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I Corinthians 15 An Explanation of Resurrection That Makes Sense

Unity Center of Christianity in Baltimore Podcast

Mark Hicks

An Explanation of Resurrection That Makes Sense

Sunday lesson given at Unity Center of Christianity in Baltimore, November 24, 2019.

Hi Friends —

Last Sunday, a friend of mine asked me about verse 50 in First Corinthians chapter 15:

“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

He wanted to know what it meant. Here is what I did and what I learned.

What I Did

The first thing I did was to read the references to I Corinthians 15 published in Unity Bible Lessons from 1895 to 1965. Sometime in the late 1960s a team at Unity school cut and pasted thousands of Unity bible commentaries into a seven binders that are now in the Unity Archives. Several years ago, a team of people worked with me for several months to digitize these commentaries so that they could be placed on TruthUnity where anyone could read them. Here’s an overview of that project.

Here’s a PDF of their work for this particular chapter. And here’s the page with their work for this chapter, fully digitized.

Next, I took the best of the references and created a Fillmore Study Bible web page for the chapter. The Fillmore Study Bible is an online reference much like other study bibles. But instead of having annotations from mainstream Christianity, it has annotations by Charles Fillmore and his students. Here's the online page. Note the annotations that are inserted along side the text. And note that you can print a hard copy by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.

Why is this important? It’s important because most people today learn their theology by reading annotations and commentary from study bibles. Few people read theology books, but many people will read annotations and commentary. People are curious, like my friend. And if there is a study bible that resonates with them, they will read it.

Several months ago, I mentioned that the Fillmore Study Bible is likely to eclipse TruthUnity in reach and impact. And I mentioned that we were looking for an Executive Director to take ownership and lead this project to the next level. I believe we have found the right person. We’ll make an announcement in early 2020.

One day, when we get enough of these chapters annotated, we will publish a printed version. I hope you will follow our progress by selecting “News about the Fillmore Study Bible” on the Stay in Touch page.

What I Learned

Again, here is First Corinthians 15 in the Fillmore Study Bible. And, if you wish to print it out, here is a PDF of the chapter. I learned that the chapter has three sections: The Resurrection of Christ, The Resurrection of the Dead and The Resurrection Body.

The Resurrection of Christ

In verses 1-11, Paul states that the central claim of the gospel is that Christ “has been raised on the third day.” The Fillmore annotation says,

raised on the third day. Christian metaphysicians see that His overcoming, the Resurrection, was not a miracle, but rather the outworking and fulfillment of divine law. Through faith and understanding they are overcoming many of the ills of mind and body, and they know by analogy that the final demonstration of the law will be perfect health, that is, continuous life in the body, spiritualized.

Let’s assume that some highly evolved people are able to resurrect their body from death through an outworking of an unknown natural process. Is this possible, given new insights from quantum physics, energy medicine and neuroscience? If it were to occur than would it not be kept quiet? Finally, is it any more far fetched an idea than humans would one day visit the moon?

The Resurrection of the Dead

In verses 12-34, Paul explains what will happen to those who have died while waiting for Jesus to return. His answer is that the dead will rise to life. That may seem like an obscure issue for us, but it has had an enormous effect on Christian doctrine. To understand this section, a little background information is necessary. Metaphysical religion teaches that human beings have an “inner trinity” which corresponds to the “outer trinity.” Our inner trinity is “Spirit, soul and body.” That is to say that we are comprised of a body (soma in Greek), a soul (psyche in Greek) and a Spirit.

Know that this concept of Spirit, soul and body is a Greek concept. For most of its ancient history, Judaism did not embrace the concept, at least until the time of Jesus and even then the Sadducees and Pharisees disagreed on that and on the idea of resurrection. That is one of the reasons we refer to our theology as metaphysics.

It may appear that Paul is talking about dead bodies, but it is possible to interpret this section as Paul talking about dead souls. If so, this section is nothing more than what we know today as the “mind-body connection”—that the condition of our mind (soul) affects the life of our body.

Two things support such an interpretation. First, note that the section does not say “resurrection of the dead body.” In fact this section does not mention the word body at all. If Paul had meant the death of the body then he would have said so, as he does in the next section. Second, note that Paul himself says “I die daily.” That is a clear indication that death, for Paul, is about his soul as much as about his body.

This interpretation is in line with much of Christian theology. Christian tradition has taught that salvation is salvation of the soul and that heaven and hell are places for the soul, not the body. Having said this, we should agree with Paul that the soul is important. The Fillmore teaching is that salvation is achieved by a transformation of the soul. The next section explains why that is so.

The Resurrection Body

Paul opens 3rd and final section, verses 35-58, by asking two questions. His first question first is “How are the dead raised?” The answer he provides refers to sowing seeds, to differences in flesh between man, beasts, birds and fish and to differences in glory between celestial and terrestrial bodies. Those of us who have studied metaphysics for a while know that all these terms refer to divine ideas, and to the process by which we assimilate them—thinking. The metaphysical answer to how the dead are raised is therefore by the nature of our thinking.

The second question that Paul asks is “To what kind of body are the dead raised?” We need a little background information in order to understand Paul's answer. Paul distinguishes the body (soma in Greek) from the flesh (sarx in Greek). Sarx (flesh) is what we typically refer to when we speak of “flesh and blood.” Soma (the body), however, refers to “the self” and the soma can be “earthly” or “heavenly.”

So it is important to know that when we speak of the resurrection of Jesus it may be that we are not speaking of “flesh and blood” but something less “fleshy”, which may be heavenly or earthly. And this is confirmed in the gospel accounts where the risen Jesus appears but may not be touched.

What that soma (body) may be is not clearly stated. But those of us in Metaphysical Christianity may find answers in two booklets by Emmet Fox: Life After Death (booklet #24) and Reincarnation (booklet #34). Emmet Fox writes in Life After Death that we have two bodies—one physical and one etheric. The etheric body interpenetrates the physical body during normal states of consciousness, but leaves the body during sleep and upon death. It is the etheric body, he says, that retains our conscious and unconscious minds and is what we know in the inner trinity as the psyche (soul).

According to Fox, at death the etheric body migrates to the “fourth dimension,” which is not heaven but rather a place to rest and wait for another incarnation. EV Ingraham and Charles Fillmore also wrote of the 4th dimension and the etheric body. Note that I am not saying that the etheric body in Fox, Fillmore and Ingraham is the same as the heavenly body in First Corinthians, but it may be or it may be related somehow. For sure the 4th dimension—a place of rest between incarnations—is not what we commonly know as heaven—where we rest eternally in the direct presence of God.

So when Paul asks “To what kind of body are the dead raised?” he is asking "Is the risen body earthly or is it heavenly?" Paul answers the question by comparing the body of natural man (Adam) with the body of spiritual man (Christ). Here is the most essential verse of the chapter:

“If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

What this means is that the body of Adam is expressed by the soul and so Adam is a “living soul.” But the body of Christ (the last Adam) is expressed, not by the soul, but rather by the Spirit. So Christ is not a “living soul” but rather a “life-giving spirit.” In other words, Adam is not a body who has a soul. Rather Adam is a soul that expresses a natural body. In the same way, Jesus Christ is not a body that has a spirit. Rather Jesus Christ is a Spirit that expresses a spiritual body.

When we are transformed from Adam consciousness to Christ consciousness, we cease to express our body by our soul and we begin to express our body by our Spirit. And the body we express ceases to be a natural body and begins to be a spiritual body. A spiritual body is a body come back from dead to life—a resurrected body.

This idea of our bodies being earthly or heavenly, or natural or spiritual, explains verse 50: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Flesh and blood are earthly. The kingdom of God is heavenly. An earthly body cannot inherit a heavenly kingdom. Here’s why.

The kingdom of God is another word for heaven. To quote a well-known Evangelical author, “the goal is not to get us into heaven, but rather to get heaven into us” (John Ortberg, Eternity is Now in Session). The spiritual body (heavenly soma) is essentially a soma (body) that is freed from sarx (flesh). To the extent that we are able to be transformed from Adam consciousness to Christ consciousness we prepare our bodies for “getting heaven into us.”

This metaphysical Christian interpretation provides us with a rich understanding of the resurrection. It is an understanding of our existence being about life, not death. It is an understanding of our human body as eternal and incorruptible. It is an understanding of our home being both heavenly and “on earth.” It is an understanding of our life having purpose and destiny. It is an understanding that makes sense.

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

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