When the apostle wrote his letter to the Corinthians, the longest chapter is given to the subject of resurrection. There were some who said, “There is no resurrection of the dead.” In response to this the Apostle first gives the evidence of resurrection; he begins with the Scriptural evidence and then records some of the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Next in a sevenfold way he teaches the importance of resurrection. A reading of 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 leaves no doubt as to the importance of the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The following section of the chapter takes up the order of resurrection and here a beautiful New Testament truth is further outlined. There would be, as Job knew, a future resurrection, but that resurrection is seen in three aspects; the resurrection of Christ is first, an event that happened nearly 2000 years ago. “They that are Christ’s at His coming” is the second great movement in resurrection. “Then cometh the end” is the third and final aspect.
These last two aspects of resurrection are different in a number of ways:
a) As to the time, the first is prior to the millennial kingdom and the other is after.
b) As to the terms, the first is properly a resurrection “from the dead,” meaning “out from“; the other is actually the resurrection of the dead.
c) As to the persons, “they that are Christ’s“ refers to the resurrection of those who belong to Him, whereas “the end“ is the final resurrection of Revelation 20, just prior to the New Heaven and the New Earth where all the rest of Adam’s race will stand in the final judgment.
d) As to the type, we are given beautiful teaching as to the resurrected body of the believer; we are told nothing of the resurrected body of the unbeliever. Is it possible that unbelievers will be brought back just as they left this world, marred and disfigured by sin? The believer on the other hand will have a new and a glorified body.
The Lord Jesus spoke of a “resurrection of life” and a “resurrection of damnation,” in John 5:29. The apostle Paul spoke of the “resurrection of the just and of the unjust” (Acts 24:21). The apostle John (Rev 20) writes of a “first resurrection,” but also for others of a “second death.” The “first resurrection” is the “resurrection of the just” unto “life” to be in glory with Christ. At the end of the millennium there will be “the resurrection of the unjust” unto “damnation” to face the “second death” in the lake of fire.
What can we learn as to the resurrection body of the believer? The apostle John, who had seen and touched the Lord Jesus after His resurrection, tells us this, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2). Paul writing to the Corinthians says, “The dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.” In the context the dead are believers who have already departed, the we being believers alive at the Lord’s coming. The word changed is to “exchange one thing for another.” The natural body will be exchanged for the spiritual body, the corruptible body will be changed for the incorruptible body, the mortal body will be changed for the immortal body. To the Philippians, Paul writes about our Savior, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil 3:21). The word change here is more the thought of transformation than exchange; fashioned is “conformed to.” What a transformation it will be: from a body fitted for earth to a body fitted for heaven; from a body marked by decay to a body which will never decay; from a body where sin dwells within to a sinless glorified body like that of our Lord! This will take place in a moment of time, “in the twinkling of an eye.” All believers will be caught away to be forever with the Lord.
In 2 Corinthians 5, the longing of the apostle Paul was not that death should come – he was ready for that. Death would put his body in the ground to be dissolved and he, leaving his body, would go to be with the Lord. His longing was not for that, but for the coming of the Lord when he would be “clothed upon,” that is to be given a new body instead of his present earthly tabernacle.
In that new body there will still be distinctiveness of persons, there will be recognition of individuals; it is the nature of the body that will be different. On this earth each individual is unique, but we are all made of the same kind of biological material. We are not told the composition of the new body; it’s likely more than our minds can conceive. By way of illustration Paul writes of the distinctions that God has put in creation, distinctions on land, in the sea, and in the sky. We all accept that a seed in the ground will decay, but from it comes a beautiful plant. Who of us can understand the process? The new plant is related to the seed that died, yet is entirely different. The same God Who created this natural world with all of its beauties will give to His redeemed a spiritual body, a body in which there will be no disease, no decay, and no death. That body is suited for heaven where believers will not be bodiless spirits, but will be “clothed upon” with a “spiritual body.“