Tonight, I’m concluding a meeting in Marion, Indiana, and preaching from 1 Corinthians 15 about death and the bodily resurrection.
It is a sobering word. A cold word. A frightening word. We don’t even like to say it. We prefer euphemisms. We say, “She passed away.’ “He expired.” “She’s gone.” In a lighter vein we speak of someone “pushing up daisies”, or “kicking the bucket,” Or being “six feet under.”
Our joking, however, has a tinge of nervousness attached to it. We don’t like death. We don’t like to think about death. And we don’t want to lose our loved ones to death.
Quickly coming to my mind are those I’ve known and loved who’ve died. My Mom and Dad. My brother Bill. My Uncle Raymond. My Aunt Hattie. My cousin Wimpy. My Uncle Oval. And my Granny and Papaw Key.
I think of preachers who’ve encouraged, influenced, and mentored me. Aude McKee. Robert Jackson. James P. Miller. James R. Cope. Ed Harrell. Clinton Hamilton. Harry Pickup, Jr. Homer Hailey. And most recently, our beloved brother, Dee Bowman.
Their passage into the great beyond is one we must all take. Christians, however, live in hope of the bodily resurrection taught in this text. But we wonder about Paul’s question, “How are the dead raised?”
The Greek philosophers considered the resurrection impossible. That’s why they mocked Paul in Athens. If a body dies, returns to dust, and becomes a part of the elements of the earth again, how in the world could there be a bodily resurrection?
Paul’s answer to the elite, educated, and erudite philosopher was simple, succinct, and straightforward. “You fool,” he bluntly retorted. He then gives three illustrations to answer their objection.
(1) An analogy from agriculture. “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” (1 Cor 15:37-38, NKJV).
When you sow a grain of corn, it dies in the ground. That same seed does not come up at harvest. It produces a stalk with ears of corn protruding from it. It looks totally different than the single grain. The same is true of the grain of wheat that produces the sheaves of wheat, or the acorn that grows into a mighty oak tree.
So, it is with the bodily resurrection. The physical body that is buried in the ground will not look exactly like the one that is raised. It will be different. Unique. Special.
(2) An analogy from biology. Paul now turns to another illustration to show the uniqueness of the raised body. In creation, God made four kinds of flesh: humans, animals, birds, and fish. Their cell structure is different. Each has a body that is singular and suited to its own needs, environment and survival. Paul’s point? If God can make distinctive bodies for different kinds of animals, can he not fashion a one-of-a-kind, resurrected body for humans?
(3) An analogy from the cosmos. “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 (1 Cor 15:40-41, NKJV).
Human observation can see the difference in the celestial bodies and the terrestrial bodies. Recently Norma Jean and I saw a beautiful full moon that was almost orange in color. The next morning as we saw the sun rise above our tree line, it looked different. And the effects of it felt different! The stars also have their own unique look. The heavenly bodies differ from one another in their brightness. Their brilliance. Their radiance. Their grandeur. Their splendor
But the terrestrial or earthly bodies have their own special eye appeal. From the ragged Atlantic coastline of Maine to the sun-kissed beaches of the California shores, we see so much of God’s glory. The misty Smokey Mountains. The mighty Mississippi. The rugged Rocky’s. The glorious Grand Canyon. They are all made by our Creator. They have their own beauty.
In the same fashion. By the same power. But for a unique purpose, God will fashion for us a glorified body in the resurrection.
One day I will die. And so will you. And our bodies will return to the dust of the earth. But on resurrection morning, we will come forth from the grave. And our bodies will be changed. “In the twinkling of an eye.” Immediately. Instantaneously. Miraculously. And God will give us a better body. A glorious body. An incorruptible body. An immortal body.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman