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What is a spiritual body?

spiritual body

Believers will be physically resurrected one day, just as Christ was, and we will spend eternity in an actual body. That is one of the main points of 1 Corinthians 15. In that chapter, Paul writes of a spiritual body: “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42&ndahs;44). The “spiritual body” here is contrasted with the “natural body.”

Jesus was raised in a physical body, with “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). We will be raised like He was (Romans 6:5). The Lord, in His power, “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). These passages alone prove the bodily resurrection of the saints.

A difficulty comes in what Paul meant by a “spiritual” body in 1 Corinthians 15:44. The term spiritual body seems to be an oxymoron. A basic point to be made, based on the term, is that the resurrection body cannot be wholly spiritual; otherwise, it could not be a “body.” It is a human body, but there is something different about it, as Paul explains in context.

Taking in the whole of 1 Corinthians 15, we have the following descriptions of the body we have now versus the future resurrected body:
earthly vs. heavenly (verse 40)
perishable vs. imperishable (verse 42)
dishonorable vs. glorified (verse 43)
subject to weakness vs. raised in power (verse 43)
natural vs. spiritual (verse 44)
bearing Adam’s image vs. bearing Christ’s image (verse 49)
mortal vs. immortal (verse 53)
All the way through the text, the word body is used.

Earlier in the chapter, Paul lays the foundation for his discussion of the spiritual body: “Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another” (1 Corinthians 15:39).

Note the illustration of differing kinds of flesh:
• fish have a body perfectly suited for their life in the water
• birds have a body perfectly suited for flying through the air
• animals have a body perfectly suited for their needs in the animal kingdom
• people have a body perfectly suited for life on this earthly plane

So, here’s Paul’s point: after the resurrection, we will have a body perfectly suited for life in heaven (that is, on the New Earth in eternity, Revelation 21:1). The “spiritual body” will be made of flesh (like Jesus’ body is), but a different kind of flesh than what we have now.

The passage continues: “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor” (1 Corinthians 15:40–41). So, we can also say that the resurrection body—the spiritual body—will have a different “splendor” than our earthly, natural body.

The spiritual body is suited to eternal life. It is not subject to decay or death; it will not be inconvenienced by any of the physical functions necessary for life here and now. The spiritual body will be a real body, but in a different mode of being. It will be an upgrade: at the resurrection, our bodies will go from Version 1.0 to Version 2.0. Better yet, to extend Paul’s illustration in 1 Corinthians 15:39, our bodies now are the “seed”; our bodies then will be the blossom. Just as a poppy is more glorious than the seed from which it came, the spiritual body will be more glorious than the physical body that died.

The human body, in its present form, has various wants and weaknesses. In this fleshly body as we know it now, we cannot enter or enjoy the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). That will change at the resurrection. We will be transformed (verse 51). Right now, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). For the believer, after the resurrection, the spirit and the flesh will both be equally willing (and capable) of serving God.

The Bible teaches that all people will be resurrected, “some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). So, all will have a spiritual body, but there will be two different destinies. The difference is faith in Christ (John 3:36; 1 John 5:12). You will be resurrected someday, and you will receive a spiritual body. The question is, where will you spend eternity?

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Questions about 1 Corinthians

What is a spiritual body?
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This page last updated: July 1, 2022