The Spiritual Body
By David Pyles
“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body”. - 1Cor 15:44
Unfortunately, there are some who misuse this scripture in argument against a bodily resurrection, and some will say that, even if there is a bodily resurrection, this scripture does not refer to it. These will claim that “spiritual body” means the soul or spirit and that it does not refer to the material body. Such a conclusion is at variance with the entire tenor of the Bible and with the very context in which this scripture is found. Observe that:
1) While it is a “spiritual body,” it is nonetheless a body. Hence, the scripture does not deny the resurrection of the body; rather, it affirms the resurrection of the body in a modified form.
2) The resurrected body is a modified form of the body that was sown or buried (vss 37 & 55), but the spiritual man is not sown. When man dies, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it,” (Eccl 12:7). Accordingly, Isaiah said it was that which dwells in the dust that shall rise in the resurrection: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead,” (Isa 26:19).
3) It is in error to assume that “spiritual” can only imply "immaterial." This can be seen from:
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. - 1Cor 10:1-4
Here it is understood that in “spiritual rock” and “spiritual drink” there is an intended modification of the idea of the material rock and material drink, but it is not the intent to eliminate the material character of either the rock or drink.
The same idea can be seen in Paul's own explanation of the spiritual body:
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. - 1Cor 15:45-49
Hence, the second Adam, who is the returning Christ, or the “Lord from Heaven,” who will quicken the dead at His appearing, is called a “quickening spirit,” yet in referring to Him as a spirit, Paul does not imply that He is without a material body. Instead, the obvious intent is to explain His meaning of “spiritual body” by illustrating it with the resurrected body of Christ. This is an expected explanation to anyone believing in a bodily resurrection because:
4) The resurrected body of Christ is the prototype for all of those who will resurrected in Him. This is implied in the context, because Paul said, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” That is, whereas the first Adam was the prototype of the present body, the Second Adam is the prototype of the spiritual body. This principle is very clearly taught elsewhere in the Bible (vss 12-17; Rom 8:29; Philip 3:21; 1Jn 3:2). But there is no doubt that Christ was raised in a material body of flesh and bones (Lk 24:39-43).
5) The resurrected body is a modified form of the body that dies, and it must die before it can be resurrected because Paul says, “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die,” (vs 36). This cannot refer to the spiritual man because the spiritual man does not die. Accordingly, the body that is raised to immortality and incorruption is a modification of the body that had been sown in mortality and corruption (vss 42 & 53).
6) In the preceding verses, Paul considers various kinds of bodies and flesh. The comparisons and contrasts made here clarify his meaning when he later speaks of a “spiritual body.” He says,
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. - 1Cor 15:36-41
As Paul considers the diversity in various forms of bodies and flesh, he never considers anything other than material entities. This shows that a material entity is under consideration when he later speaks of a “spiritual body.”
7) From the previous quote it can be seen that the spiritual body is "given" (i.e. “God giveth it a body...”) in the resurrection itself, so to affirm that “spiritual body” simply means the soul or spirit is to affirm that one does not have soul or spirit until the resurrection, or that the soul or spirit are modified in the resurrection. The scriptures will support neither idea. The obvious meaning is that God will give a modified material body in the resurrection.
8) The bodies of the resurrected will surely be identical in composition to the glorified bodies of those who will be yet alive when Christ returns, but it is obviously true that the latter will possess a modified form of the present body: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed ... For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put immortality,” (vss 51-53). Thus, the bodies of those who are alive when Christ returns are not done away, but are changed from corruptible to incorruptible and from mortal to immortality.
9) The denial of a bodily resurrection places one at odds with plain teachings of Paul elsewhere in the Bible. For example, consider:
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. - Rom 8:10,11
This scripture plainly distinguishes the spiritual and fleshly being of man, and it clearly applies the resurrection to the latter.
10) The denial of a bodily resurrection places one at odds with the plain teachings of other scriptural writers. These include:
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. - Job 19:25-27
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. - Isa 26:19
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. - Dan 12:2
When Paul speaks of a “spiritual body,” he means a material yet incorruptible and immortal body adapted to the heavenly clime, and this is in contrast to the “natural body,” which refers to the corruptible and mortal body that is adapted to the earthly clime.