Writing in The Australian (April 23, 2024), Dr Greg Sheridan observed, ‘Politics, as they say is downstream of culture, and culture is downstream of faith. Having lost faith in any transcendental truth, the West now is in a permanent crisis of meaning, which leads to political entropy, a kind of political vertigo, forever on the edge of a nervous breakdown’.

In this Easter Season we’ve touched on the Gospel record of Jesus’ physical resurrection as well as some of the implications of this momentous event. We’ve noted that the events of the crucifixion and resurrection are inextricably tied together – through his death Jesus perfectly satisfied the just requirements of a holy God in his interface with a sinful humanity; through his resurrection he assures all who turn to him of God’s full and free forgiveness and new life in all its glory.

In First Corinthians, chapter 15, Paul lifts a corner of the curtain on what this new life means – a physical resurrection with Jesus where there will be a continuity with our present experience (15:21-38). But we will also experience a significant discontinuity between our present and future bodies, as we read in chapter 15, verses 39-57.

In verses 40b and 41 we read: There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one kind and the glory of the earthly bodies is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

All around us there’s evidence of God’s awesome ability to create a vast variety of different physical bodies. Just look up, Paul is saying, at the sky during the day and also at night. The lights of the sun, the moon and the stars are different: they all reveal a different kind of glory, reflecting the glory of their maker in various ways.

When we think about this, we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of there being more than one type of human body, having a different kind of glory or splendor from its old form. A new, resurrection body is not only possible, but there’s every reason it will have an appearance more glorious than the first.

The following verses develop the point: So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body (15:42-44).

Paul distinguishes between the physical body and spiritual body. The life we experience now is marked by perish-ability and decay. Someone once sent me a birthday card. On the front was a caricature of Benjamin Franklin with the caption: “We all age from the top downwards – first the hair, then the eyes, mouth, neck, the chins.”  On the inside were the words, “What exquisite ankles you have”.

The new resurrection body will be marked by imperish-ability and immortality. It will no longer suffer from disease, disability or death. It will be raised up in glory – in vitality and power. It will no longer be weak and powerless. It will be all the things we cry out for: healthy, vital, bodies that will live for ever. Views of reincarnation pale into a shadow compared with this robust, glorious picture of Paul’s.

Currently we have a physical body suitable for our existence on earth. However, God will provide a spiritual body appropriate for our existence in heaven.

Notice how all this will occur: If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are on the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.  And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so we shall bear the likeness of the man from heaven (15:45-49).

Paul identifies two proto-types – Adam and Christ. One is formed from the dust of the earth. The other is the life-giving spirit from heaven. We need to experience bodily transformation and acquire a spiritual body if we are to live in the new heaven and the new earth.

As frail mortals we can’t exist with Christ in heaven. We need a body appropriate for God’s promised new order – a body that has the form and shape of our present body, but one in which our perfected spirit will exist. It will be perfectly adapted to the new heaven and the new earth. Just as the disciples recognised the risen Jesus, so we will recognise each other.

A computer with its hardware and software may assist with these complex ideas. We could liken the inner self, the conscious self, to computer software, and the body to the hardware. In God’s purposes, when we turn to Christ and take hold of God’s promises, our ‘software’ – our inner self – is subject to a major re-programming: all our imperfections are removed. Our resurrected body – our new ‘hardware’ – will reflect the glory of this perfection.

Paul continues by lifting the curtain on the future scene a little more: I declare to you, brothers and sisters that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen I tell you a mystery: we cannot all die, but we will be changed— as in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and the mortal will put on immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’ (15:50-54).

This amazing chapter moves to a magnificent climax: we will be changed, as will also those who are alive when that day comes. We will no longer have bodies liable to death and decay.

Paul wants each one of us to rejoice with him in the triumph that has been won over death itself. And what a triumph: “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (15:55-57).

The success of life over death is not in our hands. The victory is God’s. He’s done it all. And we mustn’t dismiss Paul’s note about those who benefit: the victory is for those who know Christ Jesus.

Let me come back to words of Malcolm Muggeridge: ‘Confronted with the reality of death,’ he wrote, ‘we may rage or despair, induce forgetfulness, solace ourselves with fantasies that science will in due course discover how we came to be here and to what end, and how we may project our existence, individually or collectively, into some Brave New World spanning the universe in which Man reigns supreme. God’s alternative proposition is the Resurrection – a man dying who rises from the dead… I close with, ‘Done’…: Christ is risen!’

Paul wants us to know the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and to understand the continuity / discontinuity between our present and future existence. But he also wants us to understand something else. He wants us to appreciate how the resurrection impacts our life now. He writes: Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Live now in the light of the reality of the resurrection glory that is to come, he says.

In a world that has lost its awareness of transcendental truth, continue steadfast and immovable in your walk through life with Christ Jesus. Continue steadfast in prayer. Pray for wisdom to discern and take up opportunities to introduce family and friends, colleagues and people in the wider world to the Lord Jesus Christ. Continue steadfast and true in your faith in Christ and in the hope of the resurrection, knowing that no matter the cost, your work in his service will not be in vain. Others may not know what we do or they may forget, but Jesus won’t. The day will come when he will shout it from the roof-tops.

A prayer. Heavenly Father, the giver of all good things, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and grant that by your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by your grace and guidance do them; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

© John G. Mason