I have always puzzled over the language used by the Apostle Paul in describing the Christian life. My problem came in reading 1 Corinthians 15:50. The language seems so strange.
NAU 1 Corinthians 15:50: “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
This raised a group of questions I will attempt to answer explicitly from the Word of God. I don’t object to logic, as long as it is firmly rooted in the facts of the Word.
- Why is inheritance so important? Who do we inherit from? How?
- What is it about “flesh and blood” that makes it impossible to inherit the kingdom of God?
- What is the solution to this impossible situation?
I listened to many people give explanations. They all seemed to partly answer my confusion, but not completely. Finally, I gave up on other people giving me a satisfactory answer. I decided to see what Paul and the other Bible writers meant when they used words like “flesh”, “blood”, and “spirit”.
I had already figured out that these terms occasionally were used in an ordinary secular sense. Other times they obviously meant something I was still missing.
My search began with a concordance. These words are used many times. In the Bible:
- “flesh” is used over 300 times
- “blood” is used over 400 times
- “spirit” is used over 550 times
This could be a long study, so I will try to focus on the important points in a simple and practical way.
Context and other verses
Fortunately, only a few verses in the Bible use this special expression “flesh and blood“, let’s look at them first for the overall context. Matt. 16:17; 1 Co. 15:50; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 6:12; Heb. 2:14
Jesus used the expression in Matthew 16:17
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Obviously, God is not “flesh and blood”.
Paul used the expression 4 times including the text I am concerned about.
Galatians 1:16 , “. immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia..” Here Paul seems to be referring to humans in contrast to God.
NAU Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places .”
Clearly this separates supernatural forces from human powers.
KJV Hebrews 2:14 “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;”
This text tells us that Jesus participated in humanity, i.e . flesh and blood.
1. Why is inheritance so important? Who do we inherit from? How?
KJV Genesis 15:7 “And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”
Clearly it is not a new idea for a human to inherit something from God. This seems to imply that God is the real owner or Abram could not inherit it from God. The fact is it is God’s creation so He is the real owner. But.. The Hebrew language is really different from English in this text. The word translated “inherit” can mean: to seize, dispossess, take possession off, inherit, disinherit, occupy, impoverish, be an heir.
KJV Numbers 13:30 “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”
Here is another usage of the same Hebrew word. In fact, this is the more common usage of the word. Many other texts confirm that this word refers to ” possession” more than to what we call “inheritance”.
Another Hebrew term is also used. It has similar meanings. In the following text it clearly refers to what we call “inheritance”. However, the basic meaning is “possess”.
KJV Psalm 69:36 “The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein.”
The Greek word used by Paul clearly contains the same group of ideas as the Hebrew words. Thus, it is impossible to force this text strictly into the mould of Western thought. We must allow for the idea of obtaining or receiving a possession.
Having gone this far, I still don’t see the impossibility of possessing the kingdom solved, so that I can obtain a place in the kingdom of God. Do we have to cease to be human to get into the kingdom?
Continue reading Spirit, Flesh and Blood
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