This process of bringing life to their "mortal bodies" was not an easy thing to understand. Paul says "I am telling you a mystery: 'we will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed.'" He is saying that though not everyone will be dead when the resurrection occurs, everyone will be changed, both those who are asleep and those who are awake. The reason anyone who was alive would also be changed is that they were considered currently dead according to Paul in Romans 8:10! They were already a dead being. Yet it is clearly not their physical body that was dead and in the grave! Paul even says that his mind was free from the law of sin but his "body" was not. He says that his "body" was DEAD, yet it is clear that his physical body was still living! He was a prisoner to the desires of the flesh, because his "body" was dead, even though his "mind" was free. This truly is a mystery! How do we sort this out?
Some people have taken this bride aspect and taken the personal meaning out of resurrection that the Romans, First and Second Corinthians passages clearly imply. There is too clearly a personal aspect to this marriage as well as there is a personal aspect to this struggle Paul had over his flesh following the "law of sin." This issue holds personal implications. Eternal life would be personally experienced on an individual level. Individual "mortal bodies" would be made alive at the resurrection, at the same time that the ministry of death would vanish and the glory of the ministry of righteousness would be consummated. However, it is the nature of these "mortal bodies" that have given theologians confusion as to the nature of the resurrection based on the preterist implications of timing.
We must have a renewed understanding of the "mortal body." The dead mortal body is not the physical body that was clearly living. The dead mortal body is not the "flesh and bone" which could not inherit eternal life. The idea of the "mortal body" and the physical body are not one in the same. There is a "mortal body" which was dead when Paul was physically alive. First Corinthians offers great insight into this "mortal body" when Paul discusses the marriage and the act of immorality.
"1 Cor 6:12 'Everything is permissible for me,' but not everything is helpful. 'Everything is permissible for me,' but I will not be brought under the control of anything. 13 'Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods,' but God will do away with both of them. The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 God raised up the Lord and will raise us up by His power."
Numerous statements are made here. Paul is battling immorality in the church. It is clear that the church in Corinth was overstepping their "freedom" by sinning against the body. Paul excuses the eating of foods, in this case, because nothing a man can eat sins against the body. However he goes on to say that sexual immorality does sin against the body because the body is for the Lord. How can one eat junk food to the point of obesity and not sin against the body?
If the physical body is the "mortal body" or "flesh" that Paul is referring to, how come there is nothing we consume that can sin against the "body?" It is clear that Paul says God will do away with food and the physical "body" in this passage. Yet we know that the "mortal body" was to be "changed," and those who are asleep will have their "mortal body" resurrected. It is also clear that the resurrected body does not have a stomach (vs. 13). If we rise in a physical body, why does the stomach disappear from our new state? Don't we need to have communion with the Lord at the "marriage supper of the Lamb?" These questions are not sarcastic. Though they may seem silly, these questions are legitimate. How can the "physical body" be said to be done away with yet still have the "mortal bodies" brought to life?
The interesting part of this is Paul says that no food can sin against the body but sexual immorality does. He stresses the importance of sinning against the body with sexual immorality because the body will be raised. Wouldn't cancer and heart disease causing obesity equal STDs in the sense of "sinning against the body" according to God? Paul contrasts the differences between the physical "body" and the "mortal body" later in this chapter. Paul uses marriage to show what type of body He is discussing.
"1Cor 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ? So should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Absolutely not! Do you not know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For it says' 'The two will become one flesh.' 17 But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him."
The body Paul is referring to, that Paul says will rise, cannot mean a physical body. He says that the food, which is physical, is for the stomach, which is physical, and both will be destroyed. Paul then says the "body" will be raised, and since they are joined in Spirit with the Lord, like a married couple (the bride of Christ), they are not to commit sexual immorality and become one with prostitutes.
In the teachings of marriage we know that two, who come together in sexual relations, are made "one flesh." Their spirits are joined in a marital union. When someone commits sexual immorality, they sin against that union. If someone commits sexual immorality with a virgin, do they sin against the physical body if their body is in no danger of contracting a disease? Is the physical body damaged? No! Just like with food, it is not the outward act that causes sin against the body that Paul is referring to. It is the spiritual union with someone other than your wife that is sin against the "mortal body." The "one flesh" that two married couple has made together is affected.
Sexual immorality sins against the "one spirit" that a Christian has with the Lord, according to Paul. Food does not interfere with the relationship with the Lord. It is the reason Gentiles did not have to abstain from pork. God made all creation good and worthy to eat. Eating foods and drinking wine does not sin against the "body." The body Paul is concerned with is the "one spirit" with the Lord. Sexual immorality sins against the soul. We commit adultery on the Lord when we commit fornication in this life. We have left our one spirit union with Him and joined ourselves with a prostitute in sin. Therefore we sin against the body!
"1 Cor 6:18 Flee sexual immorality! 'Every sin a person can commit is outside the body,' but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body."
Paul has already showed it is not the physical body that is affected by the sin of sexual immorality. It is not the outward physical act of sin that is considered against the "body" that will be raised. The body Paul refers to as the "mortal body."
Showing us the nature of the body in which a marriage inhabits shows us the nature of the body that will rise. Sinning against the body through sexual immorality is a spiritual reality. It is the spiritual body, the soul of a man, which was to rise on resurrection day. The flesh that Paul speaks of is not the physical body. the flesh that was to rise and to change at the rapture/resurrection was not the physical body. There is more than one type of "flesh." The type of flesh Paul speaks of is not the physical body, just like it was not the physical body that would rise or change, according to First Corinthians 15.
"1 Cor 15:35 But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come?' 36 Foolish one! What you sow does not come life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you are not sowing the future body, but only a seed, perhaps of wheat of another grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He wants, and to each of the seeds its own body."
Paul could not get any clearer. The resurrection is not exactly like Christ because we do not rise in the body in which we die. The physical body was only a seed that must die for the new body to rise. Think of a seed: it dies and is planted and what grows with water and nutrients are the insides that spring to life. Our physical bodies, like a seed, dies, and what is inside rises. Paul himself said it is like a seed.
Paul then specifically addresses and clarifies the natures of flesh, specifically, the flesh that is to rise. Remember, the flesh that will rise according to First Corinthians 6 is the "mortal body" that is sinned against in the act of sexual immorality.
"1 Cor 15:39 Not all flesh is the same flesh; there is one flesh for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is different than that of the earthly ones. 41 For there is a splendor of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars; for star differs from star in splendor. 42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead: 'Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; 43 sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; 44 sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 'The first man was of the earth and made of dust; the second man is from heaven.48 Like the man made of dust, so are those who are made of dust; like the heavenly man, so are those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the man made of dust, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man."
Here it is! The champion verse of a resurrection of the physical body proves its worst enemy. Paul says the seed and different body analogies are like the "resurrection of the dead." He said that the resurrection of the dead is like the bodies he was talking about. He does not say anything about a physical body rising from the dead. The body that is like Adam, the "man of dust," will return to dust, but the body that is like the heavenly man, the "life-giving spirit," will "bear the image of the heavenly man." He affirms the resurrection of believers in a spiritual body! The "mortal body" that would be given life (Rom 8:11) is the soul. The "flesh" that would be made alive, that was dead at the present time that Paul wrote Romans 8, was the soul. He was a prisoner to the "law of sin" because his soul was dead and he could not, in his dead state, stop the physical acts of sinning. It was a war he fought daily and why he said he daily had to crucify his "flesh," which was obviously not a literal statement, and live according to the spirit.
Paul says: "so it is with the resurrection of the dead." The dead are sown in bodies of corruption, "mortal bodies," and raised in bodies of "incorruption." The dead sow a natural body and rise in a spiritual body! Like a seed, the corruption must die and the shell open up so that what is inside may sprout to life. This is the nature of the resurrection according to Paul. What part of a living, physical, sinful man is dead? The soul. They are spiritually dead because of sin. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then continue to sin and party. Paul says that since Christ rose, there is a resurrection of the dead, so the dead will rise and answer to God.
Let me address verses 47 through 49 because people will claim this means we will have a body exactly like Christ. The verse says "we will also bear the image of the heavenly man." In scripture, Adam was made in the image of God. Was Adam divine? Was God made of flesh and blood? The answers to these are obvious; man was in the image of God but not exactly like God. Being recreated in the image of Christ does not mean our resurrection is exactly like Christ's. All it means is we rise also, and bear the image of the heavenly man. On earth we were made in the image of God, but not exactly. When resurrected, the dead were made in the image of Christ, but they were not exactly like Christ. Likewise, the change that occurred in the event know as the rapture was not a physical change into a physically renewed body exactly like Christ, but it was a process of their "mortal body" being brought to life, even in their current, earthly, physical state.