First the Natural, Then the Spiritual

by Terry W. Benton

I Corinthians 15:46 speaks of the natural body being first, and then at the resurrection the spiritual body takes over. But, that change follows the already established principle found in the nature of the Old Testament versus the New Testament. We see a pattern form which demonstrates God's plan, and confirms Paul's argument that God began with a physical, earthly thing only to develop concepts to understand the spiritual things He wants us to grasp. The spiritual is greater than the physical. The heavenly is greater than the earthly, the spiritual is greater than the carnal. God's program started the earthly to build concepts, and was not the intended end of itself. Understanding this principle helps to better grasp the difference in the two testaments. The Old Testament is the elementary school, and the New Testament graduates us to the spiritual realities intended. Keep this principle firmly in mind: "First the natural, then the spiritual" (I Corinthians 15:46).

First the earthly nation of Israel, secondly the spiritual Israel, the church of Christ. Exodus 19:3-6 describes the plan God had for the earthly nation of Israel. You would be able to locate this nation with boundaries on the map because it is an earthly nation. The laws given to that nation were not for every nation, but for the earthly and temporal nation of Israel. But, secondly, there is a spiritual Israel, a spiritual nation (I Peter 2:9; Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20). You cannot locate this spiritual nation on a physical map. The boundaries span heaven and earth as the way to become citizens is through a spiritual transformation and translation into this kingdom (Colossians 1:13; John 3:1-6). This nation is spiritual and greater than earthly Israel. This nation takes in all nations of the earth who convert to Jesus and obey Him.

First an earthly army with carnal weapons (Numbers 2). This army conquered others for the physical land God gave Israel. The soldiers used carnal weapons, and enforced carnal laws. But, God was anticipating a greater plan for a people who would learn physical war no more (Isaiah 2:1-4). So, secondly, came the spiritual army without carnal weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18; II Corinthians 10:4; II Timothy 4:7). Every Christian is a soldier in the Lord's army, not to fight physical battles, but to fight spiritual battles.

First an earthly priesthood (Exodus 28:41), and secondly a spiritual priesthood where every Christian is part of this spiritual priesthood. We do not utilize the earthly, physical garments that the priests of earthly Israel employed. Our robes are spiritual white robes and we offer, not the earthly blood sacrifices of bulls and goats, but spiritual service (Romans 12:1-3; Revelation 1:6; I Peter 2:5,9).

First an earthly tabernacle and temple (Hebrews 9:1), but this changes to the spiritual tabernacle and temple (I Peter 2:5). The earthly and carnal were only symbolic of the spiritual things we have in Christ. The whole book of Hebrews shows the change from carnal, earthly things to the spiritual things we should be engaging now. This is why we do not employ the animal sacrifices, the physical altar, the physical temple, the physical instruments, the physical incense, etc. God's program was to start with the earthly and to change to the spiritual.

First the earthly kingdom (Exodus 19:6), secondly the spiritual kingdom (John 18:36; Colossians 1:13). Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom and will not return to set up an earthly kingdom. He had an earthly kingdom in Israel, and brought out of earthly Israel a remnant to translate into His spiritual domain. He will not revert back to the earthly. The spiritual kingdom is in place now, and will be taken back to heaven with Him when He comes again (I Corinthians 15:22f). Those stuck on believing the Lord blesses earthly Israel do not realize that their entire purpose was to graduate to Jesus. If they failed to graduate to Jesus, they are without the spiritual blessings and favor of God (Galatians 3:24ff; Ephesians 1:3-7). If ANY MAN, including any earthly Israelite, does not preach Jesus and His gospel, they will be accursed (Galatians 1:6-10).

First a physical birth, secondly a spiritual birth (John 3:1-6). It was not enough for Nicodemus to have been born an earthly Israelite. That is not the key to having the blessings and favor of God. Jesus told this Jew that unless he was "born again" of the Spirit, he would not see or enter the kingdom of God. To be in God's kingdom he must have a drastic transformation from within by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This body of people is the church of Christ. These are God's nation today. These are the true Israel of God. All nations can come into this spiritual domain. The spiritual birth enters you into the spiritual nation, army, kingdom, priesthood, tabernacle and covenant with God.

First a fleshly covenant (Genesis 17:13), secondly a spiritual covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15). The old covenant was marked in the flesh by physical circumcision, but the new covenant is marked in the heart through a circumcision made without hands (Colossians 2:11-12). This is when one is born of water and the Spirit, when God cuts away the sins we committed, washing our sins away in His blood in a spiritual way.

Have you been born again into this spiritual nation? Are you engaging the duties and privileges of God's house, nation, kingdom, and priesthood? All spiritual blessings are IN Christ, not in physical Israel. An Israelite can come into the blessings in Christ, and so can every Gentile. But, unless we are born again, we remain in the earthly which has always been discarded for the spiritual destiny of union with God and heaven. Perhaps you have been in the carnal mode of thinking and see the need to make the transition from the earthly to the spiritual? If we can help you understand how that transition takes place, we will be happy to study these things further with you. God wants you to be a part of the spiritual nation, the church belonging to Jesus Christ. We do too! Let us know if we can be of any assistance in understanding God's word!