Resurrection, Part 6

Okay, we left off at verse 12 in our last blog where Paul said,

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?

And this launched us into doing sort of a general survey of the Bible relative to the Resurrection.  Returning to the topic at hand here in 1st Corinthians 15 we know that “some were saying that there was no resurrection,” and Paul, after asking, how this could be, adds:

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.

Let’s jump back to verse 13 as Paul begins to build his case for resurrection to believers in that day – and this is important to remember – these are his proofs and they are to believers then.  And he says:

13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

If the whole subject is held to be impossible and absurd, then it must follow that Christ is not risen, since there were the same difficulties in the way of raising him up which will exist in any case. 

So, Paul seems to be saying, “He was dead and buried. He had laid in the grave three days and his soul had left the body, his frame had become cold as the clay and rigid, no blood to circulate, no air to breath. “

He was dead.  And then He rose.

And since resurrection of all of us is based on the resurrection of Him, and since the difficulty of raising him up to life in his case was as difficult as any and every other, then if there is no resurrection at all, then it only makes sense that Christ has not been raised either. 

So, Paul shows them that the denial of the doctrine, or the maintaining the general proposition, “that the dead would not rise,” leads also to the denial of the fact that the Lord Jesus had risen, which will lead to the denial of Christianity altogether, and then ultimately the destruction of all of their hopes as believers.  And then he goes on to build the case and adds at verse 14,

14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

See, while the birth, and the life lived perfectly and the miracles of the Lord and His Teachings were wonderful, and worthy of talking about in and of themselves around the campfire (like we talk about the teachings of other great philosophers and world leaders) the substance and therefore that which points to the purpose of all Jesus said and did was in the preaching of His death and resurrection.   This was what their apostolic witness was focused on and there is a great reason for this.  

To quote 2nd Corinthians 19 and Romans 5:10, Paul wrote,  

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them . . .”

And then Romans 5:10 

“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

See, it was in and through His death (for the sins of the world since the wages of sin is death) that He reconciled the world to God and then it was His resurrection (which invites all of the world to rise up and really live both here in this life and then there in the life to come) that the full import of all Christ was and did is known, seen and experienced.    

I have made it clear of late that in His death the entire world experienced death for its respective sin but even more importantly, in His resurrection some, through faith, are raised to eternal life, real life and real living here and now.

Excuse the personal reference but I want to pull from my e-journal and read an entry that speaks significantly to this latter idea or concept of genuine living while in this life.

I wrote years ago:

“There really is no life, no real living, without God in us.  There are fun moments.  Experiences that are enjoyable and memorable, but for me I spent most of my young and my adult life wandering around in a daze unable to really understand the purpose of my existence.  I would concoct plans and work jobs, and put schemes into effect but they were empty of any real purpose or meaning.  I remember when I was supposed to be earning a living driving around in locations in a daze and just spinning my wheels and time.  Often, I would involve myself in some diversionary experience to make me feel like I was alive – when in reality all I was doing was keeping myself occupied.  

Pleasure seeking because the order of the day because nothing else was satisfying.  Looking back, I was in a living hell, fully of appearances and activities but none of it having any real or lasting meaning or substance.

Looking back, I believe that God was with me leading and allowing me to spin my wheels until I got to the place where I was destitute of any or all hope.  A nihilist is what I became, in almost every way, because I personally discovered that nothing on earth – nothing – could or would fill the longing I had for real purpose, real meaning, and for engaging in something that was more than ephemerality.   I longed to invest and focus on eternality and non-ephemeral things – on establishing a foundation that would last beyond my breath and flesh and my biggest and best sale. 

And then He came to me.  In the perfect, exact moment when my heart and mind was ready to receive Him – due to despair.  It was while I was “still a sinner.”  And he shined His light.  And sent His spirit.  And I, as a member of the walking dead, became alive. Regenerated.  Resurrected in His resurrection, raised to new life.

My flesh calls to that former life still – it always will.  The flesh wants to be fed with the immediate and the ephemeral – which all of it is – whether business plans, building homes, accumulating wealth or doing women – all the sex drugs and rock and roll in the world is there for the taking but the payoff, the eternality, the eternal value of it, is lacking.  No moment of fine-dining lasts more than a day or two, no high can last more than a week; no victory or award shines with the same illumination it gives when delivered – there must be more.  And there is.  

In Him.  Only in Him.  In His death, and in His rising to new life – emblems of what God seeks for all people everywhere.  When He is received and believed, and when He moves in, LIFE – REAL LIFE – begins.  And everything from Him and from that day forward, has merit, meaning and genuine purpose.”

So, Paul has said, plainly,

14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

What is the purpose of preaching or having faith in something or someone who cannot provide actual, abiding, benefits to the life now, and to the afterlife status of an individual?

There is none when we think about it.

And I think Paul’s assessment of this is really fair.

If we are going to preach a message, and if that message is going to have any real merit – it must actually provide value both to life in this world and life in the world to come.   If it doesn’t, Paul says that the preaching is in vain.

There are lots of things out there that are preached that offer value and improvement in this life – especially on the superficial level of material existence.  A jaunt in the military can do wonders for the lives of people here with the discipline it gives.  There are trainings, and educational pursuits and a number of religious pursuits that do the same – Mormonism for example, and specifically in the case of guys like Glenn Beck, who was an alcoholic, often helps people in their efforts to navigate life in this world.  But if its principles are failing in helping people to enter the next, there is a tremendous problem and the preaching of it IS, quite factually, in vain.

In his book, The Varieties of Religious Expression, William James explains that most religious expressions provide people a rebirth experience, and many people from every walk, whether Eastern or Western, describe coming into “new life” through them.  But we must ask, even in the face of a religious expression that allows for an earthly regeneration of sorts, “will that expression carry forward beyond the grave?”  What people are seeking in an expression is a change from their former selves to a new version of themselves, to a new identity, to becoming a new person that helps them forget and distance themselves from the former.  As stated, a number of people and places offer this to individuals – even to the point of assigning them a new name.

But Paul is suggesting that it was in the actual death of Jesus Christ, who took the  literal sins of the world with Him to the grave that allows for the actual forgiveness of all sin, and then the former person who experiences a genuine metaphysical death of the old man, actually rises with Christ from the grave to a new life in and through His resurrection – and that this new life has application to both here and now – and this is something no other approach can do.  None.

So, if we strip the resurrection away from the preaching of Christ, both the preaching of him and the faith in Him becomes vanity.  So useless, in fact, that Paul simply says to the believers at Corinth that it is useless to even believe in Jesus – if He did not rise from the dead.

So, if and when anyone – and there have been a number of them – claims to really love Jesus and His teachings, but who just cannot accept his substitutionary death and resurrection as necessary, they are missing the point entirely of Him and His life.  Entirely.  There is zero value in Jesus if He did not die and rise again to new life.  Zero.  

Paul adds at verse 15,

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.

This is important if we give it any thought because these men – the eleven original and Paul to the Gentiles – had sacrificed their lives for the preaching of the Gospel – and the Gospel is – as we read in the short stack, revolving around His death and resurrection.

So, Paul says that if Jesus didn’t rise then he (Paul) would be a false witness.  One thing we have to admit here is that the witnesses of the Apostles, right or wrong, must have been sincere and heartfelt.  People have said about their witness, “Well, a lot of people have sacrificed their lives and suffered for empty and false causes.”  This cannot be denied.  But rarely will a person suffer great loss, endure mistreatment, and then die for something they know is a lie. Herein lies the difference.  True believers – whether communists, or cult-members, or fascists – are, in fact, true believers.  The difference here, however, is these apostles witnessed was that they saw the risen Lord – even touched Him – and then gave their lives for this witness.  A couple of them watched his trial, watched the beatings, and watched Him and be buried.   Well over 500 witnessed His resurrection from a sealed grave after three days therein, (apostles included) and then they went out – leaving their families and means of living (in the case of the eleven) and a promising future as a pharisee (in the case of Paul) and witnessed to something that they knew was a con and a lie???

Hardly possible.

I mean, these men loved God.  Their lives proved it.  And while zealous for the things of Him (which admittedly can lend to stretching the truth) if they were going about and claiming Jesus rose from the grave, in God’s name, it would have been an egregious sin and crime that would have weighed their souls down to the dust as they were bearing false witness – which was against the ninth commandment etched in stone by God.

At verse 16, Paul reiterates, probably because the principle is so important to His thinking and the point he is making to them as believers, so he says:

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.

Speaking of Yeshua, Paul wrote in Romans 4:25,

“who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Peter said in 1st Peter 1:21 Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

The doctrine is this – God who was in Christ, reconciled the world to himself through the death of His Son (for our trespasses) and then for the sanctification of those who believe on Him and His resurrection.  They are a one-two combination involved here.  His death alone would have only paid for the sin, but his resurrection (and our belief on it and the walking in it) is what sanctifies us before God.  Look at it this way – and this take is supported by scripture as there are numerous parables and teachings that speak to God wanting fruit – if he had only died for sin, then all of us would have been made a blank slate before Him – yielding no fruit, bearing before God neither evil or goodness.  All forgiven blank slates lying dead in the grave with Yeshua.  For this reason, believers are Sanctified before God by and through His resurrection – which, of course means His rising from the grave – and have His righteousness imputed to them through faith.

So, where all are taken to the grave through His substitutionary death, and where the paying of sin occurred once and for all for the world, only those who by faith look to the risen Lord are sanctified by and through His righteousness which is accentuated by His resurrection.  For this reason, Paul emphatically tells us that, 

17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

In other words, it was in the “raising of Christ” that the proof that sins had been remitted is seen and where writing on the blank slates begin.  Anyone can claim to be the Messiah from God – that they have “God in them,” and that they were being put to death for the sins of the world. Self-fulfilled prophecy is the stuff cult leaders thrive on.  But to rise from the dead once someone has verifiably been put to death is the proof giving veracity to all the prior claims.  So, “no resurrection,” Paul says, then “no pardoning of sin.”

In theory this is true by way of theology, but it is also true in terms of that they would have no tangible reason to believe that their sins had been forgiven (as the examples mentioned earlier provided them).  Then Paul adds another loss they would suffer from no resurrection saying at verse 18,

18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

Meaning, then all those souls we have known and loved that have died in the faith have also (and he uses the word) perished.  First of all, his point is to say that all who had placed their faith in the merits of Christ Jesus as Lord, and fixed their eternal safety had also perished. I mean, the whole system of salvation would have been lost on them because it was a con, and they are going to all remain distanced from the presence of God, or in other words, “perished.”

Now, prior to Christ, those who died had not perished in the sense that we use and see the term. In fact, many of the Bible translators interpret perish to mean destroyed.  But again, we note that those who had died before Christ had not been destroyed – they were merely held in sheol in some state or another. 

So, Paul’s use of perish must be taken into consideration relative to meaning. Whenever we see Jesus use a word such as “perish” or “destroy,” the original Greek word is “apollumi,” which means to “lose, or to be lost.” It is the same word Jesus used when He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

and

“Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep”” (Luke 15:4-7).

This word, “apollumi,” is used to describe a sheep which was lost and then was found and restored. And Christ uses this same exact word in the following verse,

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matthew 10:28-29). 

This verse is not speaking of an eternal annihilation of a soul, but of a temporary losing of the soul, just like the “lost” sheep that was later found.   It is the same with all the times you see Jesus speaking of someone “perishing.” (Such as in John 3:16) when he says,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

A better translation would be “whoever believes in Him should not be lost.” 

In fact, if apollomai meant destruction (according to the traditional definition by those who believe in eternal torment or annihilation), then Jesus is lost forever too because we read in Matthew 27:20:

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy (apoo-lumi) Jesus.” 

Of course, being eternally lost would be a miserable state so we can’t lose track of this.  But just note that Paul’s use of the Greek term apollomai does not mean destroyed but lost. Then Paul adds the final point for today, saying,

19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

The thinking here, I believe, that Paul is alluding to, must include the key words,

If in this life only we have hope in Christ,” we are of all men most miserable.

See, Jesus proclaimed an ascetic approach to living.  He directed people to suffer injustice, to be patient with faults, to turn the other cheek, and to rejoice when they endure mistreatment.  This approach is all based, over and over again on the idea that if we submit our material lives over to a spiritually based force and existence, and suffer for the benefits of others (even strangers) that there would be recompenses given that bear eternal benefits.  Over and over again this is the driving principles of the Christian faith.  Die to flesh here, live to spirit here, lay up treasures in heaven there.

Paul says that if they who place their faith in Christ only benefit by Him here on this earth, they above all other people are most miserable. And that makes some great sense.

After all, if Jesus never rose from the grave as He promised that he would, then the other promises and teachings he made were hollow – and at the end of the day all who did anything in His name or cause were just fools and suffered for no reason.

I get this.  It makes sense.  So even if turning the other cheek and forgiving others is a better way to live the secular life, because it is more peaceful and beneficial in day to day living, Paul says that, at least in His day, if Christ did not resurrect and that the faith was only for them there on that they really are the most miserable of all men.

Why?

The Jews hated them.  The Romans took sides against them.  The Gnostics hated them, they were suffering and seeking a kingdom that was not of that world – and it was all for nothing if He didn’t rise to new life.

I have often told my wife, much to the chagrin of some atheists who love to believe in the nobility of Man, that if I knew that there was no God (which only God could tell me so that wouldn’t work) but if I knew there was no afterlife, no resurrection, no salvation or eternal existence and this was certain – I would choose to be a charming sociopathic crime-lord that would reign with relentless bloodletting and fear over all with whom I would engage.  Pablo Escobar would have nothing on me.

That approach to living makes most sense to me.  Why forgive?  Why live the golden rule?  “Might” in my world would make right and like the despots before me I would take my approach to living through the sword. As I said, this stance is really reprehensible to many people who have better natures than myself, but I fail to see the reason to suffer for anyone anywhere if it has no benefit to me and mine directly.  Thank God for the Good (and Great) News and for the insights into what is wrong with such a view and why His ways are superior to mine; that in Christ risen I have the hope and promise of improving and bettering the world around me, and for a better existence hereafter – and to serve Him.  In this, I am willing to suffer my flesh to take a back seat to His will.

The word here used that is translated “most miserable” best means “most pitied.”  Again, why wouldn’t they be?  The Christian hope for eternal life would be dashed, they were subjected to more trials and persecutions than others, they suffered deprivations of income, opportunities and pleasures of life in his name, and their hope of Godly recognition for it all was lost.

Of all men MOST miserable.

I suppose that what Paul is saying here prompts me, in some way, to try and help people escape from religious bondage – especially religious practices that they endure, support and suffer which stand in direct opposition to the realities of a contextual understanding of scripture.   They are paying such an extreme price in terms of time and attention for things what have no merit, and perhaps, without realizing it, they too are of all men . . . most miserable.  This was the motivation behind my initial outreach to my LDS family and friends; they were killing themselves with dead works including vicarious temple rituals heaped upon them, paying tithes, doing home-teaching, serving in callings, attending all of their meetings, being active in the ward and stake – all for the sake of a “fictional reward” in a “fictional heaven” through a “fictional soteriology.”  It drove me nuts – especially since most did not realize how lost and manipulated they had been.  

After having set the stage for Yeshua being resurrected, and how things would look if He hadn’t been, Paul now comes right back (rather strongly too) and says:

1st Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

And this sets us on a new trajectory of understanding about the resurrection – which we will get to in our blogpost.

Shawn McCraney
Shawn McCraney
Articles: 108

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