Everybody Dies, but Not Everybody Lives   2 comments

What gives a widow courage as she stands beside a fresh grave? Why would anyone who is disabled be encouraged when they think of life after death? How can we see past the martyrdom of believers in the persecuted church? Where do the thoughts of young couples go when they lose their baby? What is God’s final answer to pain and suffering in this world?

Image result for image of life after deathThe answer is the hope of bodily resurrection. We draw strength from this truth almost every day of our lives, probably more than we realize. It becomes the mental glue that holds our otherwise shattered thoughts together. Impossible though it may be for us to understand the details of how God is going to pull it off, we hang our hopes on the fragile threadlike thought, “Someday, He will make it right, and thank God, all this will change.”

Or as my charismatic friends say “It’s all going to burn.”

Still, for many Christians death is disturbing. If we’re honest we acknowledge that death is scary. Yet, Paul said when we die is when we truly begin to live.

The bodily resurrection is familiar and unique 

15:35 But someone will say“How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come? 15:36 Fool! What you sow will not come to life unless it dies. 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to bebut a bare seed 23  – perhaps of wheat or something else.15:38 But God gives it a body just as he plannedand to each of the seeds a body of its own.

Paul argued strongly for the resurrection of the body, but he knew his teaching would spur two questions:

  • how will God resurrect our bodies
  • what does a resurrection body look like?

I think we all wonder how God will resurrect people out of the dirt. I still haven’t figured out how God will put all those molecules back together again. If someone died at sea and sailors buried him, maybe fish ate his body. The atoms and molecules of his body would become part of the fish. If a fisherman caught and ate the fish, its body would become part of the fisherman’s body. If the fisherman died and an undertaker buried him in the ground and someone eventually sowed wheat over his grave, the fisherman’s atoms and molecules would go into the wheat. A third person would eat the wheat and so on. How could the first person’s body ever come together again?4

The quick response to this dilemma is:

God is God

He can easily resurrect the humans He created. He constructed man out of dust in the first place, I’m not worried about him reconstructing us out of dust again. Reintegration is a problem for limited humans, but not for the unlimited God. How will He do it? I don’t know. The resurrection of our bodies does not depend upon us understanding how God will do it. When we grasp the fact that nothing is impossible with God, resurrection becomes simple. Absolutely nothing, including raising the dead, is too difficult for God (Jerermiah 32:17). God created the universe out of nothing, so resurrecting people out of dust is minor-league for Him (Hebrew 11:3).7

Of course, not everyone will accept this Biblical argument. Paul anticipated the objection of someone arguing against the idea of a bodily resurrection. In 15:36, he called such a person a “fool.” The Bible defines a “fool” as someone who fails to take God into account. Such a person excludes God from consideration. Remember, if God is God bodily resurrection is absolutely no problem!

Paul used an analogy from nature to get his point across. Calling the hypothetical scoffer a “fool” for not recognizing a simple fact of nature that can be observed every day. Choose any plant and you can  see the body that grows out of the ground is very different from the “body” that was planted. Compare a pumpkin seed with a pumpkin or an orange seed with an orange tree. Paul was not talking about the appearance of our resurrection bodies in terms of whether we will be recognizable. His point was the body that is planted in death is not the same body that is resurrected. When a seed is buried in the ground, a plant, not another seed, comes out of the seed. The plant does not look like the seed it came from. Likewise, when we are buried in the ground and resurrected, our bodies will not look identical to the ones we have now.

Good. I’m hoping to be taller and skinnier.

15:39 All flesh is not the same: People have one flesh, animals have another, birdsand fish another. 24 

Paul expanded his argument by describing the unique nature of various “bodies.” How are the earthly sphere and heavenly sphere bridged? All flesh is not the same. There’s man flesh, beast flesh, bird flesh and fish flesh. These four different types of “flesh” also appear in the created order in Genesis but in the reverse of how they appear in here (see Genesis 1:20 – 26. Such a view is derived from Paul’s view of the Old Testament. God designed bodies to fit the environment they live in. Our resurrection bodies will be perfect for the environment of heaven. Earthly bodies equip us to live on earth. We breathe the earth’s oxygen, drink its water, and eat its fruit. However, these earthly bodies aren’t suitable for heaven. To get us ready for the next world they must undergo a change.

15:40 And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of the heavenly body is one sort and the earthly another. 15:41 There is one glory of the sunand another glory of the moon and another glory of the starsfor star differs from star inglory.

Earthly bodies will pale in comparison to heavenly bodies. Heavenly bodies will be glorious! There is a huge difference in brightness between a twenty-five watt light bulb and a 1000-watt light bulb. In the resurrection, our “lumens” of brightness will be turned up to the fullest. Our resurrection bodies will literally shine with brightness (Daniel 12:3Matthew 13:43). This passage could mean that there will be differing degrees of brightness in our glorified bodies or perhaps it refers the difference in glory between our natural and resurrection bodies. I opt for an allusion to the former. In light of the emphasis throughout 1 Corinthians on eternal rewards, it seems that Paul alluded to differences in the eternal state. One thing is certain: every resurrection body will be without defect and will literally radiate brightness. Death for the Christian is not gloom but glory.

The bodily resurrection is new and improved 

15:42 It is the same with the resurrection of the deadWhat is sown is perishablewhat is raised is imperishable. 25  15:43 It is sown in dishonorit is raised in gloryit is sown inweaknessit is raised in power; 15:44 it is sown a natural bodyit is raised a spiritualbodyIf there is a natural bodythere is also a spiritual body.

In these verses, Paul contrasted the two living bodies—the present body and the resurrection body. Your present body was created to last only several decades. Your resurrection body will equip you for a much higher level of existence. At the resurrection, our bodies will be transformed from our current “caterpillar” form to our future “butterfly” status. The beauty of a butterfly is far superior to that of a caterpillar, but the butterfly has to go through the transformation process first. Four changes must take place to transform your body from earthly to heavenly.

Change #1: Perishable to Imperishable (15:42). Our present bodies are perishable, and they degenerate as we race toward the grave. Just like Adam we are headed back to dust. In the resurrection, we will be raised imperishable, never to deteriorate or die again. In heaven no one will comment on your age or notice the years are beginning to take their toll. You will look as young a billion years from now as you will a thousand years from now.

Sir Michael Faraday, one of England’s greatest chemists and physicists, reportedly heard a student scoff at the idea of the resurrection. Faraday threw a silver goblet into a jar of acid, which completely dissolved it. He then added other chemicals that caused the silver to settle to the bottom of the jar. The chemists then took the silver to a silversmith, who made it into a goblet more beautiful than the first. Then Faraday held up a goblet and told the student, “If I, an ordinary scientist, can dissolve and remake a silver goblet, why is it hard to believe that God can raise the body from the dead?”

God will transform your perishable body into one that is indestructible. Once you receive it, dying will be impossible. You will live in it throughout eternity. Truly, it can be said, although our body is perishing our spirit can be flourishing. When we die we have truly begun to live.

Change #2: Dishonor to Glory (15:43a). All of us come to a point in life when we look in the mirror and say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall—you’ve got to be kidding!” There is a sense in which our bodies are “dishonorable.” But God promises that we will be raised in glory. When a body is transported to a funeral home, it is always covered by a sheet to shield gaping eyes from the dishonor of looking upon the corpse. Every dead body is a reminder of our dishonor, a reminder that we are but frail.

Change #3: Weakness to Power (15:43b). Have you ever noticed everyone wants to live long, but no one wants to grow old? It is true. Our bodies wear out, slow down, decay, sag, groan, and even begin to smell bad. We brag about our strength but a tiny microbe can kill us. Sooner or later, we grow old and our bodies begin to break down. Eventually, they stop working altogether. No amount of Vitamin C or Siberian Ginseng can change that fact. At best, we can only slow down the aging process; we cannot delay it forever.

If you are like me, you probably have one part of your body (or maybe several parts) that you would like to change. Maybe it’s your weight, your height, your hair, or something about your face. To make it worse, our culture bombards us daily with images of beautiful, well-built people. In heaven, there will be no fad diets, Weight Watchers, aerobics, exercise bikes, personal trainers, physical therapists, stair masters, weight rooms, saunas, jogging tracks, low-fat foods, diet drinks, or plastic surgeons. God will give every one of His children a glorious, unique, perfect new body at the resurrection that will never fail or disappoint them.

Our resurrection bodies will be extremely powerful. We will never grow weary or weak. Can you imagine not having to sleep throughout all eternity? Since there will be no need to nap, we will never again have to toss and turn on lumpy mattresses. Wives will not have to listen to their husband snoring anymore. No more insomnia, sleeping pills, or alarm clocks, either. Our way of life will be radically different than our lifestyles here on earth.

Change #4: Natural to Spiritual. When Paul stated that our resurrection bodies will be spiritual, he does not mean like Casper the friendly ghost. He referred to the type of body we will have. When the disciples saw Jesus after He was resurrected, they thought they had seen a ghost. Jesus assured them, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). Jesus did not become a spirit, but was raised with a spiritual body. In heaven we will not be “spirits,” but we will have spiritual bodies. After Jesus died and rose from the dead, He didn’t have two bodies, one natural and another spiritual. He had one body—a natural body that had been transformed into a spiritual body. Jesus showed His disciples the marks of the nails in His hands and feet and the wounds in His side that proved it was the same body. That body had undergone a radical change. Similarly, when you are resurrected your body also will be changed and perfected.

15:45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person; 26  the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 15:46 Howeverthe spiritual did not come firstbut the naturaland then the spiritual. 15:47 The first man is from the earthmade of dustthe second man is fromheaven. 15:48 Like the one made of dustso too are those made of dustand like the one from heavenso too those who are heavenly. 15:49 And just as we have borne the image of the man of dustlet us also bear 27  the image of the man of heaven.

Paul compared Adam and Jesus, arguing that there is a difference between earthy and spiritual bodies. The first Adam was merely “a living human being.” By emphatic contrast, the last Adam is not merely “living,” but “life-giving.” Christ gives life through His resurrection. The heavenly is greater than the earthy. But in order to experience the heavenly body, one must first live in the earthy body.

I knew this pastor mentioned in this story. A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her affairs in order, she contacted her pastor and asked him to come to her house to discuss some of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral service, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. As the pastor prepared to leave, the woman suddenly remembered something else. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” said the pastor. “This is important,” the woman said. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork. The best is yet to come.’ It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew something better was coming like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. So, when people see me in that casket with a fork in my hand and they ask, ‘What’s with the fork?’ I want you to tell them, ‘The best is yet to come!’”

This elderly woman got it right! The best is yet to come for when we die we have truly begun to live.

2 responses to “Everybody Dies, but Not Everybody Lives

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  1. From EX NIHILO to IMAGO DEI! God even made the dust out of nothing! Incredible things await us!

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Ad Infinite-item and commented:
    This morning fire alarms went off in our building, knocks came to everyone’s door to exit the building while fire trucks of all kinds came screaming down the street. Concerned but not panicked, I gather with most other residents in the parking lot. After about an hour they let us know it was ok to go back in. They found a compressor that had seized and the friction was producing a quantity of smoke. When I got back in this article was in my reader at my blog site. It reminded me why I hadn’t been in a panic. I really do know “the best is yet to come.” As Lela communicates so descriptively here in this post.
    G.W

    Like

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