, deteriorate and eventually die. And why on earth would God raise us in spirit form only; when in fact he originally created us with a spirit and body to live forever. It’s foolish to think otherwise; meaning that our eternal existence in heaven will surpass the Garden of Eden paradise given to our original parents, Adam and Eve. Furthermore, this everlasting life will be lived in and with a superbly superior body … a spiritual body!
Paul goes on to say: “Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever” (I Corinthians 15:47-50).
When Will Those in Christ Receive Their Spiritual Bodies
We already know that our earthly bodies will be transfigured into everlasting heavenly spiritual bodies at the resurrection. But when will that take place? Most believers know the answer to that question, but not necessarily all the intricate details. Though no one knows the actual day and time when Christian believers are caught up to meet Messiah Jesus, commonly called the Rapture, we can otherwise know a great deal about this magnificent event. (Please refer to the first five articles posted on the Eye of Prophecy website in July, August of 2013, on the What, Why, When, Who, and How of the Rapture).
In the very next verse Paul discloses an astonishing revelation given to him directly from the Lord. One that he had already conveyed to the Thessalonian believers as found in I Thessalonians Chapter 4, but absent some of the details he imparts to the Corinthians.
“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies” (I Corinthians 15:51-53).
Now, That’s Life!! Not the short time here on the planet then we’re gone without taking anything with us life—dramatically but deceptively summarized, for example, in Frank Sinatra’s song, That’s Life, or in the song written for him by Paul Anka, I Did It My Way.
You might want to check out the Eye of Prophecy article entitled, To Be or Not to Be … in Heaven. Posted 11-1-14.
Things to Ponder
By and large, Scripture doesn’t elaborate on the new glorified spiritual bodies that believers in Christ will possess when the dead in Christ are raised from the dead and those alive will also be transformed and immediately follow them. Suffice to say, our spiritual bodies will far exceed anything we could imagine. Neither, however, does the Bible leave us clueless.
There is a general overview and reliable supposition that we can make about our glorified bodies: They will be multi-dimensional. How many more dimensions than we currently have is unknown for now.
But here are a few of the distinguishing characteristics:
Physical Barriers Are No Problem
We’ve already touched on this earlier in the article … Luke Chapter 24. That account is also recorded in John’s Gospel. Even after they had been told that the Lord had arisen, his disciples were still in hiding from the Jewish leaders—meeting behind closed and locked doors.
“…Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side…” (John 20:19-20). Jesus didn’t knock or break down the door. He was just there! Picture entering the famous Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico without going through or down the entrance shaft.
Time and Space Are No Barriers
Remember Jesus walking with the two men on the road to Emmaus, after his resurrection. He verbally took them through all the prophetic Scriptures that spoke of him as the Messiah, then agreed to go to their home to eat dinner with them. Jesus, “…took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them … And at that moment he disappeared!” (Luke 24:30-31).
One minute he was there and the next second he was gone! Gone, as in abruptly vanishing. How long it took him to get to his next destination is not known. But a spiritual educated guess tells us it was fast, very fast. Perhaps we will be able to travel at the speed of sound, or light, or even thought.
Eating, Drinking (Presumably Sleeping) Will Still Be Possible, but Optional
Notice in the account we just looked at with the two followers of Jesus that Jesus chose not to eat. He blessed the bread, gave it to the two men, and disappeared. The very evident implication in this scene is that the seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus followed by the time spent at the house preparing dinner and whatever else occurred would have taken several hours. The men were hungry and so could have been the Lord. But he chose not to eat most likely because he didn’t need to.
On the other hand, he ate with his disciples in the account later in Luke Chapter 24. Our spiritual bodies will be such that eating, drinking, and probably sleeping will be optional. With exception that we will periodically partake of the water of life and tree of life in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22). Thus, we will have the pleasure of eating … who doesn’t want or like to eat! On the other hand, there are times when we just don’t want to take the trouble to eat. We will eat when we want to; won’t eat when we don’t want to!
Gravity Does Not Affect the Spiritual Body, Either in a Positive or Negative Way
“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider (Jesus) was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses” (Revelation 19:11, 14).
During the final epic battle of Armageddon, believers will follow our Lord directly from heaven; with the obvious conclusion that it will be from the sky above to the earth below, all the while riding white horses. Included in all the glorious features our spiritual bodies will possess, gravity will have no power over us. Suspended animation? Any time or place we choose.
Flying fast or flying slow. Look out earth, away we go!
Please, take a few more minutes and listen to this beautiful and powerful song by Nicole Mullen. My Redeemer Lives