Friday, 3 April 2015
There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 1 Corinthians 15:40
If this verse isn’t read as a part of the whole paragraph and one immediately goes to the next verse (verse 41), it may leave the misperception that verse 41 is explaining verse 40; that the “celestial bodies” are the sun, moon, and stars mentioned next in verse 41. This however, would not properly explain Paul’s use of wording. Instead, it would “provide a false antithesis to ‘bodies terrestrial'” (Pulpit Commentary).
In other words, Paul has three separate groupings from verse 39 to 41 –
Verse 39 – flesh; men, animals, fish, birds
Verse 40 – bodies; celestial bodies, terrestrial bodies
Verse 41 – glory; sun, moon, stars (and star from star)
The word for “celestial” here is epouranios. It signifies that which is heavenly. It is used 19 times in the New Testament and it is consistently speaking of a heavenly matter, meaning a spiritual one. One of those 19 examples will help clarify what this means –
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
In this, the word “heavenly” is speaking of the “spiritual” realm of heaven, not the cosmos where the sun, moon, and stars are. We are currently seated with Christ in God’s redemptive plans even though we have not actually arrived there yet. This is the type of “heaven” that the word signifies.
Understanding this, we can properly perceive what Paul is writing about here. It is not specifically angels, but “heavenly” beings. These are being contrasted to earthly, or “terrestrial,” beings. This same word, epouranios, will be used 3 times in verses 48 & 49 when speaking of our resurrection bodies which will be like the resurrected body of Christ. Therefore, Paul is showing us a taste of that now by placing this comparison between two examples of natural types of bodies – those in verse 39 and those in verse 41.
As noted, this is not speaking specifically of angels, but it is a comparison to such heavenly beings. This is stated by Jesus concerning those of the resurrection in Matthew 22:30 –
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”
To further substantiate this, we can see a similar analogy of the resurrected bodies to stars. This is found in Daniel 12 –
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:2, 3
And so we can see in this verse, Paul is using both of the natural types of bodies (those of verse 39 and those of verse 41) as examples to help us understand the difference between the heavenly and the earthly bodies of verse 40.
Life application: Whatever our coming heavenly bodies will be like, they will be amazing. They will be so vastly superior to what we are clothed in now, that we should rejoice at the thought of heading off to be with Jesus. Let us not fear the temporary hold of physical death. It has no mastery over us!
Heavenly Father, eternity sure is a long time. If the bodies we have now wear out after a few decades, how amazing our coming resurrected bodies must be! They will endure throughout the ages of ages and still be able to keep going. They will be able to assimilate a continuous stream of information without getting overloaded in the mind, and they will be able to stand in Your presence, not in fear of being consumed, but in the joy of being ever-invigorated. Personally, I can’t wait! No fear here. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.