In the movie When Dreams May Come, actor Robin Williams portrays the character Chris Nielsen, a man who is tragically killed in a car accident. In the afterlife, Chris puzzles over his identity since his physical body is not the same. His angelic guide, Albert, asks, “What is ‘me’?” Chris answers, “My brain, I suppose.” To which Albert responds, “Your brain? Your brain is a body part. Like your fingernail or your heart.”
This poses an important question. Who are we? Are we merely a collection of physical body parts? Or are we designed by God as something much more complex? Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians delves into our identity not just as physical beings but also as spiritual ones.
The body we live in now, the body that we bury, says Paul, is our natural or “perishable” one (v. 42). This body suffers illness and eventually dies and is buried. But our second body will be “spiritual” (v. 44). Notice the qualities of the earthly physical body in comparison to the spiritual one (vv. 42–44). The spiritual is imperishable, raised in glory and power.
The physical body is compared to a seed, an object that contains life within. Once the seed is buried, new life comes forth. But until that seed is planted, new life is not realized (vv. 35–37). God’s design for humans is far different than the flesh He gave to animals or the splendor He gave to the rest of creation (vv. 38–41).
Paul’s explanation puts our physical death into a different light. God did indeed create the physical body first, out of dust. But the second body, the eternal one, is also a part of His divine plan for us (vv. 49–50). We bear both an earthly image and a heavenly one.
When you plant a seed, you can watch a small hard object transform into a living, growing plant. Spring has just begun, and the wonder of God’s renewal is evident in the world around us. Consider the buds on the trees or the first flowers poking through the soil, and thank God for His plan which renews us.