At the rapture will we have new bodies?
At the coming of the Lord for His saints, “the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in [the] clouds” (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17). For those saints who are alive when Christ comes, Scripture speaks of transformation (Phil. 3: 21); for those who are dead Scripture speaks of resurrection ( 2 Cor. 4: 14).
Now man is made up of a spirit, a soul and a body. Does the resurrection of 2 Cor. 4: 14 apply to all of these? Scripture presents the body as a tabernacle or tent (2 Cor. 5: 1)––a dwelling place for the soul and spirit. At death, the believer is "absent from the body and present with the Lord" (v8). His body lies in the grave, but his soul and his spirit are “with Christ” (Phil. 1: 23). Where is Christ? Christ is risen (Luke 24: 6). But if Christ is risen and the spirits and souls of dead saints are with that risen Christ, then to speak of the resurrection of the dead in Christ as applying to anything else other than bodies is nonsensical. Neither mortality, and so consequently resurrection, can apply to spirits and souls. Paul, speaking of resurrection, asks “with what body do they come?” (1 Cor 15: 35). In the incident of Matt. 27: 52, it specifically says “many bodies of the saints fallen asleep arose”. So for resurrection to have any force, it must refer to bodies. Yet if the dead in Christ are given new bodies, then where is the resurrection? There would not be any resurrection! How this nullifies the Lord’s words in John 5: 28, 29: “an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall go forth; those that have practised good, to resurrection of life …”. What is in the tombs of the saints? Certainly not spirits or souls, only bodies. Yet if, as some assert, we are given new bodies then there is effectively nothing to go forth from the tombs!
Scripture speaks of many new things but never a new body. Bodies are changed: “Who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to his body of glory” (Phil. 3: 21). “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruptibility. It is sown in dishonour, 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” (1 Cor. 15: 42–44). “We shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed, ... and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must needs put on incorruptibility, and this mortal put on immortality, ... ” (1 Cor. 15: 51-53).
While ‘new’ implies a complete break with what went before, ‘changed’ suggests a degree of continuity. We see this in the Lord, whose resurrection is a pattern for our own. His resurrection body was the same as that in which He had lived and died, since there was nothing left in the tomb but grave-clothes (Luke 24: 12). Furthermore, it bore the marks of His crucifixion (John 20: 20) marks which are still evident in heaven (Rev. 5: 6). However, though it was a real body in that it could be handled, and in that it had flesh and bones (Luke 24: 39), it had clearly undergone a radical transformation. Hence it had more than one form, it could pass through closed doors, and it could appear and disappear at will (Mark 16: 12, John 20: 19, Luke 24: 31). It was not, however, a new body since the two on the road to Emmaus “recognised him” (Luke 24: 31).
Attention has been drawn to that Scripture where Paul speaks of our earthly tabernacle house being destroyed, and then an ardent desire to have put on our house which is from heaven (2 Cor. 5: 1. 2) as if this shows that the two are unconnected. This is not so. While the building from God is different, it incorporates something of that which made up the original. As the sown grain results in the wheat (1 Cor. 15: 37), so the earthly house is raised a building from God. Hence, the apostle can say “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (v44). The earthly house is suited to the conditions here, the house “which[is] from heaven” is suited to heaven (“from heaven” means its character is derived from heaven).
Of course some will find it incredible that God will raise bodies whose remains have disintegrated and been dispersed. This is sheer unbelief: God is the Almighty God. Thus the body of Lazarus was raised complete, even though the Scripture suggests it had probably begun to decompose (John 11: 39). Again, the sea will one day give up its dead (Rev. 20: 13)––not the souls, not the spirits, but the bodies––and those persons will stand (that is in their bodies) before the great white throne. The body is raised “in power” (1 Cor. 15: 44)––Let us not doubt that power!