“How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?”
The questions raised in this verse are those Paul anticipates someone will bring up to cast doubt on the reality that such a resurrection could take place. We need to first of all notice that there are two questions posed and not just one.
The first question is “How are the dead(s) raised up?” and Paul has already dealt with this at the beginning of ch15. He has shown clearly that in spite of some who denied it there will be “a resurrection of the dead(s)”, Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of all. In verse 15 Paul states that it was God who raised Christ from the dead and then in verse 22 he tells us that “as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive”. All the dead will be raised, saved and unsaved, not at the same time nor with the same outcome. However in this article we are mainly concerned with the resurrection of the believer. The same power which raised Christ from the dead shall raise us up also. In his second epistle to the Corinthians Paul makes this fact crystal clear to them “Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” 2 Corinthians 4.14. Nowhere is it suggested that it is a body that is raised but “the dead ones”, and the wording in verse 14 “shall raise US up” makes this absolutely clear. The term “the resurrection of the body” is unknown in scripture but the phrase “the resurrection of the dead(s)” occurs over and over again, (see Matthew 22v31, Acts 17v32, Acts 23v6, Acts 24v15,21, Romans 1v4, 1 Corinthians 15 v12,13, 21,42, Philippians 3v11, Hebrews 6v2). The Lord Jesus also spoke of the “resurrection of the just” Luke14v14, but we emphasize, never is it recorded that it is a resurrection of dead bodies. As a matter of fact in the verses mentioned above the word dead is a collective word or as Newbury shows in his reference bible it is a plural, making the sentence read “the resurrection of the deads”. That however would be very poor English and would be better rendered “the resurrection of the dead ones”, showing that it is persons and not bodies that are referred to. No more should have to be written to prove this fact as the scriptures speak for themselves but to underline what we have shown we will look at the second half of our text. Paul writes, “and with what body do they come?”
It is the believer personally who will be raised but what sort of a body will he/she need to fit them for the new environment they will eternally live in. Paul tells us “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” 1Corinthians15.50, so therefore we will need a body suitable for the atmosphere of glory. The body we shall receive will be fashioned “like unto His own glorious body” Philippians 3.21. It will be completely different to the bare grain which has been sown, “Thou sowest not the body that shall be” 1Corinthians15.37 and then in a series of comparisons Paul shows the differences of that which is sown with that which we will have in the resurrection. Paul gives further light on this new body which we will receive when he writes to the Corinthians his second epistle. He describes it as “Our house which is from heaven” showing that it is a body God has prepared for us to be received when the Saviour returns. So then to sum up what we have learned so far and what the scriptures are saying. We have discovered that it is the person who will be resurrected not a body, and that the resurrected will have a new body given to them which will enable them to live forever in God’s paradise with no pain, no sadness or no death. Glorious hope! This is, as we have said only true of believers, the unsaved will be raised but their future is completely different. The whole hope of resurrection has been eroded by the teaching that the soul/spirit goes to heaven to behold the face of God the moment the believer dies. Such teaching, which we freely confess we believed ourselves for years, completely negates the need of resurrection, for what does it matter about a body if the “real person” is already with the Lord. Resurrection is the great hope the Word of God presents to us, without it, there is no way out of the grave and Paul reminds the Corinthians of this very thing, “If the dead(s) rise not… ….. then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” 1.Corinthians15.16-1 8. It is this hope he presents to the Thessalonians who were perturbed about their departed Christian loved ones. He does not try to comfort them by saying they are with Christ, as orthodoxy does today. Nor does he tell them their loved ones are “safe in the arms of Jesus” as many of our hymns would suggest. We must get past all this sentimentality if we are to embrace the truth of God’s word. Paul has told us that “The dead in Christ will rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with THEM, (not their bodies but THEM), in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so,(in this manner and no other manner), shall we ever be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians4.16-17. His closing words in that wonderful chapter are these “Comfort one another with these words”. What comfort it brings to properly understand these truths, our departed Christian friends are asleep and on that glorious day the living and the sleeping saints will meet the Lord together. For just as Paul states the living will have no advantage over the dead, so it stands to reason, the dead will have no advantage over the living but we will meet Him together all at the same time.