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In 2 Corinthians 5:1, Paul writes the following (NKJV):

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

I typically hear that "our earthly house, this tent," refers to our bodies. It could sound from this verse that our current bodies are temporary and that different, completely distinct spiritual bodies are awaiting us "in the heavens."

However, 1 Corinthians 15:44 appears to teach that the natural body isn't replaced by a spiritual body but, instead, transformed into the spiritual body--that the same thing that's buried as a natural body is then raised as a spiritual body:

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

Similarly, Jesus, in John 5:28-29, talks about people (apparently in their buried bodies) coming out of their graves in the resurrection. Likewise, Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20-21 that when Jesus comes, He "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body" (NKJV, emphasis added).

So in 2 Corinthians 5:1, it appears our current bodies are discarded and replaced with new bodies that, if I'm interpreting it right, are already "in the heavens" (NKJV). By contrast, it appears in John 5:28-29, 1 Corinthians 15:44, and Philippians 3:20-21 that our lowly, natural body will be raised out of the grave and transformed into the spiritual body.

Can the passages be reconciled? Will our current bodies be discarded for spiritual bodies or transformed into spiritual bodies?

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  • Just two different ways of saying the same thing. You get a new body that's a different body from what you had before. Or, you get a different body from what you had before which is a new body. Once you get the new/different body, you'll never worry about such questions again.
    – moron
    Jun 10, 2023 at 22:47
  • @moron The difference could be compared to reforming a lowly employee versus firing and replacing the employee. In the first sense, the lowly employee becomes a new, better employee. In the second sense, an employee is fired and a completely new, better employee takes charge. In either case, you can say the employee is different from what you had before, but only the first sense appears to be compatible with "transforming" the employee. Do you see what I mean?
    – The Editor
    Jun 11, 2023 at 21:22

4 Answers 4

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Back in the day, everyone could appreciate the significance of the illustration of "a tent" regarding the physical body that dies. The idea of their body being a tent for 'something else' (i.e. something spiritual) would make sense to nearly everyone who believed in God. Mind you, the Sadducees totally missed the boat by saying there is neither resurrection of the dead nor a future life. They would have said, "Discarded, rotted to nothing, nevermore to exist in any shape or form."

Not so Christians. What happened to Jesus' corpse is what we base our faith in a future resurrection upon. We do not know how Jesus' corpse was transformed into the glorious body he shortly appeared with. All the disciples knew was that he appeared in different forms, so that sometimes they did not recognize him, and that there were tangible wounds in his hands and side that one could put their finger into, and that Jesus could eat food with that body which also appeared inside locked rooms, and that body could arise from standing on the ground to go into clouds, where it was no longer visible. They were assured that their bodies, too, would undergo such awesome transformation. Corpses of believers would first arise from their graves and go up to meet the returned Christs with his hosts of angels, but they would take on new, spiritual bodies. Then living believers would rise likewise to meet them in the air, their physical bodies being also transformed into glorious bodies, like Christ's. Then, at the general resurrection of the dead, everyone else who has ever died will find themselves standing before the throne of judgment, and their state then will be their eternal state, so that they can experience for eternity what is apportioned to them.

2 Corinthians 5:1 is not a technical explanation of anything physical. It speaks of a miraculous change that only God can enact. It uses the illustration of a seed sown, with an astonishing result, vastly different to what was sown. The illustration of a tent is not used here. It's a different illustration. One illustration gives us a particular concept to envisage, the other one, a fresh angle on the same take. And Jesus, of course, speaks with total authority in John 5:24-29 when all the dead with hear his voice commanding (and enabling) them to "rise". Yet Jesus does not give any technical explanation as to the "how" or the "what". There is no need. That's his department.

Of course, we know far more now about corpses than ever people did prior to the advent of the discovery of DNA. Even bones or molar teeth thousands of years old may have a minuscule bit of DNA extracted and amazing things done, and discovered, with it. (And most bones remain for thousands of years.) This makes it very strange that modern people seem far more skeptical about God being able to resurrect the dead than in earlier times. You would think awesome discoveries about the intricacies of life, even from bones thousands of years old, would dispel doubts about the future resurrection.

However, it is perfectly true that some poor souls die in such a manner as to leave no visible trace anywhere. I think of the thousands who have been atomised with bombs, from Hiroshima to today. No, we humans can find no trace, and there is nothing visible for us to see. Yet does not God see everything, even that which is invisible? Does he not know everything about every soul who has ever lived and is living today? Is he not their Maker? How he will re-make in the recreation is his department. In the life to come there may be plenty of opportunity (and ability) to discover and to understand how it all came to pass. For now, Christians take it by faith, a faith which is based on the reality of Christ's own resurrection from the grave. Such faith is warranted. And there is no contradiction between any of the scriptures dealing with the resurrection - we are given what we need to know. There is nothing to be reconciled, as we will discover when we experience the event for ourselves. Then we will understand. For now, "we see through a glass, darkly". (1 Corinthians 13:12)

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  • Thank you, Anne. This response is consistent with the Scriptures teaching on the matter. The only thing I'm uncertain about in your answer is whether Jesus had His glorious body the moment He was raised from the dead, or whether it was transformed after the ascension. Your explanation is plausible, though, and the main question I had was answered. +1 and ✓.
    – The Editor
    Jun 18, 2023 at 15:15
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    @The Editor And thank you. But I cannot go further with this as I'm not aware of anything in the Scriptures that specifically details the point you are after. I'm inclined to think myself that it was an instantaneous transformation at the moment of resurrection; others may disagree.
    – Anne
    Jun 18, 2023 at 16:20
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    No worries at all! That specific question is not part of my OP anyway, so your answer is good.
    – The Editor
    Jun 18, 2023 at 18:40
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We need to be careful here - some get quite confused and mentally knotted trying to sort things out. Let me lay out some simple realities.

In almost all cases, when people are resurrected, there is nothing of their old physical body left to raise or resurrect because:

  • some are completely destroyed by either natural fire as a cause of death or a fire after death in cremation
  • some are destroyed by disasters
  • some are eaten by predators
  • most, when buried at death, have nothing remaining of their physical bodies because of natural decay.

In any case, the point is clear - our natural physical bodies do not last long after death so that God will have nothing to resurrect, at least in a physical sense.

Paul discusses this at length in 1 Cor 15:35-49. He makes several things clear:

  • Our new resurrection bodies are of a completely different type and material from our natural physical bodies, but they are still bodies.
  • Our natural (earthly) bodies are perishable (as the above list demonstrates) but our heavenly bodies are imperishable (V42)
  • Our resurrection bodies are also "spiritual" bodies (V44)
  • Our resurrection bodies will not be like Adam's body but like Christ's heavenly body (V49)

Now, Paul gives no details about exactly what the differences are between our natural earthly bodies and our heavenly spiritual bodies are. We are not told. However, it is clear that God is omnipotent and thus, can do anything.

One more point. Whatever our heavenly bodies are, we have one more important fact - our friends will recognize us, according to 1 Cor 13:12.

CONCLUSION

Thus we may, with Paul say two things:

  • Our new resurrection bodies will be a complete transformation of our old earthly bodies
  • God will need to create something completely new because God will have nothing (in almost all cases) to start with (Rev 21:5).

Thus, our new heavenly resurrected bodies are both a complete transformation and a new creation.

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  • Thanks for your reply. I understand the point that most bodies will have decayed in the resurrection. Of course, we need to avoid being like those who object to the resurrection on the philosophical grounds that it seems impossible (1 Cor. 15:35). Might Ezekiel 37:1-10 suggest it's possible for God to restore decayed corpses? How else can the same "it" that's sown a natural body be the "it" that's raised a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44)? Won't our resurrection parallel Jesus's (vv. 20, 23)? Philippians 3:20-21 definitely sounds like the body is transformed, not discarded. Am I making sense?
    – The Editor
    Jun 7, 2023 at 15:50
  • @TheEditor - it is difficult to make sense because we cannot understand the resurrection any more than we can understand the incarnation. We must accept it by faith.
    – Dottard
    Jun 7, 2023 at 21:43
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    I think Paul's seed analogy (1 Cor. 15:36-38) helps make the point. It's a seed when it's buried, but it's a tree when it sprouts forth. The tree that a seed becomes is vastly different from the seed it once was. In a similar manner, we've only seen the "seed" of our body, so the "tree" that our "lowly body" will become when transformed (Phil. 3:20-21) will be vastly different from the lowly body it previously was. It's beyond our current comprehension!
    – The Editor
    Jun 8, 2023 at 15:32
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    @moron - do not be too quick to conclude too much. While I agree that our new resurrection bodies will be different and like Christ's, recall that Jesus showed His new resurrection body to the disciples, and still showed the scars and ate food. All we can say is that we do not know much about the resurrection body except it is different from what we now have.
    – Dottard
    Jun 10, 2023 at 23:08
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    @moron - that is not quite true - Jesus resented healed scars to the disciples, not bleeding wounds.
    – Dottard
    Jun 10, 2023 at 23:30
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Love IT, Agree. "For This Corruptible Must Put On Incorruption, and This Mortal Must Put On Immortality", 1Cor.15:53-65.

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  • @user57212Please explain the use of this verse with a few more sentences. Give the community a relevant paragraph to cogitate on. Your future contributions will be more meaningful if you practice this. Peace!
    – ray grant
    Jun 10, 2023 at 20:12
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Jun 10, 2023 at 21:18
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The key here is to realize that there are two distinct types of resurrection:

  • a resurrection to an immortal spirit body.
  • a resurrection to a mortal physical body.

The only example, so far, of the first type is Jesus himself.

Lazarus and those mentioned in John 5:28-29 for example are instances of the second type. These people went on to live normal lives, followed by normal deaths.

The Book of Revelation indicates that there will be two massive resurrections, a thousand years apart. Those in the first will experience the first type, to immortal spirit bodies, and those in the second will experience the second, to mortal physical bodies.

… And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection.

(The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.)

Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.

— Revelation 20:4–6 (NLT)

The physical body returns to dust, and the spirit body is given by God. It is the person that is transformed from physical to spiritual, not their body.

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  • I almost gave this answer a +1, as much of it makes sense. However, at the end, you challenge the NKJV translation of 1 Corinthians 15:44 by quoting the NLT. The reason the NLT uses "they" is because the NLT paraphrased verse 42 as "Our earthly bodies" (plural) being "raised to live forever." Also, saying the person will be changed but "not their body" seems to contradict Philippians 3:21, in which Jesus will "transform our lowly body" (NKJV). The NLT agrees, wording verse 21, "He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own ..."
    – The Editor
    Jun 18, 2023 at 15:08
  • @TheEditor is right. I totally got that last part wrong. (Perhaps I saw "3rd person" and somehow read 3 as meaning plural. Whatever, it was sloppiness on my part.) Thanks for pointing it out. Jun 18, 2023 at 18:24

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