|Dr Couch, what is meant in I Corinthians 15:50, "that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable"?|
ANSWER: First of all it must be understood that in every case, "the kingdom of God" is a reference to the coming millennial earthly reign of Christ as Israel's King! In my interpretation textbook "Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics" (Kregel), I show by scriptural proof this fact. Paul's context in 1 Corinthians 15 has to do with the resurrection, specifically the resurrection of church saints in which we will come back with Him from heaven for this kingdom rule on earth.
Whether by the miracle of the resurrection (vv. 42-45), or by the miracle of the rapture of the church, whereby believers now living will be changed (vv. 51-52), we end up on earth ultimately with Him in the Davidic kingdom, the kingdom of God!
To see what is going on more clearly in the verse, it is important for me to translate it from the Greek text. It reads:
But now I am bringing to light (phami, pres. act. ind. ), brothers, that flesh and blood is not able to "specifically inherit" the kingdom of God; neither the perishable the imperishable is able to be inheriting" [it].
The key word here is inherit which is used twice and means: "To legally be designated, appointed, assigned." Thus: "flesh and blood cannot be assigned the kingdom of God" and "neither can that which is perishable be assigned what is imperishable." Since there will be people who are spared in the tribulation and enter the kingdom in their natural bodies, Paul must have something specific in mind here. That which is simply natural or sinful cannot "inherit" (a key word) the kingdom. One enters into the kingdom because he spiritually belongs to Christ, though that believer is existing physically in a natural body. To enter this coming future kingdom of God, one must be born again by faith; one cannot simply enter by being "naturally" born (John 3:1-5).
While Paul is addressing the issue of church believers, we know from OT passages that the OT saints will also be resurrected for this coming kingdom reign of Christ, but they are not resurrected as "the body of Christ" but as the saints of Israel who in their life trusted everything that God had said to them. By Christ's victory at the cross (v. 57) the OT saying "Death is swallowed up in victory" (v. 54; Isa. 25:8; Hosea. 13:14) is applicable to all who will someday be resurrected, both OT and NT saints. Christ's death has covered the sins of all of humanity, past, present, and future!
Thanks for asking,
Mal Couch, Ph.D., Th.D.