Why and When Will We Be Changed Into A Resurrected Body?

Why and When Will We Be Changed Into A Resurrected Body?

Present With the Lord:

When a believer “dies”, his body remains confined to this earthly sphere. His spirit and soul, however, are immediately translated to the presence of God—Heaven or Paradise.

2 Corinthians 5:1—9  For we know that if our earthly house, a tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2. And, in fact, we groan in this one, longing to put on our house from heaven,

3. since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.

4. Indeed, we who are in this tent groan, burdened as we are because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

5. And the One who prepared us for this very thing is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down-payment.

6. Therefore, though we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord

7. [for, we walk by faith, not by sight]

8. yet we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord.

9.  Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him. 
(Holman Christian Standard Bible)

This is a great passage of Scripture, for many reasons, and there are numerous lessons that can be taught from here. But, I want to stay focused on our topic. The Apostle Paul states that while in this body he is limited—it is subject to the weaknesses and trials mentioned in Chapter 4, and to the cravings of the flesh. But, he must have a body to live in this world and to glorify God by living for Him through the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Often, Paul cries out to be delivered from this “bondage of a body”, yet he knows that can’t be accomplished as long as he lives on earth. One Day, though, that will change! He will be released from the “body” so as to live in the glorious presence of the Lord—and, so will all believers.

His great exclamation comes in verse 8, “to be out of the body, is to be present (at home) with the Lord.” I really like the word Paul uses for “present”. It is commonly used to make reference to be “in one's own country”. Isn’t that great? When we leave this body of flesh, we are immediately found to be in our “home country”. There is no intermediary step, no in-between realm, no wandering around in some “psychic soup”. When we are alive in this body, we are confined to this world. When we leave this body, we are “at Home” in the presence of the Lord.

At death, the believer enters God’s presence and exists in a “spiritual state” until the time of the “Resurrection” at the Rapture. This existence is temporal and is not to be interpreted as a loss or detriment—in fact, Paul calls it “gain”.

Philippians 1:21  For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.

22. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don't know which one I should choose.

23. I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ--which is far better—

24. but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.  [HCSB]

A better wording for the phrase in verse 21 is: “to have died is profit”. Paul is not talking about the act of dying, but about the resulting state. There is “profit” to being released from this body and it’s limitation, and being elevated to the presence of God.

To the unbeliever, it may appear to be “loss”, but we are not to see it that way. There is a degree to which Paul would like to be released from this life, and although that would be profit for him, it would not accomplish what he had been ordained to do. Paul needed to stay, and he gives us the reason: the result of our earthly living is to declare Christ in all His work and blessing. That is what the Philippians needed, and what Paul is resolved to do. But, to have died is to be released and to gain absolute presence with God.

Saved By Hope:

Why is it “gain” to be present with the Lord? Our physical body is still subject to the “curse” that came as a result of the “fall of Adam”. The “body” is the access Satan uses to tempt our flesh. When we were saved, our spirit was “re-born” and created in the image of God (Eph. 4:24). A study of Romans 6 and 8 will reveal the contrast that exists between the “flesh” (the old man / outer man), and the “spirit-being” (new man / inner man). Through the work of salvation, we have been given power over our flesh, but unless we exercise this power to serve God, we will fall subject to the temptations of the flesh. By living in accordance to the leading / teaching / help of the Holy Spirit, we can walk in victory. But: the flesh is still there.

Notice Paul’s words in Romans 8:22—25.

22. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.

23. And not only that but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits--we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

24. Now in this hope, we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope because who hopes for what he sees?

25. But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.

There are 3 tenses of our salvation:

1. Past – we are saved in reference to our spirit-being the moment we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord (Eph 2:8);

2. Present – we are in the process of being saved in our soul as we renew our minds to the Word, and live to glorify God in this life (Heb 9:14);

3. Future – we are awaiting the salvation of our bodies when we will be once-and-for-all released from the weaknesses of the flesh (Rom 8:22—25).

It is this 3rd tense of salvation which we are addressing in this article. As Paul said in 2 Cor 5:1—9, we often “groan” in frustration, awaiting this promised release. Yes, we want to go on living and working for the Lord in this earth, but this “flesh” can be so discouraging, at times. The “hope” that we have is that when the Lord returns, we will be given a body that is not subject to the “curse” that is in this world—a Resurrection Body. Until that blessed event, we will continue in our present state.

The Body of Our Humiliation:

Philippians 3:20—21  For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which also we are looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

21. who shall change our body of humiliation so that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working of His power, even to subdue all things to Himself.

Some translations of this passage use the phrase “our vile bodies”, but that really misses the true emphasis. It isn’t that our body is evil—it isn’t. It is just that this physical body “lets us down”. The weakness inherited from our link to Adam continues to plague us even after salvation. Adam yielded to the temptation, and died “spiritually”. This death has passed to all humanity. Even though we are born-again, we still have that weakness in our flesh that can be tempted to serve self instead of God. And, our bodies remain subject to weakness, disease, fatigue, and death.

That is the sense in which Paul refers to our physical being as a “body of humiliation”. It is constantly being humbled by the powers of this world. Although we have “eternal life” in regard to our spiritual being, we still become weak, sick, and die. That is the paradox. We are alive, yet dying. We are strong, yet weak. We are sufficient for all things, yet limited. Our “body of humiliation” stands as a reminder of our humanity. But, there is Hope!

We Shall All Be Changed:

You really can’t read much of the Apostle Paul’s writing without encountering his testament to the future hope of physical resurrection. It is one of the glorious truths that he boldly proclaimed, and one of the “mysteries” he was commissioned by God to reveal.

Philippians 3:20—21  For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which also we are looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

21. who shall change our body of humiliation so that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working of His power, even to subdue all things to Himself.

There is so much in this little section, but I will do my best to be concise. The phrase, “shall change” is from a Greek word that means to "make an immediate change to the appearance of a thing", an external change, if you will. When you were born-again, your spirit-being was immediately changed into the image of righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:24).

So, when Christ returns for us, He doesn’t need to change our “spirit”, He will only need to change our “body”. As we will see in other passages, this will be instantaneous and certain—it will be done and nothing can stop it. This “changed body” will be “fashioned like” His own body. This Greek word means “to assume the same form (as Christ) so that what appears represents the true nature of the thing”.  

Notice in the verse the word, “may”. This indicates that the “fashioned like” cannot be accomplished without the “shall change” being done first. We cannot truly be “like Christ” in this earth. For, although our spirit-being is made in His glorious image, our body remains in Adam’s image. But, that will be changed! The “power” Jesus Christ has used to “subdue” all things to him, is the power that will be exercised when He changes us into the very same image as His “Body of Glory”. When He returns, all believers will be “like Him”—spirit, soul, and body! Gone forever will be our “body of humiliation”.

1 John 3:2  Dear friends, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.

Here is that same glorious truth presented in the simple, straightforward words of the Apostle John. Where Paul is deep and technical, John just makes a statement. And, you’ve got to love it! His points are direct:

1. We are now, not maybe in the future, but NOW, God’s children—NOW! Although the world and those who look upon us do not see our distinction, we are not merely human, we are God’s Children.

2. What we are now, in physical form and existence, is not what we will be in that future when Christ shall appear in His Glorious Form. Our lowly existence, here, does not relate to what we will be—for we shall be changed.

3. At his appearance, we will be instantly changed into the same glorious image as His. We will be “like Him”. His very appearance is sufficient to affect this miraculous change. We will “see Him as He is” and that immediate is all that is needed—we will suddenly be made, “like Him”. How Glorious!

John doesn’t take the time to explain the appearance (see Paul), nor to give us any hint as to how this change will occur (see Paul). He just wants his “children” to know that no matter how troublesome are the days in which we live, nor how powerless we seem at times, it is all temporary. We will be Like Him! That is our future.

1 Cor 15:50—55   Brothers, I tell you this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption.

51. Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,

52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.

53. Because this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.

54. Now when this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory.

55. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?

Why Do We Need This Change?

Now we return to the technical language of Paul. Why do we need this change? Because our physical bodies cannot exist in heaven—we cannot live in His presence until we are changed. In the verses preceding this section, Paul speaks about the reality of resurrection, and the question of the “form” in which we will exist. The Corinthians had fallen under the influence of intellectual philosophers who denied the resurrection because it didn’t conform to “reason” as they saw it.

Beginning in verse 35, Paul addresses the issue directly.

1 Cor 15:35—37  But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come?"

36. Foolish one! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

37. And as for what you sow--you are not sowing the future body, but only a seed, perhaps of wheat or another grain.

Paul uses a very simple illustration to “shame” them in their pseudo-intellectualism. When a seed is sown, it dies (so to speak). Then the “plant” that results from the seed does not resemble the seed—it has a totally different form and appearance. Grains of wheat don’t come up as grains of wheat but as a plant. Acorns produce Oak Trees, and so forth (You could carry the argument further to say that, yes, but the plant produces the same seed. That misses the simplicity of the illustration—he is not teaching a botany lesson).What you are sowing is a future hope for what will be: a plant, a tree, a vine, etc.

In the next verses, Paul continues his argument, talking about the difference of one form (body) from another. Both earthly and heavenly bodies vary in appearance and use from one another, and the heavenly bodies differ greatly from the earthly ones. So it is with the “resurrection of the body”. What we will have is vastly different from what appears now, and cannot even be compared to the present body of this earth. A “natural body” is sown here (at death), but a “spiritual body” will be raised at “the resurrection” (verses 42—48).

As Paul continues in verses 50—57, he makes application of these truths to the promise of our resurrection. Not all believers will “fall asleep” (die), but ALL will be changed. There will be some who are alive at the time of the Lord’s return. The “dead” will receive their resurrection body (conformed to His Glorious image), and the living ones will be instantly changed into that same resurrection body. This change is not “optional” it is a “necessity”: the mortal MUST put on immortality—there is no other way for us to live in the Glorious presence of God. And, this is the ultimate triumph of “life” over “death”.

Since Adam’s fall, it appeared that death reigned. NO! It is life that triumphs! This is the life that is ours through the power of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. All who believe in this are victorious over death—even though we have not seen it as yet.

The Dead in Christ Shall Rise First, Then…

The last passage I will address is in regard to the progression of this change from corruptible to incorruptible. Although this is a future hope, Paul lived and preached as if it was ready to happen any minute—that’s the way I like to live, the way I believe we all should live—waiting for an “any moment” appearance of Jesus Christ.

1 Thess 4:15—17  For we say this to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not go before those who are asleep.

16. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first.

17. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall ever be with the Lord.

At the great moment of the Lord’s return, the dead in Christ will be raised. These are the ones who have died in faith, believing in the Lord’s promised return even unto death. In the verses before these, they are spoken of as being “asleep”. Yes, they are dead in the earthly / physical sense. But as we said earlier, they are very much alive in the presence of the Lord—they just don’t have a resurrection body as yet. They are raised “first” and receive their “bodies conformed to His glorious image” as a tribute to their faith.

THEN, we who are alive at that time will be instantly changed into that same image as Jesus—given a resurrection body that is not subject to the weaknesses and limitations of this physical dimension. What a glorious day that will be.

It is this resurrection of the “dead in Christ” and the transformation of the living that brings a great culmination to the plan of God. God has redeemed mankind, recreated him in His image, and transformed his body into the very image of His Son. And, all of this accomplished in the lives of those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Take that, Satan! Life has triumphed over death and the grave.

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