Raised in Power!
I Corinthians 15
1Co 15:12 ¶ But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
What is the believer's greatest hope? Is it not that this life is not all there is? We will live for eternity with Jesus.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1John 3:2
Some of the Corinthians were teaching that there is no such a thing as a 'resurrection from the dead'. We mentioned near the beginning of our study that this early church suffered with denominationalism. Because of that , it became easy to be different from the other groups. Problems infested this church. They had no difficulty suing other believers. They defended perverse sexual behavior. They despised believer's whose practices differed from their own. Etc. etc.
But this teaching that there was no resurrection? This is the big one. Paul saved it for last. I am glad that he did. Because of their dis-belief of the resurrection, Paul wrote this chapter. If he had not written it, we would have a terrible loss. This is an incredible chapter. Without a doubt this is the most complete chapter that deals with the resurrection.
The Heart of the Gospel
Here is the heart of the gospel, according to the Apostle Paul – verses 1-4.
He begins: “This is the gospel that I preached to you in the beginning, and you received it. On this you basis you are saved. That is, as long as you never forget it and as long as you REALLY believed and were not just faking it.”
What is implied … if you just 'said the words' and didn't mean them … you are not saved.
And … if you totally forget this belief … to the point that it is no longer a belief … you are no longer saved.
This is very serious. If there ever was a time that we would want to affirm … “Once saved, always saved!” this would be it. We do not want to entertain the thought that a person could 'apostatize' (become unsaved). This is a time that we want to believe that Salvation has nothing to do with our belief and choice, that it is totally of God and that He chose us to salvation before the foundation of the world, and therefore cannot lose a single one of us. But these verses don't seem to affirm this.
But let's be very clear, salvation is not based on our works1. At the judgment day we will not stand before God while He places in front of us a set of scales. On the left He places all of our bad and evil works. On the right part of the scale He piles our good works. If the good outweighs the bad … we get let into heaven. Not.
Will works be considered at all at the judgment? No. At least not in order to meet entrance requirements. But, yes, they will be looked at. Why? It has to do with our eternal reward … not our eternal life. We examined these verses much earlier on in this series of studies, but it is helpful if we take a fresh look at them.
1Co 3:11 ¶ For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
The foundation, Jesus Christ, was laid for you when you first repented of your sins and said, “Jesus, You, the Son of God, came from heaven to die in my place, You died to pay for my sins and You rose from the dead after three days. You are alive in heaven at this very moment. Please wash my sins away and give me eternal life. I believe in You.”
Have you said these words (or something similar) to him? Did you say it to Him from your heart? If you never have, or are at all unsure, then do it now.
This is the gospel that Paul is talking about in verses 3 and 4. This is the gospel that he says is effective, as long as you did not believe in vain. The word vain means empty. Nothing. The person may have said the words, but did not mean them in his heart.
This is the gospel that he says you must 'hold fast' to. He says if you hold fast to it, and have not believed in vain, you will be saved.
How do you 'hold fast' to a belief? It is not that difficult. Belief is not a feeling. If I went out one day and said, “I don't feel like I am married today.” Does the lack of 'feeling married' have anything to do with actually being married. No. Because being married is a 'state' that I am in. So is Salvation. I don't have to work at 'believing' that I am married. I know it. And likewise, we say, We know the Lord. We know he is God. We know he came and died for us. We know he rose from the dead. We know he is coming again.
However, if you begin to doubt it … and then if you finally come to place where you said, “I don't believe that any more.”, you are in a very dangerous place, as far as your eternal life is concerned.
The writer of Hebrews said,
It is impossible:
- for those who have once been enlightened,
- who have tasted the heavenly gift,
- who have shared in the Holy Spirit,
- who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,
Why is impossible for them to be 're-saved'?
because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Heb 6:4,5,6.
By leaving out the numbers 1-4 and reading it like this, it becomes very clear. It is impossible, if they fall away, to be brought back.
So Paul is cautioning the Corinthian church to never forget the gospel.
As extra proof that Jesus has risen from the dead he adds a list of witnesses. He says Peter saw him alive. So did the twelve2. Over 500 at the same time saw Jesus alive.
Likely this meeting is described by Matthew in the following verses:
Jesus said: But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Mt 26:32
An Angel said, And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him: lo, I have told you. Mt 28:7
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
¶ Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. Mt 28:16
Next, James saw Jesus personally. Then all the apostles at one time.
And then, last of all, Paul says that he saw Jesus with his own eyes. He likely is referring to the time that he first met the Lord. Here is his testimony as he shared it with King Agrippa:
Acts 26.13 at noon, O king, I saw on the way a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who travelled with me. 14 When we had all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 "I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’" He said, ’I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Paul mentions that he is the very last one to see Jesus. He says that there is a reason that he is last on the list … because he was a persecutor of Christianity.
Paul also says that he was taken up into 'the third heaven' at one point in his Christian life (2 Corinthians 12:1-7). Perhaps he refers to that occasion when he states that he, too has seen Christ.
And then he says it really doesn't make any difference who told you about Jesus, the main thing is that you heard, and you believed. (11)
Now that Paul has clearly laid out the gospel and the importance of that 'initial' belief for salvation … he speaks to them with a degree of shock that anybody could start preaching that there is no resurrection.
Paul gives, in order, a series of repercussions that result when a person does not believe in the resurrection.
If there is actually no resurrection:
- That means Jesus did not rise.
- We are wasting our time preaching about it.
- This of you who say you have 'believed' in Jesus, have done it for nothing.
- Those of us who have been going around saying “He is alive!” are all liars.
- Those of us who thought our sins were gone because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus … surprise! You still have all your sins.
- Your loved ones that have died ...and you hope to meet again some day?.... You won't. They are gone.
- The Christian life that we are living is totally miserable if there is no resurrection. We could have gone after fame, money or happiness. What a waste!
For now we will note - Jesus is the 'first-fruits'. Like a harvest. No one has been raised with the new heavenly body before Christ.
There are a couple of cases that do seem to differ with this. Enoch disappeared … God took him to heaven. But does he have his new body yet?
Perhaps Enoch and Elijah are exceptions to the rule, but the 'rule' is, when believers died PRIOR to the 'cross', they did not go to heaven. They went to a place called Paradise. It was also called 'Abraham's Bosom3'. Jesus went to this place when He died.4 He told the repentant thief on the cross next to him, that together they would go to that place, and He gives a name to the place … He calls it Paradise5.
What is the main reason that 'pre-cross' believers did not ascend right to heaven the moment they died? Simply this … sin cannot enter heaven. They had offered sacrifices for their sins, just as God had commanded … but their sins were not gone. How do we know this? The writer of Hebrews said it very clearly: For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Heb 10:4
Many old Testament believers who had lived and died in the city of Jerusalem were raised6 to life on the first day of the week when Jesus reappeared. They talked and visited with believers in the city for a while. But later that day when Jesus ascended7 up to heaven, He took them, and all of the other believers who had died since the time of Adam … up to heaven8. That's where they, and all present (dead) believers are right now. But they do not have their new resurrection bodies yet.
Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus on 'the Mount of Transfiguration'. They glowed brightly. Were they in their resurrection bodies? I would have to say, No. Why? Then THEY would be the first-fruits, and not Jesus. So obviously their spirit bodies were visible and shining … but they, too, are waiting for the resurrection body.
Paul talks about the order … Christ first, then all those who belong to Christ at the second coming.
Here is the sequence: Read verses 23 - 28
1. Christ rose first
2. Believers rise from the dead when Christ meets them in the air at the last trumpet blast.
3. Jesus reigns on this earth, subduing all to his rule.
4. He destroys death.9
5. When He has completed this task, he Himself give the kingdom ruler-ship to His Father.
All of the above is what could never happen if there were no such thing as the resurrection.
Paul goes on to make a few more points establishing the fact of the resurrection.
In verse 29 he asks 'Why do we baptize for the dead' if there is no such thing as the resurrection?
Very possibly you are not familiar with this term or this verse.
The Mormons have taken this one verse and built an entire doctrine on it. In their temples, Utah, Calgary and around the world, (159 in all) baptisms take place vicariously. That is, you could convert to Mormonism in a local Mormon church, get baptized there, and then go to a temple and be baptized many times, once for each of your relatives. Why bother? Because they believe that water baptism saves a person. So, if they will go to a temple, bringing with them their genealogical family records, they can 'stand in' for any of their dead relatives that they are worried about, and get them into heaven by being baptized in their place.
Well, the verse DOES mention getting baptized for the dead. But it is strange that this is not taught anywhere else in the Bible. Jesus told the repentant thief dying next to Him, that he would join Jesus in paradise without any kind of a baptism at all. If it worked for him, why wouldn't it work for anyone?
But what about this verse?
A correct understanding hinges on one little word. That is the word 'for'. It is the word 'huper' in the original Greek language, and it means 'for the sake of'. We can simplify it further by saying, Because of.
In order for this verse to agree with all others on the topic, we need to look at another word. The bible says that “as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Romans 6:3 Baptized into what? His death. Jesus died. We picture His death, burial and resurrection when we go down into the water. We are making this statement: “I believe it!” Being 'baptized for the dead' is talking about Jesus death. And the fact that we come back up from the water is one of Paul's reasons to say, 'See? We are raised up out of the water. We are picturing a resurrection.
The lesson for the Corinthian church on this point is … “How can you teach that there is no resurrection? You picture it with every baptism!”
Next Paul adds a very personal point to prove that our belief in the resurrection is absolutely essential.
Verses 30 – 32. He is saying that if there were no such thing as the resurrection, he is acting like a total idiot. He risks his life every single day, and for what? If there is no resurrection … he should just eat, drink and be merry while he can. After all, when he dies, everything is over. No, actually what Paul really believes ...
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
We will have to end this study right here. Coming up is powerful section of scripture that gives us the clearest understanding of the difference between mortal and immortal. One day we will see Jesus, and we will be just like Him!
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1John 3:2
1 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast. Eph 2:8,9
2 Eleven actually, but they were still called the Twelve even after Judas left the group.
3 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: … Luke 16:22
4 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40
5 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:43
6The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared to many. 27:52,53
7 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’" John 20:17
8 … When he ascended on high, He led captives in his train ... Ephesians 4:8
9Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Revelation 20:14