1 Corinthians 15:50—If flesh and blood cannot enter heaven, then how can there be a physical resurrection?

Problem: The Bible speaks of the resurrection of the physical body from the grave (John 5:28–29), which is composed of “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39) and which leaves an empty tomb behind (Matt. 28:6). However, according to this verse, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

Solution: To conclude from this phrase that the resurrection body will not be a body of physical flesh is without biblical justification. First of all, the very next phrase omitted from the above quotation clearly indicates that Paul is speaking not of flesh as such, but of corruptible flesh. For he adds, “nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (v. 50). So, Paul is not affirming that the resurrection body will not have flesh, but that it will not have perishable flesh.

Second, to convince the frightened disciples that He was not an immaterial spirit (Luke 24:37), Jesus emphatically told them, “Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24:39, niv). Peter declared that the resurrection body would be the same body of flesh that went into the tomb and never saw corruption (Acts 2:31). Paul also reaffirmed this truth in a parallel passage (Acts 13:35). And John implies that it is against Christ to deny that He remains “in the flesh” even after His resurrection (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7).

Third, this conclusion cannot be avoided by claiming that Jesus’ resurrection body had flesh and bones, but not flesh and blood. For if it had flesh and bones, then it was a literal, material body, whether or not it had blood. “Flesh and bones” stresses the solidity of Jesus’ physical post-resurrection body. They are more obvious signs of tangibility than blood, which cannot be as easily seen or touched.

Fourth, the phrase “flesh and blood” in this context apparently means mortal flesh and blood, that is, a mere human being. This is supported by parallel uses in the NT. When Jesus said to Peter, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you” (Matt. 16:17), He could not have been referring to the mere substance of the body as such, which obviously could not reveal that He was the Son of God. Rather, the most natural interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:50 seems to be that humans, as they now are, earth-bound and perishable creatures, cannot have a place in God’s glorious, heavenly kingdom.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.