Christ, the firstfruits of our resurrection

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

God has put eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). It’s no wonder, then, that we all have questions about life after death. But what do people believe about the afterlife? Atheists believe this life is all there is. If that’s the case, then we should eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Yet most people in the world believe in an afterlife. While the religions of the world hold to some kind of heaven or paradise or ultimate reality, those who hold to Eastern views likely believe in reincarnation: a seemingly endless cycle of incarnations until one is finally united with ultimate (spiritual) reality. 

Because God has put eternity in our hearts, we know that this life is not all there is. Christianity teaches that every person is born a sinner and deserves God’s judgment, which is death. But Christ lived a life pleasing to the Father and died on the cross in order to take the penalty for sin that we all owe. On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead, showing that he accepted Jesus’ life and death as a substitute life and death for all who believe in Jesus. Through Christ, and only through Christ, all who believe have the hope of eternal life with God.

This month our churches will gather to celebrate the living hope that we have in Jesus. Our hope is that all who believe in him will also experience a resurrection from the dead, a physical resurrection to eternal life with the triune God. This is what the Old Testament taught (Daniel 12:1-3); this is what Jesus taught (John 5:25-29); and this is what the Jews believed (John 11:23-26). Apparently, some Corinthians denied the reality of the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12). They did not deny the afterlife altogether; they simply denied a physical afterlife. They had no place for a resurrected body. It is this denial that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 15. As we prepare for Easter this month, let’s remind ourselves of the hope we have in Christ, and let’s prepare ourselves to answer skeptics’ questions about resurrection, both Jesus’ and ours.

If you deny the resurrection of the dead, then by consequence, you deny Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-19). Paul’s basic argument: If Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, and if you (Corinthians) embraced this gospel, then how can you deny the resurrection of the dead (15:12)? Paul preached the resurrection of Christ as essential to the gospel (15:1-11). To deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ because Christ’s resurrection is the basis for ours. If Christ has not been raised, then there is no hope for the living. We are still in our sins; there is no forgiveness; the gospel and our faith are without basis (15:14-17). Further, if Christ has not been raised, there is no hope for the dead; their bodies are in the ground decaying and nothing more (15:18). If Christ has not been raised, then Christians are the most pitiful people on earth (15:19).

But in fact Christ has been raised, and his resurrection guarantees ours (15:20-28). By faith in Christ we are united with him in his death, burial and resurrection (15:20-22; cf. Romans 6:1-11). Just as our union with the first Adam brings death, so our union with the last Adam brings life. But everything happens in its own order: Christ, the firstfruits of the harvest, then at his coming, the full harvest to come—the resurrection of the dead (15:20, 23). Jesus’ first coming inaugurated the kingdom, the beginning of his reign (15:25-27). At that time Jesus crushed Satan (Genesis 3:15), accomplishing forgiveness of sin for those who believe (Colossians 2:15). Now, Jesus is ruling Lord, crushing his enemies under his feet (Hebrews 2:5-9). When Jesus returns, then comes the end, the final resurrection when death will be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:24, 26, 28, 54-57).

Since Christ has been raised, we have hope! Therefore, until Christ returns we must live consistently with the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection (15:29). As we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23), our lives must declare this hope!  

  • With the hope of the resurrection, we know that to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Consequently, we will not fear death, for Christ has defeated sin and death and Satan (Hebrews 2:14-18).
  • With the hope of the resurrection, we know that to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21). Our lives have meaning and purpose in Christ. We will not sit idly by and await the return of Christ. We will be willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:30-32; Philippians 3:7-11). We will press on in pursuing holiness so as not to be ashamed on that day (1 Corinthians 15:33-34; Philippians 3:12-21). And we will call all people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus that they too may share in our hope. What does your life say about what you believe concerning the resurrection of the dead? As you celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ this Easter, know that we can look forward with hope to our own resurrection and eternal life with God. Lord Jesus, come quickly! 
juan sanchez
Recording Secretary, SBTC
Juan Sanchez
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