Without a literal resurrection of the dead there can be no collective body view. This idea is strongly implicit in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. The hope of the saints according to 1 Corinthians 5:12-19 is in heaven as a result of the resurrection. Thus if there is no resurrection, then they are certainly to be pitied: “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:18).” If there is a real resurrection, then any description of the resurrection whether in 1 Corinthians 15 or elsewhere in the Bible must accurately depict this event. Imagine for a moment that there is no heavenly body or that there is no resurrection to heaven. If when Paul links the corporate body of the saints on earth to a corporal depiction of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50, he is either comparing this event to an inaccurate description of the resurrection assuming that it is spiritual and not corporal or he is comparing the new covenant kingdom on earth to something that doesn’t exist at all. But why is there earthy and heavenly significance to the resurrection? The answer may be found in the dual existence of the kingdom of heaven which is present both on earth and in heaven.
Why 1 Corinthians 15 Implies that the Collective Body View Cannot Exist Without a Real-Life Resurrection
In Romans 6-8 Paul speaks of the passing of the Old Covenant, the Law, with the coming and arrival of the New Covenant, Christianity, in resurrection imagery. In these chapters, Paul sees the Old Covenant resulting in sin and death and the New Covenant bringing forgiveness and life. And because dying frees a person from the Law (Romans 7:1-3), Paul exhorts the saints to die to the Law so that they may have newness of life:
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (Romans 7:4-6).
In Romans 6-8 Paul instructs his audience stop living according to the ceremonial customs of the Law and embrace the freedom from the Law that comes through faith in Christ, the New Covenant. He imparts this message as a resurrection motif. The reason that Paul symbolizes the replacement of the Old Covenant with the New Covenant in resurrection language IS NOT because this transition between covenants IS the resurrection as is sometimes assumed. Rather, it is because the Old Covenant resulted in spiritual death and the New Covenant brought about spiritual life. The spiritual death that awaited the saints during the Old Covenant Age was separation from God which ultimately came to its full realization in the dark realm of Sheol after death (Daniel 12:13; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 38:18; Psalms 13:3; 6:5; Ezekiel 32:21-23; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). The spiritual life that awaited and awaits the saints during the New Covenant Era is unification into the presence of God which ultimately came and comes to its full realization in the resurrection of the saints to heaven after biological death (Luke 23:43). Thus the Old Covenant Age resulted in death and the New Covenant Era brought and continues to bring life. This is why Paul likens the transition between covenants in resurrection imagery. If this is true and the transition between the Old and the New Covenants is but an earthly shadow or symbol of the resurrection, then it stands to reason that whenever anything else in the Bible is represented in resurrection imagery, this imagery should be an accurate portrayal of the actual, literal resurrection. Sadly many preterists try to explain away verses that clearly speak of a bodily resurrection as symbolizing the church as the collective body of Christ. Though there may be some depth and truth to this interpretation, these preterists often mistakenly replace the underlying, cryptic symbolism of these verses with the main point! (For an explanation of the fact that the bodily resurrection of the dead is a resurrection to heaven with heavenly bodies as is explicitly indicated in 1 Corinthians 15 see How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!!) The most common example in Scripture in which this done is 1 Corinthians 15.
Without a literal resurrection of the dead there can be no collective body view. This idea is strongly implicit in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 which mentions the flesh of the heavenly body opens with the above mentioned verses:
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied [emphasis mine].
Paul’s hope and that of the other saints was in a new and continued existence in heaven after death. Considering the persecution the first century church faced at the hands of their Jewish and Roman brethren, the end of the age brought them great hardship. The hope that they had was in a life to come that was different and better. Thus if there is no resurrection to heaven and their hope is in this life on earth alone, then they are certainly to be pitied: “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:18).” The collective body view without a corresponding real-life resurrection makes Paul and these first century saints pitiful men by Paul’s own admission since they have nothing outside of this life on earth to hope for. This hope which is explicitly present in the divinely inspired scriptures strongly implies that there is a real resurrection to heaven.
Another problem with the assumption that the collective or corporate body view can exist without a real-life resurrection to heaven is implicit in Luke 20:27-36. In these verses the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection tried to stump Jesus with a question regarding which of seven brothers would marry a widowed woman at the resurrection. Jesus’ answer strongly points to a real resurrection to heaven: “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36).” How can Jesus’ reply in Luke 20:34-36 point to anything other than what life or the afterlife is like in heaven? The church that Jesus established has officiated marriages since the church was first formed even in apostolic times. Not only did the church marry men and women then and now, but the church, the collective body referred to in the corporate or collective body view, is said to marry Christ in Revelation 21:2. Thus the church on earth, the collective body, marries physically and even spiritually in the New Covenant Age. Therefore, the fact that those counted worthy to partake of the resurrection at the end of the age were not to be given in marriage can only refer to what existence is like in heaven. This notion is further solidified by the fact that the saints who are counted worthy to partake of the resurrection are said to be “like angels” in v. 36.
Given the fact that the Bible teaches that there is a real resurrection to heaven, then it stands to reason that any reference or description of the resurrection whether in 1 Corinthians 15, Ezekiel 37 or elsewhere in the Bible should accurately describe this real-life event. Imagine for a moment that there is no heavenly body or that there is no resurrection to heaven. If this is true, then when Ezekiel links the return of the Jews from exile in the image of a bodily and corporal resurrection in Ezekiel 37, he is either comparing this event to an inaccurate description of the resurrection assuming that it is spiritual and not corporal in any way or he is comparing the return from exile to something that doesn’t exist at all. Either option sounds absurd. The same can be said concerning the corporal nature of the heavenly body in 1 Corinthians 15 which echoes Ezekiel 37. If when Paul links the corporate body of the saints on earth to a corporal depiction of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he is either comparing this event to an inaccurate description of the resurrection assuming that it is spiritual and not corporal or he is comparing the new covenant kingdom on earth to something that doesn’t exist at all.
One must not to be diverted from the existence of a real, heavenly resurrection just because it is sometimes used to symbolize earthly realities as it relates to the new covenant or the return of the Jews from exile. These earthly realities are but a dark, mundane shadow or symbol of the resurrection and not ever the resurrection itself. Therefore, when Paul describes the resurrection body in vs. 35-50, he is ultimately describing the heavenly resurrection body itself which is composed of the flesh, matter or substance of heaven as the earthly body is comprised of the flesh, matter and substance of the earth. Our heavenly bodies clothe our spirit just as our bodies do here on earth.
Another problem for the corporate body only view of the resurrection is found in Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his [Christ’s] glorious body.” Christ’s glorious body which is referred to in Philippians 3:20-21 is the luminous and glorious body Jesus took on after His ascension into heaven in Acts 1 which is described in Acts 9:3-6 and Revelation 1:13-16. Interestingly, this same luminous and glorious body is promised to the saints after they are resurrected into heaven (Matthew 13:43, Daniel 12:2-3). See How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!! Philippians 3:20-21 poses another challenge to a corporate body only view of the resurrection. How could a corporate body be applied to these verses when Philippians 3:20-21 clearly speaks of an individual bodily resurrection into heaven?
Proponents of the Collective Body View may be tempted to bring up the fact that the heavenly bodies mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 refer to the sun, moon and stars as it does in Luke 21:25-26. And because the heavenly bodies mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 are the sun, moon, and stars, Paul is not saying that the saints will actually receive bodies in heaven. This is not true. The heavenly bodies mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 do, in fact, refer to the sun, moon and stars which are sometimes called heavenly bodies. However, this fact is not evidence against the idea that the saints are expected to acquire new bodies composed of the matter of heaven at the time of the resurrection as explained in How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!!.
Stars often represent angels in the Bible (Judges 5:20; Job 25:5; Revelation 1:20; 9:1; 12:4). The fact that stars represent the angels of heaven is fitting because angels are often depicted in the Bible as beings of light (2 Kings 6:17, Daniel 10:6, Matthew 28:2-3, 2 Corinthians 11:14). Interestingly, this is also how God is depicted (Ezekiel 1:26-28), Jesus after His ascension into heaven (Acts 9:3-6, Revelation 1:13-16), and the saints after their resurrection and ascension into heaven (Matthew 13:43, Daniel 12:2-3). Furthermore, Jesus is called the sun of righteousness in Malachi 4:2 and the Father and Christ are depicted as the sun and moon in Revelation 21:23. The fact that the Father, Jesus, the angels and the saints after the resurrection are likened to various heavenly bodies throughout the Bible makes sense of Paul’s use of “heavenly bodies” in 1 Corinthians 15 to depict the new bodies of the saints after the resurrection when the saints are united with Jesus, the Father and the angels. The fact that Paul says that the saints will receive “heavenly bodies,” of course, implies that the resurrection is expected to take place in heaven, not on earth as is often supposed.
Having indicated that the saints are raised to heaven at the resurrection, let us now address the nature of the resurrection body. Are the souls of the saints clothed with heavenly bodies at the resurrection or are they expected to be naked, intangible spirits? Let us take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:39-40: “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.” The fact that Paul highlights the differing flesh between humans, birds, animals and fish in 1 Corinthians 15:39 before mentioning the fact that “[t]here are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies” in 1 Corinthians 15:40 strongly implies from its context that the souls of the saints are expected to be clothed with heavenly flesh or matter at the resurrection. Thus Paul’s use of the word “heavenly bodies” to describe the resurrection bodies of the saints at the end of the age sends an important implicit message concerning the luminescent and corporal nature of this resurrection body as well as were this resurrection is believed to occur.
Does 1 Corinthians 15:50 contradict the corporal nature of the resurrection body as explained above? In 1 Corinthians 15:50 Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” In this v. Paul does not contract what he said earlier in vs. 38-44 concerning the corporal or physical nature of the heavenly resurrection body:
But God gives it [the resurrection body] a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 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.
Verses 38-44 is not a contradiction of v. 50 because the kingdom of God also known as the kingdom of heaven is not heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a term denoting the saints as a collective whole and, therefore, is present in both heaven and on earth as indicated in Luke 17:21: “[N]or will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, what Jesus is saying in Luke 17:21 is that the kingdom of heaven is present with himself and his followers whether they be in heaven or on earth. And since the kingdom of heaven is present on earth, of course, people on earth do have flesh and blood thus this verse cannot be used as evidence against the existence of heavenly bodies in heaven either. What v. 50 is saying is similar to what is stated in John 4:24: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The saints on earth, like the saints in heaven, are comprised of flesh and spirit, thus because the saints on earth have flesh and bones does not mean that they cannot worship God in spirit. The same can be said concerning the saints in heaven, because the saints in heaven have heavenly bodies also does not mean that they cannot worship God in spirit. This is because faith and worship is a spiritual thing, thus those who enter the kingdom of heaven must do so in a spirit. Thus because the kingdom of heaven is not synonymous with heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:50 cannot be used as evidence of an incorporeal resurrection body. In other words, 1 Corinthians 15:50 is not a description of the resurrection body and thus does not contradict vs. 38-44.
As stated above, the kingdom of heaven is a term denoting the saints as a collective whole and, therefore, is present in both heaven and on earth. Jesus calls his kingdom which are the saints on earth and in heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospels presumably because it is centered in heaven and it is here that the saints are destined to go at the resurrection. Because the kingdom of heaven is present on earth and in heaven in the lives of the saints before and after death, it is not surprising that there is earthly or covenantal significance to the resurrection language in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. But one must not lose sight of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is given this name because it is, of course, also in heaven and this fact necessarily means that these verses are describing heavenly realties. However, when Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven he is not saying that the saints will become disembodied spirits when they enter heaven. Otherwise by this same logic one would have to assume that the moment someone enters the kingdom of heaven by becoming a Christian that they then immediately shed their body and become a ghost which, of course, is absurd. The spiritual nature of the kingdom of heaven therefore does not contradict the corporal nature of the resurrection body which is explicitly taught in vs. 38-44.
In vs. 38-44 Paul could not be more explicit that at the resurrection the saints are to receive new, glorified heavenly bodies composed of the matter and substance of heaven in the same way that our earthly bodies are composed of the substance and matter of the earth. Paul explains what he means by his reference to “flesh and blood” in v. 50 when he says that the perishable does not inherit the imperishable at the end of this verse. This perishable flesh and blood is mentioned earlier in v. 42 and here it signifies the earthly body. The imperishable body is also mentioned in v. 42. This is, of course, the heavenly body. What Paul is saying in v. 50 is that the flesh and blood of the perishable, earthly body cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. This is presumably because one cannot enter the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven which exists in heaven unless one enters the kingdom of heaven in spirit–through the acquisition of the Holy Spirit—while here on earth: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).” When Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, he means that the saints must receive the Holy Spirit as a deposit in order to guarantee entry into the kingdom of heaven here on earth and in heaven.
Another problem inherent in a purely collective body interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15 is found in v. 12: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” According to the corporate body view, some in the church at Corinth only denied the resurrection of Old Covenant Israel’s dead before the birth of the Messiah. If this was what some in Corinth were denying, why didn’t Paul specifically say this in v. 12 or anywhere else in 1 Corinthians 15? Instead, he just says that there are some who deny the resurrection of the dead in a general sense implying that there are some who believe that no one, not just Israel’s departed, are raised. In light of this lack of specification the collective body interpretation of this verse seems strained.
Furthermore, rather than just denying the resurrection of Old Covenant Israel before the birth of Christ it seems much more likely that the church at Corinth denied the doctrine of the resurrection as a whole as appears to be suggested by the wording of 1 Corinthians 15:12. Corinth is in Greece near Athens. The idea of a resurrection of the dead was foreign to first century Gentile Greeks. The Greeks believed that when people died their soul was separated from their body in order to reside in Hades, the afterlife realm of the dead. The Greeks presumed that the dead were not reanimated with any kind of flesh after death but rather lived as incorporeal spirits in Hades. In light of this cultural background it would not be surprising if some Gentile Greek Christian converts would have doubted the Christian notion of a resurrection. In light of this cultural indoctrination it is not surprising that in the late decades of the apostolic age a Christian sect known as the Gnostics arose who denied the resurrection of the body.
Interestingly, the denial of the resurrection by first century Christians at Corinth would not have likely been limited to just Gentile Greeks. A certain percentage of Jewish Christian converts living in Greece may have also had difficulty accepting the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead if those Jewish Christians where once Sadducees. The Sadducees were a sect of Judaism who denied the resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:6-8). In light of the backgrounds of these early Jewish and Gentile Corinthian converts it would be shocking if no one denied the resurrection. Thus it appears far more likely that the Corinthians denied the doctrine of the resurrection as a whole rather than just the resurrection of the Old Covenant Jews as is purported by the Collective or Corporate Body View.
Therefore, 1 Corinthians 15 must be describing the resurrection body as it exists in heaven in literal terms. Any meaning derived from these vs. as it relates to a new covenant or collective body view is but an earthly symbol of a heavenly event pointing to that portion of the kingdom of God who are still living on the earth. This earthly message is only one half of the meaning inherit in these verses in the same way that the saints who are living on the earth are only one-half of the kingdom of God since the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven is also present in heaven. One cannot ignore the heavenly reality of these verses which is a clear, real and literal description of the resurrection of the dead. It is that heavenly reality that is the hope of Paul and all the other saints and the primary focus of this chapter. Any cryptic meaning applicable to earthy, new covenant realities is but an earthly symbol or shadow of the glorious heavenly message convey in 1 Corinthians 15 as the saints here on earth are but a dark facet of the saints who are now present in heaven as a direct result of resurrection marking the establishment of the new covenant.
Did Roman historians inadvertently record a vision of the resurrection at the sound of a trumpet? See 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: A Preterist Commentary-Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection. For added information on the resurrection see How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!! and The Notion that the Resurrection is an Earthly Phenomenon whereby the Dead are raised as Perfected, Eternal Earthly Bodies is dispelled by 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 and Isaiah 65:20.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.