John Piper comments on 1 Corinthians 15:29-58, our “Read-through-the Bible” passage for Easter Sunday 2011.
Now look at today’s text for one of the greatest descriptions of that event.
“Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit the Kingdom of God”
Verse 50: “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” What does that mean? Is it a wholesale denial of the bodily resurrection? No. “Flesh and blood” simply means “human nature as we know it”—mortal, perishable, sin-stained, decaying. Something so fragile and temporary as the body we now have will not be the stuff of the eternal, durable, unshakable, indestructible kingdom of God. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be bodies.
It means that our bodies will be greater. They will be our bodies, but they will be different and more wonderful. Verse 52: “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” When he says “the dead will be raised” he means we—the dead—will be raised. If God meant to start all over with no continuity between the body I have now and the one I will have, why would Paul say, “The dead will be raised”? Why would he not say, “The dead will not be raised” since they are decomposed and their molecules are scattered into plants and animals for a thousand miles and so God will start from scratch since there are no bodies to raise, and he will make totally new bodies that have no connection with the old ones? He did not say that, because it is not true.
The Dead Will Be Raised and They Will Be Changed
He said two things; the dead will be raised (that teaches continuity); and he said they will be changed—they will be made imperishable and immortal. The old body will become a new body. But it will be your body. God is able to do what we cannot imagine. The resurrection is not described in terms of a totally new creation but in terms of a change of the old creation. “We shall all be changed” (v. 51b).
Look back now at verses 37–38. Paul compares the resurrection to what happens to a seed when it goes into the ground. “That which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as he wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.” The point is that there is connection and continuity between the simple seed and the beautiful plant. When you plant a wheat seed, you don’t get a barley plant. But on the other hand there is difference. A plant is more beautiful than a seed.
Verses 42–44 apply the analogy to the resurrection body: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 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.”