One of the most important issues for the apostle Paul is the future resurrection of the dead. It is also one of the must misunderstood topics among readers of Paul today, who often claim that Paul had just the *opposite* view to the one he had. And that’s because they completely misconstrue his understanding of Jesus’ own resurrection. If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it 834,000 times: “Paul thought Jesus was raised spiritually, not bodily.” Wrong, wrong, wrong.
It will take a while to explain. I deal with the matter in my book Heaven and Hell (Simon & Schuster, 2020). Here is the first bit of what I say there.
The Glorious Transformation of the Resurrected Body
Undoubtedly the most important passage for Paul’s view of the future resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15. The chapter, in fact, is often called “the resurrection chapter.” It is also one of the most misread passages in all of the New Testament. Many casual readers have thought Paul wrote it in order to prove that Jesus was raised from the dead. That was not why. The chapter assumes Jesus was raised, as both Paul and his Corinthian readers know. It uses this assumption in order to build the case Paul wants to make for the naysayers among his readers: there will be a future resurrection for Jesus’ followers, a resurrection like Jesus’ own. Dead bodies will come back to life. But not in the state in which they were buried. They will be completely transformed and made into immortal, spiritual bodies. They will still be bodies. But they will be glorified, just as Jesus’ body was.
To make sense of the passage we need
This is an unusually important passage in Paul’s writings. Want to keep reading? Join the blog! Click here for membership options