Paul says of 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 15:42-44).
The resurrection body will be:-
1. A spiritual body. This does not mean that it is ethereal and ghostly, but that it is free from the limitations of the flesh.
2. A real body, not a phantom. Jesus, after his resurrection, challenged his disciples to “Touch me and see”.
We need not suppose that the resurrection body will be constituted from the very atoms from which our present bodies are made. For one thing, these atoms are constantly being replaced during our lives. For another thing, they are constantly being recycled by other organisms after our death. No:
‘It doesn’t matter whether the atoms used by our original body have been eaten by a worm, then fed to a fish, which was then eaten by a person. God can still raise everyone to life using atoms from elsewhere by basing it on the pattern that our body had.’
(Instone-Brewer, Science and the Bible: Modern Insights For An Ancient Text)
Instone-Brewer suggests that God could use each person’s genome to re-create a virtually identical copy of the original body. And (although Instone-Brewer doesn’t put it like this) our resurrection body might have signs not only of our nature, but also of our nurture:
‘The Bible implies that God will do more than just create a clone, because Jesus’ resurrection body bore records of his life history—in particular, the scars of his death, which are a permanent part of his glory.’
3. A recognisable body. It will be organically related to the physical body which had been laid to rest in the grave. The disciples recognised Jesus.
Note further that this resurrection body is:-
1. sown perishable, but raised imperishable. Sooner or, later, our physical bodies will waste away. But our resurrection bodies will never decay.
2. sown in dishonour, but raised in glory, v43. There is nothing lovely about a decaying corpse. But the resurrection body will be glorious, wonderful, and beautiful. Cf Phil 3:21.
3. sown in weakness, but raised in power, v43. Here in this life, the strength and energy of youth gives way to the weakness and tiredness of old age. Our new bodies, however, will be strong and healthy.
4. sown a natural body, but raised a spiritual body, v44. The natural body is adapted for life in this world. If confines and cramps us, and in the end returns to its constituent elements. But when our Lord returns, ‘we shall be changed’. Our lowly bodies will become like his glorious body.
As for the form of the resurrection body, this
‘can only be glimpsed from what we know of Christ’s risen body, which left no corpse in the tomb, and, it seems, passed through the graveclothes (Lk. 24:12, 31). His bodily ascension does not necessarily suppose movement to a certain locality known as heaven, but suggests the emergence of his body into a larger life transcending the space-time limitations which bind us.’ (NBD)
J.I. Packer writes: