So, as seeds vary, as earthly bodies, the bodies of animals, the bodies of plants, the bodies of birds, fish vary, as heavenly bodies vary, why do we have a problem thinking God couldn't create resurrection bodies? Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. When someone dies, you often hear that the person is at peace, or that he's gone to a better place. Well, I think we all can understand wanting to soften the harshness of death, but you don't help people. In fact, you do great harm if you avoid talking about the eternal implications of death.
As you'll hear today, death is man's greatest enemy. The question is, are you prepared for death, and what comes after? Bring those questions to John's study today titled, The End is Not the End.
And with a lesson now, here's John. Let's open our Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and look at Paul's chapter on resurrection. The resurrection of believers is the theme of this chapter. The Bible promises a redemption of the body, not just the spirit, not just the soul, not just the inner person. Romans 8 23 says that we are waiting for the redemption of our body. In fact, the apostle Paul made it clear that the spirit of man without a body is naked. In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 he says, we desire not to be unclothed, not to be naked, but to have our body from above, a tabernacle it's called, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
God created man as body and soul, or body and spirit, and will redeem him as body and spirit. We will all dwell with God forever in the heaven of heavens in resurrection bodies. Jesus said in John 5 28, the hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth. This is a very important doctrine, the resurrection of the believer's body to go with his glorified spirit.
It is a cardinal Christian truth. But it was running into some opposition in Corinth, and that's why Paul writes this Scripture. If you look at 1 Corinthians 15 and verse 12, you get an indication there of what was going on. How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
That is what was being said. The apostle Paul writes this chapter to deal with that. This was basically what was taught by Greek philosophers. The notion of Greek philosophy was that spirit is good, matter is evil. The sooner you get rid of matter, the sooner you get rid of the body, the better off. The body just goes into the grave, it goes into decay, and the spirit then returns to its source, taught the philosophers, the religious philosophers, and it's lost in the universal deity.
It's absorbed and loses its individuality. There is no resurrection. That is what Greek philosophy taught. So Paul had to reaffirm the fact of bodily resurrection. There was plenty of confusion about that in the pagan world.
But even in the Jewish world there was confusion as well. Some rabbis had a very bizarre view of resurrection. They knew that there was a resurrection because Job said, though he slay me, yet will I trust him.
Why? Because in my flesh I will see God, though worms destroy this body. In my flesh I will see God. Daniel talked about the resurrection of the just at the end of human history. So the rabbis knew there was to be a resurrection of the body. Some of them taught that the resurrection body would be identical with the body that died, a rather strange notion. For example, the writer of what is called the Apocalypse of Baruch asks whether there will be any change when men rise, and the answer from the rabbis is, quote, the earth shall then assuredly restore the dead.
It shall make no change in form, but as it has received, so shall it restore. In other words, your body goes into the grave, and when it comes back out it's exactly the way it was when it went in. They were denying a difference in the resurrection body. And of course, that kind of silly approach to resurrection fed the Greek skeptics' notions. It was so foolish, it seemed so ridiculous, that the same body would be brought up out of the grave after decay, that it was fuel for their own denial of resurrection. Celsus had said that bodily resurrection was the hope of worms, for what soul of a man would any longer wish for the body that had already rotted?
So they mocked the idea. Paul faces both the philosophy and the bad theology of the Jews with this section on resurrection. We arrive at verse 35.
We've come all the way down to verse 35, and this is the question that will be asked. Someone will say, if there is a resurrection, how are the dead raised, and with what kind of body do they come? This then is the question about the resurrection body. Two questions that skeptics have asked. How are the dead raised?
That is to say, by what means, by what power, and with what kind of body do they come? Skeptics are seen as denying resurrection because it seems so ridiculous to them. They see death, they see decay, and they conclude there can be no resurrection. It doesn't take long for the body to decay. They were very familiar with that in the ancient world.
It seemed ridiculous. So the questions began to arise. How can a decayed, rotted body rise? And what about the body smashed to pieces in some kind of disaster? And what about bodies that have been burned to cinders in a fire? And what about bodies that have fallen into the sea and been consumed by sharks or whatever? How can they be raised?
How is that even possible? Paul himself, you remember, in Acts 26, verse 8, asked King Agrippa, why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead? Agrippa had bought into the philosophy of no resurrection. How can ashes thrown to the wind after people have been cremated? How can bones scattered over the ocean floor? How can flesh that is disintegrated into dust be brought back together again and raised from the dead? Thus the questions, how are the dead raised, and with what kind of body do they come? These are intended to be scornful, skeptical questions. But I want you to notice the immediate response of verse 36 to those who ask that question. You fool, pretty direct, literally senseless one, you senseless one. This is Paul's reply to the questioner, a severe rebuke which assumes that the objector prided himself on his intelligence, and in fact is a fool.
This is often the case, by the way, with objectors. They think they know there is a flaw in Christian doctrine. They pounce on that flaw, thinking themselves to be wise, and end up as fools in the end. He laughs at resurrection, does the skeptic. He lives as if there is no resurrection, verse 32.
You remember that. If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Live life to the max, be a hedonist, suck out of life all you can get, fulfill every lust and every desire. Your body goes to ash, it never comes back. That's a very convenient philosophy, by the way. It's a very convenient kind of religion to believe in that, and it's also very convenient to believe that when you die your spirit somehow is absorbed back into the universal deity, and you cease to exist as a person, because if all of that is true then there will be no payback for your sin. There will be no judgment.
That's the kind of philosophy that appeals to those who want to live a hedonistic life. So Paul needs to deal with that, because if we don't rise again, then we don't have any real motive for salvation from those who have died in Christ. If we don't rise again, we don't have any real motivation for a life of sanctification.
We don't have any hope of eternal accountability or eternal reward if we just sort of float along as disembodied, unidentified spirits. So Paul in his Holy Spirit-inspired brilliance and his understanding of the Scripture and the issues of eternity has no problem explaining the resurrection body. This is a fascinating Scripture to me, and I hope it will be to you. Now when it comes to the resurrection body, I can only tell you what is here. I can't tell you anything more than is in the Bible.
I'm not going to invent anything or speculate on anything, we're just going to deal with what we know the Scripture has said, and that is frankly plenty. Now Paul has four lines of argument. First of all there is an analogy. He talks about an analogy to help us understand resurrection. Then he talks about the form of resurrection. Then he talks about the contrasts, and then the prototype of a resurrection body. Let's begin with the analogy in verse 36, you fool.
You're foolish because you think you're smart, and you're a fool. Listen to what I have to say to explain resurrection. First he starts with an analogy. It is the analogy of seed, the planting of seed that produces some kind of result in what grows out of that seed. That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies, and 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.
This is a really clear, powerful, and helpful analogy or illustration. The seed is put into the ground. Any seed, every seed is put into the ground, and it dies, it dies.
It decomposes in the ground. And out of that decomposed seed comes a resurrection life, a plant rises. And that plant is a very different kind of body than the seed. In fact, you could never tell by looking at the seed what the resurrected body of the plant will look like. You couldn't tell by looking at the plant what the seed would look like either. There is dissolution, and then there is difference, but at the same time there is continuity.
One dies, and in dying gives life. It is very different than what it produces. The seed is dissolved, decomposed, then it rises again, and there is a vast difference, a vast difference. In fact, we understand that massive trees come from one tiny seed.
The difference is not only in the shape of it, but in the volume of it, in the characteristics of it. It is the same seed out of which comes the same genetic life, basically driven by the same genetic code in the cells of the seed, and yet the body that comes from the seed is utterly unlike the body of the seed itself. So it is, in our case, our bodies will be buried. This is the analogy, and as they dissolve and disintegrate into the ground, God will cause us to rise again in a different form. But the fruit remains in that it will be the same person, changed by death and resurrection, but the same life, the same person coming forth in a different form. Our Lord actually used this same analogy in referring to Himself and His own resurrection, which may be where the apostle Paul saw it.
He says of Himself, "'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,' John 12, 23." Verse 24, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.'" Jesus then sees that His own death is a kind of seed planting, a kind of dissolution, disintegration that results in a great and glorious and fruitful resurrection.
So this, the logic goes along this line. The mystery of the resurrection body is no greater than that analogy. The mystery of the resurrection body is no greater than that analogy. If you say you don't believe in the resurrection because you don't understand how one thing can die and something else can come out of it, then you might as well say, I don't believe in harvest, I don't believe in plants. It happens. It happens incessantly.
It happens countlessly, massively, repeatedly. Out of the old grain and the death of the old grain comes a new plant. It is the same life, it carries the same genetic code definition, and yet it is something very new and very unique. Our bodies will be our bodies, but they will be different. To say that you don't believe in the resurrection of the body is no different than saying you don't believe that an oak tree can come out of an acorn. But it is the same organism. The spiritual reality of our identity will be preserved by God, and we will rise to be who we are with a new form, a new body.
Now you get a sort of idea of this as you live, have you noticed? Your body now is different than it used to be pretty clearly, and it's continuing to become different, very different than the infant that came out of the mother's womb, very different. You are the same in old age as you were in infancy. You are the same being, but you are not the same body.
You are the same person with the same personalities, with the same characteristics, with the same divinely embedded elements that make you you. And you were, from your birth till your death, you as designed by God. What Paul is showing us is that far from the decomposition of the body being an obstacle to the resurrection, the decomposition of the body is simply the way new life happens throughout the creation of the world.
It's a wonderful and easily understood analogy. And by the way, God determines what that body is, verse 38. God gives it a body just as He wished. It was God that said the acorn will look like an oak tree and be an oak tree. It was God who said the seed of corn would become a stalk. It was God who said a grain of wheat will become a shaft of wheat that looks like this. It is God who says this seed will produce this flower, and another seed, another flower, and another seed, a different flower, and a different plant. And they are countless, virtually endless bodies that God designs for each seed. If you pile all the seeds on the table, they actually look quite a bit alike.
There are variations, but they tend to be small and rather coarse and without color. But they come forth in a rainbow of varieties. Every seed produces its own plant because of God's will, because of God's design. The point is this. If God gives to all the products of the earth its own form, why can't He determine the form for the resurrection of the bodies of His own people?
This is not a stretch. You cannot infer what the tree will look like from the seed. You can't infer what the flower will look like from the seed. And it is equally foolish to attempt to determine from your current body what your resurrection body is going to look like. But the good news is your resurrection body will be to this body in a relationship like a beautiful flower is to an ugly, coarse seed.
So the analogy. Why is it so hard for you to believe in the resurrection of the body when you see such illustrated in the world of plants? Secondly, Paul moves from the analogy to the form of resurrection down in verse 39.
Let me read it to you down through the first part of 42. "'All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts or animals, another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars, for a star differs from star in glory.'" Verse 42, "'So also is the resurrection of the dead.' Clearly, every seed produces its own plant, and this is completely dependent on the design of the will of God." That's what verse 38 says.
That's whatever God wills it to be, and God has willed many, many forms to come into existence. And so in verse 39, "'All flesh is not the same flesh.'" The next verse, "'There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies.
There is the glory of one and the glory of the other, and so it will be in the resurrection.'" As far as bodies are concerned, God commands the most wide-ranging possibilities. There are differences so vast they cannot be counted. This is more scientific perhaps than it seems. I remember some time back studying amino acids. There are 600 octodecillion combinations of amino acids, and amino acids see to it in those combinations that flesh differs. It is so vast it is incomprehensible that God could have a mind to create so many kinds of flesh, so many kinds of bodies. So why would we think that it was some big task for Him to create bodies for resurrected saints and even resurrected unbelievers? Verse 39, He says, "'There is one flesh of men, there's another flesh of beasts, and that varies from beast to beast, another flesh of birds, and that varies from bird to bird, another a fish, and that varies from fish to fish.'" There are almost endless combinations of amino acids that create distinct kinds of bodies. So His illustration moves from seeds to created creatures.
So as seeds vary, as earthly bodies, the bodies of animals, the bodies of plants, the bodies of birds, fish vary, as heavenly bodies vary, why do we have a problem thinking God couldn't create resurrection bodies? There is a glory, I love that word. There is a glory in verse 41 in the sun. There is a glory in the moon. There is a glory in the stars. The fundamental meaning of glory is manifestation, manifestation. The point is that heavenly bodies have their own particular way of manifesting their own identity according to the creative purpose of God. You're listening to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
He's chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, and the title of his current series is, The End is Not the End. Well, John, this series highlights one of the biggest differences between Christians and non-believers. Christians know something wonderful, something far better, is coming after death. And non-believers, well, they don't. And that being the case, what comfort can you possibly offer someone when a non-believing friend or loved one dies?
Specifically for you as a pastor, I'm wondering, what do you say and what do you not say when you're speaking at a funeral and you're not sure the deceased is in heaven? Yeah, well, you can't say it's good. You can't say they're in a good place, they're in a better place, which is what typically people say.
Yeah. You know, they're in a good place, they're in a better place. He was a good person. She was a good person.
You can't say that. You can say that that person has gone out of the presence of God forever. That that person is in a situation where they are conscious that they are out of the presence of God forever. And built into that is the consciousness of their sin and torment without relief.
But usually at a funeral, you wouldn't want to sort of rub that in, you would make reference to that. I always would do that and say, apart from Jesus Christ, people who leave this world don't die. They go in into a place where they will never know the presence of God or the blessing that comes with the presence of God. You don't want to go there, you want to enter the presence of God and here's how and give the gospel. It's a delicate situation, but the faithfulness of the preacher is that he will not declare what is not true.
So you can't whitewash the situation and say, well, you know, we hope he's in a better place. If there was no conscious faith in Christ, if there was no confession of Jesus as Lord, that this is one who rejected the gospel, then this person has gone out of the presence of the Lord forever. Saying that with truth and some level of compassion is necessary and then you turn to the people who are alive and say, what about you?
Where are you going to spend your eternity? And I think you have to, as a preacher, you have to capture the stark reality of that moment. There's no moment like that when people are there and they realize that someone has died and gone out of the presence of the Lord forever and that they're facing that same inevitable reality. You need to use that as a call for them to turn away from unbelief and come to Christ that when their hour of death comes, they might not enter into darkness, but they might enter into eternal light. So I think you move to the gospel without hiding the reality. You don't necessarily overstate it, but you declare it and then you warn the people who are there and take advantage of that opportunity. Thank you, Jon.
That's a tough subject, but that's helpful advice. And friend, if you're not sure what to say to someone facing death, a reminder about Jon's book called Only Jesus. It gives comfort to Christians and it gives unbelievers a loving and direct call to repentance. It's currently available at 25% off the normal price, so order a copy today. Call 800-55-grace or go to our website, gty.org. The book Only Jesus will show you why there is just one road to heaven, and it will equip you to tell others about that narrow path with love and yet without compromise.
During the sale, this book costs $7.50 and shipping is free. To pick up Only Jesus for yourself or for a friend, call 800-55-grace or go to gty.org. And while you're at gty.org, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources there. At the Grace To You blog, you can read practical articles on subjects like salvation, spiritual growth, spiritual gifts. The website also has daily devotionals written by Jon, and you can read each day's selection from the MacArthur Daily Bible. And don't forget, you can download all of Jon's sermons for free. Again, you can find all of those free Bible study tools at gty.org. Now for Jon MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Make sure you're here tomorrow when Jon shows you what your future with Christ will look like in the home he's preparing for you. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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