by Arthur W. Pink
Philologos Religious Online Books
Studies in the Scriptures
by Arthur W. Pink
In 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle also points out that in the wise arrangement of the Creator everything in nature, whether celestial or terrestrial, has a “glory”—beauty and excellence adapted to the sphere in which it is designed to move and in harmony with the purpose it is made to serve: “there is one glory of the sun and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars” (v. 41). Thus the change effected in resurrection includes also our investiture with glory and honour meet for the place we are to occupy. A man shining in heavenly glory would be very much out of place in a world of sin and misery; and in like manner the Christian in a body of corruption would be most unseemly for the courts above. The Divine wisdom which has fitted everything for its sphere and made everything beautiful in its place and season will invest those ordained to occupy the highest places of creation with suitable glory: that which is sown in dishonour and weakness shall be raised in glory and power.
“As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (v. 49). The life of Christ has already been communicated to the believer's soul but it is obscured and hindered in a natural body; but the Christian will possess the likeness as well as the life of Christ (Psa. 17:15). Men speak of a “sound mind in a sound body”: yet there is no such thing today, but in the resurrection morning there will be more than that—the mind of Christ in a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. That is redemption completed. Only when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality will “death be swallowed up in victory.” Whether we look at what has taken place in the Person of Christ the Head, or at our relation to Him and the life we derive from Him at the new birth—whether we consider our fellowship with Christ and what is necessary in order to our entering into His glory and sharing the blessedness of His exaltation—it is evident that the resurrection of believers is a necessity in the nature of the case.
But it is equally evident that what has just been said above applies only to believers. The resurrection of unbelievers rests upon another ground entirely, is of a very different nature, and is ordained for a vastly different end. That their resurrection is certain we know: “all that are in the graves shall come forth” (John 5:29). The power of Christ shall raise them. Yet it will not be by virtue of union to Him but because of His dominion over them, that He may be vindicated in their judgment. They have not His spirit of life within them and therefore there will be no change from corruption to incorruption, from dishonour to glory; rather shall they awake “to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2)—with features that are hideous and repulsive. Nor is there the slightest hope of amelioration: their doom is irrecoverable, they come forth “unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). Their bodies will be “fitted to destruction” (Rom. 9:22), capacitated to endure eternal torment.
Let us return to the resurrection of the believer. There has been considerable difference of opinion concerning the resemblance between the Christian's present body and his future one. Instead of canvassing the rival views we shall express what we believe the Scriptures to teach thereon. Many we believe have been misled by the term “spiritual body,” as though it signified something intangible and ethereal but that would deny its connection and identity with the first body and instead of being a “resurrection” would involve a creation. Moreover, it clashes with the language of our risen Saviour who said to the eleven, “handle Me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have” (Luke 24:39)—observe that it is Luke, “the beloved physician,” who records this anatomy beyond the tomb. Equally explicit is the Prophet's detailed analysis of what resurrection is: “I will lay sinews upon you (the naked “bones”), and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin” (Ezek. 37:6)—it is all one whether the Prophet be referring to a bodily, spiritual, or symbolical (national restoration) resurrection, for the Holy Spirit would not mislead by employing strained or false figures of speech.
The Christian's body in Heaven will be the same as he has now, the same as was laid in the grave unless the Lord returns before then, only a body characterized by glory and fitted for the celestial realm, yet preserving its identity with the old one. “We shall rise again with the same bodies we have now as to the substance, but the quality will be different” (Calvin). The word “raised” would be meaningless unless it be the same body restored and transformed. Christ has redeemed the bodies of His people as well as their souls (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:20). That such a resurrection requires a miracle is granted, but Christians believe in a miracle-working God, nor does the supposed “flux of particles” in the human body present any difficulty to Omniscience. Lazarus had gone to corruption, yet he was raised. “Why should it be thought a thing incredible that GOD should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8). The omnipotence which originated the body can certainly re-originate it!
Let us now ponder what is said of the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15. 1. “This corruptible shall put on incorruption.” Over the resurrection body the curse shall have no power and as there will be no more death there will be none of the disorders which lead thereto. The present body is subject to diseases in endless variety but not so the future one. It will contain no element or germ of disease and will not be subject to decay. Its bloom will never fade, its faculties will never weaken, its members never tire. It will be perfectly holy and therefore in the enjoyment of perfect health. Immortal youth will characterize it: “They are equal unto the angels . . . being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). Though the angels were created before Adam, yet never once in Scripture are they represented as aged but rather as men in their prime (Mark 16:5). Adam was created not as an infant or a young child, for that had not represented perfect humanity, but probably as one of thirty, for that is the age of man's prime (Luke 3:23) and it is likely we shall appear and forever continue thus.
2. “It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory” (1 Cor. 15:43). The body which is laid in the grave was the habitat and instrument of a depraved soul. It was polluted by evil lusts and disgraced by carnal passions. Its hands performed unholy deeds: its feet trod forbidden paths: its ears listened to ungodly sounds: its eyes beheld vanity. Every member was defiled. It will be the very opposite with the resurrection body: all its faculties will be fully consecrated unto God and devoted to His service. How loathsome the body becomes when disease and death seize upon it. What is more revolting than a putrefying carcass? But the one that is raised is glorious! The saints shall be clothed with a body of surpassing beauty and symmetry. It will be a resplendent body, luminous and reflective: “The righteous shall shine forth as the sun” (Matt. 13:43), “The difference between the unsightly seed and the beautiful flower, or that between the loathsome caterpillar and the beautiful winged insect into which it is transformed is but an imperfect figure of the difference that shall exist between the bodies of the saints laid in the grave and those with which they shall be clothed in the period of resurrection” (J. Brown).
3. “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:43). The present life of man is but a battle of self-preservation. All his toil is for procuring the things necessary to maintain his existence but at the end he has to mutely confess his own impotence. All flesh is as grass and its glory as the flower of the field. Helpless when he enters the world, weakness is stamped upon man. Bodily exertion soon wearies the muscles and stiffens the joints, prolonged mental exercise produces brain fatigue. Good resolutions are formed and high ideals cherished but we lack the moral power to carry them into execution: the spirit is willing but the flesh weak. But when awakened from the dust of earth we shall no more be subject to infirmities and never suffer from fatigue. Our bodies will be instinct with unflagging energy fitted for a state of uninterrupted exertion.
4. It is “a spiritual body.” All that is connoted by those words it is probably impossible to grasp in our present state. As intimated last month we understand them to signify, generally, that as the life of Christ is communicated at regeneration to the soul, so at resurrection a body is given suited to be the abode of one who is freed from all sin and fitted for the celestial realm and its occupations. More specifically, we understand a “spiritual body” to signify, first, one which is delivered from the restrictions of the present one—not subject to the law of gravity, never in need of sleep. Second, one that is endued with sublimated senses and additional faculties. Third, one that is in more immediate union with and fully controlled by the Holy Spirit, quickening and forever sustaining it without the assistance of any natural or animal means. It will be substantially physical, but functionally spiritual.
5. It is “heavenly” in its capacities and destiny. “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:48, 49). There is an identity of kind between the stem and its branches. The “earthy” is Adam (see v. 47), “they that are earthy,” his descendants: the “heavenly,” is Christ, “they also that are heavenly” are His risen people. As the progeny of Adam had borne his image both in soul and body (Gen. 5:3), so the redeemed receive both a holy nature and body from Christ. That the Sanctifier and the sanctified are “all of one” (Heb. 2:11) is a truth on which the Holy Spirit now nourishes the faith of believers. They are as He is, even now in promise; they will be so, in fact, when He returns to claim them for His own. An illustration of the difference between an earthy and heavenly body is seen in the case of the angel in Judges 6:21 who apparently ascended in the flame: he had a tangible body, yet not subject to fire. The same is beheld again in the mysterious fourth form by the side of the three Hebrews in Babylon's furnace: material and visible, yet indestructible.
6. “This mortal shall put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:54). It is necessary that a radical change shall take place either by dying and being raised or being changed without seeing death, for we cannot enter Heaven as we are. Our present mortality is incapable of sustaining the light and glory, the revelations and enjoyments of the celestial state. Manifestations of the Divine glory have produced painful effects upon the bodily frame of those to whom they were made. Daniel, after one of his visions “fainted and was sick certain days” (8:27); and on another occasion he declared, “there remained no more strength in me” (10:17). Habakkuk said, “when I heard, my belly trembled and my lips quivered at the voice” (3:16). When the Apostles beheld their transfigured Lord they “fell on their faces and were sore afraid and became heavy with sleep.” But in that Day mortality shall be “swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:4) and then shall we be capacitated to dwell with “the Prince of Life.”
7. To complete the picture presented in 1 Corinthians 15 we must add, “We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20, 21). Here is redemption completed: here is salvation consummated: here is our “glorification.” The resurrection body of Christ was able to pass through closed, doors. When Saul of Tarsus beheld it, he was blind for three days. And Christ is “the First fruits of them that sleep”—both the pledge and pattern of the coming harvest. This same transformation will also be effected in those of His which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17). The “like unto” of Philippians 3:21 denotes perfect resemblance but not absolute equality, for in all things must the Lord of glory have the pre-eminence—as He was anointed with the oil of gladness “above His fellows” (Psa. 45:7), so is He exalted with a greater glory. We shall be “like Him” (1 John 3:2): with a brightness and beauty similar, though not on a par with His, shall the bodies of His people be adorned.
In conclusion we would direct attention to a point which has almost, if not entirely, escaped notice, as is evident from the language universally obtaining among the Lord's people. Four times over in 1 Corinthians 15 occur the words “it is raised” and we would naturally suppose the correlative term would be “it is buried.” Instead, we read “it is sown . . . it is raised.” The writer has been deeply impressed by the fact that never once after the Sin-bearer was laid in the tomb is any of His people said to be “buried,” save only in connection with their being “buried with Him by baptism unto death” (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), which is not exceptional but confirmatory. “Burial” is done with the object of getting finally rid of a repulsive object; but “sowing” is with a view to a future appearing! The bodies of Christians are “sown” in the cemeteries and not “buried!” “Deep down in the bowels of the earth, by a process no mortal knows, charcoal turns to diamond: the substance is the same, yet beyond comprehension different: the charcoal has been swallowed up of diamond. The softest of minerals becomes the hardest, most durable, most valuable metal known. So also is the resurrection of the dead” (D. M. Panton).—A.W.P.