Resurrection is a concept ridiculed by some and thought impossible by others. Yet many passages in Old and New Testaments speak of it, and the entire lengthy chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 is devoted to it. The Apostle Paul writes there as a debater in a logical presentation. He establishes the resurrection as sine qua non for Christianity.
In other words, disprove resurrection, and you destroy Christianity.
Right now we are experiencing the coronavirus pandemic, and many of us do not know what to make of it. We may have hope for the future, and the sooner we realize that hope, the better it will be. But right now we are uncertain of much.
Our verse today contains the greatest hope, and it is found in 1 Corinthians 15:49: “And just as we have borne the image of the man made of dust, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man.” Many translations depart slightly from the original Greek in one way or another, but the Holman Christian Study Bible, which I have used here, comes very close in its particular word choices to saying exactly what the Greek says.
We need to comment on some words first. You might rightly wonder who is referred to by the use of “we.” It could in general include just about anyone, depending on who the speaker is. However, here the context of the chapter limits it to those who hope in Jesus Christ. For all of them this verse is true.
The word “image” carries the idea of “image, likeness, form, or appearance” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology). Interestingly, this word appears in English with virtually the same pronunciation as our word ‘icon.’ It’s easy to see the connection here between Greek and English even if each language gives that word a somewhat different connotation.
Many Bible versions use words other than “dust,” but that is a literal translation. It is also helpful, because we might be able to remember that there was a man made from dust, namely, Adam.
The end of the verse speaks of a “heavenly man.” Jesus made the unique claim in John 3:13 that He had come down from heaven. Therefore we do well to listen to what He says about it since He knows it by first-hand experience.
So the first point of the verse is a recognition of fact: each of us wears the likeness of the man made from dust. We all come from Adam. We are earthy people, whatever else we might be. And that applies to every one of us. Remember that he is writing about people who hope in Jesus Christ. Others are outside this discussion.
Then the second point of the verse is actually a promise: each of us again will wear the likeness of the Man who came down from heaven. Jesus was fully human, but He also was different in certain respects, most singularly in that He had no sin. 1 John 3 tells us that when we see Him, we’ll be like Him. So the author John wrote of the same reality that Paul did.
The whole chapter develops the theme of the resurrection. As you contemplate this verse alone, you might wonder how wearing the likeness of Adam has any connection with wearing the likeness of Jesus someday. Well, to be very short and concise, it all relates to Jesus.
Once He came to earth and took on human form, He was like us, except for sin, and then He died, was buried, and rose from the grave, never to die again. When we believe in Him, we become united with Him and will experience in the main what He did.
One concept in the chapter is that the natural comes first and then the spiritual. Jesus became human. After death and resurrection He was still human, but He was simultaneously fit for heaven. We start out human, but if we have been united with Him through faith, we too will die and rise again. This risen existence will leave behind the limitations and sufferings of earth, and we will be at home, still human but with resurrected bodies, in a heaven characterized by abundant joy.
Easter is not really about chicken eggs and rabbits. It is really a day set aside to remember and celebrate that Jesus Christ rose from the dead to a glorified life forever, and you will too if your hope is fixed on Him!
Arlie Rauch has retired from forty-one years as a pastor, is anticipating the resurrection, and can be reached at email@example.com.