Author: Ron Graham
A human being is essentially two things —a body and a soul. There's a most intimate connection between the two.
Whilst the soul can “survive” after the death of the body, disembodiment in the hadean states is not the soul’s ideal condition, but merely a transitional state awaiting the resurrection when the soul is brought out of hades and the natural body that was destroyed is raised as an immortal body and reunited with the soul. In this lesson, we notice some aspects of the body and soul’s relationship.
Our fleshly bodies are not to be despised, but honoured. They are...
Against all the good things we have seen concerning the fleshly body, Paul makes one thing clear: Flesh is not a permanent clothing for the soul. Even if we are fortunate enough to have strong, healthy, and handsome physical bodies, we know that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1Corinthians 15:50). Our present bodies —even the best specimens— are mortal and perishable. We cannot live in them forever.
So there is a tension between the first two points of this lesson: the souls honours its fleshly body yet regards it as a temporary dwelling.
Whilst we realise that our fleshly bodies are not the ideal clothing for our souls —and indeed sometimes we feel burdened by our bodies because they grow old and weak and eventually die— we also realise that a disembodied state is not ideal either.
Paul does not consider the disembodied state desirable. Paul talks about us "longing to be clothed" with a body, so that we should "not be found naked". He says, "We do not want to be unclothed, but clothed" (2Corinthians 5:4).
When our bodies die, we become as it were naked, and that not in any pleasant sense of freedom, but rather in a sense of wanting to be clothed. A disembodied state is not freedom; it's a step toward heaven, but it's not heaven. As our dwelling in this earthly tent is temporary, so will be our unclothed state. Therefore the soul longs for an immortal and eternal body (2Corinthians 5:2).
Paul understood the ultimate and permanent state of the soul is to be clothed with a glorious and eternal body. "We know," says Paul, "that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2Corinthians 5:1).
Paul is here using the analogy of the tabernacle of Israel. The tabernacle (or later the temple) of worship under the Old Testament was a tent (or later a building) made by human hands. This was only a shadow or copy of the true tabernacle which is "not of this creation", not earthly, but eternal and heaveny (Hebrews 9:11).
Just as Israel's earthly tabernacle or temple was destroyed, so our earthly bodies will be destroyed. And just as Christ entered the true tabernacle of worship, the heavenly and eternal one "not made with hands", so our souls will one day dwell in their true bodies which will be not of this creation, but immortal and spiritual. If we wish to live in a heavenly world, then we need a body that is heavenly and immortal. This God will provide at the resurrection. To possess an immportal body will be the ultimate and perfect state of the soul.
Turning back to 1Corinthians 15 for a closer look, we find Paul giving us a way to understand the transition from an earthly body to an immortal one. He uses an excellent analogy. He explains how a seed has to be buried and destroyed before a plant will grow from it.
The seed is analogous to our fleshly bodies, whilst the plant that arises out of the seed's death is analogous to the spiritual and immortal bodies we shall have one day. First there is the seed, and after that comes the plant. Likewise, first there is the natural body, and after that comes the spiritual body at the resurrection.
Let our souls honour their present earthly bodies, whilst taking joy in the expectation of being clothed in far better bodies one glorious day.