Lesson 46: 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 (ESV)
The Seeds of Glory
When we see newborn babies, we can imagine all kinds of possibilities and potentials for them. We expect that they’ll grow up to be more than they are when they’re born. You can’t just look at a baby and see what it’s going to become. If we didn’t know from experience we’d have a hard time imagining much of a life ahead. It’s just a tiny bundle that needs diaper changes, can’t feed itself, but looks so cute.
It might grow up to become a good parent, great leader, and a dedicated friend. Some will be productive workers providing important services and products for people. They might clear the main arteries on our roadways, or the arteries carrying blood from our hearts. Some grow up to fix things, invent things, keep our plumbing working, or become world leaders, or artists.
Though you can’t see those skills and interests in a new born, every electrician, parent, president, and nurse started out as just a baby. But a lot of things have to change before the baby becomes a surgeon, teacher, singer, or spouse.
It’s also hard to understand how a human body, long deteriorated after death, can be raised up again to be a glorious house for the soul to spend the rest of eternity with God in Heaven.
Some question the resurrection because is seems so impossible based on what we now know and can see. But nothing’s impossible for the God who made the entire universe out of nothing but his own infinite power. He made every physical law so that everything moves along just the way he planned. When he promises something will happen, our human lack of comprehension isn’t sufficient grounds to judge it as not reasonable.
Paul deals with this question:
35. But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”
People often wonder about things like that. When our bodies return to the dust, they decompose back into the molecules from which they were made. If they were eaten by animals, burned in fire, or buried in the ground for thousands of years, how can they be raised up again?
What will the body be like when raised back up from the dead? Will it take the same functional form for heaven that it had for life here on earth? Will babies who die be infants for eternity? or will Senior Citizens still look old forever?
Interesting questions, but they’re only that. The fact of the resurrection, and that it will be good for every child of God, is beyond doubt, even if all the details aren’t clear to us just yet.
In this 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians we see some things that help us understand our future a little better.
who just can’t see how it’s possible.
36. You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
37. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
He points out that a person hung up on a question like that is being “foolish”. He’s not showing good sense. Often those who pretend to be purely objective, careful, and wise aren’t being honest about the fact that they’re just assuming some basic things. They just suppose that something isn’t possible based on their limited knowledge. They reject what they don’t understand.
That’s the mentality that in the early 1900s said that humans couldn’t survive speeds above 60 miles per hour. It’s the kind of thinking that made fun of Edison and the Wright brothers. But in this case it’s even more narrow minded: It rejects the power of God to be what he is. Paul sends this arrogant person who thinks he’s so wise, to consider the simple farmer.
It says that the seed needs to die. Death in the plant world is different than death to us humans. Plants don’t have a soul that separates from their bodies in physical death. And they don’t have a moral nature that could be separated from God because of sin. When plants die, they become separated from what they were up to that moment.
When a seed grows into a plant it stops being a seed. That stage of it’s history is gone. It passes away into the next stage. But it doesn’t cease to exist. It yields a plant that comes from the substance and genetic code in the seed. It ceases being a seed to become the plant you can eat. In John 12:24 Jesus used the same analogy.
Our bodies will be changed in the resurrection just like seeds becoming plants. What we are now is only the seed stage of what we will be one day. Our bodies now deal with disease, injury, and decay. They’re fit for life on this earth. But our bodies in the resurrection will never decay or become corrupted. They will be fit for a life in a whole other realm, yet it will be a real life and place.
Some get all caught up trying to figure out things beyond the evidence they have. Our thoughts tend to be locked in with what we’ve already experienced.
I’ve heard that some people get all confused about who gets which molecules in the resurrection. It’s a fact that we each have more molecules in our bodies than when we were first born. We get most of them by eating things that come from animals or plants. Some molecules our body uses come from the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Over the course of human history, the same Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Carbon atoms we breathe and eat have been parts of various plants and animals who breathed them in and out before we were took them in. The Plants we eat grew in soil partly fertilized by formerly living things. Probably some of the atoms and molecules in people who died get re-circulated this way too.
So if a particular Carbon atom was once part of the bodies of 50 different people in the past, who gets that atom in the resurrection?
It really doesn’t matter. As for the body you have, it’s the DNA code that makes your body unique. With the information in just one of your DNA strands, your body could be identically reconstructed. We could use completely different molecules, but it would still look exactly like your unique body. The fact is, you have many more molecules in your body now than when you were first born. The glorified body you’ll have in the resurrection will be no less you, than the body you were born in, or the one you’ll have a few years from now. We don’t even know if our bodies will be made up of actual atoms and molecules in the resurrection. We will be reconstructed to live in a New Heaven and New Earth. New in ways we can’t understand.
In the end, when you’re glorified, a whole new version of you will be raised. It will be you, but now fit for glory instead of designed for life here on earth. All that you are will then be prepared to live in the house of the Lord forever.
How can something that amazing be possible?
With man it is impossible. But with God — all things are possible. As in Jeremiah 32:17, we look out at the wonders of creation and say, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”
To avoid admitting the obvious, doubters assume that God can’t work supernaturally. To explain away what the historical records show, they believe embarrassingly silly stories. Some imagine that when Jesus walked on water, he found rare ice floating on the Sea of Galilee, or the entire Egyptian army drowned in a shallow swamp just crossed by Moses and the nation of Israel, or that highly trained Roman guards just all happened to fall asleep all at the same crucial time, and yet somehow while asleep they knew that the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb.
Only a very narrow mind, dedicated to not believing the obvious, could come up with such things. But the resurrection of Jesus was one of the most witnessed events in all human history.
The power that made this whole universe out of nothing, and that raised Jesus from the dead, will one day give you your body back … and it will be better and different than it ever was before.
It will be your unique one, specially re-constituted,
38. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
39. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.
40. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.
41. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
God made his universe rich in diversity and unified by common patterns. It’s what some have come to call Intelligent Design.
When seeds go into the ground, they don’t come up again as just more seeds, they grow into a unique plant exactly like the type of seed that was planted. They use the same basic molecular code all other plants use, but each uses its own unique patterns. Estimates show that God directed the development of nearly half a million plant species. All come from the original forms he created in Eden. But all plants function and show God’s glory in similar ways.
There are different varieties of moving, fleshly living things too: along with humans, God made many kinds of land animals, fish and birds. Each one is obviously alive, yet each in it’s own way to serve it’s own place in creation.
Beyond our skies, space is filled with different kinds of things that declare the Creator’s glory. The sun lights up the day and keeps us warm from 93 million miles away. The moon reflects that light often helping us see in the dark nights.
The stars fill the skies when it’s dark and clear enough for us to see them. When Paul said that one star differs from another, he had only a faint understanding of it. Today we know that there are red giant stars, white dwarfs, yellow mid-life stars like our sun. There are spinning neutron stars, singularities, large nebulae, planetary systems, and countless galaxies like or larger than our own.
Though the stars all have a common nature, they’re each unique. All stars are governed mainly by their mass, spin, and atomic composition. Gravity presses the elements together until they light up in a nuclear fire. They burn through various stages until they finally burn out, if God gives them time for that. We know know that the spectrum of each star is like a fingerprint. There are fine lines in the spectrum that identifies each one as an individual.
Nothing in God’s universe is merely random or identical as God sees it.
42. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
43. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
44. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
While we’re all different and unique, we’re all united as a human race. We were all represented by Adam when he sinned, and inherit corrupted souls.
But those who are in Christ have another representative too. Jesus came to represent his people as the Last Adam. He kept the law they couldn’t keep. He paid the debt their sin earned which they couldn’t pay. We say he represented us federally, all he earned and paid becomes ours by God’s grace.
The physical bodies we’re born with are sown in dishonor and weakness. In the resurrection, those in Christ are raised up in glory and power in a spiritual body. We are born in our perishable and corrupted bodies, but are raised imperishable. We will never die again.
that become the seeds of the greater you.
46. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.
47. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
48. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.
49. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
50. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
The first man was Adam – made out of the dust of the Earth, the elements naturally all around us. The second man was Jesus – who came down from Heaven, God the Son who took on a mortal body.
We who descend from that man of dust bear the results of his sin. When we are redeemed we become like the man of heaven. He paid for our sin, and clothes us with his righteousness.
While we’re here struggling in this unglorified state … it’s here that God’s grace touches us. When our bodies someday complete our assigned work, our bodies will go back into the soil of the earth waiting for the great resurrection day. Then we will be raised up to be more than we can now imagine.
Our regenerated souls and the rejuvenated bodies will come together in glory. Instead of being designed for day to day struggles like those we know now, we will be fitted for life in the presence of God — forever.
And that’s beyond even the best of what what we are or can be now. In 1 John 3:2 it says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
We have this promise, not from the most reliable person alive, but from God himself. Not only will our bodies be better suited for glory, we as whole persona will be too! We will finally be through with battles against our own temptations and weaknesses. There will be no more grief that we fail to keep some promise we made to God. There will be nothing to repent of, nothing to have to deny to ourselves for the sake of our moral behavior.
Heavenly glory isn’t dressing in white gowns sitting on clouds strumming on a harp. It’s beyond our present comprehension. Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, without spot or wrinkle from our own mis-behavior, there will be greater things to enjoy and do than the best of times we’ve had on earth.
That promise should give us a better perspective and outlook about all we have to deal with here. Our work takes on a new dimension as part of the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth. Our struggles are those of seeds becoming plants, becoming something greater.
The mystery and fear about death is quieted by grasping this important fact: All believers will one day be far more than they are now.
When we see a baby or toddler, dependent, undeveloped, just learning to explore, we can’t see the adult it will become, all the accomplishments ahead for that new life. But even greater is the future we’ll all share in glory. This future isn’t just possible or probable — it’s a certainty for all the redeemed. It’s just a matter of time.
(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)