Pastor David B. Curtis


The Afterlife (Part 3)

1 Corinthians 15

Delivered 09/08/2013

We are looking at the subject of the afterlife. I have said that the Bible says very little about the afterlife, so we must speculate. Traditional Judaism firmly believes that death is not the end of human existence. However, because Judaism is primarily focused on life here and now rather than on the afterlife, Judaism does not have much dogma about the afterlife, and leaves a great deal of room for personal opinion. Whereas, Christianity leaves no room for personal opinion. Whatever churcheanity decides is right we must follow, or suffer the consequences.

Judaism is much more focused on actions than beliefs (that troubles Greek thinkers), so it is actually to be expected that its prophets and sages have not spent as much time on speculations about the world to come as elaborations on the mitzvot to be performed in this life. If you ask a Jew, "What is the meaning of life?" They would respond, "Who cares. The real question is, 'What is the purpose of life?'"

Unlike the Jews, we love to speculate and then argue about our speculations. One of the divisions among Preterists is: Will we have a body of some kind in the afterlife? Many think that we will, based upon various Scriptures that talk about a body. I don't think that we get a body, primarily because I see the Scriptures that they use to say we will get a body as corporate and not individualistic. I think we need to learn to read the Bible from a corporate, not individualist, perspective. The biblical perspective is that every person is a member of a community and that membership determines his or her identity.

The importance of community in Ancient Near East thought and life, and a corporate understanding of the nature of humanity provides an important perspective on the interpretation of the Scripture. Paul's (and his culture's) perspective was essentially corporate. The individual was not viewed as standing on his own, but was seen as embedded in the group to which he belonged.

We began looking last week at how Paul views the body. I want to continue to do that in our time today. Notice what Paul calls the body in Romans 7:

but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Romans 7:23 NASB

It is easy to read the statement: "the members of my body," as a reference to Paul's physical body if an individualistic perspective for interpreting the passage is adopted. But I see this as a reference to individuals within the corporate body of Moses.

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:24 NASB

Is this a Christian crying out for deliverance from his physical body? Is he then crying out for physical death? Kill me, Lord, and take me to heaven?

Piper writes: "The 'wretched man' is Paul himself, spontaneously voicing his distress at not being a better Christian than he is." Paul is distressed that he is not a better Christian? Seriously! If Paul is distressed at not being a better Christian, we are all in trouble!

He uses a present tense to describe a present reality of wretchedness. "Wretched man that I am," not "I was," or "I used to be." Would a believer call himself a "wretched man" and then cry out for someone to rescue him? Is he looking for a second work of grace? One writer says: "Here is the evidence of the regenerate life: the Christian longs for deliverance." And I ask, "From what?"

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, Colossians 1:13 NASB

"Rescued," is aorist and suggests that which is an accomplished event. We were rescued at a point in the past—our conversion. This deliverance is absolutely finished. There is no progress in this rescue. It is an event.

So who is the wretched man here? It is corporate unregenerate Israel. Vincent says that "wretched" from the Greek word talaiporos originally meant: "wretched through the exhaustion of hard labor." Boy that sure pictures Israel under Torah. This is the lament of the Jew under Torah. The question is: "Who is going to raise me from the dead? How will I get out of this body of death?"

"The body of this death"—sadly most Christians see this as a reference to the physical body. So what is the body of this death? The argument continues to address the corporate aspects of Sin. "This body of death" is nothing less than the body of Moses, which was a body of sin. So Paul's cry could be interpreted: "Who will deliver me from the kingdom of darkness?"

Thanks be to God through Yeshua the Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:25 NASB

"Thanks be to God through Yeshua the Christ our Lord!"this shout of praise will be unfolded in chapter 8. He's looking ahead at the time of redemption, and he says, "I see it and it's coming and I'm living in hope that indeed it will come." This is an eschatological view; that is, Paul is looking for the final day of redemption when Israel is redeemed out of the body of Moses and into the body of Christ.

Notice what Paul says in:

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 NASB

This parallels Romans 7 so closely that it is clear the subject is the same. The victory is not from our sin nature, but from life under the Law.

Let's look at how Paul uses "body" in chapter 8:

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. Romans 8:10 NASB

"If" here is "since." Based on a misunderstanding of this verse, most today would say that this is saying that a Christian is a living person inside a dead body. If Paul is writing about the experience of the individual believer, as many think, he would be saying that the physical body was still under the sentence of death, eventually yielding to the reality of its mortality.

The problem with this interpretation is that it has departed from the corporate perspective of the letter. Literally, the text reads: "But if Christ is in you [plural], the body [singular] is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit [singular] is life because of righteousness." "If Christ is in you [plural]" is not the type of language that is used of the individual. And Paul does not say: your "bodies" are dead, but, "the body [singular] is dead."

Dunn (Romans 1:431) says: "As usual, soma does not mean physical body, but humanity embodied in a particular environment (see 6:6). As most modern commentators recognize, it should not be individualized (your bodies, as RSV); rather, the singular denotes the embodiment which characterizes all human existence in this age." Paul's primary thought is not of individual bodies at all, but of corporate solidarities, which inhere in Adam and in Christ, the Old Aeon and the New Aeon.

"The body is dead because of sin"—what body is Paul talking about here? Remember Paul is talking primarily to Jewish believers in this section. The "body" here is singular. This is a reference to the body of Moses, which is part of the body of Adam. It was dead in that it was separated from the presence of God. During the transition period, believing Israelites were not yet free from the body of the death. They were free from the Law of the sin and the death. But the body of Moses was still dead, awaiting the resurrection.

This is the same as, "the body of this death" in 7:24. The argument continues to address the corporate aspects of sin. "This body of death" is nothing less than the body of Moses, which was a body of sin.

Now notice what Paul says in verse 11:

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Yeshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 NASB

"Will also give life"—this is the future aspect. This is the promise of future resurrection. The Spirit, who raised up Christ, will one day raise them as well. The Holy Spirit who presently lives within them was a "down payment" on God's future deliverance.

When does the Bible say that the resurrection is to take place? Paul told his first century audience, "There is about to be a resurrection." So the timing of the resurrection was "soon," from the perspective of the first century. According to Daniel, the resurrection was to take place at the end of the Jewish age, which happened in A.D. 70.

Paul said that the Spirit would give life to their "Mortal bodies"—this is the plural of sma, "bodies," this is the first time Paul uses it in the plural. This is the same phrase that Paul used in Romans 6:12, but there it was singular. Paul connects mortal with the Old Covenant, which would be the body of Moses, which was is the "body of Adam." The Old Covenant community was born in the body of Adam.

So the mortal body is the body of Adam. Paul spoke of this in the singular, and now he speaks of it in the plural, referring to individuals who are in the body of Adam/Moses, but who have trusted in Christ, and therefore, they individually will be raised into the corporate body of Christ. If you belong to the mortal body, then you are a mortal body individually. Body in the Hebrew mind-set refers to the whole person, not to the physical body as separate from the spirit.

So Paul uses "mortal bodies" here because his focus is no longer the corporate experience of resurrection, but that of each believer. Paul speaks of their common experience as members one of another and as members of Christ, because the Spirit dwells in them collectively, as God's Temple. He will care for them and raise every individual member of that community on the last day. This is a promise of resurrection life to each and every believer. This promise was fulfilled for them in A.D. 70.

Now that we understand Paul's corporate use of "body," let's look at what he says in 1 Corinthians 15. I don't think that there were people at Corinth who were denying the resurrection. To deny the resurrection is to not be Christian. I see the issue here as some of the Corinthians were denying the resurrection of those Israelites who died prior to the coming of Christ. They were the forerunners of Dispensationalism, in the sense that they saw themselves as distinct from Old Covenant Israel:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB

YLT reads, "through which also ye are being saved," during the Transition period they were "being saved." This process was completed in A.D. 70 at the return of Christ.

"Unless you believed in vain"—for Paul if the hope of the twelve tribes of Israel is not fulfilled then the whole Gospel is lost, meaningless, and empty. Notice what Paul says:

"And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. "Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? Acts 26:6-8 NASB

A literal rendering here would be "on the ground of the hope." The article clearly defines what promise, "the one, namely, made of Yahweh." What promise is Paul referring to? God had promised His people Israel that He would redeem them:

Zion will be redeemed with justice, And her repentant ones with righteousness. Isaiah 1:27 NASB

If Paul's defense proves anything, it is that the Gospel which Paul proclaims and practices is the fulfillment of all that Judaism hoped for. If Israel, to whom the promise of resurrection was made, is not raised then Paul's preaching is vain:

For among the first things I passed on to you was what I also received, namely this: the Messiah died for our sins, in accordance with what the Tanakh says; and he was buried; and he was raised on the third day, in accordance with what the Tanakh says; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 CJB

I see Paul as stressing here that Messiah, His death and resurrection, the whole Gospel, was in accordance with the Tanakh. In other words, it's all Jewish. So how can you deny resurrection to the very people that it was promised to?

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:12 NASB

"The dead"—is a reference to those who died in Adam and under Torah before the coming of Christ—Old Covenant Israel. They were saying that only those who had accepted Yeshua as Messiah were "In Christ" and would be raised:

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 1 Corinthians 15:18 NASB

"Those who have fallen asleep in Christ" is a different group from "the dead," this is made clear by the fact that the "dead" are not ever mentioned as being "in Christ," whereas those fallen asleep who are equally physically dead, are said to be "in Christ." What some were affirming was that only those "in Christ" are raised through their union with Messiah through faith.

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 1 Corinthians 15:13 NASB

Yeshua was tied to Israel because in Yeshua the promises of the resurrection came to pass. Yeshua was Israel. If Israel is not raised, then neither was Yeshua. Christ's dead and resurrected body becomes the dead and risen body that believers are re-embodied with:

and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 1 Corinthians 15:14 NASB

What was Paul preaching but the "hope of Israel"? If those of Old Covenant Israel don't get resurrected then nobody does:

and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 1 Corinthians 15:17-18 NASB

Without Israel being raised from the dead, those in Christ have no hope of being raised.

Paul calls Yeshua the "first fruits of those who have fallen asleep":

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:20 NASB

In the Old Covenant, the priest brought the first gathering of the wheat harvest, the first fruits, into the tabernacle or Temple to dedicate the coming harvest to Yahweh (Lev 23:9-11). Paul's audience would have been familiar with this language.

Because Yeshua has been raised from the dead by the Spirit, they also will be raised from the dead. The framework of the argument is the community, not the individual. Christ and those who were being saved are called "first fruits." The first fruits are inseparably bound to the harvest. If the first fruit is ripe, then so is the harvest—the dead are being raised:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 NASB

This is the same analogy that Paul uses in Romans 5 and it brackets this argument. Adam comes into discussion because the "body of death" originated with him:

But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" 1 Corinthians 15:35 NASB

The issue of what form or substance the dead take on in the resurrection is not the issue here. It wasn't a question of what form the dead would individually be raised in, but whether "the dead" would be raised in Christ at all. They were denying that "the dead" would come into the body of Christ.

The Greek reads, "But how are the dead being raised? In what body are they coming?" The dead are those who lived and died before the coming of Christ, Old Covenant Israel.

How could "they" (plural, third person pronoun) not "we" be raised? They were not part of the "body of Christ." So if they were being raised, what body were they being raised in?

We need to note the distinction between "they" and "we." It is not in what body are "we" coming. The "they" being referred to here is not seen as belonging to the same body. Body is singular, not plural.

1 Corinthians 15:35-36 and Romans 6:3-6 are talking about the same body. If the body isn't the physical body in Romans , then neither is the body in 1 Corinthians. This body can't be the physical body, because it's buried alive and then simultaneously put to death and made alive.

Let's look at Romans 6 to help us understand 1 Corinthians 15:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 NASB

It is very important that we understand that this is not a new subject. Paul is continuing a thought that he started in chapter 5. We must keep chapter 6 in its context. And we must also keep in mind that he is particularly talking to Hebrew believers in this section.

Paul is not talking here about individual sins, he is not saying, "Shall we go on sinning." He is saying, "Shall we continue in 'the sin.'" "The sin" is the sin of Adam. If sin increases the grace of God (5:20), shouldn't we continue to live in "the sin"? To put it another way, shouldn't we continue to live under Torah since Torah increases sin, which increases grace? The question is, Shall we stay under the bondage of Torah? Shall we remain under the Old Covenant? Paul's answer is:

May it never be! How shall we who died to the sin still live in it? Romans 6:2 NASB

John McArthur and other writers jump on this verse to prove their theology—since we died to sin, we can't live in it. But the text doesn't say that we died to sin, but to "the sin," the sin of Adam. We still sin, you know that. But we are no longer in Adam:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Yeshua have been baptized into His death? Romans 6:3 NASB

Paul tells them that they died in baptism. Baptism here means initiation into a new relationship, or identification with Christ. It has nothing to do with water. Believers were baptized (identified) into Christ's death. When Yeshua died, we died with Him. We are one with Him, and His death is ours:

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 NASB

The words "buried with" mean: "to bury together, join in burying or to be buried with." The word "with" indicates a "co" relationship with Yeshua the Christ. This is a co-burial. It is saying, "When Yeshua was buried, we were buried."

"So we too might" is better translated: "In the same way also we might walk in newness of life." This newness of life is already yours because Christ, with whom you are in union, has been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.

We died with Christ and were buried with Him, but it doesn't stop there:

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, Romans 6:5 NASB

"We"—Paul uses the first person plural pronoun "we" throughout these verses. He's talking to Jewish believers specifically. Paul writes in the plural reminding us that he is dealing with the community of believers. Paul's focus is on the resurrection of the body of Christ rather than of the individual resurrection.

"Have become united with Him"the word "united" here is the Greek word sumphutos, which literally means: "grown together with," it has the idea of being grafted into something. The perfect tense demonstrates that this is not a gradual growing into His death. That's a good picture of what happened to us when Christ died. God grafted us into Yeshua the Christ as He died on the cross. He joined us to Him so that the effects of His death in bearing the wrath of God, while being poured out on Christ, were by that act of union poured out on us, too. Though He stood in our place, the effects of what He did were just as if God had poured His fierce wrath out on us.

We have been united with Him! Here is the great doctrine of union with Christ. There are several other texts in Paul's writings that show the all-important place of our union with Christ:

But by His doing you are in Christ Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB

Notice that it is Yahweh who creates the union. "By His doing you are in Christ Yeshua." Literally, "From Him you are in Christ Yeshua." He creates the union by His grace. We embrace it by faith.

I want you to notice the verb tense of "have become united." It's a perfect tense verb, which means that an event has taken place and the results of it continue forever. Once we are in union with Yeshua the Christ, the reality of union and its results never diminish or vanish. That's why it is unbiblical to think that a Christian can lose his salvation.

"United with Him in the likeness of His death"the word "likeness" here is the Greek word homoioma, which suggests: "similarity, but difference." I was not literally nailed on a cross, neither was Paul. I think we all understand that this is talking about our position. This is our spiritual identity. Keep that in mind as we look at the next phrase.

"We shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection"—this is future tense, meaning it hadn't happened yet. Resurrection was future at the time of Paul's writing. Most believers think it is still future to us.

Resurrection was to take place at the end of the age, and since the promise was made to Israel, it was to happen at the end of Israel's age, A.D. 70. Eschatology is Israel's eschatology! If the promises to Israel have been fulfilled, then resurrection has occurred.

This text is not talking about a physical biological resurrection, he is talking about entering into the presence of Yahweh. Paul talks about this in the future tense, because it did not happen until A.D. 70. So it was future to them. But it is past to us.

knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; Romans 6:6 NASB

"Our old self was crucified with Him"—the words "old self" are from the Greek, palaios anthropos. The NASB translates anthrpos as "old self." The trouble with this translation is that it causes the reader to envision the individual's old life. Anthrpos is man, not self.

If we look at Paul's use of this term in Ephesians, we can see that the individual understanding is not what Paul had in mind:

by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, Ephesians 2:15 NASB

Here Paul talks about Yahweh taking the Jews and Gentiles and making out of them one new man, anthrpos. This is a corporate reference to the Church, which is the new man. If the new man is corporate, so is the old man. The new man is the Church! And the old self (anthrpos) is the corporate Adamic community.

The old self (anthrpos), to whom the Romans have died, is their relationship with Adam. They are no longer part of the Adamic community. They have died to the solidarity of sin and are now alive in a new solidarity of righteousness, which has Christ as its head.

"Was crucified with Him"—the word "crucified" is a compound verb meaning: "was crucified with"—Christ. The aorist verb tells us that this is not a repeatable event, but a final, completed event. The passive voice shows us that this crucifixion is not something that we have done, but something done to us in Christ. That man that was joined to Adam was crucified together with Christ.

"Our body of the sin"—Paul has not switched from the corporate to the individual! "Our" is plural and "body" is singular. And also notice that it is "the sin," which is the same "the sin" that he has been talking about since chapter 5. Most teachers see an individualistic interpretation and say that "the body of sin" is the human body under the control of sin.

So if Paul calls the corporate community that is in Christ the "body of Christ," it makes sense that his phrase "body of sin" would refer to the corporate community in Adam. The "body of sin" is not a reference to the human body, it is a corporate description referring to the unredeemed community, which has Adam as its head. The redeemed community has forever been removed from the body of sin.

You fool! 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. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and 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 star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:36-44 NASB

The seed comes up looking like wheat , or a tree, the point being it does not come up looking like a seed. The natural body that Israel had is not the body that would be raised. It is the spiritual body, not flesh and blood, that will inherit the kingdom of God. The "body of Christ" is not like other bodies, it is a spiritual body.

Those in Adam, the natural man, are sown into the body of the second Adam, Yeshua. In that body they are put to death and are being made alive through the work of the Spirit.

How can they, "the dead," be raised in the body that we are raised in, for we are raised through the body of Christ upon faith in Christ? The "body of death" Israel had in Adam was being sown and transformed into the "spiritual body" of Christ:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 1 Corinthians 15:42 NASB

"Perishable" here is from the Greek word phthora. It is only used 8 times in the New Testament and always dealing with the corruption of sin and the Law:

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:4 NASB

The word "corruption" in our text is from the Greek word phthora:

that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21 NASB

Paul is talking to Jewish believers here, they have escaped the "corruption" of the Law of sin and death:

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8 NASB

"Corruption" here is also from the Greek word phthora. Flesh and Spirit speak of the Old and New covenants:

So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45 NASB

The two Adams analogy brackets these verses. This is the same analogy that Paul used in Romans 5. The substance of that paragraph is the parallel and contrast between Adam and Christ. In verses 12-21, Paul explains the solidarity of humankind and how its representative—or federal head, Adam, brought it into a state of alienation towards God through disobedience. Paul develops the parallel between Adam and Christ; Adam is the head of the whole human race, Christ is the head of the New Covenant people:

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:52 NASB

The dead are raised into the presence of Yahweh and the living are changed. Notice the corporate language describing Adam and Christ in:

As is the earthy [ADAM], so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly [CHRIST], so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. 1 Corinthians 15:48-49 NASB

I believe these two above verses are indisputable proof that the discussion in 1 Corinthians 15 are of the corporate body of death through Adam and the corporate body of Christ.

Bottom line, I don't see the Scriptures anywhere saying that we get a body of any kind at physical death. We are all part of the body of Christ. If Yahweh has no body, why will we need one when dwelling with Him? This ends my speculation on the afterlife.

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