On The Resurrection
By Paul Robison
“That Jesus really did
rise from the dead is supported by the shortcomings of other
possibilities” (Gundry). Some say that Jesus
just lapsed into a coma and later revived in the tomb, but it
was a Roman centurion’s job to make sure that Jesus was dead,
and this centurion even reported to the Roman governor Pilate
that it was so (Mk. 15:44-45). Some say that
that the disciples stole Jesus’ body, but Roman guards had been
stationed to guard the tomb from such thieves, at the risk of
their own lives. Some say the disciples
experienced hallucinations, but Jesus told his disciples to
touch Him and give Him something to eat (John 20:27; Luke
24:42). Some think the story of Jesus is just
all myth, similar to the death and rising found among pagan
gods, but secular historians pinpoint Jesus’ life to the first
century, the Gospels give accurate historical facts concerning
places, customs, and rulers, and it would be incredible that the
apostles gave their very lives to promote such a falsehood!
Jesus’ resurrection is the fulcrum of Christianity, and
it continues to offer hope to all mankind!
One of the greatest discourses on Jesus’ resurrection is found
in 1 Corinthians 15. It was written by the
apostle Paul. Corinth was sort of the Las
Vegas of the first century. Since Paul heard
about divisions in the church at Corinth and since the brethren
there had written Paul a letter asking him several questions,
Paul writes in about 55 A. D. to this multi-cultural
congregation to admonish them towards unity and to provide them
responses to their questions. Paul well
understood the Greeks and Romans’ outlook on resurrection.
Someone has described it in this way: “It is well-known
that the ancient Greeks (and Romans) believed in a kind of
after-life. It was, however, an ethereal and
gloomy world of the disembodied spirits who flitted about eerily
in this [miserable] realm. The idea of a
bodily resurrection was totally foreign to them.
[The Greeks and Romans called a coffin a “sarcophagus”, a
word which literally means “flesh-eater”.]
They had seen too many sarcophaguses opened after
long centuries of burial, and they knew what became of
the dead” ( McKinney ). Having just concluded
a section on the proper usage of spiritual gifts and the proper
behaviors during public worship, Paul then launches into his
wonderful and inspiring discourse on Jesus’ resurrection.
Let’s quickly look at seven areas that Paul examines.
The first area involves proofs of Christ’s resurrection.
In the first two verses, Paul underscores that Jesus’
resurrection is a part of the Gospel which he originally
preached in Corinth . The acceptance of that
Gospel had brought salvation to the brethren in Corinth (v. 2).
Paul then begins to give proofs of the resurrection.
The first proof is that Jesus’ resurrection was predicted
in the Old Testament: “that He rose again the third day
according to the Scriptures” (v. 4). Paul
does not say which passage he has in mind, but some could have
been the following: Psalm 16:10: “For You will not leave my
soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see
corruption”; Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit
at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”;
Hosea 6:2: “After two days, He will revive us; on the third
day, He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight”.
Jesus’ resurrection was no accident, but God brought Him
back to life, once and forever, just as the prophets had
foretold hundreds of years earlier!
Now Paul provides his second proof by listing the
appearances that the risen Jesus made before others.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus appeared to at least
five women (24:10). Paul then mentions six
other appearances: to Peter (v. 5), to the twelve apostles
(naturally minus Judas, v. 5), to over 500 people, many of whom
were still living when Paul wrote (v. 6), to James (Jesus’
brother, v. 7), to other apostles (this is probably not the 12,
but others whom Jesus had commissioned to preach, v. 7), and to
Paul himself (v. 8). These witnesses would
total at a minimum 517, to which we can now add Luke’s 5
witnesses, so that is 522! Now 522 witnesses
in a court of law saying they all saw a specific individual
would be strong proof indeed, wouldn’t it?
Paul then offers one more proof: the Risen Christ had radically
changed his life! He had been a persecutor
against the church, but now he was a preacher doing all that he
could to promote it! Remember that he had
once been a staunch Pharisee who would have hated the Gentiles,
but now he was obedient to his vision of Christ on the road to
Damascus and became Christ’s ambassador to the Gentiles (Acts
26:19-20)! Proof one: Christ’s resurrection
happened in accordance with God’s prophetic revelation!
Proof two: Christ’s resurrection can be verified by 522
eye witnesses! Proof three: Christ’s
resurrection has changed my life’s direction and work!
Christ is alive!
The second area concerns consequences of denying a resurrection.
Paul begins to adopt the position of a debater in this
next section. And we see him taking his
opponent’s arguments to their absurd logical consequences.
The little word “if” helps us to understand what each of
those consequences are. In verse 12, we find
that some of the Christians in Corinth were sustaining that
there was no resurrection of the dead. If
there is no resurrection, then Jesus Himself has not been
resurrected. “Paul is reasoning that, since
Christ was genuinely human and died a human death, if [people]
are not raised [bodily], then neither has Christ been raised
[bodily]” [Morris]. “Paul tips the first
domino, and then invites the Corinthian Christians to stand back
and watch [what happens to his preaching, their faith, and their
former members]” ( Holladay ).
there is no resurrection, then the apostles’ preaching has
become useless. If Jesus was not living, He
could not be Lord and provide help to mankind.
“It is the resurrection that shows that God is active in
Christ, and if the resurrection did not take place, then the
Gospel is a sham” (Morris).
there is no resurrection, the Corinthians’ faith is worthless.
If preaching is useless and has no transforming Lord,
then one’s belief becomes worthless.
“Christianity is not a system of good advice, and the [apostles]
had not simply told people of a good way to live.
They had said that something happened—that God raised up
Jesus” (Morris)! But if God did not raise
Jesus, then He could not work in people’s lives either.
there is no resurrection, then the apostles are false witnesses.
Paul would need to confess that he is a liar and keeps
company with liars and ultimately Jesus, who claimed that He
would rise, and God, who had prophesied that He would rise, are
shown to be liars as well. “Christianity is …
the good news of what God has done [through Christ].
The function of preachers is to bear witness to God’s
saving acts, [and] the apostles had done that. … But if ‘dead
[people] don’t rise [as some were mistakenly claiming], then
dead Jesus did not rise, and it is a lie to say that God raised
there is no resurrection, then all Christians are still sinners.
Our sins were cancelled when were buried with Him in
baptism and raised with Him to walk in a newness of life ( Rom.
6:4). But if Jesus was not raised, then our
resurrection is voided, and we experience no newness of life.
“A Christ without resurrection would be a condemned, not
a justified, Jesus, so how could He justify others” (Morris)?
If Jesus had not been shown to be victorious over sin
through His resurrection, how could we expect to share in His
there is no resurrection, then those Christians at Corinth who
have died have perished. Those “who had died
in Christ” had enjoyed the hope that His life-giving Spirit
would provide them future resurrection. But a
Jesus without a resurrection takes away this hope; their
deaths would be no more than a finality.
There is no purpose for optimism, and no hope of a great
reunion. The new Gospel would be: “In Christ,
all are dying and perishing, just like everyone else is!”
there is no resurrection, then Christians are to be a pitied
people. We are deceived into thinking there
will be a future with a living Judge, when all there really will
be is just another tomorrow with no Judge who will ever right
any of mankind’s wicked and despicable wrongs!
Christians become the world’s most deluded people because
we look to a hereafter when there is only a here with no
resurrection in sight, and this is why they would be considered
so pitiful. Without the resurrection,
existence in this life and a person’s subsequent death have both
become hopeless. A lifeless Christ has about
as much worth as a punctured balloon! So the
consequences of no resurrection are no risen Lord (which Paul
repeats twice in verses 13 and 16 for emphasis), useless
preaching, a worthless faith, false apostles and lying
divinities, no forgiveness, no afterlife, and no hope!
Paul’s logic has painted a bleak picture indeed!
But now comes the flip side as Paul affirms Jesus’
resurrection and some future results of it!
The expression “but now” is emphatic. Paul
could be paraphrased in this way: “In contrast to the bleak
picture that I painted without a risen Lord, I boldly affirm
that Christ is risen from the dead and has become the guarantee
that the dead in Him shall also rise too!”
Someone else said it this way: “However, says Paul, putting all
‘ifs’ aside, ‘Christ HAS been raised—in fact, as the
‘first-fruits of the dead. This expression
stems from the Old Testament practice of bringing the
first-harvested produce of one’s crops as a wave offering to the
temple (Lev. 23:17-20). Its significance lies
in the fact that such first-fruits were … a pledge of more
offerings to come and a fuller harvest yet to be.
Christ, as the first-fruits of the resurrection, is thus
the guarantor that ‘in Christ all shall be made alive’ at the
time of His second coming (vv. 22-23).
What are other results triggered by the resurrection?
First of all, the living Lord will stand at the head of a
permanent resurrected race, just as Adam stood at the head of a
temporary human race (v. 22).
Secondly, the living Lord will terminate all history, as
the final end of time becomes a reality (v. 24).
It might be noted here that Paul mentions no lengthy
interim period between Jesus' appearing and history's end.
Thirdly, the living Lord must continue to rule until he
will conquer all the powers of evil at His return (vv. 24-25).
Fourthly, the living Lord will destroy death (v. 26).
Death can only be destroyed and conquered by the
Resurrected One who is alive forevermore!
Lastly, the living Lord will subject Himself to God (v.
27). Paul is in no way implying that Jesus is
inferior to God, their equality and unity remain, but Christ’s
function as Mediator is now no longer needed (Marsh).
So, we see how Jesus' resurrection has already begun to
unfold further glorious results that will occur at His second
Now, Paul goes back to debating his opponents and offers some
arguments for the resurrection based on Christian activities.
The first argument concerns that troubling passage where
baptism of the dead is mentioned. Someone has
noted that there are at least 30 interpretations of this
passage, and this just shows that no interpretation can be too
dogmatic. Paul is probably referring to a
practice used by more pious oriental cultists where they used
immersion in order to try to save others who had already died
and who they felt would one day rise again.
Since there are so many other passages that explain baptism for
living, "it would be highly presumptuous, from this verse alone,
to institute a practice of baptism” for others to be practiced
by Christians today. Paul is arguing that the
resurrection must be true, else why would cultists even try to
save others if they didn't believe it would help them at the
The next argument is a little easier to understand.
Paul asked why he would live in peril, face death daily,
and live under persecution if the resurrection would not be
He argues thirdly that if there is no
resurrection, we might as well throw off of moral
restraints—“eat, drink, and be merry”—since there would be no
future life (sadly, many of our own neighbors have bought into
this hedonistic outlook).
The statement “Bad company ruins good morals”
comes from a pagan playwright. The point is
clear: “Corinthian brethren who say there is no resurrection,
stop being deceived by those promoting this pernicious teaching
and stop sinning by thinking such a belief!”
“Apparently those whom Paul addresses were claiming 'knowledge
of God,' otherwise his statement 'some have no knowledge' would
have no point. Ignorance of God is what they
are displaying, which is shameful indeed! So
don't miss Paul's arguments for the resurrection: other cultists
can see its truth, we risk our lives for its truth, morality
(with its teaching of an afterlife) points to its truth, God's
knowledge underscores its truth!
Now Paul provides some more arguments for the resurrection based
on his own world. Someone was sure to ask,
“How are the dead raised up? And with what
body do they come?” Paul begins by answering
the second question. People will be
resurrected with transformed bodies. First of
all, just as a plant differs from its seed of origin, so
people's spiritual bodies will differ from their physical
Secondly, the same God who could form different bodies
for different environments is the same God who can provide a
spiritual body for a new environment! How can
we grasp a six dimensional body when we only know a three
Thirdly, the resurrected body will definitely be a better
one; it will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual
How will all this transformation take place?
Here's Paul answer to the first question about how the
dead are raised. It all will take place
because of Jesus! Adam became a living soul,
but Jesus is a Life-giving spirit! Jesus will
provide that resurrected body which will be heavenly (v. 49)!
Our spiritual bodies will be similar to Jesus' glorified
body—supernatural, without any sexuality, radiant, with no
sickness, pains, or deformities (Philippians 3:21).
And that's about the extent of the tantalizing brief
foretaste that the Scriptures give us. Since
Jesus will provide it, you know it will be fantastic!
There is a resurrection because transformation will take
place (just as it has in nature), the spiritual body will be
suited to its environment (as also seen in nature with a seed),
the spiritual body will be much better, and Jesus, that
life-giving spirit, will cause it to happen!
But Paul does not stop here! He has more to
reveal, and now he presents some more results of Christ's
resurrection. Our spirits can soar as we
listen to these sublime truths! First of all,
Paul notes that people cannot take part in God's coming kingdom
with their present bodies (v. 50). “Flesh and
blood” are the two parts most liable to decay (Morris).
Hallelujah, there will be no more struggles and sins of
the neither flesh nor decay in heaven!
Secondly, Paul relates that those who are still alive at
Christ's return will also have their physical bodies transformed
into spiritual bodies, and this process will happen very quickly
when the dead are resurrected (vv. 51-52)!
What a stupendous revelation Paul has given us!
Our identities are changed, not lost!
Thirdly, those new bodies will also be incorruptible,
immortal, and victorious! The punishment of
Eden has now been totally reversed! Death's
venomous sting will no longer be experienced by the redeemed!
Fourthly, Christians need not fear the future for,
through Christ, we will conquer both Death and Hades (vv. 55)!
Paul uses Old Testament prophecy to celebrate their
defeat because these prophecies will be fulfilled when the
transformation occurs! Since Jesus has
already conquered both and replaced the Law, we also will
participate in His victory (vv. 56-57)!
What a glorious future awaits the righteous!
The same transforma-tion for the resurrected dead will be
equally experienced by those who remain alive, and all Jesus'
followers will share in His victory of everlasting life and
immortality! More results: transformation for
those alive, all the redeemed “must” have the new clothing of
immortality (verse 53), the prophecies of death's conquest will
be fulfilled, we will share in Jesus' victory!
Now Paul concludes by returning to the
present and giving the members at Corinth some exhortations.
First, we should be thankful to God for His provision of
victory of everlasting life through Christ.
Secondly, we should be steadfast and immovable in our beliefs
about the resurrection. Thirdly, we should
always be abounding in God's work knowing that one day we will
be rewarded with glorious, incorruptible, and spiritual bodies!
Another preacher put it this way: “There is no way that
the epitaph ‘perished’ should describe our death, for in His
resurrection, he released those who through fear of death had
been subject to bondage by the adversary, reducing him to
impotence and releasing us to a lifetime of steadfast, unmovable
service in the work of the Lord” (Hamilton)!
Our firm grip on the resurrection will spur us on to
thankfulness, steadfastness, and fruitfulness!
This is an abundant life, not one lived in vain!
Jesus’ resurrection is the fulcrum of Christianity, and
it continues to offer hope to all mankind!
Someone else puts it this way: “Jesus’ resurrection makes it
impossible for mankind’s story to end in chaos—it has to move
unrelentingly towards light, towards love, and towards life” (Carretto
in Rowell)! Why not reread this tremendous
chapter each day during this next week? What
a wonderful life lies ahead in the hereafter!
Christ’s resurrection guarantees it!
Who would want to pass up the blessings that Paul has described
for the redeemed? Are you ready for the
trumpet call and our Lord’s appearance once again?
Are you ready to be transformed and have a spiritual
body? Are you ready for immortality?
Don’t let these blessings be lost!