Be A Steadfast Church!
1 Corinthians 15:35-49

By Paul Robison

Anybody ever heard of cryonics or the Alcor Institute of Human Preservation in Scottsdale, AZ?  Cryonics comes from a Greek word meaning “icy cold,” and the main idea is that cells, tissues, and small organs can be preserved in cold temperatures, like using liquid nitrogen to keep a temperature of -320 degrees.  Now, the Alcor Institute takes this idea a notch higher and offer to preserve one's brain or one's whole body using this cold temperature technology.  They claim that although you may be legally dead, your brain cells can still be biologically alive, and these can be preserved until that day when science will have all the answers to all the obstacles involved with reversal, and basically they will thaw you back into existence!  To preserve your whole body costs only $200,000, and 33 people have paid the price.  But if you really want a discount, they can preserve only your brain (and really it's your whole head) at a mere $80,000, and 73 have accepted their bargain price.  So, we see that 106 people have put their money and their faith into science, with the hope that technology will one day give them new life with new bodies (Larson and Alcor website). 
 
We've already seen how some the members at Corinth were having trouble with the resurrection.  They were carrying over their culture's belief right into the church.  The Greeks believed that the body was evil and was like a prison house to the immortal soul.  So getting rid of the prison house for good at death was their great hope.  There was a proverb that was posted in the apostle Paul's day in Athens that read: “Once a man dies and the earth drinks up his blood, there is no resurrection” (Swindoll).  We saw in our last sermon how the apostle Paul defended the truth and attacked the grave consequences of this falsehood with a passion.  In today's sermon, Paul takes the role of a debater and offers argument after argument to show the reality of the truth of the Gospel.  Paul has earlier defined this Gospel in this chapter by saying it is the good news about Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and appearances to around 525 people!  Paul wants these brethren to be steadfast in their understanding of the Gospel, and he actually commands them to be steadfast at the close of this chapter (see verse 58).  We're going to look at Paul's four arguments in just a moment, but we need to consider something before we get into that.

The Gospel involves the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus.  When Jesus was resurrected after three days, as prophesied by the Scriptures, what kind of body did He have?  That's a hard question to answer because Jesus' resurrected body was like no other body that had ever existed in history!  It was unique; it was one of a kind.  All previous people who had been raised by prophets or by Jesus Himself eventually died once again.  But not Jesus?  His body of was immortal!  Now, His resurrected body had similarities with His physical body; it could be seen, heard, touched, and recognized (even the scars were still there).  But His body also had so gloriously new and different powers: He could appear in rooms with locked doors; He could vanish from a room; He could ascend into heaven.  Look at Mark 16:12: “After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.”  Doesn't that sound like He could change or modify His appearance in some way? What's the point here?  The point is that Jesus' resurrected body was not the exact same body that had been buried!  When Jesus arose, His body was transformed.  There were similarities, but there were also great differences.  Now listen to what Paul calls Jesus' resurrected body in Philippians 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body [our earthly body] that it may be conformed to His glorious body [Jesus' transformed body], according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”  Paul calls Jesus' resurrected body a glorious body, doesn't He?  Keeping the truth about Jesus' glorious resurrected body will help us to understand better one of Paul's arguments.
 
First of all, believe the horticultural argument. Let's read verse 35-38: “But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised up?  And with what body do they come?”  Let's pause for a moment.  Paul is now getting down to the nitty-gritty of the Corinthians' problem, isn't he?  You see, that culture and some of the members were thinking, “Well, how in the world can a body that has been decomposed, or burned, or buried at sea be raised up and brought back to life again?  And what kind of resurrected body will they have?”  They could not understand how a decayed physical body could be physically restored once again?  So, Paul responds with a horticultural argument in verse 36-38: “Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.  And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.”  First off all, Paul points out that a plant comes alive from a seed that dies, and a person also will come alive from a body that dies!  Secondly, when you sow a seed, there is continuity and discontinuity.  An apple seed produces and apple, and a peach seed produces a peach, so there is continuity between the seed and the plant, or fruit, or staff.  But there is discontinuity also because the plant, the fruit, or staff looks very different from the seed that was planted.  Likewise, just as Jesus' resurrected body had both similarities and differences, so each person's resurrected body will retain some of the physical qualities they had, but that transformed body will be very different from what each one's physical body once was!  Isn't that good news?  Isn't that an amazing transformation that will take place?  Thirdly, just as God had determined what kind of produce each seed will produce, so also God also has determined what mankind's resurrected bodies will be like.  And Paul has revealed in Philippians that they will be glorious, just like Jesus' present resurrected body is glorious!  Brethren, isn't this tremendously inspiring news that our relatives, friends, and neighbors need to hear?  You see, when we write off God in our culture, we write off hope for our own deaths and hope that anything better will take place in the future!  “God determined” sure sounds much more reasonable than “Well, our world all came about just be random chance” doesn't it?  The Greeks did not serve Jehovah God, and where had their philosophy, logic, and science led them?  “After the earth drinks up a person's blood, there is no resurrection!”  Have the evolutionists offered us an outcome much better than that of the Greeks?  Here is their new proverb: “After your body is legally dead but preserved at the Alcor Institute, there is no resurrection!”  You see, evolution can't really tell you much about where souls came from, how they develop, and where they are going to end up. Only God and God's Word reveal that information, and Paul tells us that the Creator who determined how the produce for each seed would turn out is the same God who has determined how the resurrection bodies of humans will turn out!  Thank God for such a wonderful revelation! Someone expressed it like this: “Paul is showing that, at one and the same time, there can be dissolution, difference, and continuity. ... So our earthly bodies will dissolve; they will rise again in a very different form; but it is the same person who rises.  Dissolved by death; change by resurrection, it is still we who exist” (Barclay).  The Christian believes that if God created man's fleshy body, He can also create another transformed and immortal body which will enclose the inner being or individuality of the person.  Believe the horticultural argument!  Be a steadfast church!
 
Next, believe the environmental argument.  Let's read verse 39: “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.”  So, what is Paul wanting us to see here by affirming that God has made different kinds of flesh?  God again created birds, with their feathers and ability to fly, so that they could live in the skies.  He created sea creatures, which their scales and gills and ability to swim, so that they could withstand temperatures and pressures that the seas have to offer. He created animals, with their coats and their abilities to run, so that they could live on the dry land.  He created man, with his flesh and intelligence, so that we could live in communities.  You see, each group inhabits a different environment, and each group has bodies which were created by God to fit that environment.  Now what is the implication that can be drawn from these affirmations?  Here it is: If God can make such diverse bodies for different environments, can He not make also another transformed, glorious, and immortal body which will live forever in a totally different heavenly environment?  Can't you just imagine the wheels that were turning in the mistaken Corinthian brethren's minds at this point.  Paul was showing them “that there might just be a kind of resurrection reality in which their bodies will not have to be the same as they were during the present” (Oster).  And aren't our minds somewhat boggled as we contemplate such a profound implication as well?  Will we need oxygen in heaven?  Will there be no genders in heaven?  How will we get our energy there?  About all we can say at this point is that we'll have no suntans, no locks, nor marriages in heaven.  But we can affirm with Paul that our transformed bodies will be perfectly suited to the uncursed environment that Jesus is presently preparing for all His children.  Believe the environmental argument.  Be a steadfast church!
 
Third, believe the transformational argument.  Let's read verses 40-44: “There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies, but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.  There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead.  The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.  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.  There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” Here again is another wonderful revelation!  Notice how Paul begins and concludes: “There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies, but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. ... It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  Now what does Paul mean by saying there are celestial and terrestrial bodies and each have their glories?  We see his answer to the celestial bodies in verse 41 where he mentions the sun, moon, and stars, and he tells how the brightness or the glory of each of these bodies varies in intensity. What Paul means by terrestrial is anybody's guess since he doesn't really spell this out.  It probably is referring to earthly features such as seas, mountains, fields, etc.  Paul states that each sphere, the terrestrial and the celestial, has something glorious about it, but the celestial is probably even more glorious since he spells that the sun, moon, and each star has its own glory of itself.  You see, that's sort of like mankind's physical or natural state now being compared with what will be mankind's resurrected or spiritual state in the hereafter!  The second state will be more glorious or brighter than the first!  Mankind's physical state is corruptible, dishonorable, weak, and natural, but mankind's resurrected and transformed state will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual!  Now spiritual does not mean nebular, ghostly, or fantasy-like. No, when Paul says “spiritual,” he means a transformed body like Jesus had with all those similarities and those glorious differences—especially the difference of immortality or being able to exist forever!  Just as certain as you can see differences in this life between terrestrial and celestial bodies, so you will see the similarities and differences in the afterlife between natural and transformed bodies!  Isn't that great news? If we'll strive to keep these physical bodies as the Holy Spirit's temple, not to be gluttonous, nor to use tobacco, nor to drink alcoholic beverages, not to have affairs, then one day we'll inherit transformed bodies which are incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual.  These resurrected bodies will endure forever, just like Jesus is continuing to exist!  The apostle John puts it this way in 1 John 3:2-3: “Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  Don't live your life to please the flesh because that's putting your stock in the physical or terrestrial nature (that's the sphere with lesser glory).  Live your life to please God's Spirit because that's putting stock in the spiritual and celestial nature (that's the sphere with the superior glory)!  As certain as you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, one day you will see a glorious transformed body if you have lived to keep yourself pure as Jesus was pure!  Now you can believe this or disbelieve this truth, but it won't prevent it from happening; but it might prevent you from entering into heaven.  Believe the transformational argument!  Be a steadfast church!
 
Next, believe the Scriptural argument.  Now we see Paul turning to the Scriptures for his next argument in verses 45-49: “And so it is written [there's the Scriptures being mentioned]: 'The first man Adam became a living being' [now that found in Genesis 2:7].  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.  The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall bear the image of the heavenly Man.”  So, here are some more terrific assurances!  Adam's becoming a living being or living soul was the climax of the old creation; likewise, Jesus will become a life-giving spirit as each dead individual is resurrected by Jesus' power! John 5:28 declares that all who are in the graves will hear Jesus' voice and come back to life!  Adam was made of dust, and right now we partake of his nature or bear his image (we grow older, grow feebler, die, and our bodies return to the dust).  But Jesus is from heaven, and Christians will partake of His nature or bear His image (we'll be transformed, grow stronger, live forever, and we will always remain with the Lord, with all His angelic hosts, and with all the saints).  Someone put it this way: “Paul is saying, then, that just as throughout this life we have habitually borne the form of Adam, so in the life to come we shall bear that of our Lord.  Just as surely as we have done the one, so surely shall we do the other.  This is not a matter of doubt; [this is] decisive” (Morris)!  Since Jesus came from the divine and eternal realms, that guarantees our participation in a splendor and an immortality that can never perish (Oster)!  Aren't we thankful for the last Adam?  There is never going to be another being like Jesus Christ!  That last Adam has opened the gates of heaven to paradise and to the tree of life once again! “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2)!  Now there's another scriptural argument too!  Believe the Scriptural argument!  Be a steadfast church!
 
Don't you feel sorry for those folks at Alcor Institute?  Even if science was to crack all the codes and overcome all the barriers, they would not experience resurrection; they would only experience resuscitation!  And legal death would come to them once again sooner or later.  Now some folks think we Christians are crazy for our beliefs, but doesn't Paul's horticultural, environmental, transformational, and Scriptural arguments sound much more plausible than putting your faith in what science might discover and in having no guarantee of the incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and immortal body that Paul promises Christians based upon Jesus' resurrection and power?  Let's be a steadfast church!
 
Let's pray: “Holy Father, we thank You for these tremendous revelations in Your Word!  They give us great hope!  Help us to live purely like Jesus did.  Help us to live expectantly as we look for those new transformed bodies that you have promised.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
 
“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning our confidence steadfast to the end ...” (Hebrews 3:14). To receive the heavenly prize, we must run with endurance the Christian race until we cross the finish line.  Now some of you here today haven't even gotten into the Christian race!  Do you really believe down deep that there's not going to be an afterlife?  Are you really any better off than the Greeks and the evolutionists who offer us no resurrection?  Without Jesus, you're not going to reap the benefits of last Adam!  Where are you putting your hope?  For those who are Christians, are you holding your confidence steadfast or have you been doubting and just about given up on keeping in the race?  Please don't drop out. Your faith in God and Christ will make all the difference in how you face death and how you'll arrive at your eternal destiny!