So far Paul has discussed the resurrection under six heads. Today we add a seventh.
• evangelistically: Paul’s gospel is Christ died for our sins, He was buried and He arose on the third day. Thus, the resurrection is essential to gospel preaching. (V. 3)
• historically: He was seen by Peter, the twelve, over 500 people simultaneously, by James (Jesus’ half-brother), then by all the apostles, and finally Paul. (V.5ff)
• logically: “If there is no resurrection of the dead (as some Corinthians were teaching) then Christ has not been raised” (I Cor. 15:13).
• theologically: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man” (I Cor. 15:21).
• personally: “If I fought wild animals . . . what good did that do me? If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (I Cor. 15:32).
• scientifically: “And as for what you sow—you are not sowing the future body, but only a seed” (I Cor. 15:37).
• triumphantly: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (I Cor. 15:54C).
The resurrection of Christ is not merely a doctrine to be discussed. It is our glorious hope. It is a promise to which we can cling in any circumstance life may bring. The hope of resurrection is the motivation for sacrificial service. It is a comfort in which godly people can rest when they lay a loved one in the grave, and it is the wellspring of courage when death is staring you in the face.
Don’t ever tell yourself you won’t have to die for your faith, because you may. Don’t forget that Christians are dying for their faith all over the world, even as we speak. Think about those 20 Egyptian Christians and the one Ghanian, 21 men in all, who were beheaded in Libya back in 2015. Here’s what Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, said about them earlier this year.
While this public spectacle was intended to humiliate our brothers in Libya and intimidate their families, their Church, and Christians around the world, it actually became an opportunity for an incredibly valiant witness by those who accepted their deaths so bravely while calling on their Lord and Saviour to their last breath. Not only were their actions courageous, but their families subsequently presented a gracious message of Christian love and forgiveness, amidst their personal grieving and loss, that moved the world.
God help us to live in such a way that we can die like those men. And may God forgive us for thinking, “this could never happen to me.” I love Paul’s language in Titus 2:13 where he speaks of our Lord’s glorious appearing as a “blessed hope.” Surely it is. But just as surely, His coming has not yet happened, and we and our children may yet live long enough to experience the privilege of dying for our faith in Christ. May we not fail the test if, or when, it comes to us.
So let me say it again. There is no victory like Christ’s victory over sin and death. There is no hope like the hope Jesus gives to those who believe in Him. Be sure you believe, be sure you have that hope!
I Corinthians 15:50 Brothers, I tell you this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption. 51 Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet.
I Corinthians 15:52b For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. 54 When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: “Death has been swallowed up in victory”. (Isa. 25:8)
I Corinthians 15:55 “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (Hos. 13:14) 56 Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
“For Disciples, Resurrection Is the Reward” Think this way. Everything we decide to do has some sort of reward in mind. We decide to eat for at least three rewards, (1) the delicious flavour of the food, (2) the quenching of hunger pangs, and (3) the sustenance of the body. But we don’t always break it down. We just say, “I need to eat.” And, having eaten, we may say, “I’m glad I ate,” without always listing all the reasons. For the body, eating is the reward.
In the same way, those who live for Jesus look to the resurrection as the moment we realize everything implied by our faith in Christ. Resurrection is the reward for faith in Jesus. We contribute nothing to our resurrection. We do not earn eternal life, nor do we in any way grow new bodies for ourselves. We simply believe and receive. Resurrection is the reward for our faith! We can break that reward down into a number of constituent parts, but it’s through the resurrection in Christ that we receive it all.
Constituent parts of resurrection hope
1. Alive or dead, at the resurrection all who are in Christ will be changed. The first thing we hope for in the resurrection is change—transformation.
a. Our transformation will be instantaneous (v. 52)
i. “in a moment” (Greek word for atom, a nanosecond)
ii. “In the blink of an eye” (Greek word is also used for a single beat of music, a single flap of a bird’s wing)
b. Our transformation will result in a new creation. (V.52-53)
i. I Cor. 15:49 And just as we have borne the image of the man made of dust (Adam, the man from earth), we will also bear the image of the heavenly man (Jesus, the man from heaven).
ii. This is the moment when our physical bodies will be transformed to match the transformation of our souls in the new birth.
2. The speed of our transformation tells us something about God’s power to create.
a. In the creation of our new bodies God’s work is effortless and instantaneous. In fact, the Bible makes the case that all of God’s creative work is both effortless and instantaneous.
Psalm 33:6 The heavens were made by the Lord’s word and all the stars by the breath of his mouth. . . . 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord. Let all who live in the world stand in awe of him. 9 He spoke, and it came into being. He gave the order, and there it stood. (GW)
i. I have a question for you. If it is easy to believe in the instantaneous nature of the new creation that will be ours when Christ raises the dead and translates the living, then why is it such a temptation to believe that God requires billions of years to create the first heaven and the first earth? Especially when God’s Word itself makes the instantaneous nature of the first creation abundantly clear.
ii. You might well ask why the speed of creation should be an issue? I’ll tell you. It seems to me that if this is what the Bible teaches, then the very glory of God is at stake when men say otherwise. And it also seems to me that God’s people ought to have a zeal for the glory of God. Listen to the claims God makes for Himself in His Word!
Genesis 18:14 Is anything too hard for the Lord?
Numbers 11:23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited?”
Jeremiah 32: 17 Oh, Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!
Jeremiah 32: 27 “Look, I am Yahweh, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me? Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Luke 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.
So God’s people go to church and say, “Amen” when the Scripture affirms that nothing is too hard for the Lord. But then they leave the church and say, “Except for creating the universe and the world in six days. That would be to hard.” There’s something wrong with this picture. Again, let me emphasize, the point is that the Bible affirms the instantaneous resurrection of the New Creation using much the same
language as it uses for the first creation. The first step to being like Jesus is to affirm Jesus’ total confidence in the Word of God.
b. Our transformation will be radical (v.54)
i. Not just from death to life, but a change from a kind of life that is always dying to a kind of life that is unable to die; it will also include a change in appearance and strength comparable to when an acorn becomes a mighty oak tree.
ii. The corruptible flesh we endure today will be replaced by a new kind of incorruptible flesh.
c. Our transformation will be glorious. (Here I want to greatly enlarge on a theme I introduced last week)
Acts 1:9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.
I referred to this verse last week. Do you remember I pointed out that it is almost certainly incorrect to think of Jesus as disappearing in a fluffy white cumulus cloud. Instead, as He rose from the earth He was suddenly lit up. He disappeared from sight in a cloud of glory, a bright outshining that blinded the eyes of the watching disciples. Now, last week I said this as a matter of speculation. Today I want to prove it to you biblically.
I Tim. 3:16 And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
This glory will be ours in the resurrection!
Daniel 12:2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Phil. 3:20 But our homeland is in heaven, where our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, is; and we are looking forward to his return from there. 21 When he comes back, he will take these dying bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer all else everywhere. (LB)
d. The change will be necessary (v.53)
i. At the resurrection, the new creation will be released from the bondage of decay (Romans 8:18-25) Entropy will apparently cease to be a thing.
ii. If the new creation is free from decay, it can only be appropriate that the inhabitants be just as free from decay and death.
iii. Notice the symbolism of being clothed in verse 53. We need to be clothed in new, heavenly bodies because we’re going to a wedding! Listen to how Jesus finishes His parable of the Wedding Banquet.
Matthew 22:11 But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless, and he was thrown into outer darkness, into hell, which tells us Jesus isn’t talking about mere clothing.
The Hebrews regarded holiness as the garment of the soul, and they often compared a sinful soul to a spotted, dirty garment. Do you understand, then, that much of what we read about white garments in Revelation is actually referencing our righteousness in Christ.
Rev. 3:4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy.
I love how one commentator puts it in regard to this verse: “They shall be raised to a state of eternal glory, and shall be forever with their Lord.”
When He shall call from earth’s remotest corners All who have stood triumphant in His might,
O to be worthy then to stand beside them And in that morn to walk with Him in white.
Isn’t this the same as Paul’s last verse?
I Cor. 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.