WE WILL RISE

1 CORINTHIANS 15:12-34

There once was a man who decided he wanted to try to take all of his money with him to heaven when he died. He never went anywhere without taking his wallet and he would grab it and hold to it tightly whenever he thought he might be in danger.

He got to thinking that if he were to die while he was asleep in bed, then he would have no chance to grab his money. Each night, he would take his money and his valuable and place them on a table up in the attic over his bed, figuring that, if he died, he would be able to grab it all on the way up to heaven.

Sure enough, he died one night in his sleep. When his wife saw him lying there the next morning and realized that he was dead, she raced up into the attic to find that all of his money and belongings were still on the table where he had left them. "I knew it!" she exclaimed, "I knew he should have put them in the basement!"

Death is no respecter of persons. It makes no distinction between rich or poor, black or white, man or woman. Death statistics are consistent. One out of every one person dies. The Christian is not to be disturbed by such statistics. The Christian has a hope in the future. It is a hope based upon a future resurrection.

The Corinthian believers were willing to agree that Jesus had risen from the dead. That is what made them believers. What they had problems in believing is that they would also rise from the dead.

Greek philosophy taught that the body was evil while the soul and spirit were good. Death was considered to be the final release from the evil part of man so that he could be fully good. The body was considered to be a prison and the soul was the prisoner. Death was the release of the soul from the prison house.

Neither were Greeks the only ones who denied a future resurrection. The Sadducees had been heavily influenced by Greek thought and they had also come to deny a future resurrection. It is for this reason that Paul now sets out to show that we can look forward to a future bodily resurrection.

 

THE IMPLICATIONS OF DENYING THE RESURRECTION

12 Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain and your faith also is vain.

15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

Paul has just gone to great lengths to cite the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. He did this in the first eleven verses of this chapter. He did this for a reason. It was not because the Corinthian Christians had rejected the teaching that Jesus arose from the dead. It is because the fact of the resurrection of Christ is the basis of belief in our own resurrection.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then it is not too much harder to believe that you will also rise from the dead when He says that you will. It is for this reason that the resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate apologetic for the Christian.

To make this point, Paul asks the question: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (15:12). This points out an inconsistency in the thinking of the Corinthian Christians. They had read the preaching of the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus. They had believed the message. They had become followers of Christ. But they continued to hold to their old philosophical idea that there is no resurrection.

It is like the man who thought he was dead. No matter what people said to him, he was convinced that he was dead. His wife came to the point where she could take it no longer and insisted that he go and see a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist had the man read a number of medical books and reports to prove that dead men do not bleed. Then he took him to see an autopsy so that he could see for himself that dead men do not bleed.

After all of this, the psychiatrist questioned the man and listened to him agree that dead men do not bleed. Then the psychiatrist took out a pin and pricked the manís finger. As a drop of blood welled out, the manís eyes opened wide and he exclaimed, "What do you know, dead men bleed after all!"

The Corinthians were no less inconsistent in their thinking. They believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, but they persisted in their old philosophy that said men do not rise from the dead.

Paul therefore takes up the false presupposition of the Corinthians in order to show where it will lead them. He uses a debaterís technique. He assumes for the sake of argument that the Corinthians are right and that there is no resurrection of the dead. This leads to eight logical conclusions.

  1. If there is no Resurrection, then Christ has not been raised: But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised (15:13).
  2. If it is indeed impossible for people to rise from the dead, then it is just as impossible for Jesus to have risen from the dead. Yet Paul has just shown that the resurrection of Jesus was substantiated by literally hundreds of witnesses and that He was seen at different times and on different occasions.

  3. If there is no Resurrection, then Preaching is Worthless: If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain (15:14).
  4. Paul had devoted his entire life to the preaching of the message of the resurrection of Christ. If Christ is not risen, then Paul has been wasting his time.

    If Christ is not risen, then all of the churches in all of the communities of the world should close their doors. All of the missionaries should come home. All of the Christian schools should send their students away. All of the Bible should be collected and burned.

  5. If there is no Resurrection, then the Christianís Faith is Worthless: If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain and your faith also is vain (15:14).
  6. If Christ is not risen, then your faith is empty because you cannot depend upon a dead savior. Faith is no stronger than the object of that faith and, if Christ is not risen, then the object of your faith is rotting in a grave.

    How would you feel if you were dying of cancer and a friend told you, "I know of a terrific doctor. Just come with my and I will introduce you to him." You get into the car and your friend drives you to the local cemetery and pulls up in front of a large tombstone. "Here he is!"

    It would not be very reassuring. What can a dead doctor do for you? Nothing. And the same is true of a dead savior.

  7. If there is no Resurrection, then the Apostles were Liars: Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised (15:15).
  8. If is bad enough to be a false witness; that is a violation of the ninth commandment. But to be a false witness of God is even worse.

    If there is no resurrection, then Paul is a liar. And so is Peter and all of the apostles. And so is Billy Graham and Martin Luther and John Calvin and Dwight Moody. And so is every preacher in every evangelical church. And so am I.

    If Christ is not risen, we are not only liars, but we are also guilty of blasphemy against God because we have declared that He did something that He did not do. We would be speaking against God and His judgment would be against us.

  9. If there is no Resurrection, then the Christian Faith is Worthless: If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless (15:17).
  10. Faith by itself is totally powerless. Faith cannot do anything. It cannot save you. It cannot make you into a better person. It cannot help you at all. Faith has no worth at all if it is based upon an unworthy object.

  11. If there is no Resurrection, then you are still in your Sins: If Christ has not been raised... you are still in your sins (15:17).
  12. If there is no resurrection, then you are going to stand before a holy God who is going to judge you and you have no recourse. You are a sinner and God hates sin and that means He hates you and you are eternally without hope. The awesome anger of a holy God is directed against you and there is no escape because nobody has a solution to your problem of sin.

  13. If there is no Resurrection, then those who have Died are gone forever : Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished (15:18).
  14. Have you ever had someone die who was close to you? Maybe it was a grandfather or a grandmother. Maybe it was a brother or sister. Perhaps it was a friend. You attended their funeral and perhaps you were comforted by the thought that their parting, though painful, is only temporary.

    If there is no resurrection, then you will never see them again. They are gone and the comfort you took at their death has been taken away because they are not in a better place. They are in a much worse place and you will soon be there, too.

  15. If there is no Resurrection, then Christians are Pitiful: If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (15:19).

If there is no resurrection, then all the Christians who ever suffered persecution and who sacrificed their hard-earned money and who wasted their time in doing good did so in vain. Instead of wasting your time in church, you could have been out having a good time. If there is no resurrection, then your life is nothing but a bad joke and you are the punch line.

 

THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THE RESURRECTION

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

Having shown the logical consequences of denying the resurrection, Paul now brings us back to reality and reaffirms the fact that Christ has indeed risen. In the previous verses, we see the results of a wrong presupposition; now we see a true declaration.

Christ has been raised. Paul states this in the perfect tense. It is the tense that looks to the past and then emphasizes its continuing results. Christ has been raised from the dead with the result that He is now alive.

The other major religious leaders of history are all in their graves. Only one still lives today. He is alive. He is the God of the living. Just as He has risen from the dead, so also His people will one day rise. That is what is meant when Paul says that Christ is the first fruits of those who are asleep.

In order to understand the significance of the firstfruits, we have to look at the Israelite Feast of Firstfruits. In the first month of the Jewish year, the Jews observed three different Feasts.

The Passover took place on the 14th day of the first month. It was designed to be a reminder of how God had delivered the Israelites from the plague of the firstborn and had brought them out of their slavery in Egypt.

This feast was a week-long observance that began on the day following the Passover. During this week, the Jews removed all of the leaven from the bread they ate.

This was a remembrance of their separation from the culture and the land of Egypt. God had taken them out and had made them a people who were to be set apart from the rest of the world.

This took place on the first day of the week that followed the Passover. On this day, each Israelite was to bring the first sheaf of grain that he had harvested in the early spring harvest. Bringing his sheaf of grain before the Lord, he was to have the priest wave it before the door of the Temple. By doing so, he would be pledging the entire harvest that was soon to follow. This was a demonstration that, just as the people were Godís people, so also the harvest was Godís harvest.

All three of these ceremonies looked forward to the coming of Jesus. Each of them had a special significance that looked to something he would accomplish.

Passover

Memorialized Israelís deliverance from the plague of the firstborn and their exodus from Egypt

Looks to the death of Christ on the cross. Just as the lambís blood on the doorpost cause the angel of death to pass over that household, so the death of Christ caused Godís wrath to be removed from those who believe in Him.

Unleavened Bread

Memorialized the separation of Israel from the culture of Egypt.

Looks to the sanctification process that God works in the life of the believer who is set apart to Him.

Firstfruits

Offered a representative offering of the future harvest to the Lord

Looks to Jesus as the one who rose from the dead as being promissory of our future resurrection from the dead.

This is what it means when it says that Jesus is our firstfruits. Just as the waving of that first sheaf of grain was a pledge of the entire harvest to follow, so also the resurrection of Christ is our guarantee of a resurrection to come.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive (15:22). Jesus is our second Adam. When we came to Christ, we changed from one family into another. We were taken out of the family of the old Adam and brought into the family of the second Adam. Just as we were once identified with the old Adam who sinned in the garden, now we have been identified with Jesus Christ and with His righteousness.

Adam

Jesus Christ

He was one man.

He is one man.

By this man came death.

By this man comes the resurrection of the dead.

All who are in Adam die.

All who are in Christ shall be made alive.

By his sin be brought condemnation.

By His obedience he brings justification.

It was through Adamís sin that physical death came into the world. In the same way, it is through the work of Christ that death has been conquered.

 

THE ORDER OF THE RESURRECTION

23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).

There is an order to the resurrection. It takes place in an orderly progression. Just as the first sheaf of fruit was followed by the rest of the harvest in its time, so also the resurrection of Christ is followed by our own resurrection. When does our resurrection take place? The answer is found in verse 23. It is at His coming.

The order of events is carefully outlined for us.

The first part of this schedule has already taken place. It took place when Jesus rose from the dead. We now await the second part -- the resurrection of believers when He comes again.

  1. The Coming of the End: Then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power (15:24).
  2. Verse 24 begins a parenthesis that continues all the way to verse 28. It deals with that final event when Christ delivers over the kingdom to God the Father.

    15:20

    15:23

    15:24

    15:29

    Christ has been raised as our firstfruits

    The rest of the resurrection shall take place in its own order

    Then comes the end (described at length)

    Further reasons to believe in the resurrection

    This entire chapter is devoted to the ongoing theme of why it is necessary for us to believe in the resurrection

    Parenthetical section

    The Son is the King of the Kingdom. But there is coming a day when He will deliver up His kingship to the Father. In the end, it will be as it was in the beginning. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Sin will be no more. The Father will reign without opposition.

  3. The Conquering Reign: For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet (15:25.
  4. When a king had conquered a neighboring kingdom, the defeated king would be brought forward and made to kneel with his face to the floor. The victorious king would then place his foot on the head of his enemy. This was a sign of total victory.

    There is coming a day when Jesus is going to do that. He will defeat every enemy in total victory. It is the very purpose of the incarnation. It is the reason God became flesh. It was to destroy the works of Satan and to defeat the enemy of God. When every enemy has been defeated, He will return the kingdom to His Father.

  5. The Last Enemy: The last enemy that will be abolished is death (15:26).

Death is an enemy. Though it has been defeated in the resurrection, it still continues to manifest itself in a very real way. People continue to die. But that will not always be the case. There is coming a day when death will be abolished.

 

RESURRECTION AND THE PROBLEM OF PERSECUTION

29 Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? 30 Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.

33 Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." 34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. ( 1 Corinthians 15:29-34).

Now Paul brings forth his final argument for the bodily resurrection. It is the argument from the suffering and the persecution and the martyrdom of believers. Notice the elements of this argument:

This is the language of persecution and martyrdom.

  1. If there is no Resurrection, then why do we Baptize for the Dead?
  2. Here is the question. If there is no bodily resurrection, then why should I risk my life by holding onto my Christian faith? In Paulís day, it was not healthy to be a Christian. Paul himself had suffered many things for the cause of Christ. He had been beaten with rods, stoned, lashed and thrown into prison. He had come through hunger, thirst, exposure and sickness.

    Now comes the question. Why is Paul doing this if there is no bodily resurrection when the only reason he is being persecuted is because he said that a certain dead Galilean got up and walked?

    It is in this context that Paul asks, "What will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?" The Mormons take this verse to indicate that it is possible for a person to be baptized on behalf of someone who has already died and thereby gain salvation for that person. They point to the phrase for the dead and point out that the Greek preposition can be translated, "in place of the dead." They are correct linguistically, but miss the point that the passage is written in a context of persecution and martyrdom.

    Here is the question that Paul asks. Why do believers who are under persecution continue to hold to their faith in a resurrection that results in their being persecuted if there is no resurrection? And why do new converts rise up to be baptized in place of those who are being put to death if there is no resurrection of the dead? Why are new believers being baptized and filling up the ranks of the church in place of those who have died if there is no resurrection when it results in being in danger every hour and in daily danger of death ("I die daily")?

    If Paul were to be thrown to the lions in the great stadium in Ephesus because of his stand for Christ, that would be of great benefit. But that is only true if there is a resurrection from the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then it is silly for Paul to risk his life.

    If there is no resurrection from the dead, then we have followed a lie. If this is the case, then we are not doing Godís will, but only the will of another group of men. If I am martyred only on the basis of some misguided men, what does it profit me?

    The good news is that Christ HAS risen from the dead. And that is why people continue to believe in Him, filling up the ranks of those who have gone before us. And that is why YOU have been baptized in place of the dead.

    Thus, the picture of being baptized in place of the dead is a picture of new converts coming to Christ and being baptized to replace those who have died in Christ. There is a sense that when you were baptized and brought into the body of Christ, you were baptized to take the place of those who had come before.

  3. If there is no Resurrection, then why are we in danger every hour? (15:30). It makes no sense to continue to be persecuted for holding to the faith in the central core of that faith is known to be false.
  4. To this end, Paul says, "I die daily" (15:31). Because of his stand for Christ, he finds himself daily in danger of death. He can expect to be martyred on any given day. Why should he willingly live under this threat if there is no resurrection of the dead?

  5. If there is no Resurrection, then why do Martyrs willingly suffer their fate? Paul asks this question in the form of a hypothetical martyr: If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? (15:32).
  6. In case you did not notice, the fact that Paul is alive and writing this letter shows that he has not actually been fed to the lions at Ephesus. He is speaking hypothetically.

    If Paul were to be thrown to the lions at Ephesus because of his stand for Christ, there would be spiritual profit, but only if there is a resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then suffering a martyrís death is silly.

  7. If there is no Resurrection tomorrow, then we ought to live only for today: If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (15:32).
  8. There were evidently some within the church who were being tempted to take this very philosophy. It was not a foreign way of thinking to the Greeks. This was the philosophy of the Epicureans (Acts 17:18). This school of thought held that all existence ends with death. Now is the time to live it up. Enjoy life while you can, for there may be tomorrow.

    Paul agrees. He says that if the premise is true, then the conclusion is also valid. If there is no resurrection, then this ought to be your philosophy.

  9. If there is no Resurrection tomorrow, it does not matter who you listen to today: Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." (15:33).
  10. Paul brings his readers back to reality with this hard verbal slap across the face. He tells them not to be deceived. There is a resurrection. He says, "You Christians have been living as through there were no resurrection. You have been keeping company with those who deny the resurrection and you have been starting to swallow their lies and you have been falling into the moral traps that come with such a philosophy."

    There is an important point here that I do not want you to miss. You may have been reading through this chapter and saying to yourself, "This does not apply to me at all because I believe in the resurrection." That is a good thing, but is your manner of life consistent with that belief? Are you living life as though this life is only temporary and to be followed by an eternal existence? Or are you a practicing atheist?

    Quite a number of years ago, I met a teenager who, when I asked his religious background, informed me that both his parents were atheists. When I finally met them, I commented, "I hear that the two of you are atheists." They were both surprised. "Atheists? Whatever gave you the idea that we are atheists?" Their son was just as surprise and replied, "I never heard you talk about God. I just assumed that you were atheists."

    If you really believe in the resurrection, then your life ought to be lived in a manner that manifests such a belief. It ought to be seen in what you do and in how you act.

  11. If there IS a resurrection, then sin ought to be abandoned: Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning (15:34).

This is Paulís final exhortation. It is based upon everything that has been said up to this point. It is a twofold plea.

This tells us something about Biblical prophecy. It is always given so that you will live differently. It is not given merely to satisfy your curiosity. It is not given to make you spiritually proud. It is given so that the truth of the resurrection might be reflected in the way you live your Christian life.


About the Author
Return to the John Stevenson Bible Study Page
Have a Comment?