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1 Corinthians 15:35-49 Study Guide: Resurrection Bodies

Community Group Study Guide — Resurrection Bodies
1 Corinthians 15:35-49

Main idea:
Followers of Jesus look forward to an eternity where they will have new imperishable bodies modeled after Jesus’ own resurrected body. This body will be without corruption, decay or sin and will be fit to experience the new creation that God is authoring for his people in Christ. 

Study Information:
Throughout 1 Corinthians 15, Paul has been helping us understand the resurrection and specifically the implications it has on our understanding of the gospel and what it means to be “in Christ.” The Gospel is the good news that God has made reconciliation possible with him through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are counted “in Christ” through faith and have forgiveness of our sins and new life through his substitutionary death and resurrection in our place. Without the resurrection, this all crumbles. Some in Corinth struggled to believe the resurrection could be true and this group was large enough that Paul addresses it as an area of division in the church and he answers their questions to help them put their faith in Christ. It is ok to ask questions and express doubts; we can turn to God’s word to find answers. The question the Corinthians asked in our passage was: “with what kind of body are the dead raised?”

What we learn in this passage of scripture is that heaven will be a physical place and we need a new physical body to experience it the way that God has designed. The ancient Greek world saw the physical as bad and inferior to the immaterial or spiritual and this ideology pervaded the gentile church. It is hard to imagine how they specifically would have viewed heaven if they thought it was completely immaterial; it seems like they viewed it as a place that was free from the constraints and limitations of the physical world. This can seem appealing because our experience in the physical world can be at times really joyful but at other times really painful. Yet, that is not the picture we get of eternity. What Paul helps us see is that our resurrected life will be one with a  transformed body and this will be of a different quality, imperishable and imaging Christ and that this is essential because eternity will be physical/material. 

What is this transformed body like?

A Transformed Body:
We get a sense of what our transformed resurrected bodies will be like by looking at Jesus’ post resurrection appearances. It was obvious, once Jesus revealed himself to his disciples, that he was still the Jesus the disciples knew but there was something different about him. He occupied physical places and spaces but would appear among his disciples behind locked doors. Jesus still ate with his disciples and still bore the scars of his crucifixion; but we do not get a sense of him suffering pain or being bound by the need for food like we are today. These post resurrection appearances of Jesus are not meant to give us an exhaustive understanding of the resurrected body, but they do clue us into understanding that there is something similar and something is vastly different about our current bodies and the future body. God speaks of this a bit through the prophet Isaiah who says we will run and not grow weary and walk and not get faint (Isaiah 40:27-31). Some aspects will be really familiar (running, walking, experiencing the physical world) but without the effects from the presence of sin (growing tired, faint, perishing). Paul helps us see that this transformed body will be of different quality, will be imperishable and will image Christ.

Of Different Quality:
1 Corinthians 15:34-41
Paul compares our current bodies, though declared good by God in Genesis 1, as something that is destined to be discarded (1 Corinthians 15:35-36). The effect of sin means that each physical body will experience death, but through this comes a sort of new birth like a kernel or seed being sown into the ground that grows into something completely different than the seed itself. The type of resurrected body we will have will be of a different quality or sort than the current experience you have in your body. Some of us do not feel too comfortable in our bodies whether that comes from body dysphoria, body image issues or chronic pain; we do not feel at home. The promise of the resurrection is that you will inherit a different sort of body and one without the effect of sin and one with which you will feel at home in eternally. Paul talks about how fish, animals and birds all have different kinds of bodies; yes they are all made up of matter, proteins, carbon and flesh, but they vary in quality. Likewise, he looks to space and in his limited astronomical understanding sees that there are varying kinds of heavily bodies like the sun, moon and stars. We do not need to correct Paul and tell him that the sun really is a star, that is not the point. The point he is making is that there are varying types of objects in the sky. These two images are meant to help us understand that the type of body we will inherit in eternity will be resurrected and of an unimaginable quality compared to the bodies we currently have. Imagine the removal of all the effects of sin from your physical world. The times when you’re hangry (hunger induced anger), the chronic pain, effects of anxiety like rapid heart rate and sweating, and those times you look into the mirror disappointed in how you look. All those things will have no place in New Creation because you will have a body of incomparably different quality. Your resurrected body will also not grow old, get injured or decay and yet it will still be physical and recognizable as “you.” This is something we can look forward to because Jesus rose from the dead and gives his people new life. 

1 Corinthians 15:42-46
Unlike our current physical bodies which wear out, grow old and eventually die, our imperishable bodies will be renewed. Paul uses three words to emphasize the limitations of our physical bodies under the presence of sin: perishable, dishonorable, weak. The intent is not to communicate an inherent badness in the physical, but rather to contrast our current state with what one can expect with their resurrected life. Each of these words points to corruptibility or frailty. We do not need to live long in our bodies to realize that they have limits, weakness and frailty. But this perishable body is like a seed that goes into the ground but is transformed into something beautiful. The three words Paul uses for our resurrected bodies are imperishable, glory and power. To highlight the difference he calls the perishable body i“natural” and the imperishable body “spiritual.” This is not a distinction between material and immaterial but rather what Paul means by a “spiritual body” is that our future physical state will be brought about by the Holy Spirit who was said to have been the one to raise Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). The hope that Paul is communicating is that our physical experience will be what it was designed to be before sin’s presence entered the world and we do not need to worry of fear that our bodies will wear out, grow weak or die in the New Creation. 

Imaging Christ:
1 Corinthians 15:47-49
Humanity was created in God’s image and retains that image and likeness in essence even though we’re under the effect of sin. However, before placing faith in Christ we’re described as being “in Adam” or in the image of the “man of dust.” Paul sets up this dichotomy; an either/or scenario. You’re either “in Adam” or “in Christ” and for those who are “in Christ” you can eagerly hope for resurrected life in New Creation and just as you are currently in a body modeled after “the man of dust” so too you will have a body imaged after the “man of heaven” (Psalm 103:14, 1 Corinthians 15:49). The work of sanctification in our life is to make us more and more like Jesus in our thoughts and actions. Being in new creation, experiencing glorification, completes the project. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead makes this possible, and as we will explore in the next study guide, it is because death has been utterly defeated. Even though death can be painful and we grieve when we lose loved ones, death’s sting, namely eternal separation from God, has been removed for those in Christ. If you are in Christ you can confidently look forward to an eternity of being made in the image of the man of heaven which means a renewed body, holy desires and being in God’s presence. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-49

Compare and contrast current physical bodies with how Paul describes the resurrected body. 

How does the resurrection give comfort and hope to those who do not feel “at home” in their current physical bodies? 

What does Paul mean by being made like the “man of dust” compared to the “man of heaven?”

Do you look forward to the resurrected body? What prompts you to long for it? If not, why do you think this feels unimportant to you right now?