This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Last night, we continued our summer Q&A series “You Asked For It” by answering a few questions about our existence in eternity. Will we have bodies in the afterlife, or simply be disembodied spirits? Are heaven and hell physical realities, or spiritual symbolism? Admittedly, there aren’t as many answers to these questions as we would like. The Scriptures give us only brief glimpses into eternity, certainly not enough to satisfy our rampant curiosity. However, we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 for a description of the coming resurrection, some hints about what that existence will be like, and why all of it matters here and now.
In verses 35-41, Paul describes that though our resurrected bodies will be in some ways like our existence now, they will also be quite different. He uses the metaphor of seeds being planted and growing into plants. Though all the building blocks needed to grow the plant are present in the seed, the adult plant is much different than the seed – a much fuller and more vibrant organism. Paul also uses the light of the sun, moon, and stars as an illustration – all give off radiant glory, but in very different ways. Our eternal existence will be a physical existence like we enjoy now, but it will also be vastly different. Perhaps the best example we can look to is the one human being to walk the earth with a glorified body – Jesus Christ. After his resurrection, Christ still possessed physical form (which he deliberately demonstrated to his disciples), though he was also able to do things unlike any other human, like enter a locked room. At times, the disciples didn’t recognize him, and at times they recognized him instantly. His form was certainly physical, but it was also unlike anything this world has seen.
The text elaborates on this idea in verses 42-49, discussion how our existence will be the same, but better. While our earthly existence is marred by weakness and dishonor because of our sin, our glorified existence will be stripped of these hindrances, allowing us to enjoy perfect fellowship with God and with each other. Perhaps the most stunning and comforting thought comes at the end of the paragraph, when we are told that just as we bear the image of our forefather Adam, with all it’s frailties and imperfections, so we will bear the image of the “second Adam,” Christ. We will be raised and glorified with the Son of God, not because of any goodness in us, but because of his free grace showered upon us through the blood of Christ. What an encouragement it is to know that we will one day shed this mortal shell and experience life as we were created to experience it!
Verses 50-57 tell us that this grand experience will not be a temporal one, as our resurrected experience will be the same, but immortal. Paul, acknowledging himself the inherent mystery (there’s a strange comfort in knowing that even Paul didn’t have all this worked out in his head), says that in an instant at the final hour we shall all be changed, an immortal body standing where mortal flesh once stood. Death will be crushed, and we will be able to look forward to an eternity basking in the glory of God. Even those who are without Christ will be raised imperishable, but the resurrection they experience will not be cause for celebration, but the horror of judgment at the hands of a holy God. Yet for us who have been covered by Christ’s righteousness, we will realize the joyful triumph prophesied of in Hosea 13:14.
This brings us to the final question, why does any of this matter? We live in a world where doctrine is seen as unimportant, unable to meaningfully affect our lives here and now. However, Paul certainly doesn’t seem to think so in verse 58. He encourages us to be steadfast and immovable in our service to Christ because of the knowledge that our work will not be in vain. We are called to an unbreakable hope that we look to with eager expectation – and I know I don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about it. God encourages us to fix our eyes on the prize, to know that our efforts in this life will produce an eternity of joy. Earlier in the chapter, Paul concedes that if our hope in Christ is confined to this life only, then we are a sorry lot. We must be upward-focused Christians if we are to weather the trials life can and will bring. So, how much time have you spend thinking about the hope to which you’ve been called? This week, I pray that you’ll see that hope as reason to press on through whatever life has currently brought your way – and though I may never have met you, I look forward to the day when we’ll rejoice together around the throne of our perfect Father.