The Expository Files

Hope and The Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Some at Corinth doubted in the resurrection. This was not because they had come across some evidence that suggested that the  dead are not raised; they hadn't. It was rather because of their cultural background before they had obeyed the gospel. Many of the leading, pagan philosophers of the day denied the resurrection. Again, not because they had seen evidence against it, but rather because their philosophical systems did not accommodate such a belief. We recall how many of these philosophers scoffed at the gospel when they heard Paul preach the resurrection in Athens (Acts 17:32).

The brethren at Corinth asked about the resurrection. Their neighbors scoffed at such beliefs. The resurrection was just not in vogue in 1st century Corinth. Paul answered by first reminding them of Jesus. If there is no resurrection, then not even Jesus has been raised. The ramifications are many.

The Text
"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? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain. Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

Without the valid hope of the resurrection, there is only hopelessness left. "If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (1 Corinthians 15:32). That pretty much sums up the only reasonable perspective on life possible on the part of those who believe not in "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25).

Paul's answer to this dilemma is: "But now Christ has been raised from the dead; the first fruits of those who are asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:20). He spends the rest of the chapter talking about the resurrection of the dead. This is our hope and assurance. The unbeliever has nothing to compare!

Famous Skeptics
"For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18). Below are the words of noted skeptics voicing their full agreement with Paul; that apart from God and the resurrection, there is not much room for hope and gladness.(Voltaire) "Strike out a few sages, and the crowd of human beings is nothing but a horrible assemblage of unfortunate criminals, and the globe contains nothing but corpses... I wish I had never been born.... The box of Pandora is the most beautiful fable of antiquity. Hope was at the bottom." (Anatole France) "There is not in all the universe a creature more unhappy than I. People think me happy. I have never been happy for one day, not for a single hour."(Madam Curie) "They filled the grave and put flowers on it. Everything is over. Pierre is sleeping his last sleep beneath the earth; it is the end of everything, everything, everything." (Bertrand Russell) "The life of Man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, toward a goal that few can reach, and none can tarry long." (Will Durant) "God, who was once the consolation of our brief life, and our refuge in bereavement and suffering, has apparently vanished from the scene; no telescope, no microscope discovers Him... Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day... It seems impossible any longer to believe in the permanent greatness of man, or to give life meaning that cannot be annulled by death."

Assurance in the Old Testament
The Old Testament faithful had hope of something better beyond the grave. The Hebrew writer describes their attitude of faith this way:" All these dies in faith, without having received the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a  distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own... Butt as it is they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13,14,16).

Consider now the words of some of the Old Testament faithful:

(Job in suffering) "If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes. Thou wilt call, and I will answer Thee; Thou wilt long for the work of Thy hands." (Job 14:14,15).
(David and the death of his child) "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but
he will not return to me." (2 Samuel 12:23; see also Psalm 23:4,6).
(Isaiah) "Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits." (Isaiah 26:19).
(Solomon) "The the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
(Daniel) "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (Daniel 12:2,3).

Assurance in the New Testament
Paul told the Thessalonians "But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not  grieve, as do the rest who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The Saducees were a Jewish sect. Among their beliefs was a denial of the resurrection. When they confronted Jesus about this, Jesus affirmed that God is "...the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:23-33). The spirits of the righteous are with God. It had only been days before that Jesus had talked with Elijah and Moses on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:3).

At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus had said that "He that believes in Me shall live, even if he dies" (John 11:25). Jesus promised that He would prepare a place for us so that when we left this world we could be with Him (John 14:1-3; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 22:5). Never doubt the resurrection. It is our hope and assurance. Jesus, our Lord, was only the first to rise never to die again.


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 10.8; August  2003