"The Dead Will Be Raised" (I Corinthians 15:50-52)
I. What Will Eternity Be Like?
When it comes to how our culture thinks about eternity, the influence of Christianity is both meaningful and muddled. Consider some of the ideas about heaven that have been popular in our society over the past one to two hundred years...
First, the idea that people become angels when they die and then work to get their wings.
Second, the notion that the streets of heaven are literally paved with gold and each of us has his or her own mansion.
Third, the idea that souls in white robes will sit on clouds and play harps for all eternity.
We've seen all these ideas depicted in movies and cartoons and literature for a very long time. But while the basic elements I mentioned have a connection to the Bible, most of you know that all of these descriptions are ultimately distortions of what God has revealed.
So... if those ideas are wrong, what has God revealed about our eternal existence? Let's look at that question together by turning over to I Cor. 15. We'll be looking this morning at verses 50-52.
II. The Passage: "We Shall All Be Changed" (15:50-52)
If you've been with us in previous weeks (or listened to/watched the messages), then you'll know we've been looking together at the very incredible and very biblical idea of resurrection. We began our study talking about how our need for resurrection flows from what the Bible reveals about death. In contrast to our world's limited view of death, Scripture reveals that
“...death is being cut off from the blessings of God's world (physical death), it is being cut off from the blessings of God's Spirit (spiritual death), and it is being cut off forever from the blessings of God's presence (eternal death).”
But we've celebrated the fact that the dreadful dilemma of physical death was decisively dealt with 2000 years ago through the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, as we talked about last time, Christ's resurrection not only meant new life for him, but new life for all who trust in him and as both Lord and Savior. And that new life is available to us today, by God's grace, through faith. But listen to how Paul describes the fuller implications of Jesus being raised...
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  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 shall be changed.
What is Paul telling us here? He's telling us the fact we have been raised with Christ doesn't change the truth that we will be raised with Christ! And raised like Christ! No, eternity will not be filled with floating, harp-toting spirits. It will be filled with real human bodies. Isn't that wonderful!? Let me explain what I mean by telling you a little more about the context here.
Paul says what he says in verses 50-52 because of what some of the Corinthians were saying, as recorded in verse 12. After opening the chapter with an excellent summary of the historical, gospel events (i.e., cross, burial, empty tomb, witnesses), Paul asks in verse 12...
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
Paul was having a tough time squaring the fact that the Corinthians had believed the Good News of Jesus crucified and raised, but that now, some of them were saying, “dead bodies don't come back to life”. Of course, in the Greek world, this was not an unusual objection. Remember how in Acts 17, many of the Greek leaders and teachers in Athens mocked Paul “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 17:23).
We also read in II Timothy 2:18 that certain false teachers in Ephesus were “saying that the resurrection has already happened”; that is, they wanted to dismiss the reality of a physical resurrection by pointing to the reality of our spiritual resurrection with Christ. But as I said a minute ago, “the fact we have been raised with Christ doesn't change the truth that we will be raised with Christ!”
So let's spend a minute understanding these Greek objections by breaking down our passage a little more. Paul breaks things down by means of two terms: “perishable” and “imperishable”.
1. The Perishable (v. 50)
First of all, notice in verse 50 how Paul steps toward the naysayers and their objections. It may have been that certain groups in the First Century, Greek world believed that life in the body was inferior to life as a freed soul. They may have believed that resurrecting our fragile, our temperamental, our decaying bodies was total nonsense when it comes to an eternal existence.
Interestingly, as we see in verse 50, Paul agrees with this basic objection. Look at how he states his agreement: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”. But wait. What does Paul mean by “flesh and blood”. Didn't the risen Jesus have “flesh and blood”? Well... yes and no. Paul explains what he means in the second half of verse 50: “flesh and blood” is a reference to the “perishable” bodies we now possess. But when it comes to eternity, he says this in the second half of verse 50: “the perishable [cannot] inherit the imperishable.”
2. The Imperishable (vs. 51, 52)
So how then can we experience bodily resurrection just as Jesus experienced bodily resurrection? Well, verse 51 reveals that we must be... “changed”. And that's precisely what Paul digs into here. Verse 51... Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep [that is, we will not all die], but we shall all be changed [that is, both the dead in Christ and the living in Christ will be transformed—But when? Verse 52... ] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [that is, when Jesus Christ returns to our world, at the end of this age]. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
So if you belong to Jesus through faith, then whether you died before his return, or are alive when he returns, all of us will be “changed”. As Paul goes on to explain in the next verse, v. 53...
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
Was Jesus “flesh and blood” when he rose from the dead? Yes. But not perishable “flesh and blood”. He was human in a new way; in an imperishable way. This is what Paul explained a couple paragraphs earlier in vs. 35-37...
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”  You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
Paul's conclusion is in verse 42... So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
So Paul both addresses their concerns when it comes to human bodies AND challenges their ignorance when it comes to human bodies. The ultimate answer, of course, is found in, is grounded in, Jesus. As we read just before our main passage, in v. 49: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [i.e., Adam], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Why is all of this so important? Well, remember that last aspect of death, as the Bible describes death: “...being cut off forever from the blessings of God's presence (eternal death).” The book of the Revelation describes this fate as “the second death” (Revelation 20:14). But because Jesus was raised, we also can be raised... raised bodily and eternally for a forever with God. And our new life in Christ now is present reassurance of that future reality. Paul writes in Rom. 8
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Now, let me very quickly address some common questions that are raised (no pun intended) when we talk about this subject of our future bodily resurrection:
Some may ask, “Why do we need bodies if we are going to live with God in heaven?” Well the Scriptures make it clear that our eternal home is not in heaven. According to Isaiah 65:17, II Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:1, our eternal home will be the new heavens and new earth, with God among us, just as he was in Eden. And if our eternal home is a new, imperishable, material creation, then we will need new, imperishable bodies in order to inhabit that world.
Some may ask, “If we all have new bodies, will we still recognize one another?” The short answer is “yes”. Remember the next verse after our main passage, verse 53? Notice the word “this”: For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Yes, Paul is stressing change. But he's also pointing out the continuity. My body now won't be replaced by a new body. Like a new set of clothes, it will “put on” the imperishable and immortal. I will still be me. You will still be you.
Of course, there will be changes in terms of how we think about each other. Jesus made this clear when he corrected the Sadducees in Matt. 22:23–33. In asking him about marriage “in the resurrection”, these leaders could not understand that human marriage will no longer be needed in the next world, and that the only marriage will be the Lamb and his bride (i.e., the Church).
The connection and intimacy of marriage will be eclipsed by the connection and intimacy we will experience as the family of God, worshiping in the Father's presence.
Some may ask, “But won't unbelievers also be raised physically?” Yes, they will be. In Acts 24:15, Paul speaks about “a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” Revelation 20 also speaks about the dead, “great and small”, coming to life, and “standing before the throne” of God to be judged (20:5, 12). Listen to how Jesus describes the broad contours of the resurrection in John 5:28, 29:
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice  and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
So what kind of resurrection body will the unsaved person have? That's never addressed by Scripture. But we do know that “resurrection of judgment” will lead to an eternal judgment of eternal suffering. So even the language of life is not used in regard to the unbeliever, there is still something eternal about their embodied existence.
III. The Goodness of Life
Brothers and sisters, friends, here's what I hope you will take from all this: even in the worst of times, we all know there is something extremely good about life in this world. Think about how this presses to the surface when the life of a young person is 'cut short'; or when a grandparent or great grandparent can't see their grandchildren graduate or get married.
But here's what God wants us to know: He designed that goodness to earthly life. He wants us to savor that goodness to life. Yes, the goodness of life here makes the sting of death so potent and painful. But that reality, the reality of the goodness of embodied, earthly life, should also make us long for that new world. You see, the goodness of life in this world is just a shadow of life in the world to come.
Your hope should not be to trade this kind of existence for a whole other kind of existence. It should be for God to purify and renew this existence; that it would not be tainted by sin, but amplified by righteousness. How is this possible? Listen to this simple exchange from John 11...
Martha said to him, "I know that he [her dead brother Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."  Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live...” [John 11:24-25]
Isn't that absolutely stunning?! Jesus doesn't allow her to simply hope in “the resurrection on the last day”. That won't do. Her hope, your hope, must be in the One who claimed to be “the resurrection and the life”. That blessed, future reality of both resurrection and life is so dependent on, so wrapped up in, so inseparable from Jesus Christ, that he can use those truths to describe himself.
Will you trust Him this morning with your life, that you might share in his defeat of death? All of us need resurrection... resurrection now... and resurrection then, on that last day. Do you recognize that? If you do, talk to God even now about trusting Jesus. And thank Him. Thank Him for the promise of full and forever life in that world to come. Let's pray.