But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. (15:35-38)
Having covered the issue of whether or not there is a resurrection, Paul now moves on to a related resurrection issue; will we be resurrected just as we are, or will we be different? In these verses, Paul is making the point that there are many different kinds of bodies, which although obvious, isn’t really something we usually think about. He begins his discussion with a metaphor, this time of a seed. You plant a seed and God causes the seed to grow into whichever kind of plant the seed came from; each type is different. Yet, you don’t plant the plant, you plant its seed.
When we die, our mortal remains are like the seed of a plant; what comes forth from the grave is like the plant itself. It came from what was “planted” but is much grander than the seed it came from.
In 15:39-41 he mentions that there are different kinds of bodies. There are human bodies, animal bodies, fish and birds; they are all different. There are also earthly bodies and heavenly bodies, each of which has its own kind of “splendor”, just as the sun and the moon each has its own kind of splendor.
Paul is ready to zero in on his point…
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised 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. (12:42-44a)
When we are raised from the dead, we will be different, and just as a plant is more grand than its seed, so our resurrection bodies will be grander than our earthly bodies− that much is easy enough to understand, but what exactly is a “spiritual body”?
Hold on… isn’t “spiritual body” an oxymoron?
That’s a fair question. To find an answer to the question, we do have an example to examine, and as usual, our example is found in Christ Himself. Jesus has already been raised up from the dead; He is the firstfruit of the Resurrection.
Did He rise from the grave imperishable? Yes.
Did He rise from the grave in glory? Yes.
Did He rise from the grave in power? Yes.
Did He rise from the grave in a spiritual body? We could put this a different way, couldn’t we? We could say “Therefore, He rose from the grave in a spiritual body” instead, but I haven’t put it that way because there is additional evidence to consider.
We know that Jesus had a physical body after the resurrection because good old “doubting Thomas” wanted to touch it before he was convinced that Jesus actually rose from the grave, and that is exactly what he did. We also know that Jesus had a physical body because up there in Galilee He not only cooked fish, but he ate them; you need a physical body for both of those activities, don’t you? So, let’s think about the resurrection story some more…
When the women first went to the tomb early in the morning, they saw the stone rolled away, but they didn’t see Jesus… and then He was there. The followers of Jesus were together in a locked room… and then Jesus was there. Two disciples were walking along the road alone, and then Jesus was there. The disciples were talking with Jesus, and suddenly He began to rise up into heaven.
Physical bodies as we understand them cannot do any of these things, can they? Jesus arose from the dead in bodily form, but He had a different kind of a body, just as Paul has been saying in this passage. Yes, it was a spiritual body, and I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to that particular upgrade!