Beholding His Glory
“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable… . For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (vv. 50–53).- 1 Corinthians 15:12–58
Oscar Cullmann was a famous New Testament scholar and theologian of the twentieth century who belonged to the Lutheran tradition. Although we would certainly not agree with all of his conclusions, there is little doubt that he contributed greatly to our understanding of biblical theology. Once, Cullmann contrasted the way the famous Greek philosopher Socrates faced death with the manner in which Jesus went to the cross. As Plato recounts Socrates’ death sentence and drinking of the hemlock, we see Socrates facing His impending demise with serenity. He was, it seems, glad to go. Jesus, on the other hand, entered into His passion with a great deal of anguish. Though He was committed to doing His Father’s will, He agonized in prayer to the point that He sweated drops of blood (Luke 22:39–46). Moreover, on the cross, Jesus cried out as the Father forsook Him in order to save His people (Mark 15:33–34).
We can account for this difference partly in the fact that the ancient Greeks viewed life in the body as a punishment and longed for the day when the soul, which they believed to be immortal, would be released from its physical prison. The Hebrews, on the other hand, viewed death as the enemy, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:26. Scripture never views physical embodiment as a punishment but rather the way in which human beings are designed to exist. Thus, it teaches the final resurrection of the body to live before God forever (Dan. 12:1–2). Death is an invader, something that does not belong in creation and a foe that must be defeated.
Furthermore, the Savior agonized over the cross because He knew what His death would mean. He understood that He would suffer the full wrath of God in place of His people (Rom. 3:21–25; 5:6–11), a prospect that would terrify anyone, even the Lord of glory Himself. Thankfully, Christ did not shrink back from the divine plan, enduring His Father’s judgment so that all those in Him do not have to endure this wrath. Therefore, we will one day bear His image, as today’s passage indicates (1 Cor. 15:42–49). Sin will be gone, and in our glorified state we will see God face to face even as Jesus sees God face to face (1 John 3:1–2). Our mortal bodies and souls will put on immortality, and we will gaze on the Lord’s beauty forever (1 Cor. 15:50–57). We will never cease to exist because our Creator will sustain us throughout all the ages to come.
We are not inherently immortal, as the ancient Greeks believed, but depend on the Lord’s sustaining power for our continued existence. If we are in Christ, our souls go to heaven when we die, only to be reunited with our bodies at the resurrection, and we will live forever in God’s presence. We will see Him face to face, and that is the day for which we must long. On that day, we will glorify Him with all that we are, never having to worry about falling short of His glory again.
Passages for Further Study