1 Corinthians 15:35-44 – Resurrection Bodies

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 20 Dec  2009


35. But someone is going to say,

            “How are the dead raised,

            and in what kind of body are they coming?”

36. You mindless one, what you sow is not brought to life unless it has died.

            37. And what do you sow?

            It is not the future body that you sow,

                        but rather a bare kernel – maybe of wheat or of some of the rest –

            38. but God gives to it a body just as He willed,

                        and to each of the seeds its own body.

                        39. Not all flesh is the same flesh, but rather

                                    there is one of humans, and another flesh of cattle,

                                    yet another flesh of birds, and another of fish.

                        40. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies,

                                    but the glory of the heavenly ones is different,

                                    and that of the earthly ones is different.

                                    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.

42. The resurrection of the dead is also like this:

            sown in perishableness, raised in imperishableness;

            43. sown in dishonor, raised in glory;

            sown in weakness, raised in power;

            44. sown a soulish body, raised a spiritual body.

If there is a soulish body, there is also a spiritual one.


1.      He begins by using a series of analogies to things in the created order to illustrate that a bodily resurrection is consistent with common things we accept without question. There is a precedent for God giving one type of body to something that dies and a different body to the same thing when it comes back to life. (Ratliffe)

2.      Then he discusses what some of the differences are between our pre- and post-resurrected bodies.

3.      And he concludes this section with the theological principle of federal headship which assures us that just as surely as we all inherited mortality from Adam, so we who are in Christ will be glorified with Christ in the resurrection.


So with that context, let’s look at v. 36, where Paul answers the question, “How are the dead raised?”

Q1) “How are the dead raised?” A) By God through death.

A) He uses the analogy of planting seeds to show that part of the answer to how the resurrection works is that you have to die first.

B) The other point to how the resurrection works is that it is God who makes it work:


So to answer the first question posed in v.35, “How are the dead raised?”
we have the answer that they are raised by God through death.

The second question gets a little more detail, “What kind of body is the resurrection body?”

Q2) “In what kind of body are they coming?” A) A Spiritual one

I see five parts to the answer Paul gives in verses 37-49

A)    What kind of body? It is a different body from your current one (vs. 36-37)

1)      Paul continues the analogy from the plant world to show that there is a difference between our current bodies and the bodies we will have in the resurrection.

2)      v.37 When you plant a garden or a field, what do you plant? If you want a walnut grove, do you go buy a bunch of full-grown walnut trees and plant them in the yard in order to harvest the nuts off of them? No! You get a bunch of walnuts and you plant them and you wait a decade or two until you have your grove of walnuts.

3)      My family loves fried okra, but they don’t sell full-grown okra plants at Westside Market – not even at Walmart! What we buy and plant are okra seeds.

a.       Do the seeds look anything like the plant that grows out of them?

b.      The seed is small and spherical and smooth and brown,

c.       but the plant is big and is not spherical, it’s spiny, not smooth, and is green instead of brown.

d.      There is a huge difference between the seed and the plant that comes from that seed.

4)      Jesus spoke of this in Luke 13:19 “It is like a kernel of mustard seed, which a man took and cast into his own garden. And it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the heaven lodged in its branches.”

5)      Paul goes on in the following verses to mention the differences between the different bodies of creation: the animals, birds, fish, sun, moon, stars, and reasons that if there are so many different kinds of bodies in the world today, it is not unreasonable to suppose that our resurrection body will be different from our present body.

B)    What kind of body? It is a different body and It is a body determined by God (v.38)

1)      v.38 tells us that:

a.       God is the one who gives to each a body,

b.      God gives bodies according to the exercise of His own will – His choice, His determination, as He pleases.

c.       and God gives to each their own special type of body that is consistent with its kind.

2)      Gen 1:11ff God said, “Let the earth sprout… after their kind…” It was God’s will for things to sprout after their kind, so He commanded it to be that way in creation.

3)      God who created your body knows what is the best vehicle for your soul, and He has wisely given that to you. We may complain about what we don’t like about our bodies, but our bodies were custom-made by God for us.

4)      We already saw earlier in 1 Cor 6:13 “The body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” and how our bodies were designed by God to relate to Him and for Him to relate to us in this time and space. We have eyes and ears so that we can see and hear His word, we have minds to think His thoughts after Him, mouths to speak His words to others, bodies to accomplish His will through actions, etc. We were made by God and for God.

C)    What kind of body? It is a different body and It is a body determined by God , and it is a unique body that continues your personal identity (vs. 38-40)

1)      If, as they say, every cell in your body dies within three years and gets replaced, then you are not the same set of molecules that you were three years ago. Does that mean you are not the same person? No! It should not be too much of a stretch then to consider that you will have a different body in the resurrection and yet still be yourself!

2)      There is differentiation in the present created order with separate identities for each body. The same will be true in the resurrection: there will be continuity of the same persons, along with their different personalities. We will not all melt into a single impersonal force as the Eastern religions teach.

3)      Verses 39-41 list different kinds of bodies in the universe:

a.       four types of “flesh” or animal organisms in v. 39 which are probably the same thing as the “terrestrial/earthly bodies” of v.40

(i)     flesh of humans

(ii)   flesh of beasts/animals (Lexicographers are not agreed on the specific meaning of this word:)

·         Thayer said it had to do with beasts of burden that carry things

·         JFB – four-legged animals

·         ATR – the kinds of animals you own as property

·         Strong – domesticated animals

·         Anyway, that’s why I translated it “cattle

(iii) then flesh of birds

(iv) and of fish

·         In the beginning, God created the various kinds (baramins) of creatures: Gen 1:20 “God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.’ 21) And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind: and God saw that it was good…”

·         These same “kinds” were to be preserved by Noah on the ark when God said in Gen 8:17, “Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh, both birds, and cattle, and every creeping thing that crawls upon the earth...”

b.      Three classifications of celestial/heavenly bodies are mentioned in v.41, namely:

(i)     The sun

(ii)   The Moon

(iii) The stars

·         there are even different sub-classifications of stars, “for star differs from star in glory.”

·         The Greek word for “differs” used here in v.41 is diapherei, which is more literally translated “carries through,”

·          This reminds me of a website by Alan Taylor at Boston.com called the Hubble Space Telescope Advent calendar. Take a look and marvel at the stars God created:

Why do we find these photos of the stars so awesome? They were created with a glory that God gave to them because God Himself is glorious. This world is filled with wonders because God Himself is wonderful. Without a glorious God behind the creation of the bodies we see today there would be nothing worth staring at, there would be no marvels.

D)    What kind of body? It is a different body, a body determined by God, a unique body that continues your personal identity, and it will be a glorious/splendid body (vs. 40-44)

1)      Mt. 6:28-29 – the lilies of the field were clothed by God with glory

2)      But the glories we see in the natural world are fading:

a.       1Pet. 1:24 “For, All flesh is like grass, and all their glory is like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of our Lord endures forever!

b.      Even the Hubble Advent Calendar had photos of stars that have burned themselves out and have no more light to give.

3)      Four differences between the glories of the resurrection body and the brokenness of our current body are listed in verses 42-44.

a.              v.42b “sown in corruption/rottenness/mortality/decay/perishableness, raised in imperishableness”

(i)     In college, I had a friend named Tim who lived on my dorm floor. His parents were missionaries in Korea, so he had grown up there and had developed a liking for kimchi. When he came to America for college, his Mom had sent him some canned kimchi to eat for snacks to survive life in America. Well, another friend, Mark, who lived on the same floor, didn’t like the smell of the kimchi when Tim ate it in his dorm room, so, if I remember the story correctly, Mark opened a can of Tim’s kimchi and set it way underneath the bed in Tim’s room. Over time, the kimchi spoiled and the odor became so bad that Tim couldn’t stand it any longer, so he cleaned his room and found the decaying mass of spiced cabbage under his bed.

(ii)   Anyway, just like that kimchi, our bodies break down and decay and even start to stink.

·         We lose motion in our joints,

·         we loose hearing and eyesight,

·         we lose memory and energy,

·         and our bodies just shut down and die at some point.

·         Then all the bacteria around out bodies devour our flesh until it decays away into dirt.

(iii) But our resurrection bodies will not be like that: they will last forever; they will not lose their range of motion and sensitivity and memory.

·         In the presence of Christ, that will be a marvelous life.

·         Apart from Christ in the lake of fire, that imperishable body will be an eternal curse.

(iv)       As Paul wrote a few verses later in v.53 “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

(v)         2 Cor. 5:4 “For indeed we that are in this earthly tent are groaning, being burdened; because we don’t want to be unclothed, but rather clothed, that what is mortal may be swallowed up in life.”

(vi)       Rev. 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; and there will be no mourning, or crying, or pain, any more: the first things will have passed away.”

(vii)     Isa. 33:24 “And a resident will never say, ‘I am sick.’ The people dwelling in her will be released from iniquity.”

(viii)   But as it says in v.50 – “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven,” so it will take a reconstitution of our body to be able to get there; it will have to be “raised imperishable.”

b.      v.43a “sown in dishonor, raised in glory”

(i)     There’s not a lot of dignity in a naked, screaming newborn baby;

(ii)   There’s not a lot of dignity in a old, dead corpse either.

(iii) But our resurrected bodies will be glorious, causing the same breathtaking awe that we saw in those star photographs:

(i)     Quoting the prophecy of Daniel 12:3, Jesus said in Mat. 13:43 “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun [or like stars] in the kingdom of their Father.”

(ii)   Believe it; you will have that kind of glory!

(iii) Phil. 3:20-21 “Our citizenship is in heaven; out of which also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory, according to the working in which He is also able to subject all things unto Himself.”

(iv) Col. 3:4 “When Christ, who is our life, shall be brought to light, then you also will be brought to light with Him in glory.” (See also Mat 19:28, Luk 20:35-36)

Our resurrected bodies will be different in that they won’t decay, and they will be more glorious. Thy will also be…

c.       v.43b “sown in weakness, raised in power”

(i)     In the resurrected state, our bodies will be perfectly suited to experience and utilize the power of God (Ratliffe).

(ii)         2 Cor. 13:4 “for He [Jesus] was crucified through weakness, yet He lives through the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we will live with Him through the power of God...”

(iii)       Do you struggle with your own weakness?

·         Not being as smart as others?

·         Not being as beautiful as others?

·         Not being as good at sports as others?

·         Not being able to recover from pulling all-nighters or from doing strenuous exercise as you once were?

·         Not being able to withstand temptations to do what you know are wrong?

(iv)       That will end one day at the resurrection. Then you will no longer have to operate with handicaps or limitations, and you will also have the power to do what you know is right. Glory!

d.      Finally: v.44. “sown a natural/soulish body, raised a spiritual body”

(i)           The translation of this word “natural” is difficult because of the limitations of going from one language to another:

·         This adjective is only found in a few other places in the Bible outside of this passage:

1.      1Cor. 2:14 “a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are stupidity to him. He is not even able to know because it has to be figured out spiritually.”

2.      James 3:15 which contrasts natural/soulish wisdom to the wisdom that comes from above,

3.      and Jude 1:19 which contrasts natural/soulish/sensual men with those who have the Holy Spirit.

·         The Greek word is psuchikon, which is derived from the noun psuche, which is generally translated “soul/self/psyche.” I have translated it “a soulish body” in order to preserve the connection in the Greek words between vs. 44 and 45, where it says Adam became a living psuche/soul, corresponding with the soulish body which we were given as a descendent of Adam.

·         Gordon Clark wrote that this indicates a body that is “deteriorating from sin.”

·         Robertson & Plumer used the word “material” in their Greek lexicon, and

·         Arndt & Gingrich used the word “physical” in their lexicon.

·         John Calvin wrote that the word meant “animal” or “animated” (as opposed to inspired), “vital motion… governed and quickened by the soul rather than by the spirit,” although he was quick to point out that the psuche of humans is different from that of beasts because, unlike beasts, humans have immortality and reason.

(ii)         Just as the word “natural” requires some explanation, so also the word “spiritual” requires some explanation:

·         Spiritual does not necessarily mean immaterial or ghost-like, for Jesus was able to be seen and touched in His resurrected body, and was also able to eat food (Luke 24:39, John 20:26-27).

·         Rather it means “wholly molded by the spirit” (JFB), “looking Godward and characterized as related to God” (Vincent), under the control of the Holy Spirit and designed to be in fellowship with God.

(iii)       1Pet. 3:18 “Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit”

(iv) “The natural body is designed for the human soul to live on planet earth – it is an earth-suit designed for time and space. The spiritual body will be adapted to the eternal state, designed for heaven and life with God outside of time and space.” (J. Arnold)

e.       This spiritual body in which we will be raised may be described in Isaiah 40:31: “Those who wait upon Jehovah will exchange strength; they will take wing like the eagles; they will run and not tire; they will walk and not grow faint.”

(i)           Is anybody tired, exhausted? There is a resurrection body waiting for you that will never tire out; it will be able to climb mountains without having to stop and rest.

(ii)         What’s more, you might even be able to fly. There are certainly analogies galore of earth-crawling insects in the present world that metamorphasize into flying insects like dragonflies and butterflies.


What a glorious future to look forward to!

o       Death being just a window into a new life given to you by God,

o       A life with a new body that is different, made by God, unique and personal, glorious, and united to Christ,

o       A life that is imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritually-oriented.

All this is made possible by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus to those who will repent of using their bodies for their own glory and will place their hope in Him and live for His glory.


It is quite a paradox that for us to receive this glorified resurrection body, Jesus had to be transformed from His glorified body by emptying Himself of His divine glory and taking on a perishable, dishonorable, weak, natural body at Christmas.


I love the way the 17th Century poet Robert Southwell, put it:

This little Babe so few days old is come to rifle Satan's fold;

All hell doth at his presence quake though he himself for cold do shake;

For in this weak unarmed wise the gates of hell he will surprise…


His martial ensigns Cold and Need and feeble Flesh his warrior's steed.

His camp is pitched in a stall, his bulwark but a broken wall;

The crib his trench, haystacks his stakes; of shepherds he his muster makes;


My soul, with Christ join thou in fight, stick to the tents that he hath pight.

Within his crib is surest ward, this little Babe will be thy guard.

If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy