In Part 1 of this mini-series, Paul defended the resurrection of Jesus against unbelievers in the Corinthian church. In Part 2, he takes on the resurrection of the dead:
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that 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 futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:12-19).
Sorry for the long quote, but if you follow the devastating progression of logic here, it is brilliant. Paul intentionally deconstructs the core belief of all Christianity, that Christ is risen from the dead. Goodness, in a debate, his opponents would verbally salivating to undress him!
Except, of course, that Paul is building up to something that his opponents do not see coming:
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:20-28).
Christ is risen as witnessed in person by Paul and hundreds of others.
Christ returns and all who belong to Christ rise.
Christ destroys every authority and power.
Christ reigns until all enemies are under foot.
Christ delivers the kingdom to God his Father.
Christ subjects himself to his Father.
God is all in all!
Why does Paul present this logic train and chronology of future events? Apparently, he is concerned about a local practice where people get baptized on behalf of loved ones who died unbaptized (see Veneration of the Dead in the Roman Catholic Church):
“Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company weakens good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (1 Cor 15:29-34).
So when we face trouble in life, do we fret and fear as the Corinthians did, in disunity from God? Or do we claim the resurrected Christ and his kingdom in perfect unity with God?
Are we the “Grateful Dead” or are we the “Immortal Risen?”
Keep good company!