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1 Corinthians 15:44b-47 Eleven blessings

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, July 28, 2023

If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual was not first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth; dust. The second man is from heaven.

Remember that the spiritual body Paul describes is not a spirit in the way that a soul is a spirit without a body, or in the way that a created angel is a spirit without a physical body. Rather, the spiritual body or “soulish body” (as some of our Lutheran teachers used to say) is the flesh raised and rejoined with the soul, but both in their glorified state, unable to sin, to be tempted, to die, etc. The comparison Paul chooses is with Adam. Adam became a living being when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).

All of Adam and Eve’s descendants receive their flesh from them, the first man and the first woman. From them we also receive what Professor Toppe calls their earthiness: “Man’s concerns are also of this earth—material things and sensual experiences. He is occupied with the things of this world, not with the life of the spirit.” This is not only on account of sin, because Adam was set into this world before he sinned. The “things of this world” that concerned him also included naming, cataloguing, and caring for the animals and the other parts of nature (Genesis 2:19-20), which Solomon and many others have continued (1 Kings 4:33), but Adam was also concerned with worshiping God and carrying that worship to his family (Genesis 3:2-3), and his marriage to Eve (Genesis 2:23, 3:20, 4:1). These things were continued after the fall. But Paul is showing us that another kind of bodily form awaits us after the resurrection. This is the spiritual body, the body we will have that will be, in many ways, like the body of the risen Christ, who of course is the second man, the one from heaven.

The blessings or endowments of this glorified body are described in various ways. Whether these reflect larger divisions (positive, negative, duration, etc.) is not really our concern here:

First: Spirituality. This includes the Lord’s explanation that we will no longer live by the power of fleshly procreation (Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:36) and also that we will be “like the angels,” meaning that we will be confirmed in our holiness (Luke 9:26). The long debate over whether we will enjoy (rather than require) such earthly things as sleep, food, drink, laughter, and other things are not addressed by the cited passages, but see “Fifth” below and Luke 24:41.

Second: Invisibility. I question the inclusion of this as a blessing. While our dogmaticians prove this from verse 44 above, it is primarily a truth drawn from the Road to Emmaus, when Jesus disappeared from the sight of the disciples (Luke 24:31). The application is that the risen believer will be invisible to the eyes of one who is not yet glorified. But aside from Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus himself, this does not affect anyone else, because our spiritual bodies will be united with our souls on Judgment Day in the resurrection, and after that there will be no one who is not yet glorified apart from those who are damned. Therefore, unless this point is meant to explain that the invisible can make themselves visible to those who are in hell for some glorious purpose (which by definition includes the further suffering of the damned), it is by the will of God. This point does not explain anything such as the phenomenon of people on earth seeing ghosts, because it addresses spiritual, resurrected bodies, not souls that are not yet rejoined to their bodies.

Third: Impalpability, the state of being imperceptible by touching. The body of the risen believer will be incapable of suffering hurt, but will have the power to touch and be touched (for example, to be held in the arms of a loved one) according to God’s constant permission and power.

Fourth: Illocality. Like the angels in the present world, the bodies of the blessed will be like that of Jesus in his resurrected (present) state: able to be one place and then another without the necessity of physical transportation.

Fifth: Lack of density. No earthly body or structure sets a boundary that hinders the glorified body (John 20:19). Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). At the same time, the glorified body is able to interact with physical bodies by the permission and will of God, since Christ roasts and consumes and eats a broiled fish in the presence of his apostles (Luke 42:41).

Sixth: Ease of movement. In the same sense as the previous blessing, “wherever the spirit shall desire to be” (says Augustine), there the body will be at once.” The question about the detainment of the angel from seeing Daniel sooner on account of the resistance of another angel (Daniel 10:13) is not about a physical or spiritual obstruction, but doubtless was one of power and authority over sinful human beings who needed help.

Seventh: Freedom from suffering. This is directly addressed in several places, but see especially Revelation 7:16, which is about suffering: “Never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst.” See also Revelation 21:4 (no more mourning, crying, or pain).

Eighth: Immortality and incorruptibility. This is not man’s essence, but a gracious blessing given to him. “No more death” (Revelation 21:4), and this is also shown by the removal of sin and its consequences, for death is the wages of sin, and where sin is removed, death is removed.

Ninth: Strength and soundness. We have already touched on this (1 Corinthians 15:43).

Tenth: Splendor. This is reflected in nature. Risen man does not have his own splendor but reflects the divine glory that entirely surrounds the blessed. “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).

Eleventh: Beauty. This is the absence of every deformity and flaw. “Clothe yourself with splendor and majesty” (Psalm 45:3); “a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).

Such joys, such thrills, such a new and different way of living heaven will be! When we meditate on such things, may we be drawn at the same time to repentance for all of the sinfulness that corrupts us and condemns us. We want everything the Lord our God offers to us, everything he has had in store for us since the creation began. “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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