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The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 


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35. How will they be raised up? There is nothing that is more at variance with human reason than this article of faith. For who but God alone could persuade us that bodies, which are now liable to corruption, will, after having rotted away, or after they have been consumed by fire, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, will not merely be restored entire, but in a greatly better condition. Do not all our apprehensions of things straightway reject this as a thing fabulous, nay, most absurd? 100100     “Comme la plus grande absux, dite du monde;” — “As the greatest absurdity in the world.” Paul, with the view of removing entirely this appearance of absurdity, makes use of an anhypophora, 101101     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 281, n. 1. that is, he brings forward by way of objection, in the person of another, what appears at first view to be at variance with the doctrine of a resurrection. For this question is not that of one who inquires doubtingly as to the mode, but of one who argues from impossibility — that is, what is said as to the resurrection is a thing incredible. Hence in his reply he repels such an objection with severity. Let us observe, then, that the persons who are here introduced as speaking, are those who endeavor to disparage, in a way of scoffing, a belief in the resurrection, on the ground of its being a thing that is impossible.

36. Thou fool, that which thou sowest The Apostle might have replied, that the mode, which is to us incomprehensible, is nevertheless easy with God. Hence, we must not here form our judgment according to our own understanding, but must assign to the stupendous and secret power of God the honor of believing, that it will accomplish what we cannot comprehend. He goes to work, however, in another way. For he shows, that the resurrection is so far from being against nature, that we have every day a clear illustration of it in the course of nature itself — in the growth of the fruits of the earth. For from what but from rottenness spring the fruits that we gather out of the earth? For when the seed has been sown, unless the grains die, there will be no increase. Corruption, then, being the commencement and cause of production, we have in this a sort of picture of the resurrection. Hence it follows, that we are beyond measure spiteful and ungrateful in estimating the power of God, if we take from him what is already manifest before our eyes.

37. Thou sowest not that body that will spring up. This comparison consists of two partsfirst, that it is not to be wondered that bodies rise from rottenness, inasmuch as the same thing takes place as to seed; and secondly, that it is not at variance with reason, that our bodies should be restored in another condition, since, from bare grain, God brings forth so many ears of corn, clothed with admirable contrivance, and stored with grains of superior quality. As, however, he might seem to intimate, by speaking in this way, that many bodies will therefore rise out of one, he modifies his discourse in another way, by saying that God forms the body as it pleases him, meaning that in that also there is a difference in respect of quality.

He adds, to every seed its own body By this clause he restricts what he had said respecting another body; for he says that, while the body is different, it is in such a way as to retain, nevertheless, its particular kind.

39. All flesh is not, etc. Here we have another comparison leading to the same conclusion, though there are some that explain it otherwise. For when he says, that under the name of flesh is comprehended the body of a man as well as of a beast, and yet the flesh in those two cases is different, he means by this that the substance indeed is the same, but there is a difference as to quality. The sum is this — that whatever diversity we see in any particular kind is a sort of prelude of the resurrection, because God clearly shows, that it is no difficult thing with him to renew our bodies by changing the present condition of things. 102102     “Nearly allied to these are the examples of peculiar transformations undergone by various insects, and the state of rest and insensibility which precede those transformations; such as the chrysalis or aurelia state of butterflies, moths, and silkworms. The myrmeleon forniicaleo, of whose larva, and its extraordinary history, Reaumur and Roesel have given accurate descriptions, continues in its insensible or chrysalis state about four weeks. The libellula, or dragon-fly, continues still longer in its state of inaction. Naturalists tell us that the worm repairs to the margin of its pond, in quest of a convenient place of abode, during its insensible state. It attaches itself to a plant, or piece of dry wood, and the skin, which gradually becomes parched and brittle, at last splits opposite to the upper part of the thorax: through this aperture the insect, now become winged, quickly pushes its way, and being thus extricated front confinement, begins to expand its wings, to flutter, and, finally, to launch into the air with that gracefulness and ease which are peculiar to this majestic tribe. Now who that saw, for the first time, the little pendant coffin in which the insect lay entombed, and was ignorant of the transformation of which we are now speaking, would ever predict that, in a few weeks, perhaps in a few days or hours, it would become one of the most elegant and active of winged insects? And who that contemplates, with the mind of a philosopher, this current transformation, and knows that two years before the insect mounts into the air, even while it is living in water, it has the rudiments of wings, can deny that the body of a dead man may, at some future period, be again invested with vigor and activity, and soar to regions for which some latent organization may have peculiarly fitted it?” — Olythus Gregory’s Letters on the Evidences of the Christian Religion, page 225. — Ed.

41. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon Not only is there a difference between heavenly bodies and earthly, but even the heavenly bodies have not all the same glory; for the sun surpasses the moon, and the other stars differ from each other. This dissimilarity, accordingly, appears 103103     “Ceste dinersite de qualite se monstre;” — “This difference of quality shows itself.” in the resurrection of the dead. A mistake, however, is commonly fallen into in the application; 104104     “En l’application de ceste similitude;” — “In the application of this similitude.” for it is supposed that Paul meant to say, that, after the resurrection, the saints will have different degrees of honor and glory. This, indeed, is perfectly true, and is proved by other declarations of Scripture; but it has nothing to do with Paul’s object. For he is not arguing as to what difference of condition there will be among the saints after the resurrection, but in what respect our bodies at present differ from those that we will one day receive. 105105     “Comment different nos corps que nons auons maintenant de ceux que nons aurons apres;” — “In what respect our bodies, which we have now, will differ from those that we shall have afterwards.”

He removes, then, every idea of absurdity, by instituting this comparison: The substance of the sun and moon is the same, but there is a great difference between them in point of dignity and excellence. Is it to be wondered, then, if our body puts on a more excellent quality? 106106     “Qu’il n’ha maintenant;” — “Than it has now.” “I do not teach that anything will take place at the resurrection but what is already presented before the eyes of all.” That such is the meaning of the words is clear from the context. For whence and for what purpose would Paul make such a transition, were he now comparing them with one another in respect of the difference of their condition, while up to this point he has been comparing the present condition of all with their future condition, and immediately proceeds with that comparison?

43. It is sown in corruption That there may be no doubt remaining, Paul explains himself, by unfolding the difference between their present condition, and that which will be after the resurrection. What connection, then, would there be in his discourse, if he had intended in the first instance 107107     “Au propos precedent;” — “In the foregoing statement.” to distinguish between the different degrees of future glory among the saints? There can, therefore, be no doubt, that he has been, up to this point, following out one subject. He now returns to the first similitude that he had made use of, but applies it more closely to his design. Or, if you prefer it, keeping up that similitude, he figuratively compares the time of the present life to the seed-time, and the resurrection to the harvest; and he says, that our body is now, indeed, subject to mortality and ignominy, but will then be glorious and incorruptible. He says the same thing in other words in Philippians 3:21

Christ will change our vile body,
that he may make it like to his own glorious body.

44. It is sown an animal body. As he could not express each particular by enumerating one by one, he sums up all comprehensively in one word, by saying that the body is now animal, 108108     “It is generally agreed on by the best expositors, that ψυχικὸς here, as being opposed to πευματικὸς, (spiritual,) especially as the expression is used with a reference to the words of Moses respecting the body of Adam, ἐγένετο εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν (became a living soul,) must signify animal, (literally that which draws in the breath of life, necessary to the existence of all animal bodies,) that which is endowed with faculties of sense, and has need of food, drink, and sleep for its support.”Bloomfield.Ψυχικὸν not φυσικὸν. (says Granville Penn,) and therefore not ‘naturalebut ‘animale,’ as rendered in the Latin. Wiclif,” (he adds,) “strangely rendered, from the Vulg., ‘a beastli bodi,’ in correcting whom, our revisers would have done well to prefer ‘animal’ to ‘natural.’”Ed. but it will then be spiritual. Now that is called animal which is quickened by (anima) the soul: that is spiritual which is quickened by the Spirit. 109109     “Au reste la ou nous traduisons, Sensuel, il y auroit a le tourner au plus pres du Grec, Animal: c’est a dire, gouuerne et viuifie de l’ame. Voyla donc que signifie Le corps sensuel. Le corps spirituel est celuy qui est viuifie de l’Esprit;But what we translate sensual, might be rendered, more closely to the Greek, animal: that is to say, governed and quickened by the soul. Mark then what is meant by the sensual body. The spiritual body is that which is quickened by the Spirit.” Now it is the soul that quickens the body, so as to keep it from being a dead carcase. Hence it takes its title very properly from it. After the resurrection, on the other hand, that quickening influence, which it will receive from the Spirit, will be more excellent. 110110     “Sera vne chose beaucoup plus excellente;” — “Will be a thing much more excellent.” Let us, however, always bear in mind, what we have seen previously — that the substance of the body is the same, 111111     “La substance du corps sera tousiours vne;The substance of the body will always be the same.” and that it is the quality only that is here treated of. Let the present quality of the body be called, for the sake of greater plainness, animation; 112112     “Animation, qui est nom descendant de ce mot Ame;” — “Animation, which is a name derived from this word Soul.” let the future receive the name of inspiration. For as to the soul’s now quickening the body, that is effected through the intervention of many helps; for we stand in need of drink, food, clothing, sleep, and other things of a similar nature. Hence the weakness of animation is clearly manifested. The energy of the Spirit, on the other hand, for quickening, will be much more complete, and, consequently, exempted from necessities of that nature. This is the simple and genuine meaning of the Apostle; that no one may, by philosophizing farther, indulge in airy speculations, as those do, who suppose that the substance of the body will be spiritual, while there is no mention made here of substance, and no change will be made upon it.

45. As it is written, The first Adam was made Lest it should seem to be some new contrivance as to the animal body, 113113     “Vne nouuelle imagination qu’il ait forgee;” — “A new fancy that he had contrived.” he quotes Scripture, which declares that Adam became a living soul, (Genesis 2:7) — meaning, that his body was quickened by the soul, so that he became a living man. It is asked, what is the meaning of the word soul here? It is well known, that the Hebrew word נפש, (nephesh,) which Moses makes use of, is taken in a variety of senses; but in this passage it is taken to mean either vital motion, or the very essence of life itself. The second of these I rather prefer. I observe that the same thing is affirmed as to beasts — that they were made a living soul, (Genesis 1:20, 24;) but as the soul of every animal must be judged of according to its kind, there is nothing to hinder that a soul, that is to say, vital motion, may be common to all; and yet at the same time the soul of man may have something peculiar and distinguishing, namely, immortal essence, as the light of intelligence and reason.

The last Adam. This expression we do not find anywhere written. 114114     “Ceci n’est point trouue en lieu quelconque de l’Escriture;” — “This is not found in any passage of Scripture.” Hence the phrase, It is written, must be understood as referring exclusively to the first clause; but after bringing forward this testimony of Scripture, the Apostle now begins in his own person to draw a contrast between Christ and Adam. “Moses relates that Adam was furnished with a living soul; Christ, on the other hand, is endowed with a life-giving Spirit. Now it is a much greater thing to be life, or the source of life, than simply to live.” 115115     “As it is said, Adam was at first a living soul, (‘So God breathed into him the breath of life,’ — that pure, divine, and heavenly breath,) ‘and he became a living soul;’ so, then to have asked the question, ‘What is man?’ must have been to receive the answer, ‘He is a living soul: he is all soul, and that soul all life.’ But now is this living soul buried in flesh, a lost thing to all the true, and great, and noble ends and purposes of that life which was at first given it. It is true, indeed, that this is a thing much less than what is said of the second Adam, in 1 Corinthians 15:45. ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul; the second Adam was a quickening Spirit.’ This latter is a great deal more. A living soul signified him to live himself; but a quickening spirit signifies a power to make others live. That the first Adam could not do; the more excellent kind of life which he had (for there was a complication of lives in the first creation of this man) he could not lose: but he could not give. He could not lose it from himself; but he could never have given it, by any power or immediate efficiency of his own, to another. Here the second Adam — the constitution of the second Adam — was far above that of the first, in that he could quicken others — a quickening spirit, not only quickened passively, but quickened actively, such a spirit as could give spirit, and diffuse life.” — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) page 1209. — Ed. It must be observed, however, that Christ did also, like us, become a living soul; but, besides the soul, the Spirit of the Lord was also poured-out upon him, that by his power he might rise again from the dead, and raise up others, This, therefore, must be observed, in order that no one may imagine, (as Apollinaris 116116     The views held by Apollinaris were as follows: “Christum corpus assumpsisse sine anima, quod pro anima ei fuerit deitas illudque corpus consubstantiale fuisse deitati, nec ex substantia Martin efformatum;” — “That Christ assumed a body without a stud, because Deity was to him in place of a stud, and that body was co-essential with Deity, and was not formed from the substance of Mary.” — See Mastrieht’s Theology, (1698,) volume ii. page 975. “Apollinaris, or Apollinarius, taught that the Son of God assumed manhood without a soul, (ψυχης ανευ,) as Socrates relates; but afterwards, changing his mind, he said that he assumed a soul, but that it did not possess the intelligent or rational principle, (νουν δε ουκ εξεις αυτην) and that the λογος (word) was instead of that principle, (αντιςου)”Dick’s Lectures on Theology volume iii. page 22.Ed. did of old,) that the Spirit was in Christ in place of a soul. And independently of this, the interpretation of this passage may be taken from the eighth chapter of the Romans, where the Apostle declares, that the body, indeed, is dead, on account of sin, and we carry in us the elements of death; but that the Spirit of Christ, who raised him up from the dead, dwelleth also in us, and that he is life, to raise up us also one day from the dead. (Romans 8:10, 11.) From this you see, that we have living souls, inasmuch as we are men, but that we have the life-giving Spirit of Christ poured out upon us by the grace of regeneration. In short, Paul’s meaning is, that the condition that we obtain through Christ is greatly superior to the lot of the first man, because a living soul was conferred upon Adam in his own name, and in that of his posterity, but Christ has procured for us the Spirit, who is life.

Now as to his calling Christ the last Adam, the reason is this, that as the human race was created in the first man, so it is renewed in Christ. I shall express it again, and more distinctly: All men were created in the first man, because, whatever God designed to give to all, he conferred upon that one man, so that the condition of mankind was settled in his person. He by his fall 117117     “Le poure mal-heureux par sa transgression;” — “The poor miserable creature by his transgression.” ruined himself and those that were his, because he drew them all, along with himself, into the same ruin: Christ came to restore our nature from ruin, and raise it up to a better condition than ever. They 118118     “Adam done et Christ;” — “Adam and Christ, therefore.” are then, as it were, two sources, or two roots of the human race. Hence it is not without good reason, that the one is called the first man, and the other the last. This, however, gives no support to those madmen, who make Christ to be one of ourselves, as though there were and always had been only two men, and that this multitude which we behold, were a mere phantom! A similar comparison occurs in Romans 5:12

46. But this is not first, which is spiritual. “It is necessary,” says he, “that before we are restored in Christ, we derive our origin from Adam, and resemble him. Let us, therefore, not wonder, if we begin with the living soul, for as being born precedes in order being born again, so living precedes rising again.”

47. The first Adam was from the earth. The animal life comes first, because the earthy man is first. 119119     “La vie sensuelle, ou animale, c’est a dire, que nous auons par le moyen de l’ame, precede;” — “The sensual or animal life, that is to say, what we have by means of the soul, comes first.” The spiritual life will come afterwards, as Christ, the heavenly man, came after Adam. Now the Manichees perverted this passage, with the view of proving that Christ brought a body from heaven into the womb of the Virgin. They mistakingly imagined, however, that Paul speaks here of the substance of the body, while he is discoursing rather as to its condition, or quality. Hence, although the first man had an immortal soul, and that too, not taken from the earth, yet he, nevertheless, savoured of the earth, from which his body had sprung, and on which he had been appointed to live. Christ, on the other hand, brought us from heaven a life-giving Spirit, that he might regenerate us into a better life, and elevated above the earth. 120120     “Plus haute et excellente que la terre;” — “Higher and more excellent than the earth.” In fine, we have it from Adam — that we live in this world, as branches from the root: Christ, on the other hand, is the beginning and author of the heavenly life.

But some one will say in reply, Adam is said to be from the earth — Christ from heaven; the nature of the comparison 121121     “La nature de l’antithese et comparison;” — “The nature of the contrast and comparison.” requires this much, that Christ have his body from heaven, as the body of Adam was formed from the earth; or, at least, that the origin of man’s soul should be from the earth, but that Christ’s soul had come forth from heaven. I answer, that Paul had not contrasted the two departments of the subject with such refinement and minuteness, (for this was not necessary;) but when treating of the nature of Christ and Adam, he made a passing allusion to the creation of Adam, that he had been formed from the earth,, and at the same time, for the purpose of commending Christ’s excellence, he states, that he is the Son of God, who came down to us from heaven, and brings with him, therefore, a heavenly nature and influence. This is the simple meaning, while the refinement of the Manichees is a mere calumny.

We must, however, reply to another objection still. For Christ, so long as he lived in the world, lived a life similar to ours, and therefore earthly: hence it is not a proper contrast. The solution of this question will serve farther to refute the contrivance 122122     “La meschante imagination;The wicked fancy.” of the Manichees. For we know, that the body of Christ was liable to death, and that it was exempted from corruption, not by its essential property, (as they speak,) 123123     “Afin que Fuse du terme commun;” — “To use the common phrase.” but solely by the providence of God. Hence Christ was not merely earthy as to the essence of his body, but was also for a time in an earthly condition; for before Christ’s power could show itself in conferring the heavenly life, it was necessary that he should die in the weakness of the flesh, (2 Corinthians 13:4.) Now this heavenly life appeared first in the resurrection, that he might quicken us also.

49. As we have borne Some have thought, that there is here an exhortation to a pious and holy life, into which Paul was led by way of digression; and on that account they have changed the verb from the future tense into the hortative mood. Nay more, in some Greek manuscripts the reading is φορέσωμεν (let us bear,) 124124     “Pourtant en lieu de Nous porterons, aucuns ont traduit Portons. Et mesme aucuns liures Grecs le lisent ainsi;” — “Hence instead of We shall bear, some have rendered it, Let us bear. And even some Greek manuscripts read it thus.” but as that does not suit so well in respect of connection, let us adopt in preference what corresponds better with the object in view and the context. 125125     The Alexandrine manuscript, with some others, reads φορέσωμεν, let us bear. The rendering of the Vulgate is portemus(let us bear.) Wiclif (1380) following the Vulgate, as he is wont, renders as follows: bere we also the ymage of the heuenli.Ed. Let us observe, in the first place, that this is not an exhortation, but pure doctrine, and that he is not treating here of newness of life, but pursues, without any interruption, the thread of his discourse respecting the resurrection of the flesh. The meaning accordingly will be this: “As the animal nature, which has the precedency in us, is the image of Adam, so we shall be conformed to Christ in the heavenly nature; and this will be the completion of our restoration. For we now begin to bear the image of Christ, and are every day more and more transformed into it; 126126     “Car nons ne faisons encore que commencer a porter l’image de Jesus Christ;” — “For as yet we do but begin to bear the image of Jesus Christ.” but that image consists in spiritual regeneration. But then it will be fully restored both in body and in soul, and what is now begun will be perfected, and accordingly we will obtain in reality what we as yet only hope for.” If, however, any one prefers a different reading, this statement will serve to spur forward the Corinthians; and if there had been a lively meditation of sincere piety and a new life, it might have been the means of kindling up in them at the same time the hope of heavenly glory.

50. Now this I say This clause intimates, that what follows is explanatory of the foregoing statement. “What I have said as to bearing the image of the heavenly Adam means this — that we must be renewed in respect of our bodies, inasmuch as our bodies, being liable to corruption, cannot inherit God’s incorruptible kingdom. Hence there will be no admission for us into the kingdom of Christ, otherwise than by Christ’s renewing us after his own image.” Flesh and blood, however, we must understand, according to the condition in which they at present are, for our flesh will be a participant in the glory of God, but it will be — as renewed and quickened by the Spirit of Christ.

Hitherto he has included two things in his reasoning. In the first place, he shows that there will be a resurrection from the dead: secondly, he shows of what nature it will be. Now, however, he enters more thoroughly into a description of the manner of it. This he calls a mystery, because it had not been as yet so clearly unfolded in any statement of revelation; but he does this to make them more attentive. For that wicked doctrine had derived strength from the circumstance, that they disputed as to this matter carelessly and at their ease; 127127     “Par maniere de passe-temps, et tout a leur aise;By way of pastime, and quite at their ease.” as if it were a matter in which they felt no difficulty. Hence by the term mystery, he admonishes them to learn a matter, which was not only as yet unknown to them, but ought to be reckoned among God’s heavenly secrets.

51. We shall not indeed all sleep. Here there is no difference in the Greek manuscripts, but in the Latin versions there are three different readings. The first is, We shall indeed all die, but we shall not all be changed. The second is, We shall indeed all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. 128128     This is the reading of the Vulgate. Wiclif (1380) translates the verse as follows: Lo, I seie to you pryuyte (secret) of holi things, and alle we schulen rise agen, but not alle we schulen be chaungid. — Ed. The third is, We shall not indeed all sleep, but we shall all be changed. This diversity, I conjecture, had arisen from this — that some readers, who were not the most discerning, dissatisfied with the true reading, ventured to conjecture a reading which was more approved by them. 129129     “Qui leur estoit plus probable;” — “Which appeared to them more probable.” For it appeared to them, at first view, to be absurd to say, that all would not die, while we read elsewhere, that it is appointed unto all men once to die. (Hebrews 9:27.) Hence they altered the meaning in this way — All will not be changed, though all will rise again, or will die; and the change they interpret to mean — the glory that the sons of God alone will obtain. The true reading, however, may be judged of from the context.

Paul’s intention is to explain what he had said — that we will be conformed to Christ, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. A question presented itself, 130130     “Il y auoit sur ceci vne question qu’on prouuolt faire;” — “There was a question as to this, which might be proposed.” what then will become of those who will be still living at the day of the Lord? His answer is, that although all will not die, yet they will be renewed, that mortality and corruption may be done away. It is to be observed, however, that he speaks exclusively of believers; for although the resurrection of the wicked will also involve change, yet as there is no mention made of them here, we must consider everything that is said, as referring exclusively to the elect. We now see, how well this statement corresponds with the preceding one, for as he had said, that we shall bear the image of Christ, he now declares, that this will take place when we shall be changed, so that

mortality may be swallowed up of life, (2 Corinthians 5:4,)

and that this renovation is not inconsistent with the fact, that Christ’s advent will find some still alive.

We must, however, unravel the difficulty — that it is appointed unto all men once to die; and certainly, it is not difficult to unravel it in this way — that as a change cannot take place without doing away with the previous system, that change is reckoned, with good reason, a kind of death; but, as it is not a separation of the soul from the body, it is not looked upon as an ordinary death. It will then be death, inasmuch as it will be the destruction of corruptible nature: it will not be a sleep, inasmuch as the soul will not quit the body; but there will be a sudden transition from corruptible nature into a blessed immortality.

52. In a moment This is still of a general nature; that is, it includes all. For in all the change will be sudden and instantaneous, because Christ’s advent will be sudden. And to convey the idea of a moment, he afterwards makes use of the phrase twinkling (or jerk) of the eye, for in the Greek manuscripts there is a twofold, reading — ῥοπὣ (jerk,) or ῥιπὣ (twinkling.) 131131     It is stated by Semlr, that some in the times of Jerome preferred ῥοπὟ, but Jerome himself preferred ῥιπὟ is derived from ῥέπω, to tend or incline to. It means force or impetus. It is used by Thucydides (v. 103) to mean the preponderance of a scale. In connection with ὀφθαλμοῦ, (the eye,) it would probably mean, a cast or inclination of the eye. ̔ΡιπὟ, (the common reading,) is derived from ῥίπτω, to throw. ̔ριπὟ ὀφθαλμοῦ is explained by Nyssenus, (as stated by Parkhurst,) to mean — επιμύσις the shutting or twinkling of the eyelids. It matters nothing, however, as to the sense. Paul has selected a movement of the body, that surpasses all others in quickness; for nothing is more rapid than a movement of the eye, though at the same time he has made an allusion to sleep, with which twinkling of the eye is contrasted. 132132     “Pour ce que quand on se resueille, on cleigne ainsi des yeux;” — “Because, when persons awake, they twinkle in this way with their eyes.”

With the last trump. Though the repetition of the term might seem to place it beyond a doubt, that the word trumpet is here taken in its proper acceptation, yet I prefer to understand the expression as metaphorical. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, he connects together the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: As therefore a commander, with the sound of a trumpet, summons his army to battle, so Christ, by his far sounding proclamation, which will be heard throughout the whole world, will summon all the dead. Moses tells us, (Exodus 19:16,) what loud and terrible sounds were uttered on occasion of the promulgation of the law. Far different will be the commotion then, when not one people merely, but the whole world will be summoned to the tribunal of God. Nor will the living only be convoked, but even the dead will be called forth from their graves. 133133     “The trumpet shall sound, (1 Corinthians 15:52,) says the prophetic teacher. And how startling, how stupendous the summons! Nothing equal to it, nothing like it, was ever heard through all the regions of the universe, or all the revolutions of time. When conflicting armies have discharged the bellowing artillery of war, or when victorious armies have shouted for joy of the conquest, the seas and shores have rung, the mountains and plains have echoed. But the shout of the archangel, and the trump of God, will resound from pole to poles — will pierce the center and shake the pillars of heaven. Stronger — stronger still — it will penetrate even the deepest recesses of the tomb! It will pour its amazing thunder into all those abodes of silence. The dead, the very dead, shall hear.”Hervey’s Theron and Aspasio, volume 2 page 66.Ed. Nay more, a commandment must be given to dry bones and dust that, resuming their former appearance and reunited to the spirit, they come forth straightway as living men into the presence of Christ.

The dead shall rise What he had declared generally as to all, he now explains particularly as to the living and the dead. This distinction, therefore, is simply an exposition of the foregoing statement — that all will not die, but all will be changed “Those who have already died,” says he, “will rise again incorruptible.” See what a change there will be upon the dead! “Those,” says he, “who will be still alive will themselves also be changed.” You see then as to both. 134134     “Voyla donc ques les viuans et les morts;” — “Mark then how it will be as to the living and the dead.” You now then perceive how it is, that change will be common to all, but not sleep. 135135     “Non pus le dormir, c’est a dire la mort;” — “Not sleep, that is to say, death.”

When he says, We shall be changed, he includes himself in the number of those, who are to live till the advent of Christ. As it was now the last times, (1 John 2:18,) that day (2 Timothy 1:18) was to be looked for by the saints every hour. At the same time, in writing to the Thessalonians, he utters that memorable prediction respecting the scattering 136136     “La dissipation horrible;” — “The dreadful scattering.” that would take place in the Church before Christ’s coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:3.) This, however, does not hinder that he might, by bringing the Corinthians, as it were, into immediate contact with the event, associate himself and them with those who would at that time be alive.

53. For this corruptible must Mark, how we shall live in the kingdom of God both in body and in soul, while at the same time flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God — for they shall previously be delivered from corruption. Our nature then, as being now corruptible and mortal, is not admissible into the kingdom of God, but when it shall have put off corruption, and shall have been beautified with in-corruption, it will then make its way into it. This passage, too, distinctly proves, that we shall rise again in that same flesh that we now carry about with us, as the Apostle assigns a new quality to it which will serve as a garment. If he had said, This corruptible must be renewed, the error of those fanatics, who imagine that mankind will be furnished with new bodies, would not have been so plainly or forcibly overthrown. Now, however, when he declares that this corruptible shall be invested with glory, there is no room left for cavil.

54. Then shall be brought to pass the saying This is not merely an amplification, (ἐπεξεργασία,) 137137     “Vne declaration ou amplification;” — “A declaration or amplification.” but a confirmation, too, of the preceding statement. For what was foretold by the Prophets must be fulfilled. Now this prediction will not be fulfilled, until our bodies, laying aside corruption, will put on incorruption Hence this last result, also, is necessary. To come to pass, is used here in the sense of being fully accomplished, for what Paul quotes is now begun in us, and is daily, too, receiving further accomplishment; but it will not have its complete fulfillment until the last day.

It does not, however, appear quite manifest, from what passage he has taken this quotation, for many statements occur in the Prophets to this effect. Only the probability is, that the first clause is taken either from Isaiah 25:8, where it is said that death will be for ever destroyed by the Lord, 138138     “The words, as alleged by Paul,” (from Isaiah 25:8,) “are found in the version of Theodotion, with which the Targum and Syriac agree, in reading the verb as a passive, כלע in Piel, as here, commonly signifies to destroy, destroy utterly; in Kal, the more usual signification is that of swallowing, which most of the versions have unhappily adopted, לנצח the Greek translators render by; ἰσχύσας, εἰς τέλος, εἰς νῖκος; attaching to the term the idea of what is overpowering, durable, complete. The significations of the Hebrew root נצח, used only in Niphal and Piel, are — to shine, lead, lead on, be complete; in Chald. to surpass; excel, vanquish; hence the idea of victory, eternity, etc., attaching to נצח, and of completely, entirely, for ever, etc., to לנצח נצח. The words are therefore equivalent to ὁ θάνατος ὀυκ ἐσται ἐτι(Death shall be no longer,) Revelation 21:4, where there seems to be an evident allusion to our text; and where the subject is, as here, not the millennial state of the Church, but the state of glory after the resurrection of the body. It will be then only, that a period shall be put to the reproachful persecutions of the righteous, which Isaiah likewise predicts.”Henderson on Isaiah. — Ed. or, (as almost all are rather inclined to think,) from Hosea 13:14, where the Prophet, bewailing the obstinate wickedness of Israel, complains that he was like an untimely child, that struggles against the efforts of his mother in travail, that he may not come forth from the womb, and from this he concludes, that it was owing entirely to himself, that he was not delivered from death. I will ransom them, says he, from the power of the grave: I will rescue them from death. It matters not, whether you read these words in the future of the indicative, or in the subjunctive 139139     “Ie les eusse rachetez — ie les eusse deliurez;” — “I could have ransomed them — I could have rescued them.” for in either way the meaning amounts to this — that God was prepared to confer upon them salvation, if they would have allowed the favor to be conferred upon them, and that, therefore, if they perished, it was their own fault.

He afterwards adds, I will be thy destruction, O death! thy ruin, O grave! In these words God intimates, that he accomplishes the salvation of his people 140140     “Lors vrayement et a bon escient il sauue les fideles;” — “He then truly and effectually saves believers.” only when death and the grave are reduced to nothing. For no one will deny, that in that passage there is a description of completed salvation. As, therefore, we do not see such a destruction of death, it follows, that we do not yet enjoy that complete salvation, which God promises to his people, and that, consequently, it is delayed until that day. Then, accordingly, will death be swallowed up, that is, it will be reduced to nothing, 141141     “This victory will not be gradual only, but total and entire. Every thing of mortality, that was hanging about these glorious victors, shall be swallowed up in perfect and endless life. Death is unstung first — disarmed — and then easily overcome. Its sting is said to be sin — the deadliest thing in death. A plain farther proof, by the way, the Apostle intended death also in the moral sense. And the insulting inquiry, ‘where is it?’ implies ‘tis not any where to be found; and signifies a total abolition of it, and, by consequence, must infer that every thing of death besides must, as to them, for ever cease and be no more. Which also the phrase of swallowing up doth with great emphasis express.”Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) page 1035. — Ed. that we may have manifestly, in every particular, and in every respect, (as they say,) a complete victory over it. 142142     “En sorte que nons aurons plene et parfaite victoire a Pencontre d’elle;So that we shall have a full and complete victory over it.”

As to the second clause, in which he triumphs over death and the grave, it is not certain whether he speaks of himself, or whether he meant there also to quote the words of the Prophet. For where we render it, “I will be thy destruction, O death! — thy ruin, O grave!” the Greeks have translated it, “Where, O death, is thy suit? 143143     “Ou est ton plaid, c’est a dire, le proces que tu intentes contre nons, o mort?” — “O death, where is thy suit — that is to say, the process that thou carriest on against us?” where, O grave, thy sting?” Now although this mistake of the Greeks is excusable from the near resemblance of the words, 144144     “The passage (says Dr. Bloomfield) is from Hosea 13:14, and the Apostle’s words differ only by the transposition of νῖκος (victory) and κέντρον, (sting,) from the ancient versions; except that for νῖκος the Sept. has δίκν (law-suit.)” It is noticed, however, by Granville Penn, that “in the most ancient of all the existing MSS. (Vat. and Ephr.) there is no transposition of θανατος (death) and κεντρον, (sting;) and the Apostle’s sentence preserves the same order as in the Greek of Hosea; so that the transposition lies wholly at the door of those MSS. which are more recent than those ancient copies.” The Vat. version has νεικος; instead of νικος, but from the circumstance that in that version νεικος is used in the 54th verse manifestly instead of νικος, it abundantly appears that it is a mere difference of spelling. The words to which Calvin refers, as having been mistaken for each other from their near resemblance, are, δικη (law-suit) and νικος, (or νικη,) victory.Ed. yet if any one will attentively examine the context, he will see that they have gone quite away from the Prophet’s intention. The true meaning, then, will be this — that the Lord will put an end to death, and destroy the grave. It is possible, however, that, as the Greek translation was in common use, Paul alluded to it, and in that there is nothing inconsistent, though he has not quoted literally, for instead of victory he has used the term action, or law-suit. 145145     “Car en lieu du mot δίκη, qui signifie plaid ou proces, il a mis νῖκος, qui signifie victoire;” — “For in place of the word δίκη, which signifies an action or law-suit, they have used νῖκος, which signifies victory.” I am certainly of opinion, that the Apostle did not deliberately intend to call in the Prophet as a witness, with the view of making a wrong use of his authority, but simply accommodated, in passing, to his own use a sentiment that had come into common use, as being, independently of this, of a pious nature. 146146     “Bonne et saincte;” — “Good and holy,” The main thing is this — that Paul, by an exclamation of a spirited nature, designed to rouse up the minds of the Corinthians, and lead them on, as it were, to a near view of the resurrection. Now, although we do not as yet behold the victory with our eyes, and the day of triumph has not yet arrived, (nay more, the dangers of war must every day be encountered,) yet the assurance of faith, as we shall have occasion to observe ere long, is not at all thereby diminished.

56. The sting of death is sin In other words, “Death has no dart with which to wound us except sin, since death proceeds from the anger of God. Now it is only with our sins that God is angry. Take away sin, therefore, and death will no more be able to harm us.” This agrees with what he said in Romans 6:23, that the wages of sin is death. Here, however, he makes use of another metaphor, for he compared sin to a sting, with which alone death is armed for inflicting upon us a deadly wound. Let that be taken away, and death is disarmed, so as to be no longer hurtful. Now with what view Paul says this will be explained by him ere long.

The strength of sin is the law It is the law of God that imparts to that sting its deadly power, because it does not merely discover our guilt, but even increases it. A clearer exposition of this statement may be found in Romans 7:9, where Paul teaches us that we are alive, so long as we are without the law, because in our own opinion it is well with us, and we do not feel our own misery, until the law summons us to the judgment of God, and wounds our conscience with an apprehension of eternal death. Farther, he teaches us that sin has been in a manner lulled asleep, but is kindled up by the law, so as to rage furiously. Meanwhile, however, he vindicates the law from calumnies, on the ground that it is holy, and good, and just, and is not of itself the parent of sin or the cause of death. Hence he concludes, that whatever there is of evil is to be reckoned to our own account, inasmuch as it manifestly proceeds from the depravity of our nature. Hence the law is but the occasion of injury. The true cause of ruin is in ourselves. Hence he speaks of the law here as the strength or power of sin, because it executes upon us the judgment of God. In the mean time he does not deny, that sin inflicts death even upon those that know not the law; but he speaks in this manner, because it exercises its tyranny upon them with less violence. For the law came that sin might abound, (Romans 5:20,) or that it might become beyond measure sinful. (Romans 7:13.)

57. But thanks be to God From this it appears, why it it was that he made mention both of sin and of the law, when treating of death. Death has no sting with which to wound except sin, and the law imparts to this sting a deadly power. But Christ has conquered sin, and by conquering it has procured victory for us, and has redeemed us from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13.) Hence it follows, that we are no longer lying under the power of death. Hence, although we have not as yet a full discovery of those benefits, yet we may already with confidence glory in them, because it is necessary that what has been accomplished in the Head should be accomplished, also, in the members. We may, therefore, triumph over death as subdued, because Christ’s victory is ours.

When, therefore, he says, that victory has been given to us, you are to understand by this in the first place, that it is inasmuch as Christ has in his own person abolished sin, has satisfied the law, has endured the curse, has appeased the anger of God, and has procured life; and farther, because he has already begun to make us partakers of all those benefits. For though we still carry about with us the remains of sin, it, nevertheless, does not reign in us: though it still stings us, it does not do so fatally, because its edge is blunted, so that it does not penetrate into the vitals of the soul. Though the law still threatens, yet there is presented to us on the other hand, the liberty that was procured for us by Christ, which is an antidote to its terrors. Though the remains of sin still dwell in us, yet the Spirit who raised up Christ from the dead is life, because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10.) Now follows the conclusion.

58. Wherefore, my brethren Having satisfied himself that he had sufficiently proved the doctrine of the resurrection, he now closes his discussion with an exhortation; and this has much more force, than if he had made use of a simple conclusion with an affirmation. Since your labor, says he, is not in vain in the Lord, be steadfast, and abound in good works Now he says that their labor is not in vain, for this reason, that there is a reward laid up for them with God. This is that exclusive hope which, in the first instance, encourages believers, and afterwards sustains them, so that they do not stop short in the race. Hence he exhorts them to remain steadfast, because they rest on a firm foundation, as they know that a better life is prepared for them in heaven.

He adds — abounding in the work of the Lord; for the hope of a resurrection makes us not be weary in well doing, as he teaches in Colossians 1:10. For amidst so many occasions of offense as constantly present themselves to us, who is there that would not despond, or turn aside from the way, were it not that, by thinking of a better life he is by this means kept in the fear of God? Now, on the other hand, he intimates, that if the hope of a resurrection is taken away, then, the foundation (as it were) being rooted up, the whole structure of piety falls to the ground. 147147     “D’autant que ceste esperance enest le fondement;” — “Inasmuch as that hope is the foundation of it.” Unquestionably, if the hope of reward is taken away and extinguished, alacrity in running will not merely grow cold, but will be altogether destroyed.




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