1 Cor. 15:12-20
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;
14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified 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, not even Christ has been raised;
17 and 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.
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
Pay close attention to the argument that Paul uses here. He is attempting to prove something to them that they doubt by the use of something which they accept.
Being a Christian – 1) means they have accepted the truth of the resurrection of Christ. Now Paul asks how they can deny a general resurrection in the face of the resurrection of Christ. In this one case the possibility of a resurrection is established, and men are inconsistent who admit the bodily resurrection of Jesus and deny the bodily resurrection of those who are Christians.
He says “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.” Paul is here turning the argument around and shows them they must either accept both the resurrection of Christ and those who are Christ’s at his coming, or deny both the resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection.
The two stand or fall together. – 2) Being a Christians means accepting the truth of the resurrection AND it also means accepting the truth of the resurrection of all who belong to Him.
CONSEQUENCES if one does NOT believe in the Resurrecion:
If one can prove that there is no resurrection, he has disproved the resurrection of Christ. In other words, if there is no resurrection of the body, (1) NOT even Christ was raised. Admitting the possibility of one is inconsistent with a denial of the possibility of the other. Granting the possibility of one forces us to admit the possibility of the other.
And he further says “and if Christ has not been raised, then our (2) preaching is vain.” This is another consequence of the denial of the resurrection . If there is no resurrection, the preaching of the gospel is in vain. Acceptance of the gospel brings persecution and self-denial, and if there is nothing beyond this life the preaching and acceptance of the gospel is vain.
Not only that, but Paul says (3) “your faith also is vain.” Yet another consequence of a denial of the resurrection. Faith is vain if there is nothing beyond death. It is vain to believe in Christ, who said he would rise form the dead, if he failed to do what he said he would do. Furthermore, the work of atonement was not finished with his death, for he had to offer his blood before it could avail anything in our behalf. If he did not rise form the dead and offer his blood, our faith in him to save us from our sins is vain.
Further, Paul says “Moreover we are even found to be (4) false witnesses of God.” All the apostles, and many others, claimed to have seen Jesus after his resurrection and so were eyewitnesses. If there is no resurrection, Jesus has not been raised; if Jesus has not been raised, all these people who claim to have seen him are false witnesses. If they are all false witnesses, we cannot receive their word on any subject, so there is no basis for our faith and hope. From this we can see why the doctrine of the resurrection is a cardinal doctrine. No wonder Paul said that in order to be saved we must believe that God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9).
Yet another consequence of the denial of the resurrection is (5) “you are still in your sins.” If there is no resurrection, Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. There are at least two reasons why the resurrection of Christ is essential in the plan of salvation.
1) First it is proof of His Sonship. Paul said he was declared to be the son of God with power by the resurrection (Rom. 1:3, 4) If the historical Jesus was not raised from the dead, God repudiated him and his claims to be the Son of God. If he was not the sSon of God, he does not have the power to save from sin regardless of our faith in him.
2) Secondly, the resurrection of Christ is essential in the scheme of redemption because it enables him to complete his work of atonement in the offering of his blood for our sins and do the work of mediation for us at the right hand of the Father, so Paul says he was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25).
Yet another consequence of denial of the resurrection is (6) “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” Those who say there is no resurrection must accept the consequence, which is, that all who have placed their faith in Christ have done so in vain; a vain faith cannot save, therefore, they are all lost, they have utterly and hopelessly perished. Paul does not include those who have fallen asleep out of Christ. We know they have perished, and rightly so but to think that those who have placed their faith in Christ and have suffered such terrible persecutions at the hands of unbelievers should have added to these persecutions their eternal destruction is unthinkable. But if one denies the resurrection, this will follow as a logical consequence.
And one final consequence of a denial of the resurrection (7) “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” If there is no resurrection, no life beyond the grave, hope in Christ is for this life only. Their faith and hope in Christ led them to suffer so many things and be hated by so many people that if they are not privileged to rise form the dead and live again they are to be pitied above all men. They are to be pitied because of their suffering for nothing. And they are to be pitied because they have been so deluded and have led so many others into the same vain delusion.
After all this Paul says – “But now Christ has been raised from the dead.” This is the confidence of the triumph of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is a fact, Paul knew it, the apostles who were eyewitnesses knew it, all who saw him after his resurrection knew it, so in triumph he declares what he knows to be a fact Christ has been raised, and his resurrection is only the first-fruits of that general resurrection in which al his people will share.
There is one other section in 1 Corinthians Fifteen that we want to examine today:
1 Cor. 15:50-54
50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
Paul starts by saying (vs.50) “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” By flesh and blood he means this body in which we live here on earth.
The kingdom of God refers to heaven. Paul does not tell us why these fleshly bodies cannot enter heaven, but reasons are implied by what follows. He calls them corruptible, and certainly a corruptible thing cannot enter into that which is pure and holy.
He also refers to them as mortals, and that which is subject to death, destined to die, has no place in the eternal city. There are many other things which might be considered as good reasons why this body of flesh cannot enter heaven.
Being physical, it must have physical food, and this would require planting, cultivation and harvesting, and preparing food for the body. All this activity and commerce would involve us in the endless round of activities which breed troubles and heartaches in this life. A body fitted for the material world so constructed as to enjoy things temporal and physical would be out of place in a spiritual world.
In verse 51 he says : “Behold, I tell you a mystery.” We need to understand what a “mystery” is. It is NOT something incomprehensible, it is something we would not, and could not know of our own wisdom or learn by scientific experimentation. Mysteries must be revealed. And after they are revealed the matter may be as simple as this mystery Paul reveals in this case.
And now the mystery is revealed “we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” Not every one will die, but every human being alive at the coming of the Lord will be changed. Since flesh and blood cannot enter heaven, it follows that those who have not died so as to be raised in incorruption must be changed without going through the experience of death.
What is implied here is (1) that this world as we know it will come to an end; (2) that the end will be instantaneous; and (3) that the living will undergo a change equal to that brought about by death and resurrection.
All this will take place (vs. 52) “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” It will happen suddenly, it will not be a gradual process. This change is to take place at the last trumpet, at the second coming of Christ:
1 Thess. 4:16, 17
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Paul goes on to say (vs.52) “for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” Here again we have proof of the resurrection of the body. Earlier in this chapter Paul said:
1 Cor. 15:42-44
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;
43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
That which was sown in corruption is that which is going to be raised. Nothing but the body is sown in corruption, and we have proof of that in the statement “It is sown a natural body.” So that which is sown a natural body is that which is going to be raised in incorruption.
Paul says (vs.53) “For this perishable must put on the imperishable.” Whether through the process of death and resurrection or through the immediate change at the coming of Christ, this corruptible body must be changed to incorruption; this mortal body must become an immortal body.
The word mortal means “subject to death; destined to die” (Webster). In order to have a place in the eternal world, this mortality must be changed into immortality. If the bodies of these living at the coming of the Lord are changed into immortal bodies, does it not follow that those who die must have a body in heaven that has an essential connection with the body they had on earth? Our Lord’s body was changed form mortal to immortal and so will be the bodies of those living at the coming of the Lord. But if the body is not to be resurrected, those who die will have a body entirely new having no essential connection wit the body they lived on this earth.
Paul then says, when all of this happens (vs.54) “then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.” Death is represented as an enemy, the last one to be destroyed. (1 Cor. 15:26).
Death has been no respecter of persons, having engulfed all mankind since the beginning of time. Paul looks forward to a time when this monster will be swallowed up in one victorious moment.
The dead shall be raised to immortality, and the living shall be changed to immortality, not subject to death, beyond the reach of death. By this action the Lord will forever destroy death. Since Jesus, the Lord of life, is engaged in this combat with death, the destruction of this enemy is called a victory.
Death is swallowed up (eis) unto victory. Death is destroyed in order to complete victory may be had over all enemies.
1) In the first battle, Jesus allowed death to overcome him momentarily in order that we might be saved. He won by losing that battle. But in the last battle, he will be completely victorious. They win the war who win the last battle. On whose side are you? Surely all of us wish to be on the side that wins the last battle.
2) If there be no resurrection of the dead, Jesus is not the Son of God, our faith in him is vain, the eyewitnesses who testified on the subject were all false, we are still in our sin, our beloved dead are all perished without hope, and we face the same dark and hopeless future. The word gospel means good news. A message without assurance of the resurrection is not gospel, not good news.
3) Who would wish to take this body unchanged into heaven? It grows weaker, is subject to disease and decay; it is the seat of lusts and passions which lead to many sins. A change to the body suited to that eternal heavenly place is a glorious prospect.