Body Lift

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  15 : 35-58
Subject: Resurrection; New Body; Rapture; Eternal Life

Sue and I used to watch a show on HGTV called “Rick’s Restorations.” Are there any “Rick fans” present? For those of you who haven’t seen it, in the show Rick and his crew would take old things - beat up things - rusty things - and make them look brand new. Here’s some before and after examples:

* Look at the change in this old coke machine.

* Here’s the speedometer from an old car.

* Here’s an old fan that got rejuvenated.

* Look at the change in this popcorn machine.

* And isn’t it amazing what Rick did with this old barber chair!

Now - the plot on this show was always the same. People would bring Rick their old, beat up things and no matter how bad it looked he and his crew work their magic and fix it up. But, in spite of identical plots in each episode we kept watching because it was so fun - so rewarding to see the big reveal - to see the old thing made new again. I think this show and others like it - whether the plot is to make an old car look new or an old house look new - or even an old person look new - these kinds of shows are popular because they reflect a desire deep within each of US to somehow turn the clock back - such that we are made NEW. The wonderful thing is that’s exactly what God plans to do with His children. In essence He plans to give us not just a face lift - but a BODY lift!

Paul celebrates this truth in today’s text but before we read it, let me give you some BACKGROUND. As I said last week, some of the members of the church in Corinth did not believe in the resurrection. Others didn’t doubt it - but they had questions about what it would be like. I mean, many of them were having a hard time wrapping their minds around the implication that all Christians would die and then be raised in a body. They didn’t understand. And of course, people today have similar questions. We wonder, what is the bodily resurrection going to be like? I mean, our bodies can be a pain before we die - how are they going to be an asset after? And - what about babies who die? Will they be resurrected as infants or adults? What happens to the bodies of those who’ve died violent, tragic deaths - those who have been blown up, crushed, dismembered, lost at sea? How will those bodies be resurrected? Surely the resurrection of the dead won’t be like World War Z with people resurrected to look like decayed zombies. And - what about people who have been cremated - some whose ashes have been carried away to the wind or spread on the ocean? How will God raise those people?

These are the some of the kinds of questions Christians both then and now have. Okay - let’s see Paul’s answers. Take your Bibles and turn to 1st Corinthians 15. This morning we are looking at verses 35-56: 35 – But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 – How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 – When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 – But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body. 39 – Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 – There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 – The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 – So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 – it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 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. 45 – So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 – The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 – The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of Heaven. 48 – 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. 49 – And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 – I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 – Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - 52 – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 – For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 – When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 – “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 – But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 – Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Now - I want to begin by pointing out that we can’t get all our questions answered because we aren’t capable of understanding EVERYTHING about the resurrection now. I mean, our brains just aren’t wired to comprehend it all. As Paul says, it is a “mystery” from our limited perspective. But I do think God inspired Paul’s writing in this chapter such that we can find at least partial answer to three basic questions. So here goes. (David Daniels’ commentary on this text has provided my outline)

I. QUESTION #1- HOW are we made NEW?

Well, this one is easy to answer. We are made new by DYING and rising again. Look at verse 35ff where Paul says, “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised?’” Then he answers this question by says, “How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. You must die to live. No one enters into the Kingdom of God as they are, I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (verse 50).

So - the simple truth is We must die in order to be raised - the old must die for the new to come. And please don’t miss the underlying truth of this point which is this: None of us can make ourselves new. Of course, we try. The cosmetic surgery industry in 2007 was a $12 billion business in the U.S. alone and trying to make ourselves LOOK YOUNG is not just a big industry here in America.

This week I read that a famous photographer named Zed Nelson visited seventeen countries over a five-year period to document the global craze for the beauty of YOUTH. He wrote a book about it entitled, Love Me. In it Nelson writes, “Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry. Body improvement has become a new religion.” He cites the following examples:

* In Manhattan women have their toes surgically shortened and then secured with metal pins so they can fit into three-inch Jimmy Choo stiletto heels.

* In China, a procedure which was originally developed to lengthen the legs of dwarves, has become popular for people who simply want to be taller.

By severing the shinbones and stretching them apart with an implanted metal frame, up to three new inches of leg bone can be grown, but the operation comes with risks of deformation and weakened muscles.

* Nelson noticed that for some silly reason everyone wants to look the same (like white Americans).

He saw skin-lightening products in Africa and surgical procedures to “Westernize” eyes in Asia. Women in Iran proudly walk the streets with bandaged noses, excited to be the new owners of American-style noses - whatever that means.

* In South America women have operations that make them look like a Barbie doll, and blonde-haired models appear on the covers of most magazines.

* Anorexia is on the increase in Japan, and in China beauty pageants, once banned as ‘spiritual pollution,’ are now held across the country.

Nelson was amazed at how COMMON cosmetic surgery has become all around the globe. Banks offer loans for plastic surgery. In fact, American families with annual incomes under $25,000 account for 30 percent of all cosmetic surgery patients. Nelson believes that our never-ending pursuit of youth is the primary cause behind this global quest for bodily perfection. He says, “As our role models become ever younger and more idealized, we are so afraid of aging that the quest for youthful preservation generates an almost pathological obsession with our bodies.” Well as Nelson discovered, we nip and tuck, add and reduce, train and try. But the fact that to have new life we must die first - this means that the work of renewal is the work of God not of us. Here’s a second question Paul answers.

II. WHAT will our NEW bodies be like?

For that answer look at verses 42ff: “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.” Now - let’s break all this down. What exactly is Paul saying about our new bodies

A. First, he says it will indeed be a NEW body.

In other words, the bodies we inherit in Heaven won’t be these old bodies - fixed up and sowed or patched together. There will be no “zombie-like people” in Heaven. Warren Weirsbe writes, “Resurrection is not reconstruction. Nowhere does the Bible teach that at the resurrection God will ‘put together the pieces’ and return to us our former bodies. There is continuity (it is OUR body), but there is not IDENTITY (it is not the SAME body).”

This week I read that in the Midwest farmers often lose limbs in farming equipment accidents and the custom is for those severed limbs to be embalmed or frozen - saved until the farmer dies so that he can be buried whole. Well, according to the Bible - that’s not necessary. In Heaven you won’t have your old body - no - God will give you a brand new body.

B. But - our old bodies provide the “seed” for the NEW.

Since God made us for eternity, our uniqueness on earth - our personalities, gifts, and abilities - will not diminish in the presence of God. You will still be YOU. Plus - we’ll see with eyes, hear with ears, speak with our mouths, walk with feet. We know that because the resurrected Jesus did. He walked. He talked. He could be touched. He picked up fish with His new hands and ate it with His new mouth. So - our old bodies provide a picture of the new. The seed of who we are today corresponds with who we will be in Heaven.

C. In Heaven your NEW body will be Better

On the other hand, in Heaven your new body will be different - BETTER - than the one you have today.

Using the plant analogy, the plant is far better than the seed that produced it. So while there is a correspondence between our earthly and heavenly bodies - our new self will be exponentially more splendid. Think of the difference between a tulip seed - or bulb - and the tulip. I’m sure you’ll agree that the tulip is much better than the bulb! That’s an idea of how much better our Heavenly bodies will be in comparison to our earthly ones. Our mortal bodies carry our essence - our souls - our lives - and when these mortal bodies are buried, God draws that essential part of us up into the new bodies He will give us - the way DNA and life flow from the bulb to the flower. I’m saying you will still be you when God gives you a new body, because he draws the “you” from this mortal seed of your body - into the “you” of the immortal flower of your resurrection Body. We’ll be different but recognizable. Remember - Jesus was recognized after His resurrection. Moses and Elijah were recognized on the Mt. of Transfiguration - even though Peter, James and John had of course never seen them.

I’m sure you’ve seen news stories of how specialists can project what faces of young children will look like in the future. They use computers and an understanding of facial growth patterns to make pictures of what the missing child would look like ten years later or more. This helps people find missing children years after they have been lost. Cathy and Debbi Hicks were abducted by their father and held for 10 years. They were identified after reconstructed photos of their face were shown on TV. Well, Christians do not know exactly what we will look like in Heaven but with the “seed” of our present bodies we can project what we will be like - look like.

Here’s something else Paul says about our new bodies.

D. Your NEW body will be suited for Heaven

They will be suited for Heaven - customized to survive and thrive in that wonderful place. Look at verses 29 and 40: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.

Paul is reminding us that God created the fish for the sea and birds for the air. He also set the sun in its place at just the right distance from the earth to sustain life here. Likewise, he set the moon at just the right place to pull the rhythmic tides. Not only does God create all these various bodies to fit their environments, but he gives each of them their own unique splendor. This is an illustration of the fact that part of a body’s splendor is that it fits its environment. I mean, among the splendors of fish is that they can breathe under water. Bears can sleep through cold winters. Butterflies can fly thousands of miles.

Well, when God shapes the bodies you and I will have in heaven, those bodies will be designed for that new and extraordinary environment. Our new bodies will be perfectly suited for a new world where life never ends, where we will live in the immediate presence of Almighty God.

In his book The Great Divorce, C. S Lewis sets things up so that once a week a special bus takes people from Hell to Heaven. But once the bus arrives and the residents of Hell disembark - they hate it there. The grass in Heaven cuts their feet. The water is too hard for them to drink. Their bodies are not suited for that environment. Surely this book was surely inspired by Paul’s words here.

Now - here’s some ways our new bodies will be suited for Heaven. Look at verse 42 again where Paul says, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable” (v.42).

These bodies - these earthsuits - are destined to deteriorate and decay. That’s why they embarrass us as we age. It’s why the older we get - the more material we want in our swimsuits. It’s why when we die morticians use make-up and hair dye - its why they do all they can to make our bodies look good.

This week I read that The Week magazine runs a column called “What’s Next?,” a regular contest based on current events. In a recent issue, they asked readers to submit answers to the following question: “The TV chef Anthony Bourdain recently advised: ‘Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.’ What would be a good name for a theme park ride based on the typical American’s body?” Here were some of the best answers:

* Sedentary Mountain (I guess instead of Space Mountain)

* Cholester-Roll

* Plumper Cars

* Tunnel of Love Handles

* The Tragic Kingdom (not magic)

* SORRY - ride closed due to poor maintenance

Funny - I think - but the fact is these bodies of ours aren’t designed to last. These bodies are meant to be temporary. I remember once I went to North Carolina with a team of people from Maryland to get training for Vacation Bible School. Our trip was in January. We stopped for the night at a hotel that had a beautiful indoor pool. I commented to the desk clerk that I didn’t have a swimsuit and he said, “No problem. We sell temporary swimsuits made of paper.” I didn’t buy one because I know paper wears out - and I didn’t want to be in a paper swimsuit when that happened.

E. Our NEW bodies will never wear out

Well, our new bodies will not be like that. They won’t EVER wear out. Look at it this way. Fruit rots within a week, bread goes stale eventually, and you can’t keep meat forever. Nonperishable means canned foods, dried foods, and Twinkies - which I think can last up to 75 years. So I guess you could say that in Heaven we will be less like fruit and more like Twinkies. All kidding aside, our new bodies will be indestructible–they won’t wear out, grow old, or decay. We won’t have headaches, get tennis elbow, indigestion, cataracts, or cancer.

There are no pharmacies, hospitals, or funeral homes in heaven - because nothing is perishable there. Our new bodies will be designed to last forever and that’s a good thing because as the hymn text says,  “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”

Listen. This world and its history are prelude and foretaste; all the sunrises and sunsets, symphonies and rock concerts, feasts and friendships are but whispers. They are a prologue to the grander story and an even better place - an eternal place. J. I. Packer said it so well: “Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, ‘I don’t want this ever to end.’ But it invariably does. The hearts in Heaven say, ‘I want this to go on forever.’ And it will.”

Our new bodies will be perfectly suited for that. We won’t have to worry about our eyes wearing out and our missing the beauty of Heaven’s sunsets. Our new bodies will be imperishable! They will be beautiful to see; they will have extraordinary dignity and grace and capacities. These bodies will be ready and willing to do anything our Christlike minds can conceive. And - Jesus’ resurrected body gives us a foretaste. He could walk through walls and travel great distances instantly. Not only will our bodies last forever. Paul also says they will be strong. Look at verse 43 where he says that our old bodies are “sown in weakness,” but our new will be “raised in power.” I don’t know about you guys, but the older I get - the weaker I get. When I was young - I hated going to bed because I wasn’t tired. Now I love going to bed because I am! In my prime I could do an all-night youth lock-in with no problem. On my last youth mission trip we drove from here to Minot, North Dakota - 36 hours on the road with 25 teenagers - we worked non-stop for a week - and drove back - no problem. I’m sure - my body today in its current shape would have a very hard time doing that. And even though I exercise and try to eat right - this body is only going to get weaker. If I live long enough a day will come when I’m helpless - bed bound. But my new body will be different. It will be powerful - not just Samson-strong, but Christ-strong. I’ll never know weakness or weariness again. My mind will be sharp. I won’t ever struggle to remember names or places. I’ll never go to the basement of my heavenly home and forget what I went there to get!

F. Our NEW bodies will be "glorious"

Another word Paul uses to describe our new bodies is the word, “glorious.”

And he’s used that word before. In Philippians 3:20-21 he writes, “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.”

Theologically, the final stage of our ongoing transformation is glorification, where we become finally and fully like Christ - this is God’s goal. Our hearts will be changed and our motives made pure. We will be permanently cured of sin-sickness. We’ll be God-centered and gloriously like Christ.

G. Our NEW bodies will be "spiritual"

One other word Paul uses to describe what this aspect of new bodies is like is “spiritual.’ But be careful that you don’t misunderstand this. Paul doesn’t mean we become disembodied spirits or ghosts floating around the clouds; he means “spiritual” as opposed to “natural.” As Verses 45-49 say we will be dominated by the Spirit of Christ, not the spirit of man. We will not have to contend with our old nature. We will be driven by the same spirit that empowered Christ. We will no longer struggle with temptation or evil desires. We’ll be brand new. Last question.

III. WHEN will we be made NEW?

This may seem like a silly question since we’ve already said you must die to receive the benefit of new life, but verse 51 is even more specific: Paul says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” So - none of us receive our new selves until Jesus Christ returns. 1st John 3:2 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Ask me when that’s going to happen. I don’t know. No one does. But listen to Paul’s description of that future event in 1st Thessalonians 4 beginning with verse 13: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death,so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again,and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s Word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven,with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God,and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

Now - to get more specific with this third question, some theologians answer it by saying that Christians who have died enjoy a presence with God now in sort of a non-physical state - and they WAIT to be glorified - they WAIT to get their new bodies when Jesus returns to rapture the saints. Well, I believe that - but a little differently. And to be clear - this is more my speculation than Scripture. I believe when we die we leave “TIME” - and enter eternity. We go to be with God and that’s where God is. He exists outside of time. So - in my mind, when we die - we leave TIME and leap to eternity and in so doing we go back to the future - -all kidding aside - we go to that day when Jesus comes to take us all home. In that moment - a twinkling - it says we will ALL be changed. The dead experience that moment the instant they die as they step into eternity. The rest of us wait until our own deaths - or until Jesus comes back. But it’s still the same moment. Just my opinion - but it does have Scriptural base because Jesus promised the repentant thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And verses like Ephesians 2:6 talk as if the future has already come. It says that we “ARE seated with Christ in Heavenly realms.”

I could be wrong - and that’s totally ok - but as someone bound by time it’s hard for us to comprehend WHEN things happen when you’re speaking of a place where there is no WHEN - no time. The main point we need to cling to is that God has it all in control so even if we can’t fully wrap our brains around things like this - we need not fear!


Woody Allen once said: “It’s not that I am afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” And - as I said last week, without Jesus death is something to fear. But for the Christian - we know that death leads to eternal life and a brand new body, so we can look forward with hope. That is the intent of this passage. That’s why Paul adds, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm” (verse 54). We can face fearful things - with great courage. Knowing we get a new body - we can obey Jesus’ admonition in Luke 12 and “…not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” The knowledge that God will give us NEW bodies takes the sting out of the death of this one!