Resurrection - Physical?|
Q. If we have real physical or tangible bodies in Heaven, why does the Apostle Paul call them "spiritual bodies" in 1 Corinthians chapter 15? I thought we would be more like ghosts than anything else.
That is a good question. Many of us think our resurrection bodies must be other worldly.
In fact, most Christians think that a "spiritual" body is the opposite of a "physical" body. But, this is an error which has its roots in Gnosticism, Platonism, and Dualism, all of which held to anti-physical philosophies in early church times.
In essence, they believed that the spirit world is good while the physical world is bad. These errors have taken root in the teachings of churches and theologians everywhere. Professor Randy Alcorn calls this problem "Christoplatonism." It is time we corrected this error within our teachings.
"Ain't No Ghosts"
1. Christians will not become "ghosts" after death. Rather, our bodies and minds will be improved. As Dr. Missler points out, "we are due for an upgrade." In computer talk, we will receive a hardware and software upgrade of our bodies and minds. This will improve our bodies. It won't make us spooky spirits and ghosts.
Real Bones, Real Flesh
Jesus was careful to show that His resurrected body was "real" and physical. He explained,
"See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Touch Me and see, for a SPIRIT does not have FLESH AND BONES as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39, NASB).
In Acts 1:9-12, we read, "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (ESV).
In other words, He went up into the clouds in a tangible body, and He will return in a physical body.
Spiritual Body still a Tangible Body
2. Second, Paul carefully explains the spiritual body in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. He says,
"It is sown a natural body. It is raised a spiritual body" (15:44). Note that Paul could have said "it is raised a SPIRIT." But, he doesn't say that. He says, "it is raised a spiritual BODY."
Paul describes a resurrection body that will have supernatural abilities. These supernatural bodies are not "ghosts" or "ghostly." Rather, they are bodies which have metaphysical, supernatural, super-human abilities.
"Frontal Lobe Burn"
3. Let's burn this on the frontal lobes of our brain:
If we didn't have "bodies," we wouldn't need to be PHYSICALLY resurrected! If we didn't have bodies, we would be "spirits," not resurrected bodies. Does that make sense?
4. Fourth, the word that Paul uses for SPIRITUAL bodies is the same word, "pneumatikos," used in Galations 6:1, "you who are SPIRITUAL should restore him in a spirit of gentleness."
It is also the same Greek word used in Romans 1:11: "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some SPIRITUAL gift to strengthen you."
In these scriptural passages, the word "spiritual" describes a person or his gift. It implies that they are "Holy" or "sanctified." In 1 Corinthians 15, the word "spiritual" is used to speak of the high quality of the resurrected body as compared with our present sickly, dying bodies.
Here is where the New Living Translation offers some clarification. In 1 Corinthians 15:49 it says, "Just as we are like Adam, the man of the earth, so we will someday be like Christ, the man from heaven."
5. Fifth, on earth we are terrestrial creatures made from the same 17 elements which make up dust, according to scientists. Remember the Genesis verse that says, "for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:19, ESV).
In the book of Revelation, we are often called "earth dwellers." Earth dwellers are, …well, "earthy!" They are subject to sin, decay, and death.
But, in our resurrection bodies we will have bodies suitable to outer space, suitable to the heavens. These upgraded resurrection bodies will not be subject to sin, decay, or death. They will be indestructible.
Remember that the new "heavens and earth" promised to us in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21 is as real as the "heavens and earth" that God created in Genesis one. We will be heaven dwellers.
Now that is exciting!
"But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13, ESV).
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…" (Revelation 21:1, ESV).
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
Hitchcock, Mark. 2005. 55 Answers to questions about life after death. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Missler, Chuck and Mark Eastman. 1997. Chapter: The ultimate hyper dimensional. From:Alien encounters. Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.
Authors Ken Emilio holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. Valorie received her MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins.