With What Body Do They Come?
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep,” I Thessalonians 4:14.
“with what body do they come?” I Corinthians 15:35b
This last is one of two questions someone raises in I Cor. 15, after Paul showed how logical it is to believe that there is resurrection. He begins the chapter with what might be called “The Apostle Paul’s Creed,” a short summary of the Gospel. Note that he doesn’t say anything there about the ascension or the second coming of Christ except in this question. In many other places he does speak of the “parousia,” the presence, often referred to as “the second coming.” The part of that Gospel he concentrates on in the rest of chapter 15 is: “He was raise on the third day according to the Scriptures.” However some in Corinth were saying, “There is no resurrection.”
Luke was a Greek physician, much interested in the body. He was also an historian who did careful research for his writing. He was a longtime companion of Paul and recorded in Acts many times that Paul spoke of the resurrection. In Acts 23:8 he identifies “the Sadducees who say there is no resurrection.” In this connection, both Paul and Luke consistently use the present tense – “there IS no resurrection.” Most evangelicals say this, but still believe that there WILL BE resurrection in the future, just that it is not on-going now. In Luke’s inspired Gospel account of Christ’s encounter with the Sadducees, Jesus uses 14 Greek ongoing present tenses and two aorist tenses but no futures. The whole discussion is about the present tense, because the words, “I am the God of Abraham,” require that.
And Jesus, in dealing with the Sadducees, also said it was according to the Scriptures: “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures.” But Jesus cites only that one Scriptural reference, “I AM the God of Abraham,” and says that that is enough proof “that the dead are being raised,” (Mark also uses the present tense, “that the dead are rising”). It is after Paul presents his argument for that in I Cor. 15 that he raises the two present tense questions: “How are the dead being raised? With what body do they come?” And he goes on to talk about our resurrection, not Christ’s.
The second question adds a detail about the dead that hasn’t been raised before: “COMING WITH BODIES” which puts the bodies somewhere else before the coming. He uses the present tense, but even had he used the future tense, “With what bodies WILL they come,” he would still be envisioning them with bodies before they arrive. If he had also used the future tense in the first question, “How WILL the dead be raised?”, then they might get new bodies after they arrive, But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was thinking about the coming in the present, now.
Many years before this letter to the Corinthians, when Paul was in Corinth, he wrote to the Thessalonians, (4:14) “even so, through Jesus, God bring WITH Him this who have fallen asleep” And then in verse 16 he adds, “and the dead in Christ (those “asleep in Jesus” ones coming with Him] will RISE first,” before coming. Only those who are still alive at that time will be “caught up to meet Him” after being changed. Those asleep in Him don’t meet Him, because they are already with Him because they are IN Him when He comes. “Through Jesus” God brings them. They have long before seen Him as He is in His glorified body and are like Him as He is, I John 3:2
And now in this letter to the Corinthians, the question is “With what BODIES do they come?” Even to ask the question “With what” implies that there are two or more KINDS of bodies to consider. Paul’s immediate assessment (verse 37): “Fool, the body that you plant is NOT the one that will be”!!!! He can’t be any plainer than that. There are two bodies. They are described in verse 44. One follows the other. One is made of dust, earthly; the other “is from heaven.” Paul confirms that “from heaven” in II Cor. 5:1, where he says, “For we know that if our earthly tent were dissolved, we have (present tense) a building of God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.” The earthly tent, “flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” Not one thread of the tabernacle became part of the temple. Nothing corrupt will enter heaven.
But in these corrupt, earthly tents we are groaning, not because we desire to be naked, but because we desire to be clothed with our incorruptible house from heaven. Jesus already told us that the house is being prepared there, John 14. Even the rest of creation has been groaning until now waiting eagerly “for the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved,” Rom. 8:23. Our hope, our confident expectation, is “the resurrection of the body,” not just some ghostly existence for thousands of earthly years.
So in Paul’s mind inspired by the Holy Spirit, those coming with Jesus are coming from somewhere else, and with bodies. The only question remaining is “With which bodies are they coming?” Clearly, it is with houses made by God Himself in heaven, not the earthly flesh and blood tents we have now. The Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection in the present tense, but maybe postpone it for 2000 years, “don’t know the Scriptures.”
if it is true that those who have fallen asleep in Jesus (they were already in Him before they died) will be coming back WITH Him and through Him, when He returns,
if it is true that when they come they are coming WITH bodies that have already been made by God in heaven (already for a long time “robed in white apparel . In their HANDS they’re holding palms of victory”)
the words at the bush to Moses. “I AM the God of Abraham” right now, are “concerning the resurrection of the dead,” (Matt. 22:31) and prove that the Greek on-going action in the present tense, “that the dead are continually being raised at present,” is the way the Holy Spirit intentionally inspired four writers to say it. According to John 5, Jesus there also uses the present tense, “As my Father IS raising the dead and making them alive….” And Paul says even of Abraham, “before him whom he believed, even God who is making alive (present tense) the dead,” Rom.4:17. Paul even thought that King Agrippa would not judge it incredible “that God is raising the dead“ (present tense, Acts 26:8)
A future tense such as, “the dead WILL BE raised 4000 years in the future,” would leave Abraham still dead, in which case God would be the God of a dead, unresurrected, person – which Jesus said can’t be true. Even the Law said, “The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with you all night until the morning,” Lev. 19:13
OR, the only alternative:
None of the dead have seen Jesus yet, and won’t see Him till He comes back at the end of time, and only then will they be like Him after seeing Him as He is, in a glorified body.