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Monday, July 01, 2013 | Comments (5)

by John MacArthur

First Corinthians 15 is the definitive chapter on the subject of resurrection. There Paul severely rebukes anyone who would doubt or question it: “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’” To which Paul responds, “You foolish person!” (1 Corinthians 15:35–36). That is one of the most caustic retorts in all the Pauline writings. But in Paul’s estimation, this doctrine is fundamental. To deny an actual, physical resurrection is to embrace something other than genuine Christianity: “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:16–17).

God made human beings body and soul together. He “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). We consist of an inner self and an outer self (2 Corinthians 4:16). Therefore our ultimate perfection demands that both body and soul be renewed. Even the creation of a new heaven and earth demands that we have bodies—a physical earth calls for its inhabitants to have physical bodies. An honest approach to Scripture does not permit these realities to be simply spiritualized or allegorized. Eternal life as a mere state of mind would defeat the whole point of many of the promises of Scripture.

Death results in the separation of the body and the soul. Our bodies go to the grave and our spirits go to the Lord. The separation continues until the resurrection: “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28–29). Right now the souls of believers who have died are in heaven. Someday their bodies will be resurrected and joined to their spirits, and they will enjoy the eternal perfection of body and soul.

Similarly, the bodies of unbelievers who have died are in the grave, and their souls are in hell. There will also be a day when the bodies of the ungodly will be raised from the graves and joined to their spirits. They will then stand, body and soul, before the judgment throne of God and will be cast bodily into the lake of fire (cf. Revelation 20:11–15).

Christians need not dread that judgment. There is no possibility of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We eagerly await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). “For in this [body] we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2). Precisely what does this mean? Does it imply that we will receive all-new bodies? Will they be anything like our current bodies? Will we look anything like we do now?

First of all, note that our resurrection bodies are our earthly bodies, only glorified. The bodies we receive in the resurrection will have the same qualities as the glorified resurrection body of Christ. “We know that when He appears we shall be like Him“ (1 John 3:2).

Christ’s resurrection body was the same body as before, not a whole new one. After He arose, the tomb was empty. The body itself was resurrected—the very same body, but in a glorified state. The wounds from His crucifixion were still visible (John 20:27). He could be touched and handled—He was not merely an apparition or a phantom (Luke 24:39). He looked human in every regard. He conversed a long time with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they never once questioned His humanity (Luke 24:13–18). He ate real, earthly food with His friends on another occasion (Luke 24:42–43).

Yet His body also had otherworldly properties. He could pass through solid walls (John 20:19). He could appear in different forms so His identity was not immediately obvious (Mark 16:12). He could suddenly appear out of nowhere (Luke 24:36). And He could ascend directly into heaven in bodily form, with no adverse effect as He went through the atmosphere (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9)

Our bodies will be exactly like that. They will be real, physical, genuinely human bodies—the very same bodies we have while on this earth—yet wholly perfected and glorified. Second Corinthians 5:1 calls the resurrection body “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

First Thessalonians 4 describes how the earthly bodies of believers are reunited with their spirits. At the trumpet of God, “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

Paul speaks of this same reality in 1 Corinthians 15:51–52, where he says,

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Believers who are dead will be united with their perfected bodies; then those who are still alive will be caught up and instantly “changed.” So every Christian still living on the earth when Christ comes will be instantly perfected. And both the living and the dead will have their old bodies made new, glorified.

Next time we’ll take a closer look at a passage that illustrates what that glorification will entail.


John MacArthur

(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven; all Scripture references are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.)


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#1  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Monday, July 01, 2013at 7:27 AM

It never ceases that my heart is overwhelmed with joy when true bondslaves of Christ summarize the revelations the LORD has delivered to us who believe in the Son of God. Such explosions of hope and assurance quenched into a few moments of time on a Monday morning encourage and bless the soul! Hallelujah to the Lamb! Praise the LORD! Thank you John. Thank you GTY.

As a postscript, I received the gift of "The Glory of Heaven" some time ago. I had not time to finish it, as I delivered it to my Mother on May 12, 2013. Her 70th birthday was Saturday, May 11, 2013. There was no greater gift this side of Heaven that I could have given her. I look forward to meeting all of you in Heaven after our glorification, that we may know one another wholly.

#2  Posted by Anthony Russ  |  Monday, July 01, 2013at 11:45 AM

I appreciate the encouragement from these short studies. I so look forward to our Lord's return. I long for the new resurrected body that we all will all get when the Lord returns. I suffer with plenty of pain problems from having five back surgeries and over the last 34 years I developed a Peripheral Poly-Nueropathy on both sides of by body and there is nothing the doctors can do to make the pain go away. I am very much looking forward to the Lord's return so I would not have to suffer any more physical pain. So when I see these studies in the Word, it helps me forget my pain for awhile and lets me know it won't last forever. "Come Lord Jesus Come"!

#3  Posted by Thomas Walker  |  Monday, July 01, 2013at 12:37 PM

Thank you for this topic. Several loved ones have passed on recently and questions have been asked.

Scripture seems to be clear/or implied that most of our senses and activities will be restored/retained in the glorified body like: sight, hearing, taste/eating, walking/mobility, speech/singing, touch/sensations...

I know there will be no marriage--in that sense we will be like the angels. There does seem to be recognition of identities of persons at least to some degree. On earth persons have a divinely given sexual identity. Does all that just disappear? Certainly not because was in anyway evil or carnal in nature, since it was present in the garden before man sinned.

In the purest sense sexuality is a divinely bestowed trait of mankind and holy within the limits of its order and role not only for procreation but pleasure in marriage.

I am aware of the perversions of this in many religion's eschatology like Mormonism,Islam and others, but for what reason will sexuality be abolished in heaven, since it is given by God and very pleasurable and holy in the proper context?

Eating and taste will be included(as in feasting) even though many have dishonored that through gluttony and over-indulgence.

Will the thrill of glorifying God be of such intensity that other sensations as we have experienced in mortality be regarded as displacing the senses?

OR is this just one of those questions that doesn't have a Biblical answer and to speculate would be dangerous and might lead to idle speculations?

#4  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, July 01, 2013at 4:19 PM

Thomas (3)

We can be certain that heaven will surpass all that we can imagine or experience this side of eternity. Please check back next Monday, when John MacArthur will explore the issues of gender, marriage, procreation, and heaven. I think his post will provide a satisfying answer to your questions.

#5  Posted by Ellis Elkins  |  Saturday, July 13, 2013at 4:48 PM

45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." a The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord b from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear c the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

1 Corinthians 15:45-50 (NKJV)

I think Paul means "physical" by "flesh and blood," whereas you say:

"To deny an actual, physical resurrection is to embrace something other than genuine Christianity"

I think our glorified bodies will be Spiritual bodies (Paul) made of light that is not physical (has no mass). (glory = light)