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Your Body Will Be Whole: A Physician’s Meditations on Heaven

Spiritual Body

While still tethered to the aches and groans of this mortal coil, it’s hard to envision a body unsullied by sin. “What will it look like?” we may wonder. “How will it be different?”

When the church at Corinth raised such questions, they drove Paul to exasperation. Corinth was a metropolis steeped in pagan influences, including a Greek philosophy that viewed the body as debased and corrupt, and the spirit as sublime. This thinking proved a stumbling block to some early Christians in Corinth, who struggled to accept the truth of the resurrection. How, they wondered, could the Son of God rise in the flesh, when the body was material and depraved?

Paul balked at such questions, and highlighted that the Corinthians’ thinking reflected the limitations of human experience rather than the wisdom of God:

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. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. . . . So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 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. (1 CORINTHIANS 15:35–3842–44)

In this rebuttal, Paul argues that our resurrected, spiritual body will be something totally new, dramatically different from the body we leave in the grave. Just as a plant bursts forth from its seed, so also the resurrection body will arise from the earthly body that is sown, but a radical change will occur. Through the resurrection, the body will transform from something that is perishable, dishonorable, and weak — like a dormant seed — to something wholly new: imperishable, glorious, and powerful.

In short, the resurrection will transform us into the image of Christ.

A Body Like His

Through Christ, God has adopted us as his own children, and shares with us the inheritance of his Son, including a body made new. Paul writes,

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20–21)

So also, John writes,

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. . . . Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 JOHN 3:1–2)

While we may struggle to wrap our minds around the resurrection promise, when we look to Christ — risen, glorified, joined with the Father in love for eternity — we see a glimpse of the future that awaits us when he returns and we come before his throne.

Paul calls Jesus the “firstfruits” because his resurrection serves as a preamble for the path we will follow (1 Corinthians 15:20). “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). While we cannot wholly understand how our redeemed bodies will look, or how they will feel, we have tremendous hope in the promise that, whatever the details, they will resemble Christ. Our bodies will be like his: clean, new, glorious, powerful, imperishable.

Bodies Made New

This promise offers a balm for the weary soul. As our earthly bodies bend and break, as our strength wanes and our groans lengthen, we cling to the hope that a day is coming when all the aches will fade away. Jesus has saved us from wrath, both body and soul. He has triumphed even over death (1 Corinthians 15:55). And through the Father’s great mercy, we share in his victory.

Our sufferings within these mortal coils may drive us to our knees. But when Christ returns, and we kneel before his throne, by his grace we will “[put] on the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:54), raise rejuvenated voices, and praise him with bodies made new.

This article originally appeared here.

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Kathryn Butler is a trauma and critical care surgeon turned writer and homeschooling mom. She is author of Glimmers of Grace: A Doctor’s Reflections on Faith, Suffering, and the Goodness of God. She and her family live north of Boston.