1 Corinthians 15:42-49

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 5, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
- 1 Corinthians 15:42-49

Just before this, Paul began to address what our resurrected bodies will be like. In that passage, Paul established that our resurrected bodies will be different than our earthly bodies but yet mde from similar material. Here, he elaborates on that a bit, through we as humans still do not know many details of our resurrected bodies.

Verses 42-44a calls out three characteristics of our natural, earthly bodies: they are perishable, dishonorable, and weak. In contrast, our supernatural or resurrected bodies will be imperishable, glorious, and powerful. This verse continues the metaphor from the previous section about how a seed that is sown must die before it is “raised” as a new plant. The seed and the plant are similar substances yet also very different, and the same is true with our natural bodies versus our super natural bodies.

Philippians 3:20-21 also illustrates this transformation for us: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Our lowly, natural bodies will undergo a transformation as we go from natural to supernatural, from physical to spiritual. Jesus Christ has the power to make that transformation happen for us.

These contrasts help us see that there will be definite differences between our natural or earthly bodies the we possess today and the the supernatural, spiritual, resurrected bodies that we will experience one day in heaven. Jesus has brought immortality to those who follow Him, as referenced in 2 Timothy 1:10.

The last part of verse 44 states, “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” When Paul says that our resurrected bodies will be ‘spiritual,’ he is not meaning that we won’t have bodies in some way and exist only as spirit. But our ‘spiritual’ bodies will be different and have different functions than our earthly bodies. They will be bodies that can last for eternity and are given to us by God Himself.

These disctinctions are discussed more in the rest of this passage. In verse 45, Paul develops a contrast between two categories – the first Adam and the last Adam. Paul has used this contrast before, specifically in Romans 5:12-21. There, he talked about how sin and death came through one man (Adam) but life came through another man (Jesus). Here, he references the creation of Adam’s body in Genesis 2:7 in contrast to how the last Adam (Jesus) possesses a life-giving spirit.

Paul continues in verse 46 by stating that the natural came first and then the spiritual. While the account in Genesis 2 shares that God created Adam’s physical body before breathing the breath of life into his nostrils, this more likely refers to the spiritual body that will never die once a person receives eternal life. There will be some kind of transformation that occurs in our bodies, because our new, spiritual bodies will never become corrupt like our current, earthly ones.

Paul continues his contrast between Adam and Jesus by sharing their differences in creation. Adam was created from the dust of the earth, while Jesus was “of heaven” (verse 47). Jesus was not created, as He is God and has existed in eternity past. But when He came to earth as a man, He came from heaven. The Greek preposition used there could mean of, out of, from, etc.

This world that God has created is one of order, and following that principle, all people who are on the earth are of the earth, and those who are in heaven are of heaven (verse 48). We do not know exactly what that means, other than the continuing contrast Paul is making between earth and heaven. There will likely be some similarities, but our heavenly bodies will be different than our earthly bodies, just as heaven is different than the earth.

Finally, Paul wraps up this contrast by focusing on the image that we bear as humans in verse 49. The word used for ‘image’ there is the same word that’s used in Genesis 1:26 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Just as we are created in God’s image on earth, we will also exist in God’s image in our heavenly bodies.

We do get some further insight into what our resurrected bodies may be like when we look at the accounts of Jesus appearing on earth after His resurrection in Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:19-21:25. Jesus was recognizable to the disciples, but at the same time, they also didn’t recognize Him. Paul also writes on this topic further in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, indicating that his responses here did not answer all of the Corinthians’ questions on this topic.

This passage does not answer all of the questions that we have about our resurrected bodies either. We really do not know any specifics about what these new bodies will be like, other than that they will be like these earthly bodies but also different in fundamental ways. While our earthly bodies will die, are stained by sin, and are weak, our supernatural, resurrected bodies will live forever in perfection and power that is granted to us through our faith in Jesus Christ, which can only come about by the grace of our perfect God.

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