Paul argues that death is a bigger problem than we think because it is the doorway to judgment. But God will give us mercy in judgment and victory over death if we trust in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Some of the Corinthians are denying that there is a physical resurrection and Paul is correcting that view in 1Corinthians 15. Paul sees this issue as fundamentally important to the gospel, not an abstract theological concept.
In the last section, Paul answered an objection raised by his opponents. His opponents charged that a rotted and decayed body could not possibly come back to life. Paul’s answer involved 3 comparisons:
- Compare the seed that dies in the ground to the plant the grows from it. The seed and the plant have very different forms.
- Compare the two “Adams.” The first Adam sinned and brought death to his descendants. The second ‘Adam’ – Jesus Christ – lived a sinless life, died, was resurrected and brings life to his followers.
- The earthly, natural existence is marked by sin, death and corruption but the “heavenly” existence that has been fully transformed by the Spirit of God is free from corruption and fully reflects the character and holiness of God.
God intends to rescue us from sin, death, corruption and futility, and bring us into a life fully reflecting justice, peace and righteousness and His holy character. Part of that transformation includes the transformation of our physical bodies when we are resurrected.
15:50I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. -1Corinthians 15:50-53
- 15:50 “flesh and blood“: the normal natural state of the human body which is perishable and subject to sin and death.
- The resurrection (and transformation) of our earthly bodies is necessary because these mortal corruptible bodies cannot live in the eternal, incorruptible kingdom of God.
- Every believer will be resurrected but not every believer will experience death.
- The language of the trumpet sounding comes from Jesus in Matthew 24:30-31.
- When you want to ensure that everybody hears, you use a trumpet. This trumpet is so loud that even the dead hear it and are raised up.
- In 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul tells us the dead will be raised first and those who remain alive will be next.
- Because resurrection is essential, even those living when Christ returns will be transformed.
15:54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. -1Corinthians 15:54-58
- Our current perishable, mortal bodies must be made imperishable, immortal bodies. By definition that is resurrection.
- Paul quotes Isaiah 25:6-9.
- Isaiah says a day is coming when death will be defeated. Paul tells us that day will happen when Christ returns and his people are resurrected and transformed.
- The Corinthians are wrestling with the problem of whether there is a bodily resurrection from the dead. Paul’s saying, God is solving a bigger problem.
- Death is even worse than we think. Death is not just the end of earthly life. Death is the doorway into judgment.
- The time to decide to follow Jesus and trust in his promises is now while we are still breathing. The real sting of death is the fact that we are sinners heading toward judgment. After death it will be too late to repent.
- Sin has the power to destroy us because we stand condemned under the holy law of God.
- However, death will not destroy believers because Christ has secured our forgiveness and rescued us from sin and death forever.
- Paul ends with the exhortation to hold fast to the truths of the gospel.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.