In the first century, a few decades after Christ was crucified, there arose a theory in some areas where Christianity was new, that Christ didnít raise from the dead. In spite of numerous eyewitness to the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ, the false teaching was making inroads into the church at Corinth. In the latter part of his first letter to the Corinthian Church, the Apostle Paul explained the facts and the true purpose of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I want to take up the portion of that message from 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 12: "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13: But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15: Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16: For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18: Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
In the earlier parts of chapter 15, the Apostle Paul has already stated the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the documentation of that fact by a veritable cloud of witnesses, even going so far as to name some of them.
He also stated that the gospel that was preached by the apostles Christ chose when He was here on earth and the gospel Paul preached was exactly the same gospel. Then he took up the fact that there were some in Corinth who were denying the resurrection of Christ because of false teaching that had crept in.
The Corinthian believers must have been in a state of total shock over the teaching of some that there was no resurrection and that this life was all there was.
Have you ever questioned whether you were really saved or not? Have you ever wakened in the night and checked to see if someone you knew was saved was still there, just to make sure the Rapture hadnít occurred and you were left behind? Maybe you felt a mild panic when you lost sight of someone in a crowd or when you couldnít find someone who went somewhere unexpectedly and didnít tell you beforehand? Those are some of the "What if's" Satan likes to use to make us question our Christian faith.
Satan will use anything within his power to make us doubt our salvation.
What can you do when Satan so subtly attacks and you may have the feeling that Christianity may be a delusion, a psychological trick, a mind game youíve been playing with yourself?
After all, we have been told by educated people that the Scriptures are merely a collection of myths and legends, and there is no life after death, no judgment thereafter, and no God.
We all feel those attacks on our faith by Satan at times. We live in a day when Satan has a lot of help and a lot of tools to make attacks from many angles on our Christian faith. He doesnít use just one thing at a time, heíll hit you from every angle.
Karl Marx, the founder of modern day communism, is well known for his statement that "religion is the opiate of the masses." He saw religion as kind of a "pipe dream" that removes people from the realities of their existence, making them willing to endure great indignities and injustices, with the transient hope that some day they will find a compensation. Mr. Marx is no longer living and I believe he might have quite a different opinion now.
The Christian faith in general is under severe attack in many parts of the world today, and the individual Christian in those places have to live under the unrelenting pressure of assaults on their faith from both individuals and governments alike. They face constant pressure to accept the secular world view. If they say they believe in Christ and life after death, theyíre ridiculed and even threatened with death.
Even here, in the United States, this is common. We are under attack as well. You should read some of the e-mail I get on my gospel website. Many times itís patented, parroted rhetoric that I have heard decades ago and it is being repeated. They say the Bible is a collection of fables and myths and itís a crutch for the ignorant and un-learned. They invariably are quoting someone else and have never read the Bible in itís entirety for themselves.
But I also get e-mail from Christians all over the world who appreciate reading the messages from Godís Word.
First of all, Christianity is not a feeling, itís a faith. Itís not a delusion, itís real. Christianity is based on the reports of eyewitness that Christ was crucified, that He was buried, and that He was raised to life again the third day, and was seen ascending into heaven forty days later.
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, God has always demanded a blood sacrifice for sin. Every time you take communion, you are acknowledging that Jesus Christ made that blood sacrifice for your sins.
Our salvation is based on a blood sacrifice by Godís sinless Son. God accepted that sacrifice as a covering for our sins and the proof lies in the proven fact that God resurrected His Son from the dead, never to die again.
There have been others who returned from the dead but they all died a physical death again.
The Corinthians didnít seem to be denying the resurrection of Jesus; there was too much evidence for that. They knew there were over 500 eye witnesses, most of whom were still alive, who could verify the fact. What they seemed to deny was that the bodily resurrection of Christ meant that the body of the believer would also be resurrected.
When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter, this attitude seemed prevalent in Corinth and the believers seemed more interested in doing things that gratified the flesh in this present life.
In these next several verses, Paul set about to correct the erroneous belief that their life was for the present only.
Verses 12: "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?"
You canít separate these two facts; if Christís human body rose from the dead, then the human body of the believer in Christ will also rise from the dead. God had set a precedent that couldnít be changed. You canít accept one of these facts and reject the other. All through His ministry and even in His death it had been demonstrated that Christ had a human body just as we have. The argument that ďHe may have risen, but we won't,Ē is invalid.
Verse 13: "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:" This is true. If Christ didnít rise from the dead, there would also be no hope for our resurrection and any life after that. Paul's argument is this: since we know Christ was raised from the dead, then, certainly we can be raised from the dead as well.
I know weíll enjoy our new body when we receive it at the resurrection of the believer. God has a purpose for our present body, as well as for our spirit and soul, here on earth and He has a purpose for our bodies, souls, and spirits in heaven. Our bodies will be transformed into a state in which weíll be able to experience the pleasures of heaven to a greater degree than anything we ever experienced in this life.
To be able to worship God in a resurrection body will surpass the pleasure of any worship we are able to give Him here on this earth. We can only faintly picture that right now.
There is nothing in this life that can compare. I donít mind growing old, in fact, itís exciting to anticipate the Rapture. But should I die before the Lord returns, scripture assures me I wonít be left behind. If fact, Iíll go up before those living at that time will. My hope in the future is more exciting than all of my past and I can hardly wait for Christ to come.
Now, in Verses 14-19, the apostle considers the question, "What if ..?" What would the world be like if Jesus hadnít been raised? What would be our final destination? What if the women who went out to the tomb on that Easter morning had found that the stone hadnít been rolled away and the tomb was still sealed and the guards were still pacing back and forth?
What if the body of Jesus was as still and cold and stiff as it was when they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in the tomb? What would the world be like today if He was still in the grave? We have these questions and some answers in verses 14 through 19.
There are 6 things here that would have followed if Jesus hadnít bodily risen from the dead.
#1. Verse 14: ďAnd if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." Without the resurrection, all preaching would be a waste of time. All church buildings and church meetings would be foolishness. All the preaching and all the messages you have ever heard or read, all the Christian books you have read, all the tapes and the radio and television broadcasts of the gospel you have listened to would have been totally useless if Jesus hadnít risen from the dead.
We would still have all those wonderful teachings of Jesus to read and try to follow. And there is the death of Jesus, the crucifixion. He would still have died for our sins. We would still have all these things even though we didn't have the resurrection. But without the resurrection, even though we had all these good things, not one of them would do us the least bit of good.
The teachings of Jesus would only condemn us more. They would only show us how far we are from the mind and heart of God. The death of Jesus would hold the empty promise of our sins forgiven, a promise we could never claim for ourselves and one that would never be fulfilled. Without the resurrection all this would be in vain.
#2. The Christian faith would be useless if Christ had not been resurrected. What would be the point of going to church every Sunday morning, or going to a Bible study, or reading the Scriptures? We might learn how to live a better life but that wouldnít save our soul. All that would be in vain. Just a kind of religious game. A salve for our conscience. Life would be a grim, stark reality pointing all mankind to the way to hell and with no hope now or later. That is what we have left when the resurrection of Jesus is taken away.
#3. Verse 15: "Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not."
If the resurrection of Jesus Christ isnít true, Paul says that he and the apostles are the world's worst liars.
If there is no resurrection the apostles of Christ deserve to be treated as liars and hypocrites. Worse than that, theyíre deceivers who would lead millions of people into darkness and eternal damnation. You canít avoid that, if there is no resurrection.
#4. Verses 16-17. ďFor if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.Ē
The apostles staked their reputation and their own lives, on where they would spend eternity, based on the fact that Jesus had died for their sins and had risen from the dead.
The future would be just as bad for us. If Christ didnít raise from the dead, then we are still guilty of all our sins, theyíre still with us; we would die in our sins.
Granting that there is a God, and all creation bears witness to the fact that He does exist, then we must stand before Him eventually in judgment and give an account of all we have done in this life. And there is no way of escaping the justice with which God would deal with sin. There would be no hiding place, no hope for mercy, no loving Christ to say, "I've paid the penalty on your behalf; I've taken your place; I've loved you and gave myself for you."
When we would stand before God and plead our case, we would get everything that we deserve for every evil action or wrong thought that we ever had.
#5. Verse 18: "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."
Paul also says, "those also who have fallen asleep trusting in Christ would have perished." All those loved ones who they thought had gone on to be with the Lord, and who they hoped to meet again, they would never see again. Their children, their parents, their friends, those who have been taken suddenly, those they said a sad farewell to with the hope that one day they would meet them again in glory, they would never see again. There would only be a terrible silence. They would be gone forever.
#6. Verse 19: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.Ē If Christ hadnít risen from the dead, the final fact for both the Corinthians of that day and for those of us who have lived in this world at a later time is this:
"If the hope we have in Christ is for this life only, if it holds no promise of another and better life after we die, we are of all men most miserable."
Even the present would be changed. Weíd have to give up our beautiful dream of heaven and try to satisfy ourselves with the selfish and bleak outlook of this world. It would be made worse knowing that we no longer could anticipate the escape from the troubles of this world and that we had no way to escape going to hell. We once thought we had hold of something beautiful and marvelous that gave us great joy and peace and glory and blessing. But, "if there is no resurrection," all this crumbles and is taken away from us; our darkness is all the darker for that. "We are of all men most to be pitied."
Thatís quite a list, isn't it? Let me go through those six things I mentioned again:
"If Christ be not risen, there is no resurrection, and;"1. Their preaching is vain;
2. Their faith is empty;
3. The apostles are made to be liars;
4. Their sin still remains unatoned for;
5. Death has triumphed over their loved ones;
6. Life itself is made utterly miserable for them.
Would you like to live like that, with no hope? Are you living like that? Well, millions of people are. Every one who doesnít know the reality of a risen Lord as their Savior has to live every day of their life on that basis.
Thatís why the world tries desperately to find some diversion that will dull the pain of an empty, aching heart. Thatís why people keep up a continual round of action and noise that wonít let them think about the realities of this life. Loud music, flashing lights, fast action, anything to get your mind off life without Christ.
Sadly, there are many who realize there is an emptiness in their life and they donít know what it is. They donít know how to fill that void and they canít stand life without these distractions.
Jesus is the only thing that can fill that void.
The only way any of us can fill that void and face God is through trusting that the crucified Lord died for our sins. God raised Him from the dead to prove to mankind that His blood sacrifice for our sins was accepted by God.
Verse 20: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
Thank God for this verse. What a difference that verse makes! The resurrection of Jesus is the most fundamental fact of our life and our faith and in all the history of the world, and for all eternity. Because that is true, the grimness of death is defeated. Quoting from verse 55 of this same chapter; "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Those who refuse to believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for their sins
will continue to live a life of delusion.
The greatest reality of all history and life is,
"Jesus has risen from the dead."
The first part of verse 20, ďBut now is Christ risen from the dead,Ē contains a statement of one of the most important facts of all the history of mankind. The second part of verse 15 is a promise by Christ without equal to the believer in Jesus Christ. ďand become the firstfruits of them that slept.Ē
Resurrection brings a quality and a dimension of life never lived before. Itís not simply a return to a previously known existence, itís an existence one has never known before. Jesus was the first to be resurrected from the dead. It was the same Jesus, He came back in a real body, but to a different level of life and His resurrection is a sample of the resurrection that awaits the believer.
Believers die because our bodies are part of Adamís race, but the soul lives on and is said to ďbe with the LordĒ immediately when we die. We are "in Christ," and those "in Christ shall all be made alive.Ē By man (Adam) came eviction from the paradise of Eden; by man (Jesus Christ) comes passage back into the Paradise of heaven.
There are no "What If's..?"
His resurrection made the believerís resurrection just as certain as death.
From these scriptures, I hope you will see and understand more clearly than ever before that His resurrection is the fundamental factor of faith. When you think about the glorious fact that Jesus rose from the dead, it erases all our doubts. It means that God has provided a way that we, too, can rise and spend eternity in glory with Him.
All the unfulfilled desires of our life and our body can be satisfied in our glorious new body,
fitted to make life more real
than we ever dreamed it could be.
What a hope this is!