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First Corinthians 15--Natural and spiritual order

Oct 03, 2017

In 1 Corinthians 15:44 Paul links the two bodies, one “natural” and one “spiritual,” suggesting the principle that natural things are reflections of the spiritual. He has already implied this in earlier verses, where he uses natural analogies to illustrate spiritual truth. It shows first that nature was created to reflect the spiritual. The earth was created to reflect the glory of heaven, even as the moon was created to reflect the glory of the sun.

So Paul says, “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” In other words, the natural body is proof of a spiritual body, because the natural body, as a reflector, must have something to reflect in order to have purpose. Hence the soul was created to reflect the glory of the spirit. This purpose was cut short when Adam sinned, but in the end, a new soul will be created to do what the Adamic soul failed to do.

This new soul will not be Adamic, but will be created by the union of the body and the Spirit of Christ that resides in us even now. Our earthly fathers begat sons and daughters in their mortal, corruptible image, but we—that is, our spirits—were begotten by our heavenly Father in the image of Christ and are immortal and incorruptible. This new spiritual man is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

At death, this new spiritual man separates fully from the natural (“soulish”) body, and the body returns to dust. The soul dies as well, fulfilling the sentence of the law for Adam’s sin. The spirit returns to God. At the resurrection, the spirit returns to earth to merge with new dust (matter), creating a spiritual body, having a new soul in which to reflect its spiritual glory.

Earthy and Heavenly Fathers

Paul then tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:45, 46, 47,

45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.

Paul quotes Genesis 2:7 KJV, “man became a living soul.” Later, Christ, “became a life-giving spirit.” The natural (psychikos, “soulish”) man came first; later came the spiritual man “from heaven.” So also all of us were born “earthy” from our natural fathers, but later we were begotten from heaven in order to become like Christ—that is, in His image—as life-giving spirits.

Adam’s name is derived from the Hebrew word adama, which means “earth.” Hence, the NASB correctly tells us that “the first man is from the earth, earthy.” Adam’s name literally means “earthy.” He was so named to identify him (and his soul) with the earth and the dust from which his body was formed. He was not named to distinguish him from the animals, but to identify him with them, or at least all that were created with blood.

The Hebrew word dam means “blood,” and the law tells us (literally) that “the fleshly soul is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Adam’s identity, then, was bound up in his blood, and our own soulish identity was bound up in his bloodline. But all animals with blood have souls, for the first souls were created in Genesis 1:20 KJV,

20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life [nephesh, “soul”], and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”

Again, in Genesis 1:24 KJV, we are told,

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature [nephesh, “soul”] after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after its kind; and it was so.

All cattle, then, have souls, because they have blood. The sacrificial animals were thus able to serve as types of Christ, for their blood (soul) was poured out upon the ground to atone for our souls. The fact that Adam had a soul, then, did not distinguish him from the animals. What distinguished him (and us) was his potential to be begotten in his spirit by a heavenly Father when the need arose. His sin provided that need, for the soul came under the sentence of death, and blood (dam) had to return to the ground (adama).

Yet through this tragedy, hope is not lost. Though the sentence of death imposed upon the soul could not be reversed, one’s identity could be transferred from the old man (soul) to a spiritual man in a new body that is raised up as a new creation. In this manner, we are able to come fully into the image of Christ, as it was intended from the beginning.

So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:48, 49,

48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

We have all borne the image of the earthy from the moment we were conceived in the womb, for this is what our earthly fathers bequeathed to us. Bearing the image of the earthy (Adam), our fathers could do nothing different. Mortal life is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it gave us opportunity to discover how to be begotten by that which is heavenly, so that we may transfer our identity (self) to that which is immortal and incorruptible.

Those who continue to depend upon the earthy, claiming “chosen” status on the basis of their earthly fathers, are, in essence, trying to retain or regain that which was forever lost in Adam. Even Abraham after the flesh could only bring forth that which was earthy and perishable. Paul says that “as is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy.” One must become Abraham’s seed, not by fleshly birth, but by a heavenly birth, for “as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.”

This alone is the path to life, and only by such spiritual conception can one bear the image of the heavenly. Paul concludes this section in 1 Corinthians 15:50,

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Hence, when we stand before God, and the great Judge takes account of us, the first question He will ask is “Who are you? Identify yourself.” If you identify yourself as an earthy being, you will be judged accordingly. If you say, “I am of Adam,” or “I am of Israel,” or “I am a Jew,” or whatever other earthy identification you may present to the Judge, then you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. You will be judged and sentenced to further training in the “lake of fire” until the old man is dead.

Only those who claim a new identity in Christ will be inheritors of the Kingdom, Paul says.

New Garments for Melchizedek Priests

As I stated earlier, resurrection is where one’s immortal spirit unites itself with new dust from the ground to form a spiritual body with a new and perfect soul. The Greeks thought that such a proposition was absurd, for it did not fit their paradigm that matter was evil and spirit was good. To them, a good spirit would never unite with evil matter that the devil had created. But for those of us who hold the Hebrew (biblical) view of creation, it makes perfect sense, for God’s creation must fulfill its good purpose.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, Paul speaks of two “tabernacles” (or tents) as being garments that we wear. We currently wear the garment of mortality that is painful, for it is the garment of death, disease, and hardship. But we have another garment that is reserved for us in the heavens, an immortal body. It is reserved for a future time; hence, it is not something that we currently wear, even though it technically belongs to us.

In the law, the linen garments of the priests were earthly representations of these heavenly garments. The priests had to wear these garments when entering the Holy Place to minister to God, although they could wear ordinary garments while ministering in the outer court.

Ezekiel 44 applies this law of garments prophetically to a future time when a new priesthood would arise to minister to God in the heavenly temple. The prophet also speaks of two kinds of priests. Lesser priests, who had been idolatrous, will be allowed to minister to the people in the outer court, but they will not be given the proper garments to minister to God in the sanctuary in heaven. Ezekiel 44:10, 13, 14 says,

10 But the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who went astray from Me after their idols, shall bear the punishment for their iniquity. 13 And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things, to the things that are most holy… 14 Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the house, of all its service, and of all that shall be done in it.

This prophecy is put in Old Covenant terms, which have now changed. Nonetheless, the point is that these “Levites” will be limited to the outer court. Of the obedient priests, we read in Ezekiel 44:15, 16,

15 But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok [prefiguring the Melchizedek Order], who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me16 They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge.

These are the “priests of God and of Christ” in Revelation 20:6, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years. Ezekiel tells us that they will have access to the Sanctuary in heaven and will be able to minister to God directly, whereas the other priests will remain in the outer court—that is, they will be limited to the earth, for they are yet earthy.

These Melchizedek priests will have access to the heavenly garments that are currently being reserved for us in heaven. Ezekiel 44:17, 19 says,

17 And it shall be that when they enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering in the gates of the inner court and in the house … 19 And when they go out into the outer court, into the outer court of the people, they shall put off their garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers; then they shall put on other garments that they may not transmit holiness to the people with their garments.

In other words, these priests will have access to two sets of garments. The “linen garments” (representing the spiritual body) will clothe them when they minister to God in the sanctuary in heaven. They must dress in “other garments” (earthly bodies) to minister to the people in the outer court (earthly realm).

So we see from Jesus’ own example how He changed into other garments when He met with His disciples on the earth after His resurrection. By law, He was not allowed to minister to them as a spirit in His linen garments. Yet when He finished ministering to the disciples, He then changed clothing once again and disappeared into the heavenly realm.

This is also the heritage of the priests of God and of Christ after the First Resurrection. The overcomers will no longer be limited to an earthly ministry, but they will also have access to heavenly garments, whereby they might minister to God in heaven.

The point is that when such priests minister to people in the earthly realm, they will do so in spiritual bodies that are both spiritual and physical. This is seen most clearly when Jesus appeared to His disciples in Jerusalem the evening after His resurrection. When He first appeared to them, the disciples thought that He was a ghost (or spirit), but He proved to them that He was not a spirit (at that point in time). He appeared in “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), and He ate some fish to prove the point (Luke 24:42, 43).

Since Luke was Paul’s companion, there is no doubt that Luke and Paul shared the same understanding of a “spiritual body.” A spiritual body was not defined as a disembodied spirit, but as a body made of earthly material, united with a conscious spirit. The combination of spirit and body has also created a new and perfect soul that reflects the glory of the spirit. That new soul becomes the mediator between heaven and earth, through which the spirit may communicate with those who are still limited by earthly garments.


This is part 112 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in First Corinthians


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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones