Getting the Perfect Body
1 Corinthians 15:35-49
I read some quotes about the perfect body. “I keep my perfect body safe within a protective layer of fat . . . Every day I struggle between looking really good and pizza . . . I really don’t mind getting older, but my body is taking it badly.” Today we are body crazy. Every woman focuses on the flaws in her body. Every man sees himself as muscular. STOP IT! You can have the greatest body imaginable. Whether old or young, healthy or ruined, strong or weak, hairy or balding, buff or blubbery–you can have a better bod than you ever thought possible.
And no, I am not talking about plastic surgery, diets, steroids, starvation or living at the gym–no, none of that. But 40’s and up will say, “My body is fighting me.” It’s true, by the time our face clears up, our minds get fuzzy. Regardless, today I hold out to you the perfect body. For many, it’s already coming to you, secured by Christ. For others, you still need to cry out for it by faith.
To get a picture-worthy body here, you must pay big bucks. But to get the perfect body there, with no terminal acne, no horrid age spots, no corns, no bunions, no cancer, no constipation, no sickness, no weird proportions, you merely have to give your life to Christ Jesus. And He promises to trade yours in later for the ultimate model. Really? Absolutely guaranteed by your Creator and Redeemer in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49.
Open your outline–for several Easters now, I’ve been working through the key chapter on the resurrection, and today we’re at verses 35 through 49. In these verses, Paul describes the eternal, perfect resurrected body of those who are born again Christians. Think about your body–what did you like least about your body as a teen? Now as your older, what do you fear about your changing body? God, through Paul, has already refuted those who denied our future perfect body through resurrection. There were some in Corinth who denied the resurrection, because they wrongly viewed the body as evil—therefore, who’d want an evil body back through resurrection?
Now God will prove that a new body is not only possible, but He’ll tell us what it’s gonna look like. Look at verse 35 and see how God answers the question of our future body. “But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?’” Here, the Word of God refutes those who say it’s impossible. And you ask, “Why bother?” Well, a bodily resurrection was a major problem in New Testament times. The Sadducees denied it, the Mars Hill philosophers sneered at it, and Paul asked King Agrippa in Acts 26:8, “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?”
If I were to ask you here today, you’d find some who struggle with the idea of a resurrection body too. They might question how God could restore bodies of those who have been lost at sea, blown up in an explosion, or cremated. But Paul will fire back at the skeptics with this question, “Why is God restoring bodies more miraculous than creating them?” If God can create life from nothing, why is it so tough to believe He can re-create it? Practically, every dead body, no matter how well-embalmed, eventually disintegrates to dust anyway. But that won’t stop God from raising your body. So now in verses 36 to 49, the Word of God describes the transformation, uniqueness, abilities and advantages of your resurrected, perfect, body. Let’s find out, what is your body going to be like?
#1 The Transformation for the Perfect Body
How does Paul answer the question of verse 35? He is in your face in verse 36—he says, “You fool!” Now that’s a gentle response. Fool means one who doesn’t think. These questions from the Corinthians were not from honest doubt or ignorance, they were mocking taunts from proud know-it-alls. They had bigoted, non-thinking ideas–not truth. But Paul answers the question anyway, with an illustration from the familiar world of agriculture. Your bodily resurrection is not impossible, since it continually occurs on a small scale in the plant world. Our bodily resurrection is similar to growing crops in three key ways. How is that? It dies, it’s different yet the same.
Read the rest of verse 36, “That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies”
When a seed is planted in the ground, it actually dies. It decomposes as a seed and must cease to exist in its original form as a seed before it can come to life in its final form as a plant. Just as in growing crops, in the resurrection, a body will have to die to give life to the other. You have to die. Never forget, Christian–death is a blessing. If we were not able to die, then no one could have taken our punishment and died in our place.
Why did God kick Adam and Eve out of the garden? Genesis 3:22 says, “Lest they eat from the tree of life and live forever.” Man had to be able to die in order to have a Redeemer die for him. Why can’t fallen angels repent and find forgiveness from God? Since they can’t die, the perfect one Christ can’t pay the penalty for their sin, which is death. No one can die for them. Because we can die, then someone could pay the penalty for sin for us. Someone perfect could die for you and take your punishment. Who’s that? The perfect God-man, Jesus Christ. That’s why death is a blessing. And when we die, the body we put into the ground is a seed–we’re planting our body, knowing God will cause it to spring up into an incredible new body.
Read verse 37, “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.”
When planting, the seed loses its identity as a seed and becomes more and more like the mature plant. But the seed itself, that which you sow (verse 37) whether “wheat or of something else”, looks nothing like the mature plant, that body which is yet to be. Only after it stops being a seed does it become the mature plant the farmer harvests.
Jesus’ glorified body was radically different from the one which went into the tomb. His new body was no longer limited by time, space or material substance. During His appearances, Jesus went from one place to another without traveling in any physical way. He appeared and disappeared at will, and entered rooms without opening a door. His earthly body had done none of those things. The resurrection radically changed Jesus’ body, and at His return, your resurrection body will be radically changed too. Praise the Lord!
Read verse 38, “But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds, a body of its own.”
The seed changes drastically, but it continues as the same life form. A wheat seed doesn’t become corn. Nor will you lose your personality or individuality. God has given each type of seed a body of its own, whose identity continues into the grown plant. After Jesus was raised, no one recognized Him unless He revealed Himself to them. But once revealed, He was recognizable. The disciples knew His face and acknowledged His wounded hands and side. Like that, our perfect bodies will have some continuity with the bodies we have now. Our bodies will die–then at the resurrection, they will change form, but they will still be our bodies. It’ll still be us–not ET, or a zombie, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now if God has been doing this with plants for centuries, surely He can do it with us, right? “But,” you ask, “will I look exactly like do now?” We tend to focus on size, shape and looks. We think a big seed makes a big plant. A round, tiny, deformed, old, wrinkled seed makes that plant. I tend to believe (totally my idea)–your God-given personality and strengths will continue. Not the sinful elements (if you’re a grouch), but how God made you. If you’re funny, a thinker, an artist, sensitive, a leader–all those characteristics that really make you, you, that make you unique will continue forever. Who you really are on the inside will be known, seen, and obvious on the outside. God’s not going to make another you, just a perfect you internally and externally–the way you were intended to be. So we’re all going to be the same? No. You will be incredibly unique.
#2 The Uniqueness of your Perfect Body
Your new body is as unique as comparing the fish you ate for dinner with the substance of the stars. You will be incredibly unique. Look at verses 39-42a, “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. 40There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory [nature] of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41There 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. 42So also is the resurrection of the dead.”
Don’t let this confuse you. There is one overall comparison here. Paul is comparing earthly bodies like men, beasts, birds and fish to heavenly bodies like sun, moon and stars. He is also showing the incredible uniqueness within the earthly and heavenly body categories. Look at how unique each earthly body is in verse 39. “All flesh is not the same flesh” parades the amazing variety of earthly bodies God has made.
Just look around you and you’ll see an infinite assortment of created beings. In the biological world, the flesh of men is absolutely distinct from the flesh of beasts, the flesh of birds, and the flesh of fish. All flesh is not the same kind. Look at verse 40, “There are also heavenly bodies”, which obviously differ from earthly bodies in their nature and form. But verse 41 adds that the heavenly bodies are also vastly different from each other. The sun is different from the moon, and both are different from the stars. The stars generate their own light, while the planets and moons only reflect light produced by the stars. In that way, the two types of heavenly bodies are greatly different in glory (meaning different in nature).
Even star differs from star in nature. One astronomer tells us this, “Like flowers, the stars have their own colors. They look like frosty lights in the sky, but when you study them, they all have different colors determined by their temperature. In the December sky you’ll see Aldebaran as pale rose, Rigel as bluish white and Betelgeuse as orange/yellow.” Every star is different, just as every plant, animal and human is different. God has an infinite creative capacity, including the capacity to make infinite variety.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. Your perfect resurrection body will differ from your earthly body just as radically as heavenly bodies differ from earthly bodies. Some of you are like the moon–you’re a moonie. And resurrection bodies will be as unique as all the other forms of God’s creation. Why would anyone think it difficult for God to re-create and resurrect human bodies, no matter what the form might be?
In Matthew 22:32, when Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, they were as distinctly individual as they had been while living on Earth, and recognized as such. They didn’t then have resurrected bodies, but they were distinct beings of Heaven, who one day will have distinct heavenly bodies. God is, not was, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of the living, not of the dead. Those patriarchs are not merely alive in Heaven, but are alive as the same persons they were on Earth.
John 10:3 tells us Jesus knows all His sheep by name, whether they are in Heaven or still on Earth. Therefore, our resurrection bodies will be as uniquely ours as our spirits and our names. Okay, that sounds good–but what can this body do?
#3 The Abilities of your Perfect Body
Read verses 42b to 44, “It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” There are four contrasts of ability found here, between what your body is now and what it’ll be later.
Verse 42 says perishable versus imperishable–this has to do with now our body is perishable. Since birth, we’ve been deteriorating, headed toward certain death. Ecclesiastes 3:20, “All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.” All we are is dust in the wind. Psalm 103:14-16 says, “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”
Even if you’re really healthy, as you get older, your body becomes weaker, more prone to disease and problems. Face it–you’re declining, fading, languishing, waning, withering, shriveling, decaying, drying up, wasting away, and degenerating. Then when you do die, your physical decay is super rapid. In John 11:39, Martha objected to Lazarus’ tomb being opened because, “by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
The purpose of embalming is to slow the deterioration of the body as long as possible. But even the remarkable Egyptian mummification couldn’t prevent deterioration. One of the tragic consequences of the fall was that our bodies, from that time on, are irreversibly mortal, headed toward certain death. Without exception, every human being is born with a perishable body. But later, the resurrection body of the believer will be an imperishable body.
First Peter 1:3 to 4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” Our new bodies will know no sickness, decay, deterioration, or death. They will be durable, hearty, sturdy, and tough. Feel tired, falling apart? You won’t be in Heaven. First Corinthians 15:54 says, “When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.'”
Look at verse 43a, “Sown in dishonor, raised in glory”
This second contrast has to do with at the fall, man’s potential for pleasing and serving God was radically reduced in both spirit and body. You and I were made to display our Creator in all we do. But because of sin, instead of honoring God, we dishonor Him. How? We violate His law, live contrary to His character and abuse the bodies we were supposed use to serve Him. Even Godly believers die with their bodies in a state of dishonor, imperfection and incompleteness. But later, our imperfect physical body will be raised in glory.
Throughout eternity, our new immortal bodies will be honorable bodies, perfected for enjoying and praising our Creator who made those bodies and the Redeemer who restored those new bodies. All we’ve ever wanted to be for God and all we’ve ever wanted to do for God will be fulfilled.
Look again at verse 43, “sown in weakness, raised in power”
The third contrast has to do with now our bodies are weak–not only in physical strength and endurance, but also in resistance to disease and harm. No one is immune to breaking a bone, getting an infection, the flu, a cold, or from dying. We should minimize unnecessary risks to our bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19 to 20). But we can’t completely protect our bodies from harm, much less from death. Our earthly temples are fragile.
But later our new bodies, will be “raised in power”. We’re not told what that power is like, but we do know it will be so great, there is no comparison to what we now possess. We will no longer have to say, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Anything our heavenly spirits determine to do, our heavenly bodies will be able to accomplish.
Read verse 44, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
The fourth contrasts now our earthly body is strictly natural–that’s the only realm in which it can live and function. Our current physical body is suited for and limited to this physical world. Even with the limitations caused by the fall, our present bodies are wonderfully suited for earthly living. But that’s the only realm for which they are suited. In this body, you can’t see Heaven or the angels. At times, you’re not even aware of the presence of God.
But later, your new body will be raised as a spiritual body. Your immaterial spirit now resides in an earthly body, but later your spirit will reside in a spiritual body. In every way, you will be a spiritual being. In both spirit and body, you’ll be perfectly suited for heavenly living. In Luke 20:34 to 36, “Jesus said, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; 36for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.’”
In the resurrection, everything about you will be perfected for all eternity. You will not be the same as angels, but you will be like them, in that you too will be perfectly equipped and suited for heavenly, spiritual, supernatural living. So you ask, “If I trade in this old body, what are the advantages of the new, perfect one?”
#4 The ADVANTAGES of the Perfect Body
Look at the improvements! What are they? Well, when you compare the prototype of our earthly body, Adam–with the prototype of our spiritual body, Jesus, the last Adam . . . you will discover the advantages. As Paul states in verses 45 to 49, “So also it is written, ‘The first Man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
In verse 45, Paul quotes from Genesis 2:7, “The first Man, Adam, became a living soul.” Adam was created with a natural body. So verse 45 adds, “The last Adam [Jesus] became a life-giving spirit.” Christ is able to give us a spiritual body. Romans 5 adds, “As through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners [that’s Adam], even so through the obedience of the One [that’s Jesus] the many will be made righteous.”
Through Adam, we inherited our natural bodies. Through Christ, we will inherit our spiritual bodies. All the descendants of Adam have natural bodies, and all the offspring of Christ will have spiritual bodies. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection body was the prototype of all subsequent resurrection bodies. His resurrection shows us what our resurrection will be like. That’s why Paul points out the obvious in verse 46, “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.” Every human being, starting with Adam, began human life in a physical body. Jesus began His incarnation with a natural body, but was resurrected in a spiritual, eternal body.
Read verse 47, “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.” Adam, the first man, was created directly from the earth. (We are dust—”all we are is dust in the wind.”) In every way, Adam was earthy. But Christ was called the second man, the second Adam, because He produced a spiritual race. He existed eternally before He became a man–He came from Heaven. Adam was tied to Earth, Christ was tied to Heaven.
So Paul continues in verse 48, “As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.” Because of our tie to Adam, we’re a part of the earthy. Because of our inheritance in Jesus Christ, we become a part of those who are heavenly. One day our natural bodies from Adam will be changed into our heavenly bodies from Christ.
Read at verse 49, “And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” Just as we will exchange Adam’s natural body for Christ’s spiritual body, we will also exchange Adam’s image for Christ’s image. “Image” means icon, and refers to the face of a coin. Some relatives say I look like my grandfather, Renee DeSmet—a war hero from a long line of Belgian police chiefs. Well, I don’t–but whoever I resemble, verse 49 says one day I will “bear the image of the heavenly.”
Are you ready for this advantage–what is God saying? Hang on . . . you and I are going to have more in common with Jesus than we will with Adam. We are going to look more like Christ than Adam. We are going to be more like the resurrected Christ than we will be like Adam. Wow! From Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, we get an idea of the greatness, power, and wonder of what our own resurrection bodies will be like. Jesus appeared and disappeared at will, reappearing again at another place far distant. He could go through walls or closed doors, and yet also could eat, drink, sit, talk, and be seen by those He wanted to appear to. He was remarkably the same, yet even more remarkably different.
Just as with Jesus, our bodies which are now perishable, dishonored, weak, and natural will later be raised into bodies that are imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. Our bodies which hinder our service to God now, will later be perfect vessels of ministry. How? We’ll have His power in which to serve Him, and His own glory by which to magnify Him. Philippians 3:21 says Christ “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” Though we can’t even imagine what that will be like, we will be like Jesus. As 1 John 3:2 says, as “ . . . children of God . . . it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him.”
TAKE THIS HOME
The truth of a coming guaranteed resurrection creates two responses . . .
A CRISIS MOMENT
That’s a moment when you realize just how much trouble you are in with your Creator. You can receive the perfect body for all eternity. You can be eternally happy with God forever in Heaven. You will be resurrected and enjoy all God’s promises, but only if you turn from your sin and entrust your life to Christ. You’ve lied, stolen, lusted, been harsh, proud and selfish–that’s a given. All those sins and more come from your fallen, sinful nature. You sin because you are a sinner by nature and your sin separates you from God. Your sinfulness is so bad you can’t fix it by living better, or getting a little religion in your life. But the God who made you, loved you enough to fix the problem. He punished His Son, Jesus Christ, in your place, for your sins. He suffered and died on the cross to pay the wages of sin, which is death. Then having no sin of His own, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.
He will raise His children to live with Him forever. But if you do not turn from your sin right now in repentance, if you don’t depend on Christ with your life by faith–then you will spend eternity in torment for your rebellion. Christ is the only way. Christ is God who became a man. Christ is your Creator and your King.
The crisis is, you can’t continue living for yourself and be right with God now, nor enjoy heavenly joys. You must cry out to Christ to give you a new heart that wants to follow Christ and please Him in all you do. That will change your marriage, bless your parenting, even alter the way you react to trials and difficulties. Do not ignore this crisis moment, or you will regret it for eternity. Cry out to Christ to save you from your sins.
A CHRISTIAN MOTIVATION
Whatever happens to our present bodies, whether healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, short-lived or long-lived, indulged or disciplined, strong or weak, operated on or never touched–these bodies are not our permanent bodies. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold on to them too dearly or fret over them too much. Invest more time on your inner character than your outer crust.
The hope of a new body should motivate us also to use every moment in your current body as an opportunity to give glory to God. A new eternal life in an eternal body in the future should affect the way you love your spouse, raise your kids, work at your job, attend school, spend your money, and serve at church—today. Why? Because what you do with your old body right now will make a difference for all eternity. Let’s pray.