The Corinthians were curious about this physical resurrection that Paul kept teaching about. It was quite different than what most Greeks traditionally believed about the after-life.
The Greek religion taught that after death, a person’s spirit would be delivered to the river Styx. There, if the person’s body had received a proper burial, he would be ferried across the river by the ferryman, Charon. Once across the river, the person would be faced with three potential fates.
The worst fate, reserved for those who sinned against the gods, was Tartarus, a dark place of eternal punishment. You might recall the story of Sisyphus, who had to keep pushing a large rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down the hill again and again. Or maybe you’ve heard about Tantalus who was made to eternally stand nearby a table laden with delicious food, but the table remains eternally out of reach.
The Fields of Asphodel were reserved for the vast majority. This was where you ended up if you were a regular joe, not too offensive to the gods, but not exactly a hero of the faith, either. The Fields of Asphodel were, as the name suggests, a vast plain containing grass and flowers upon which the dead lived and wandered aimlessly. Not exactly a glorious existence!
For the heroes and those who impressed the gods with their virtue and piety there was Elysium, a paradise where their spirits lived on in everlasting life.
None of these included a resurrected body. So it was a shocking thought to most Greeks that the afterlife would be a physical existence. They were curious, because this was like nothing they had ever heard before.
Paul’s response to their question was, “It’s going to be amazing! Your perishable body will become imperishable. Your not-so-glorious corpse will become glorious. The body that was placed in the ground motionless and powerless will be raised and be brought forth a powerful body. The body sown into the ground like a seed was a natural body. The body that will rise will be a supernatural body.
It’ll be the same body, Paul says. It will be your body. But what a difference between what you physically experience now, and what your physical existence will be then! It will be glorious. It will be amazing. The best way to put it is this: Your body today is modeled after Adam, the earthly man. But in heaven, your body will be modeled after Jesus’ glorified body.
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” …So will it be with 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… And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:35, 42-44, 49, NIV).
Lord Jesus, thank you for salvation. Thank you for heaven. Thank you that because of the cross and the empty tomb, I will enjoy an eternal — and physical — existence in your presence forever. I can barely imagine how amazing it will be!
Our Bible reading for Sunday, August 23, is 2 Chronicles 18:28 – 21:3, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 and Psalm 102:12-17.