The Doctrine of the Resurrection
What will the resurrection body be like?
1 Corinthians 15:35-58

© 2006 Steve Lewis -



The objection of Paul's opponents (1 Cor 15:35)

Understanding the true nature of the resurrection body (1 Cor 15:36-41)

The main assumption of Paul's opponents was that resurrection meant reconstructing the former body which the person had during this lifetime. Throughout the rest of the chapter Paul will show that this is a false assumption.

An illustration from the life cycle of plants (1 Cor 15:36-38)

An illustration from the differences between the forms of other creatures (1 Cor 15:39)

An illustration from the differences between heavenly and earthly bodies (1 Cor 15:40)

An illustration from the differences among the heavenly bodies themselves (1 Cor 15:41)

Five characteristics of the resurrection body (1 Cor 15:42-49)

Imperishable (1 Cor 15:42)

The earthly body that goes into the grave is perishable; however, the resurrection body is imperishable.

Glorious (1 Cor 15:43a)

Powerful (1 Cor 15:43b)

Spiritual (1 Cor 15:44)

Like the Body of Christ (1 Cor 15:45-49)

  1. The sequence of existence (1 Cor 15:46)
    This verse describes the order or sequence of existence for mankind: the natural is first, followed by the spiritual. Every human being starts life in a physical body. Even in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, He began his incarnate life in a natural physical body, and after His death that natural body was buried in the ground. However, at His resurrection He was given an eternal spiritual body. The natural comes first, followed by the spiritual.
  2. The realm of existence (1 Cor 15:47)
    The first man (Adam) was literally made from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). The natural body that he was originally given was well-suited for an existence on planet Earth. The second man (Christ) was given a resurrection body that is well-suited for an eternal existence in heaven. Whatever the resurrection body is like, it will be well-suited to our existence in the heavenly realm.
  3. The certainty of these events (1 Cor 15:48-49)
    These last two verses of the section state the absolute certainty that these things are true and that they will happen just as they have been described. In this life we are all very familiar with the earthly existence that is the plight of mankind. Here Paul is saying that the heavenly existence he has described is just as certain as the earthly one we are experiencing. In this verse, Adam is the earthly one and his descendants are those who are earthly. Therefore, Christ is the heavenly one, and those who have trusted in Christ are those who are heavenly. Paul uses the fact that we all have earthly bodies in this life as a guarantee of the certainty of life in a resurrection body in eternity future. Just as we are now actually experiencing the "image of the earthly," we will certainly bear the image of the heavenly in the future.

Summary of the Characteristics of the Resurrection Body

Description or CharacteristicEarthly BodyResurrection Body
1. Ability to sustain life over time. Perishable:
Subject to deterioration and finally death and decay.
Incapable of deterioration; the 2nd law of thermodynamics will no longer apply.
2. Value and potential for honoring and glorifying God. Dishonor:
Characterized by disgrace, shame, and indignity.
Characterized by excellence, honor, splendor, brightness, and blessedness.
3. Physical ability to carry out one's intended purpose. Weakness:
Fragile, feeble, liable to sickness and infirmity, lack of ability to restrain corrupt desires.
Inherent strength or ability; capable of the highest service before God without weariness.
4. Intended sphere of existence. Natural:
Limited to life in the fallen, earthly realm.
Suited to life in an eternal and heavenly realm.
5. Basic orientation, tendency, or focus. Adam-like:
Tending downward toward sinfulness and deterioration.
Tending upward toward righteousness and holiness.

What will happen to living believers' bodies when the Lord returns? (1 Cor 15:50-57)

From all that Paul has said we might get the impression that every human being must experience physical death and the decay of the body in the grave. But Paul now discusses one other case that could happen to a particular group of believers at a specific time in history.

The natural body would never survive in heaven (1 Cor 15:50)

Some belivers get resurrection bodies without first dying (1 Cor 15:51)

How and When this change will happen (1 Cor 15:52)

Why this change must happen (1 Cor 15:53)

What will come true WHEN these events occur? (1 Cor 15:54-57)

Concluding exhortation in light of the truth of the doctrine of resurrection