1 Cor. 15-35
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson expunds the Scriptures concerning the status of souls when they are resurrected according to their redemption through Christ.
[Message] We have come in our studies of Death and Afterwards to “The Bodily Resurrection and the Resurrection Body.” Those of you who were here the two Sunday’s before in which I spoke on this general theme will remember that the first message had to do with physical death, and the major burden of the message was that when we die our spirits go to be with the Lord Jesus. There is a separation of the body and the spirit. The body is placed in the grace. The spirit goes to be with the Lord.
And then week before last I spoke on the subject of “The Intermediate State” and tried to point out that there was evidence, not only from the Bible but from other realms as well, for life after death. And then you remember we talked about the change that Jesus Christ had made in his ministry, that before the time of the cross those who died went to Sheol, Hades. One the Old Testament term, Sheol, the other the New Testament term, Hades. That both the saved and the unsaved or both believers and unbelievers went to that place, and that if Jesus’ story in Luke about the rich man and Lazarus was to be taken in literal form, and so far as we could tell, the things that he said are to be taken in that way, there was a division between those who were in Sheol, Hades. Some were in a place from which there was no recall and others were in paradise. We mentioned the fact that when the Lord Jesus was resurrected he took those who had died in faith with him into paradise into heaven, and that is why the Apostle Paul after the time of the cross speaks of being caught up to the third heaven to paradise. We looked at Luke chapter 16 and the incident involving the rich man and Lazarus, and point out how that those who have died are conscious. They have memory. They are not in a state of inhalation. They are not in a state of unconsciousness, but they are very, very much alive. As a matter of fact they are probably more alive than we are.
Now today we want to talk about the next step for believers, and that is the resurrection body. What kind of body shall we have in the resurrection, and the major account on this topic is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 with the 35th verse. So will you listen now as I read beginning at verse 35? Paul has just stated that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not made alive, except it die.”
Now you remember that when my text disagrees with yours it is because I am reading the new Schofield Bible in which certain changes in archaic words, primarily, have been made, and I hope that you will regret your underprivileged condition [Laughter] and you will buy yourself one of the approved new additions. “And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” We might substitute form here because we do not normally think of, for example, a grain of wheat when it blossoms and grows to maturity as being a body, but that is the way in which Paul uses the term.
“All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.”
Now if you are a good reader of the Bible you will notice that when you come to Paul’s illustrations and you read them and then you discover a word like, “So also,” you are now looking at the application of the illustration which he has just given.
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; (or a sensuous body perhaps) it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
And now Paul is going, as is his custom to, define in the Bible itself which was for him the Old Testament the justification of his words, and so he introduces the analogy of the first Adam and the last Adam to support his points. “And so it is written.” Now we say, “And the Bible says,” or “The word of God says,” and we turn to the New Testament, “Paul said, ‘And the Bible said,’” or “It is written,” or “It says,” or “He says,” or “The Holy Spirit says,” and he refers to the Old Testament. Now he’s not going to quote a text. He’s going to expound the Old Testament. So he says, “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a life giving spirit. However that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.” In other words, you notice this pattern of things. There is first the natural and then the spiritual, and the same pertains to the resurrection of the body. You’re in a natural body. You shall have a spiritual body is what he means.
“The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. 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. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; (A secret, something not revealed in Old Testament times but now made plain by New Testament revelation.) We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: (Now you weren’t supposed to turn the page there. I’m not quite at the bottom of mine.) for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, (or the Greek text says, ‘O Death) where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
May the God bless this reading from his holy word. Let’s bow together in prayer.
[Prayer] Our gracious God and heavenly Father, we thank Thee that in the trials and troubles of life we can come to Thee, and we know, Lord, that Thou art a compassionate, loving heavenly Father. We know that Thou doest not do anything which has not had the thought of eternal God behind it. We know that Thy thoughts are to usward who believe.
We thank Thee, Lord, for the privilege of proclaiming the word of God, and we pray today as the word of God is preached in this congregation that there may be no individual who leaves this auditorium without a saving understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that death comes, and we must face it, and some of us, Lord, have spent our entire lives it seems doing everything that we can to keep from thinking about it. “But it is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment.” And O Father, we pray for everyone in this auditorium that when the judgment does come after death it may not be the judgment of the great white throne, but the judgment seat of Jesus Christ.
We commit our assembly to Thee. There are many needs Lord that exist in this little congregation. We pray, O God, that they may be met, that Thou wilt will us together into a family of God in which the power of the Holy Spirit is manifest in works to the salvation and edification of men in this community and to the utter most parts of the earth.
These things we ask in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen.
[Message] The subject for today is “The Resurrection of the Body and the Bodily resurrection,” and the believer’s resurrection body, and we are particularly interested in the believer’s resurrection body. The denial of the bodily resurrection is a heathen denial. You’ll remember that when the Apostle Paul preached the gospel in the city of Athens in Greece there were three reactions. Some mocked. Some said, “We will hear Thee again concerning this matter.” Still others believed, among whom were Dionysius the Areopagite, and Damaris, a noble woman. “Twenty centuries have echoed the laughter of the Areopagus.” Some mocked, “We’ll hear Thee again about the resurrection of the body.”
It is sometimes thought that the resurrection of the body is not really a Christian doctrine. Some have thought that perhaps the Christian doctrine is the doctrine of the ancient Greeks. They had a proverb which went something like this, “I am a tomb and my body, or I, am shackled to a corpse.” In other words, for the ancient Greek to be released from the body represented the greatest good that could come to him. Today we have different kinds of attitudes toward life after death and the resurrection of the body. Some men say, of course, when we die, we die and that’s all there is to it. We are absolutely annihilated, and there is no existence after death at all. We’ve talked about that.
Others say that we are, that is, our souls are separated from our bodies and the immortality of the soul is the hope of the Christian. Strange to say that this ancient Greek idea should be so prevalent in the Christian church, but it is. It was the view of Plato and others, but it is not Christian doctrine. Still others think that after the soul has been released from this body that it may undergo reincarnation and may enter other bodies, not only human bodies, but even bodies of animals. And this is generally speaking the thought of some of the leading religions of the east, in India and China and other places. Although even then of course it is more desirable not to be reincarnated but to be lost in infinite being ultimately.
The Apostle Paul and the New Testament proclaim a resurrection of the body. That is that there is continuity between this body and the resurrection of the body. To put it very simply, Paul speaks of the state of man in a three-fold way. He says at the present time we are clothed in 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We have a body. We have a body that has been given by God, and it has come to us through our natural birth. Then Paul speaks about being unclothed. Now we’ve talked about that in the preceding messages, for when we die our spirits go to be with the Lord; our bodies are placed in the grave, and the bodies await the resurrection. But we are unclothed because we do not have a body. You see it is natural for a human being to have a body. It is part of his humanity to have a body. Then Paul speaks of being clothed upon in 2 Corinthians 5. And there he refers to the coming of the resurrection body so that the spirit is reunited with a body that is like unto Christ’s own glorious body.
So these three terms really sum up the experience of us personally. We are clothed at the moment. Some of us are clothed rather shabbily, but nevertheless we are clothed. Then we shall be unclothed if we die before the resurrection, before the coming of the Lord Jesus in the air. We long, Paul says, to be clothed upon, and thus escape that state of being unclothed. When we are a spirit in the presence of the Lord but incompletely redeemed. We want to have our resurrection body. So we are clothed now. We face the possibility of being unclothed. We long for the time when the resurrection comes, and we are clothed upon with a body like Jesus Christ’s own glorious body.
There are many ways in which we may deny this resurrection. We may say, for example, as some have said that the resurrection has taken place already. Some have said that when Jesus rose from the dead and the fact that he lives now, that is all the resurrection that the Bible speaks of. Paul condemned that form of resurrection when he spoke of Hymenaeus and Philetus in 2 Timothy, and he said that they have erred concerning the faith and they are in danger of overthrowing the faith of others because they are saying that the resurrection is already past. The resurrection was something future, and it was future after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and it is future for us.
A question you might ask me is why should we have a resurrection? Why is it necessary? Well I refer to what I’ve just said. We are individuals who are made up of body, soul and spirit. Part of humanity and part of the necessity of humanity, part of its inherent being is body. And God has created us in a body, and so since body is a necessary part of humanity it is only natural to think of redemption as touching our bodies also. And the New Testament is with one voice a book that affirms the fact that we shall be resurrected in body. That is that we shall not just enter the presence of the Lord when we die in our spirits, but that we shall ultimately have a resurrection body, and until we have a resurrection body redemption is incomplete.
Now, that means that as long as we are here now redemption is incomplete. Our spirits may be made alive when we believe in the Lord Jesus, but our bodies are not “quickened” or made alive until the resurrection. That is why, though we are Christian, and though we are made new, though we are new creatures in Christ, we still must die because the resurrection is future. The time for the new birth is now, and we may have new life, and we may become a new person, but we are not completely new. We still have the same old sin principle dwelling within us. And so we await physical death. God gives us no promise of physical deliverance now. That’s why there is no such thing as divine healers at the present time. God has not promised us such. He has promised us healing of the body at the resurrection. Now, of course he may decide to heal, and he can do that at his will. Who am I to say God cannot heal? He does, but he is not required to. He has said in his word he shall heal us all at the resurrection and give us a body that is a resurrection body.
What kind of body is this resurrection body? That’s the question we want to answer this morning, and the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 has given us the chief passage on the subject. And he’s given us a very logical passage to, if you’re a lawyer, you’ll like Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. You will like the way in which he discusses the subject. It’s very logical. Notice the two questions of verse 35. “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” Now that first question does not touch the method or manner of resurrection. It has to do with the possibility of it. “How are the dead raised up?” And the second question, “With what body do they come?” has to do of course with the nature of the body.
Now Paul is most interested in that second question, “With what body do they come?” And so he answers the first question in verse 36 very simply. He says you’re a fool to ask a question like that. “How are the dead raised up?” “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.” Resurrection takes place through death. That’s how, and anybody who looks at nature about will see the answer to the question is it possible for a resurrection to take place? Just take a look at what happens in nature. So we dispense with that question Paul says. That question belongs to the fool. And so, I’m going to dispense with it too because you’re not fools. And we go on to verse 37, and with this verse the apostle now answers the question, “With what body do they come?”
Now before we look at Paul’s answer I want to point out two errors that we often have with regard to the resurrection body. There is abroad the idea, unfortunately now not so very much abroad, but there is abroad the idea that when we are resurrection we are going to have the same body that we have now, the same body that we have now. Now Paul denies that. He says we shall not have the same body. He says, “And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be,” “Not that body that shall be.” It’s not the same body.
Now the other error is this. The body we are going to have is absolutely unrelated to the body that we have now. And Paul denies that too. He gives us this illustration in which he takes a seed, and he speaks about the seed being put in the earth and then the seed producing a plant. He suggests grain for example, and there is the flowering and then ultimately the maturity of that plant. And while there is a great deal of difference between the seed and the plant, still they are not unrelated. They are not identical. A tremendous transformation has taken place, but there is a relationship.
So we must not make the error of saying the resurrection body is the same body that we have now. What a hope that would be for some of us. And we must not make the error of thinking that the body is absolutely unrelated to the one that we have now. But the best answer, of course, is to look at Paul, and you will discover that in these illustrations that he gives, there are just three words that express them. There is continuity. Verse 36,
“That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die; And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it (the same thing) a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.”
There is continuity. There is just as we put a seed in the ground and a plant results from it, continuity. So when the bodies of believers are placed in the grave there is continuity. And when the resurrection takes place that continuity is unbroken. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is that there is some kind of identity. Notice the 38th verse, “But God giveth it,” that is that which you sow, “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” There is identity. There is, in the case of Lewis Johnson, a resurrection body that is my own body. There is continuity with this body, but it is entirely different, and yet at the same time, there is an identity that is maintained throughout. And finally there is diversity. Paul says,
“All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
That seems to suggest that in the resurrection some of the differences that mark us in this life shall be maintained, and that our rewards are somehow or other connected with the resurrection body, but since Paul says so little about that it’s perhaps best not to speculate to much about it on our part. But there is continuity, and there is identity, and there is diversity. So, we must not think that the body that we are to have in resurrection is the identical body with this body and is somehow or other to be a physical reconstruction of it. Sometimes you get the impression when you hear the resurrection of the body preached that when the resurrection takes place there is going to be at the day of resurrection an atmosphere that is full of flying particles of dust, each one seeking it’s other particles of dust, so that the same body that existed before might be reconstructed by the Lord. Now as far as I can tell the Bible has nothing to say about so carnal an attitude toward the resurrection.
And this recalls to my mind a story, and I hope you will not be disturbed by this story that I’m going to tell. But it concerns a very prominent man, Roger Williams who was the founder of one of the states in New England. Most of you know Rhode Island. He was a very prominent man because he has been regarded as a kind of father of the Baptists in the United States. Years after Roger Williams died some members of his family wanted to exhume the remains of Roger Williams and give him a more proper burial and also erect a monument over his grave. They discovered when the remains were exhumed that an apple tree had grown through the grave and actually body of Roger Williams, what was left of that body had been taken up into the apple tree.
I think that this at least illustrates for us the fact that the idea of a physical resurrection in which flying dust particles are being caught up by God in order to reform our body is surely not the teaching of the New Testament. Paul says, “Thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him.” We know of course scientifically that this body that we are in today is not the same body we had a few years ago. As a matter of fact every part of this body is different, scientifically. It’s not the same at all, but yet you are the same and I am the same because the physical construction of the body is not necessary for its form and shape and identity.
Now we know this scientifically, and apparently the New Testament is in thorough accord with that. We know that the body that we have now is to be identified with the body that we shall have, but it is not the same body. It’s almost as if you were to picture a house. Let’s say a brick house, a solid brick house, and every day you went over to that house and you took out one of the bricks and put in another brick until finally you had taken every brick out of that house and put in a new brick. As you went by you might say the house looks a little bit different but it’s the same house. There is form and shape and structure to that house, and yet it’s an entirely different house. That’s the kind of body that we have, and in the resurrection there is continuity and there is identity, but it is not the identical body.
Now that is what Paul means, I think, in this illustration. Sometimes a question comes at this point, “Shall we recognize our loved ones in heaven?” Someone asked George McDonald that one time. “Shall we recognize our loved ones in heaven?” He said, “I hope that we’ll not be bigger fools in paradise than we are here. Of course we shall.” The identity remains and we of course shall have the power of recognition. We shall be able to recognize our loved ones in heaven. We shall know them. They shall know us.
Now I do not know the answers to other questions. Some say, “Well, what about a little baby? Will a little baby be a baby throughout all eternity? Or will a parent always be a parent? Will I always look like a gray haired old man to my children throughout all eternity?” We do not know the answers to these questions because the Bible doesn’t give us direct answers. We can only infer, but if I take Paul’s illustration at its face value, he said that the grain is put in the ground and then when it comes to maturity he speaks about the fact that it has a certain glory. He says that God gives it a body as it pleases him. And so when I put a seed in the ground and I see a beautiful plant that illustrates the resurrection of the body.
I would assume from this that every child who enters into heaven will not enter heaven and stay in heaven throughout all eternity as a child, but God shall give that child a mature body as it pleases him, and so that child shall be a mature person throughout all eternity. That wouldn’t be heaven to be a child throughout all eternity. Some of us adults would like to be a child again, but you really wouldn’t. You wouldn’t want to be a child very long because you would want to grow to maturity. And so also I think that God is going to take my gray hairs away too, and I’m going to be a person to my children, and not the gray haired old man throughout all eternity. I’m going to reach a maturity and I’m going to be given a body as it pleases God, and I’m going to be thoroughly happy about it and so are my children. And if they are not able to look upon me as a parent perhaps that’s a blessing. They may not realize it now; I hope my children love me. One of them called down the other day while I was not at home and said, “Mother, tell Daddy I love him,” and I hope they love me throughout all eternity in spite of the fact that I’m not a gray haired old man to them anymore. And so we shall I believe.
Now, the apostle, in the light of this illustration, makes an application, and notice the verses that follow, he says in verse 42, “So also is the resurrection of the dead.” And you know I think that when we read these passages in Paul, I kind of get the feeling I wish that Paul would answer some questions that I would like to put to him, and he never seems to do it. Paul, tell me exactly what this resurrection body is like, give me its physical make up. Put it down in chemical terms, exactly what is it? And he doesn’t do it. He says, for example, “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” He says, “It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory.” In other words, the body that I have now is subject to decay. The body that I have in the future is not subject to decay. The body that I have now is under the blight of sin. The body that I shall have in the future is not under the blight of sin. He says, “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” The body that I have now is subject to all of the things that go to make up weakness, fatigue for example. The body that I have shall not be subject to these. And finally he says in the 44th verse, “It is sown a natural body.” I think that has to do with the uses that is made of the body. In other words, it is a body now that is solishly dominated and is used solishly because it is under sin. It is sown in weakness. It is subject to decay. But the time is coming when it is spiritual.
Now really he hasn’t told me anything at all about this body. He’s just told me what it’s not, and the thing that I get from this is it’s not like anything down here on the earth. But that’s the way these Bible writers are about eternal things. They never tell us exactly what it’s all about. They never tell us about our inheritance. They never tell us about heaven. They never tell us about our resurrection body except to say it’s not like anything down here on the earth. Well that’s encouraging, and I’m glad that it’s that way, but they don’t answer all of my questions.
Now Paul confirms this from Scripture. He says I want you to think of the first Adam and I want you to think of the second Adam, or last Adam better. He says now both were sinless and both did not have a human father. He doesn’t say that, but we’re saying that. But there is one thing that is unique about the last Adam. By the way the Jews made a great deal over the first Adam but never once did they ever use the term last Adam. Paul is responsible for this term because you see he knows that Jesus Christ is the representative man and if he fails there is no one else, and so he’s the last Adam. Some of our hymn writers speak about the second Adam. It’s the second man because there of course other men, you and I who belong to the family of God, but there are only two Adam’s, Adam the first, Adam the last, only two representative men, Adam the first, Adam the last. If this man failed we have no hope, but fortunately he did not fail. “The first Adam is of the earth, earthy; the second (or last Adam, the last) Adam is the Lord from heaven.”
By the way did you notice something there? There is Paul again. He didn’t do what I wanted him to do. He said the first Adam was earthy, that his body is made of the earth, and we of course immediately think of Genesis 2 where God took the dust of the earth and he breathed in it the breath of life and man became a living soul. And so when he said here in this verse “The first man is of the earth, earthy,” I’m really breathless to read the rest of this verse. And what does he say, “The second man is the Lord from heaven.” He doesn’t tell me that material you see. I wanted to know what that material was, but he bypasses it entirely. He doesn’t say anything about the material. Why doesn’t he? Well who could describe the material of the glorified body? Paul cannot do that. He just says Adam was a man who was made out of the earth. The second man, and the last Adam, is the Lord from heaven. Whatever this material that goes to make up the resurrection body is it is from heaven. It is heavenly. It is something that God does. It is so wonderful you and I could not possibly comprehend it. We could never comprehend these things, and the Bible exercises the choicest reserve in not telling us these facts. It would be foolish. We couldn’t possibly understand it.
Now then, Paul has come to the end and he said in verse 49, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” And what a wonderful promise that is for Christians. We shall bear the image of the heavenly man, Jesus Christ. Well now what about the change that takes place and so Paul answers another question which has been somewhat simpliset here in verse 51. What happens to those who do not die? Paul you’ve told us something about individuals who will not die. What about them? Well now Paul answers this question. He says, verse 50, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” This kind of body that we have now could not enter into heaven. It’s not made for heaven.
Now Paul is not talking about sin at this place. I’ve often heard expositions of verse 50 which are like this. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. That means that since we are sinful we cannot enter into heaven. That isn’t what Paul is talking about at all. When he says, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,” he means this body that we have here now is not of the material that can go with a spiritual environment. We are living in a kind of body that is material. The kind of environment in heaven is not that kind of environment. So it is not suitable for heaven. That’s what he means.
Now I want to tell you what’s going to happen, Paul says, “Behold, I shew you a secret,” and this is an important secret. “We shall not all sleep.” We shall not all die. Not every one of us shall die. “But we shall all be changed,” every single one of us shall change. Most of us shall die. Only one generation of people shall not die. Those who are living at the time of our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming in the air, they shall not die, but even they shall be changed. And those who are in the grave, they shall be changed as well. We shall all be changed.
Paul says, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” I love those words because they are words which Paul uses to try to express something that is instantaneous. And science has had some interesting things to say about one of them. That word, “In a moment,” is the word from which we get the English word atom, “atomas.” In an atom, or it really means something that cannot be divided, but unfortunately we have divided it. That’s the derivation of the word. “In a moment,” it’s the shortest possible time, “In a moment,” or Paul says, looking around for some other way to express it. He says, “In the twinkling of an eye.” Now that doesn’t mean really a twinkling. It’s something even more instantaneous than that. It’s the flickering of an eye lid. Not the twinkling of an eye, but the flickering of an eye lid. That’s how instantaneous this experience is going to be. It’s “At the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” In other words, when Jesus Christ comes those who have died whose bodies are in the grave, the dead shall be raised incorruptible. Their bodies shall be raised up and they shall be given a body that shall no longer decay and corrupt. We who are living shall be changed.
“For (Paul says) this corruptible (in the grave over here) must put on incorruption, and this mortal (this body that we have which is a dying body) this body must put on immortality; So when this corruptible (in the grave) shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal (here) shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory?”
Those questions are questions that are addressed to the two types of people. “O death, where is thy sting?” and then “O death, where is thy victory?” “O death, where is thy sting?” the living they never experience it. They are caught up into the presence of the Lord. “O death, where is thy victory?” some of us shall die. Our bodies shall be placed in the grave. It may appear to the world that death has overcome, but when the body is raised from the dead and rejoins the spirit, and the body is a glorious resurrection body united to the spirit, and so we together meet the Lord in the air, then the saints shall shout in one great chorus all in harmony, “O death, where is thy victory?” It’s lost. “O death where is thy sting?” And so Paul concludes by saying now, “The sting of death is sin.” Sin is that which has brought death. “And the strength of sin is the law,” and it is the law that has convinced us of sin.
Now you can see Paul’s reasoning is very, very good and theological. It is this. The law of God shows us that we are sinners. Sin indicates to us that we must die. And so the law is that which shows us our sin, and sin is that which brings us our death. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s wonderful you know to have this hope in the resurrection. A body like our Lord’s own glorious body shall be ours, heavenly, spiritual, incorruptible, immortal, one that shall never die, and that’s a glorious hope for a Christian.
And finally Paul concludes with “Therefore, my beloved brethren,” less speculation and more work is what I diagnose for you. “Be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Well Paul has answered his questions. Resurrection is not only possible, it is to be expected. The body is to be like our Lord’s own glorious body. It is to be spiritual. It is to be a body that is subject to the conditions of heaven, not to the conditions of this earth down here.
Will you participate? Will you have such a resurrection body? Even those who die without Christ shall ultimately have a resurrection body, but it’s quite a different body from this. Men have scoffed at death and they have scoffed at the resurrection, but listen to some of their death bed cries. Voltaire scoffed at death, and he scoffed at the idea of a resurrection, but when he died he said, “I am abandoned by God and man. I shall go to hell. O Christ, O Jesus Christ.” Tom Paine, who went about the country preaching atheism and agnostism and attacking the Christian faith said, “I would give worlds if I had them if the age of reason had never been published. O Lord help me. Christ help me. Stay with me, it is hell to be left alone.”
Even good men have hated the thought of dying. Samuel Johnson was one of the finest men I guess who ever lived according to the world’s standards. Boswell once said to him that he had not feared death. Johnson said to him he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him. A Christian woman spoke to him and said, “You should not fear death Mr. Johnson, because after death you pass into the presence of God.” He said, “No rational man can die without uneasy apprehension.” David Brainerd, on the other hand, a godly Christian said, “I’m going into eternity, and it is sweet to me to think of eternity. The endlessness of it makes it sweet, but O what shall I say to the eternity of the wicked, the thought is all too dreadful.” Paul said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent with the body and to be present with the Lord, for now I am ready to be offered.” Are you?
We have talked this morning about the resurrection body. Are you sure of a resurrection yourself? Do you know what it is to have everlasting life? Have you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you certain that you have that life? Death may come to you. You may not be here next week. I may not be here. Could you sing the stanza of the hymn that says, “When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh then I in Him be found. Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand;” “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.” Is that a personal reality with you? If it isn’t you can make it very simply by simply in your heart saying, “Thank you Lord for dying for me. I take you as my personal savior.” May God help you to do it. Shall we stand for the benediction?
[Prayer] Our gracious God and heavenly Father, we are grateful to Thee that we have the great hope of the resurrection of the body. We thank Thee Lord that with the resurrection of the body we know that we shall enjoy the presence of God throughout all eternity and be able to do the things that the new life within us desire to do, in glory and praise and thanksgiving for the redemption that we poses. And Lord, we…
[RECORDING ENDS ABRUPTLY]