In 2002 a survey took place among around 2000 Anglican Clergy, and it was revealed that one third of those clergy did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. This is incredible, since the resurrection is the most fundamental and foundational belief of the Christian Faith. In fact, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would be, as Paul says in verse 19, “of all men the most pitiable!” In fact, it was so important in Paul's mind that he wrote a whole chapter, all 58 verses, teaching about this.
In the 1960s I went to a college in York. It was established by the Church of England, so consequently every student was invited to attend chapel every morning. Only about 5% took up that offer! Even so, I would imagine that most of the students would believe in God. But how many of those would actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Not many, I would think.
A man called Frank Morison had recently written a book called “Who moved the Stone?” This book was used by the Christian Union to help those who had difficulty believing in the resurrection. Morison had been an unbeliever, and had undertaken to disprove the Bible account of the resurrection. But after considerable time and effort he realised that the evidence pointed to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. He became a believer, and proceeded to write the book.
The Apostle Paul's defence of the Resurrection of Jesus
There must have been in the church those who did not believe in resurrection. These were possibly those who were Sadducees before they joined the church. Paul first of all briefly outlines the gospel. In verses 1 and 2 Paul says:
- It was declared, preached
- It was received
- They stand
- They are saved
Paul then went on to say that Jesus died, was buried, and then rose again. This is in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures. In verses 5 – 8 Paul says there were witnesses to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead, and was alive:
- 12 Apostles
- 500 brethren
- All apostles
- Paul himself (out of due time)
Paul then says that if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not risen. Therefore:
- Their preaching is empty v 14
- They are false witnesses v 15
- They are still in their sins v 17
- Those who have died have perished v 18
- They are most to be pitied v 19
- Hope is not hope v 19
But because of the resurrection of Jesus:
- We will be raised (Christ the forerunner) v 20
- Christ undoes Adam's sin v 21
- Adam > death Jesus > life v 22
- Jesus wins vs 24, 25
- Death destroyed – final v 26
- Jesus reigns, subjects Himself to the Father v 28
Verses 29 to 34 further describe the problems for the believers if Jesus did not rise from the dead. In verse 32 Pauls says “If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'” quoting Isaiah 22 verse 13. Isn't that what those around us are saying, perhaps subconsciously, “Let's enjoy this life as much as we can, for that is all there is!” But Jesus has risen from the dead and therefore we have hope – a sure and steadfast hope, not only for this life, but also for the life to come.
Paul is saying:
When our physical bodies die, they suffer corruption and decay. When they are raised, they will not suffer decay, they will be incorruptible (v 42).
When our physical bodies die, they suffer dishonour or shame. When they are raised, they will be glorious (v 43).
When our physical bodies die, they demonstrate absolute weakness. When they are raised, they are raised in power (v 43).
Our bodies are natural, but when they are raised they will be spiritual (v 44).
Our present physical bodies are those that come from Adam (the first Adam), but our new bodies will be from Jesus (the second Adam).
First Adam -> Living being -> Natural -> Man of dust
Last Adam -> Life giving Spirit -> Spiritual -> Heavenly Man
Paul has been talking about those believers who die before the coming of the Lord.
But what about those who are alive when Jesus comes? Paul says:
“We will be changed in a moment.” v 52
Isn't this incredible?
Our Corruptible will put on Incorruption
Our Mortality will put on Immortality
In 1 Thessalonians 4 vs 16 and 17 Paul says:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven … and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” In that instant they will be changed, as they are taken up by the Lord.
Resurrection results in Victory in Jesus – “Death is swallowed up in victory” says Paul in verse 54. Death will have lost its sting. Its sting is sin. But Jesus has broken the power of sin, and in our new bodies we will be totally free of sin. Hades will have lost its victory. The law no longer will have power over us, because Jesus has set us free from the penalty of sin by taking our punishment on the cross.
So what should our reaction be to the knowledge that Jesus has risen from the dead, and that we will spend eternity in His presence. Paul says we should:
- Be steadfast
- Abound in the work of the Lord
- Know that our labour is not in vain in the Lord