One of the greatest misunderstandings in eschatology relates to the meaning of “flesh and blood” in 1 Corinthians 15. Most understand the term to refer to the human body. This is patently wrong however, and understanding the proper definition has a profound impact on our understanding of eschatology. In the 2012 McDurmon-V-Preston debate, McDurmon actually correctly defined the term, but when he did, Preston quickly exposed the fallacy of a future resurrection! You can get a copy of that debate on Kindle (and book form shortly) or, you can order the DVDs here.
The Meaning of Flesh and Blood
In like manner, we are certain that “flesh and blood” in 1 Corinthians 15:50 cannot be interpreted to mean biology, but must be understood in a soteriological context. For example, Paul writes in Romans 8:9, but you are not in the flesh if the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Did Paul mean these saints were not “flesh and blood” biologically speaking? No, that would be absurd. But, he certainly meant they were not flesh and blood in some sense. If they were not “in the flesh” how could they be “flesh and blood in the “sense” Paul meant?”
Jesus defines the term “flesh and blood” from a covenantal perspective. He says of those born of God that they are not born of flesh and blood.
“But as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Jesus is speaking of becoming a son of God. Sons of God are sons of the resurrection. This is true both from the inaugural, (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27), the interim (Romans 8:14; Eph. 2:5-6) and consummative viewpoint, (Luke 20:35).
Therefore, Jesus is speaking of the resurrection and says plainly; those who believe in him are not born of the flesh, or of blood or of the will of man but are born of God. His words are to be understood in the light of his expanded discussion on this point with Nicodemus in John chapter 3.
“‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'” (John 3:3). Nicodemus asked Jesus directly, how could he be born of “flesh and blood”, that is how could he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born? That is a flesh and blood birth, but it is not the birth Jesus had in mind.
Jesus made it very clear stating emphatically, that Nicodemus and Israel had to be born of the Spirit. He said, “‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.'” (John 3:6) The observant reader will note that in John 3:3-8, Jesus is speaking of the birth of two respective covenants, i.e. the Old Covenant birth is being contrasted with the new covenant birth.
This is evident from his statement where he says, Marvel not that I said to you [soi, singular meaning Nicodemus], that you [humas, second person plural] meaning the nation of Israel, must be born again. In light of these statements, how can one refer to believers as being in the flesh or being born of “flesh and blood” in their covenantal relationship as sons of God?
Further, from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and the text in John 1:11-13, we have the same contextual setting for understanding the term “flesh and blood” as used in the above-mentioned texts. It is clearly a contrast between the life in the Old Covenant in contrast to that of the New Covenant.
When Jesus says he came to his own, [Israel] but his own received him not, he speaks of those under the Law. But, to those who received him and to whom he gave the authority to become sons of God ‘not by blood, or by flesh or by the will of man’ (human power & authority) he is contrasting life under the old covenant, i.e. “flesh and blood” with life under the new covenant being “born of the Spirit” for the terms “born of God, and born of the Spirit of equal.
This is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15; otherwise, we have flagrant contradictions of the scriptures that says those who, biologically speaking were “flesh and blood” were in fact receiving or inheriting the kingdom. However, as we have shown by Christ’s own words that “flesh and blood” referred to those under the Old Covenant Law of Moses, it becomes clear that they as such, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. More to come, so stay tuned!