Resurrection as History – The Best Explanation

The Resurrection and its Christian Shape – Part 5

Easter Sunday was the hinge upon which a massive transformation and shift took place within Judaism.
·  In fact, the effects of Easter Sunday can be, “best understood as a startling, fresh mutation within second-Temple Judaism” – N.T. Wright.

The earliest Christian descriptions of the source for these transformations and mutations are found in the Gospel resurrection stories and the resurrection creed of 1 Corinthians 15.
·  We know that 1 Corinthians was written in the 50’s.
·  And we know that the Gospel stories were written after Paul’s letters.
·  And yet the Gospels and 1 Corinthians contain resurrection content faithfully passed on from within a handful of years after Easter Sunday.
·  With respect to ancient history, this is stunningly remarkable.
·  With respect to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, this is extremely significant.


Resurrection Creed:
1 Corinthians 15:3–7 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

The earliest Christian community was so steeped in resurrection that there “arose” within this community the resurrection creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.
·  “We are here in touch with the earliest Christian tradition, with something that was being said two decades or more before Paul wrote this letter” – N.T. Wright.
·  This puts this creed within the two to five years of Easter scholars tell us.

The gist of the creed declares that the Jesus that appeared on Easter was in a resurrected, physical body.
·  And that before His appearances, He was dead, as in dead and buried.
·  And the resurrection creed that Paul cites is a who’s who of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrected body.
o   Cephas”, “the twelve”, “five hundred brothers”, “James”, “all the apostles” and Paul
·  In fact, he says that (at the time of 1 Corinthians) most of these cited witnesses were still alive.
·  The implication is, of course, that Jesus’ resurrection was not a spiritual event, it was a historical event.
·  It happened in real space and time, and the witnesses can be consulted.

Gospel Resurrection Narratives – John:
As with the resurrection creed of 1 Corinthians 15, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, though written down later than Paul’s letters, are also based on extremely early Christian teaching.
·  “I suggest, in fact, that the stories must be regarded as early, certainly well before Paul…I propose, in short, that the four canonical resurrection accounts…almost certainly go back to oral traditions which provide the answer to the question of the origin and shaping of Christianity” – N.T. Wright.

Some reasons why this is so:
·  (1) “The strange presence of the women” as the primary witnesses – N.T. Wright.
o   Unlike the creed in 1 Corinthians 15, where they are absent.
o   Women, as is well known, were not considered reliable witnesses.
o   Making something up and inserting it into an earlier narrative is one thing.
o   But to make something up with women as the primary eyewitnesses is something that would simply not have been done in a patriarchal, ANE culture.
o   This would not make your story more credible.
·  (2) “The strange portrait of Jesus” – N.T. Wright.
o   He is not “a heavenly being, radiant and shining” like Daniel 12 or the Transfiguration – N.T. Wright.
o   In fact, He was quite ordinary looking and sometimes barely recognizable.
o   And He was described as having both a normal body that ate broiled fish and yet could appear or disappear at will, etc. – Wright.
o   In other words, Jesus is not placed into any known categories.
o   They don’t know what to do with Him.
o   He is simply described as encountered.
·  (3) “The strange absence of personal hope” – N.T. Wright.
o   In stark contrast to Paul and the Church Fathers, there is no mention of “the future hope of the Christian” – N.T. Wright.
o   There is no connection between what happened to Jesus and how it relates to our resurrection.
o   Paul’s “prize” and “imperishable wreath” were resurrection; this teaching is remarkably absent.
o   Wright argues it is virtually impossible that this central and predominate aspect of Paul and Christianity would have been left out, if the resurrection stories came from the middle of the 1st century onward.
·  (4) “The strange silence of the Bible” – N.T. Wright.
o   Unlike other Gospel narratives, there is no mention that any specific OT prophecy had been fulfilled.
o   Two such OT texts one would have expected to see would have been Daniel 12 or Psalm 16.
o   Wright suggests that if the resurrection accounts were later inventions, the angel at the tomb would have certainly been used to proclaim Jesus was raised in fulfillment of God’s OT design.
·  (5) None of the surface inconsistencies were “ironed out” – Wright.
o   Number of women, number of angels, etc.
o   Again, four different accounts each with its own “surface” inconsistencies does not scream out, “later addition”.

The point of all of these is to show that the resurrection accounts are very primitive and thus early.
·  They lack all the features of narratives that were made up and added to the Gospels at a later date.
·  They have no theological development.
·  They have no OT underpinnings.
·  They contain primary witnesses that would not have been seen as credible.
·  They contain surface inconsistencies that could have easily been “ironed out”.
·  And Jesus is not neatly placed into existing OT categories.
o   Angel of YHWH, Daniel 12:2, Psalm 16’s incorruption, etc.

It is clear that at the time of the resurrection, the witnesses simply didn’t know what to make of what they had witnessed.
·  And so the narratives lack the meaning and implications that would be fleshed out later by Paul and others.
·  “The stories exhibit, as has been said repeatedly over the last hundred years or more, exactly that surface tension which we associate, not with tales artfully told by people eager to sustain a fiction and therefore anxious to make everything look right, but with the hurried, puzzled accounts of those who have seen with their own eyes something which took them horribly by surprise and with which they have not yet fully come to terms” – N.T. Wright.
·  John 20:9 (ESV) — 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Given the early date of both the resurrection creed and the Gospel resurrection narratives, it is clear that, from their very beginnings, Christians were centering their “movement” on the belief that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead.
·  And, “When God raised Jesus from the dead, he declared him to be the Messiah, reversing the verdict of both the Jewish and the Roman courts” – JETS, Wright.
·  This means that resurrection and Jesus as Messiah were not later inventions redacted back into the Christian story as many liberal scholars claim.

In fact, given all the “startling” Christian mutations of second-temple Jewish views of resurrection and the Messiah, the most disinterested onlooker could easily see that something monumental happened to cause them.
·  And within the Gospel resurrection narratives (Matt. 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20 & 21), “…we would have known that our question had found its answer” – N.T. Wright.
·  Jesus’ followers believed from the beginning that he bodily rose from the dead.
·  So much so, that they even developed their resurrection creed shown in 1 Corinthians 15.

But, importantly, and in addition to the eyewitness testimony both in creed and Gospel narrative, there are other well established facts that all point to Jesus’ resurrection (and thus ours).
·  And these facts are to be found in all that we learned over the last eight weeks or so.
·  This was one reason we have spent the last 8 weeks understanding the second-temple view of resurrection and how it differed from the Christian view.
·  There is no way to fully appreciate the significance of the shifts and transformations without seeking to understand them.
·  For these “startling” mutations make one of the best cases for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.


We are simply going to list out the mutations since we have already discussed many of them.
·  We must keep in mind a few things as we list these out.
o   (a) They all happened within a generation or less.
o   (b) None of them existed within a Jewish or pagan worldview at the time.
o   (c) The changes were massive; they are not the kind of changes that are spawned by “ideas” but that follow from “events”.

Miscellaneous Modifications and Mutations:
Concerning the day of worship…
·  Jew – Sabbath was “Lord’s Day”
·  Christian – Sunday became Lord’s Day

Concerning the cross…
·  Jew – Cross and crucifixion was accursed and defilement
·  Christian – Cross “lost its shameful scorn and became a sign of God’s love” – Wright.

Messianic Modifications and Mutations:
“The early Christians believed Jesus was the Messiah; and they believed this because of his resurrection” – N.T. Wright.
·  And at least five modifications occurred by identifying Jesus as the Messiah based on His resurrection.

1) Concept of Messiah “lost its ethnic specificity” – Wright.
·  Jew – Messiah was King for the Jews only (not what Scripture taught, btw).
·  Christian – “the Messiah did not belong only to the Jews” but to the Gentiles as well – Wright.

2) Concept of, “The ‘messianic battle’ changed its character” – Wright.
·  Jew – Messiah would fight and overthrow Gentile/pagan oppressors.
·  Christian – Messiah would “confront evil itself” (think temptations of Satan, e.g.) – Wright.

3) Concept of Messiah’s relationship to Temple changed.
·  Jew – Messiah would liberate, cleanse and rebuild Temple
·  Christian – “The rebuilt Temple would not be a bricks-and-mortar construction in Jerusalem, but the community of Jesus’ followers” – Wright.

4) Concept of, “The justice, peace and salvation which the Messiah would bring to the world” changed – Wright.
·  Jew – Manifestations of these things would be political and geographical.
·  Christian – Manifestations of these things would be a spiritual renewal and regeneration and the “now and not yet” of “the renewal of the whole creation” as signified by Jesus’ resurrection – Wright.

5) Concept of Messianic victory changed.
·  Jew – Messiah would not be defeated and certainly not killed; and certainly not crucified.
·  Christian – Victory came through a Messiah “who died a criminal’s death having been executed by the pagans he was to overthrow and having been framed by the temple establishment of the very temple he was to free” – N.T. Wright.
o   And the victory that came was over death and sin

Intermediate Stage Modifications and Mutations:
Jew – For many second-Temple Jews, as we discussed, there was a two-stage view of death.
·  The first stage was the “life after death”, known as Sheol.
·  Sheol was the intermediate stage, the stage before resurrection (life after “life after death”).
·  Entering Sheol was commonly referred to as being asleep in the dust.
·  Sheol was not considered better than current life.
o   Especially if one died young, without children or without grandchildren.

Christian – the intermediate stage, “life after death”, for the Christian is called Heaven.
·  Though similar to Sheol, in that the concept was not highly developed, it does contain some dramatic differences.
·  Heaven is seen as “far better” than this life.
·  Heaven is being present with the Messiah.
·  And, importantly, Heaven is seen as the place where future purposes are “stored up” – especially resurrection and judgment.

Resurrection Modifications and Mutations:
We learned that during the second-Temple period, many Jews began to embrace the concept of a bodily resurrection.
·  A resurrection that would follow the intermediate stage of Sheol.
·  A resurrection that came out of the hope they never lost for the Return and Restoration of the nation of Israel from exile.

Jew – Specifically, we saw that second-Temple views of resurrection contained at least 10 things.
·  (1) The hope of an actual bodily resurrection for the individual.
·  (2) Judgment of the wicked – the pagan.
·  (3) Vindication of the righteous – the Jew.
·  (4) It is grounded in YHWH’s power – the same power that led the Jews out of Egypt; the same power that created the world and everything in it.
·  (5) It serves as a metaphor for Return and Restoration of the Nation, Land and People of Israel.
·  (6) It’s corporate in scope – all the righteous Jews and wicked pagan’s we be resurrected at one time for judgment or vindication.
·  (7) No one thought the Prophets, Moses or David were already raised or would be ahead of anyone else.
·  (8) Resurrection hope was separate from Messianic hope. “There are no traditions about a Messiah being raised to life: most Jews of this period hoped for resurrection, many Jews of this period hoped for a Messiah, but nobody put those two hopes together…” – N.T. Wright.
·  (9) There are two "ages" the “present age” and the "age to come" – resurrection was the dividing line so no resurrection means still the "present age".
·  (10) Likewise, with resurrection comes the "age to come" where, importantly, everything would be “put right”.

Christian – Not surprisingly, Christian resurrection is dramatically different.
·  (1) Belief in bodily resurrection is shared.
·  (2) Judgment of the wicked – though the wicked would include Jews and pagans.
o   And Jesus even taught that pagans would stand in judgment of Jews.
·  (3) Vindication of the righteous – though along with Jews, righteous Gentiles would also be vindicated.
·  (4) YHWH’s power, but specifically the Holy Spirit raised Jesus and will raise us – resurrection is Trinitarian.
·  (5) Metaphor for Return and Restoration completely replaced by metaphor for Christian living.
o   “Paul frequently used the language of resurrection, in a metaphorical way, to denote the concrete, bodily events of Christian living, especially baptism and holiness; and also, on at least one occasion, to denote the renewal of the ‘inner human being’” – N.T. Wright.
o   Christians could endure suffering and persecution because of the surety of resurrection.
o   This change is profoundly significant since the “R and R” metaphor was fundamental the Jewish view of resurrection.
o   It was from this that the idea of bodily resurrection “arose” to begin with.
·  (6) Still corporate in scope but the nation of righteous Jews replaced by the Church containing Jews and Gentiles.
·  (7) Not all raised together, Jesus the Messiah was raised ahead of everyone else – the firstfruits.
o   “The Christians believed that ‘the resurrection’ had already begun, and that the one person to whom it had happened was the lord at whose name every knee would bow” – N.T. Wright.
·  (8) Christian resurrection hope profoundly linked to the resurrection of the Messiah.
o   We saw that last week in 1 Corinthians.
·  (9) The “age to come” was split in two by Jesus giving us the “the now and not yet” of the “age to come”.
·  (10) Similarly, everything will be put right, including creation.
o   And it will be at this time that the Messiah will rule politically and geographically over the new creation.

POI – I need to highlight one further point on Paul’s use of resurrection as a metaphor for Christian living.
·  “He believes that he is living between Jesus’ resurrection and his own future resurrection. He therefore claims, and discovers in practice, that God’s power to raise the dead is at work in the present time” – N.T. Wright.
·  I can’t emphasize enough that Paul’s greatest hope was resurrection.
·  And it “powered” him through his Christian life in the Spirit.
·  Paul lived knowing that any suffering and persecution would result in all things being put right at his resurrection.
·  Resurrection was the “prize” and “imperishable wreath”.

But wait…there are more “dramatic modifications” that we need to cite.
·  (1) “There emerged in Christianity a precise, confident and articulate faith in which resurrection has moved from the circumference to the centre” – Christopher Evans.
o   Not the case with second-Temple Judaism.
·  (2) A clarification in “the nature of the future resurrection body” – N.T. Wright.
o   Not just “glorified” as in Daniel 12, but also “incorruptible”.
o   A new type of physical body animated by the Spirit.
o   “The present body is corruptible, decaying and subject to death; but death, which spits in the face of the good creator God, cannot have the last word. The creator will therefore make a new world, and new bodies, proper to the new age” – N.T. Wright.
·  (4) A reinterpretation of many OT texts as typologies for Jesus’ resurrection.
o   Psalm 16 being primary for Peter and Paul in Acts.

As we said earlier, all of these modifications and mutations were dramatic.
·  They required the disciples to completely transform their worldview to accommodate them.
·  They required Paul, an enemy of Christ, to completely transform both his loyalties and his worldview to accommodate them.
·  They required James, a skeptic of Christ, to completely transform both his loyalties and his worldview to accommodate them.
·  And these modifications and mutations were foundational aspects of their worldview, not peripheral things without much meaning.

When the historian is faced with all that we have just reviewed, they must offer an explanation.
·  What solution carries with it the explanatory scope large enough and powerful enough to be responsible for all of them?

The following regularly offered alternatives are just “weak sauce”.
·  Jesus didn’t really die.
o   He was given something that knocked Him out.
·  The women went to the wrong tomb.
·  The disciples merely had hallucinations.
·  The disciples were in such shock over Jesus’ death, they dealt with it by “bringing Him back to life”.
·  The resurrection accounts were made up later to serve the purposes of the church.
·  The resurrection was a “spiritual resurrection”.
·  The disciples died for something they personally knew not to be true, something that was a lie.

The simplest and single most efficient cause for what happened within Judaism 2000 years ago is that Jesus bodily rose from the dead.
·  “…the bodily resurrection of Jesus provides a necessary condition for these things [the modifications], that no other explanation could or would do. All the efforts to find alternative explanations fail, and they were bound to do so” – N.T. Wright.
·  “The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivalled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity” – N.T. Wright.


One more thing for us:
“When they said that Jesus had been raised from the dead the early Christians were not saying, as many critics have supposed, that the god in whom they believed had simply decided to perform a rather more spectacular miracle, an even greater display of ‘supernatural’ power, than they had expected. This was not a special favour performed for Jesus because his god liked him more than anyone else. The fact that dead people do not ordinarily rise is itself part of early Christian belief, not an objection to it. The early Christians insisted that what had happened to Jesus was precisely something new; was, indeed, the start of a whole new mode of existence, a new creation. The fact that Jesus’ resurrection was, and remains, without analogy is not an objection to the early Christian claim. It is part of the claim itself.”


Our Resurrection - What's at stake?

This is part 4 of a series on the shape of Christian resurrection and the tendency of evangelicals to emphasize heaven at the expense of resurrection.

·  There are three things we need to keep in mind as we begin to explore 1 Cor. 15.
·  These will help us from straying off into areas not relevant to Paul’s text.

(1) 1 Corinthians 15 is “a pointed and deliberate argument” – Wright.
·  The argument Paul is making is to counter those in the Corinthian church who were “paganizing” resurrection.
·  Generally, there were two ways this “paganizing” of resurrection occurred.
·  1) Deny it was even possible – dead people don’t rise.
o   Or the “Christian” version – accept Jesus’ resurrection, but deny any future resurrection.
·  2) Spiritualize it – resurrection is eternity free from the physical and its baggage.
o   This second one, BTW, is what the Gnostics did.
o   This is the resurrection of the Gnostic Gospels of Thomas, Peter, etc.

We have evidence that Paul dealt with both.
·  2 Timothy 2:17–18 (ESV) — 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.
o   In other words, resurrection is not about our future physical resurrection, but about spiritual transformation that has already happened.
·  1 Corinthians 15:12 (ESV) — 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
o   Maybe Christ was the exception, so at issue, then, is not Christ’s resurrection but believers’ resurrection.

(2) Genesis 1-3 is “a frequent point of allusion” for Paul – Wright.
·  The importance of this is that, “there can be no doubt that Paul intends this entire chapter to be an exposition of the renewal of creation, and the renewal of humankind as its focal point” – Wright.
·  We must remember that Paul is Jewish; his argument is bodily resurrection and physical creation, not (pagan) spirituality!
·  “Within this framework of thought, death is an intruder, a violator of the creator’s good world” – Wright.
·  “The argument is, in fact, an exposition of the future resurrection of all those who belong to the Messiah, set out as an argument about new creation.” – N.T. Wright.

(3) Death must be defeated at every level.
·  And defeat of death does not come from retreat to a spiritual “victory”, but only by resurrection of those that have died and a restoration of a creation marred by death.
·  This is why resurrection cannot, “refer to some part or aspect of the human being not dying but instead going on into a continuing life in a new mode [heaven]” – Wright.
·  It must refer “to something that does die and is then given a new life” – Wright.
·  And this is why heaven is, and must be, only an intermediate stage.

Paul frames his argument and engages the above ideas in roughly five sections (N.T. Wright).
·  A) Verses 1-11 – “The gospel is anchored in the resurrection of Jesus” – Wright.
·  B) Verses 12-19 & Verses 29-34 – No Resurrection Equals No Gospel.
o   “The gospel, with all its benefits, is null and void” – Wright.
o   The victory found in a future resurrection putting all things right thereby enabling Paul to endure suffering and persecution is gone.
o   There would be no reason to proclaim the Gospel, for it would not exist.
·  C) Verses 20-28 – The Now and Not Yet of Resurrection.
o   “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of ‘the resurrection of the dead’, the final eschatological event, which has now split into two; the risen Jesus is the ‘first-fruits’, both the initial, prototypical example, and also the means of the subsequent resurrection of his people, because it is through his status and office as the truly human being, the Messiah, that death and all other enemies of the creator’s project are to be defeated” – Wright.
·  D) Verses 35-49 – The Nuts and Bolts of a Resurrection Body
o   “…the risen Jesus is the model for what resurrected humanity will consist of, and also, through the Spirit, the agent of its accomplishment” – Wright.
·  E) Verses 50-58 – The Victory of Resurrection
o   “He concludes triumphantly with a description of the future moment of resurrection, emphasizing the incorruptibility of the new body, and hence the character of the event as victory over death. He closes with both praise (verse 57) and exhortation (verse 58)” – Wright.

We will only have time to contend with sections “B” and “C”.


1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV) — 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:29–34 (ESV) — 29 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? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 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.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 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.

Verse 12:
·  Corinthian Christians accepted that Christ was bodily resurrected.
o   He was God after all.
·  But what they were denying, and this is likely where their pagan background seeping through, is that believers will be bodily raised.
·  “What is in mind here, clearly, is the future resurrection of God’s people, not the past resurrection of Jesus” – Wright.

How do we know this?
·  “There is plenty of reason to suppose that it would be quite natural for recently converted ex-pagans to doubt, and even to deny, a future bodily resurrection. Their entire culture was used to denying such a possibility; the multiple varieties of pagan worldview and theology offered nothing that would generate such a belief; common-sense observation of what happened to dead bodies, such as we find in the anti-Christian writings of subsequent centuries as well as in the modern period, militates against holding such a hope” – Wright.

We also need to notice that Paul, by his very question, begins to join inseparably together Jesus’ resurrection with our own.

Verse 13-19:
Immediately after hinting at the profound connection between Jesus’ resurrection and our own in his question, Paul makes a startling statement about this connection.
·  If there is no future resurrection of the dead, i.e. if you aren’t going to bodily rise in the future, then Jesus did not rise.
·  He says this three times – in verse 13, 15 and 16.
·  (1) “no resurrection” = “not even Christ has been raised” (vs. 13)
·  (2) “if it is true that the dead are not raised” = “he did not raise” Christ (vs. 15)
·  (3) “if dead are not raised” = “not even Christ has been raised” (vs. 16)

In doing this, Paul is equating the surety of our future resurrection stored up in heaven with the already resurrection of Jesus Christ.
·  The past is dependent on the future and vice versa.
·  The connection between Jesus’ resurrection and ours is so profound and thorough that for one to be true they both have to be true.
·  (Use Dumbbell Illustration)

After Paul establishes the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our future resurrection, he then tells us at least nine things at stake if there is no future resurrection.
·  (1) “preaching is in vain” (vs. 14)
·  (2) “faith is in vain” (vs. 14)
·  (3) “misrepresenting God” (vs. 15)
·  (4) “your faith is futile” (vs. 17)
·  (5) “you are still in your sins” (vs. 17)
·  (6) Those who have “fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (vs. 18)
·  (7) If our only bodily hope is this present body then we are “most to be pitied” (vs. 19)
·  (8) Meaningless to be “baptized on behalf of the dead” (vs. 29)
·  (9) Suffering on account of the Gospel is meaningless – “what do I gain?” (vs. 30-32)
o   We might as well, “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (vs. 32)

And yet, in verses 33 and 34, he reminds us to get a grip.
·  As he made clear in verses 1-11, bodily resurrection is legit.
·  So, “wake up from your drunken stupor” and stop sinning (vs. 34).
·  If you reject the future resurrection, you don’t know God and you should be ashamed.

BTW – I think this admonition still carries with it a warning for modern evangelicals and their overemphasis of heaven over resurrection.
·  Why?
·  For Paul, “What matters is once more the continuity [the connection] which Paul sees between the present life and the resurrection life, and the fact that the future [resurrection] life thus gives meaning to what would otherwise be meaningless” – Wright.
·  It is not heaven that gives this life meaning, but our future bodily resurrection.

Paul’s list of things at stake if there is no future resurrection seems straight forward enough.
·  But (6) and (7) seem rather surprising; they seem very “OT one-stage”.
·  And (5) seems to downplay the cross.
·  And (8) seems just plain weird.

What about (8) – “baptized on behalf of the dead”?
·  This behavior is not mentioned anywhere else, so its meaning is unclear.
·  However, the traditional meaning is, “that some people who had come to Christian faith in Corinth had died before being baptized, and that other Christians had undergone baptism on their behalf, completing vicariously in their own persons the unfinished sacramental initiation of the dead” – N.T. Wright.
·  So Paul isn’t commenting on this practice directly.
·  He is merely saying that because baptism is a symbolic participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, then this practice is meaningless if there is no future resurrection.

What about (6) and (7) “fallen asleep have perished” and if this bodily life is the only bodily life then we are the “most to be pitied”?
·  We saw last week that Paul considered death to be gain.
·  He said that it was “far better” to be at home with Christ (in heaven).

And yet we see here that he qualifies that statement.
·  If there is no future resurrection, then even the nature of heaven is jeopardized.
·  And even worse, believers who have died have no future.
·  If no future resurrection, we are back at the one-stage view of death of early Judaism.
·  We are asleep in the dust.
·  “Christians who have already died have ‘perished’; in other words, they will not have a future life in any form worth the name” – Wright.

And what about (5) – if no future resurrection, then Christ was not raised and we are “still in our sins”?
·  We often will say that our sin problem was dealt with on the cross.
·  But Paul wants us to realize that, as with the rest of Christian faith, Christ’s work on the cross cannot be disconnected from resurrection.
·  Just as it is problematic to stop at heaven when speaking of our future hope and not go all the way to our future bodily resurrection.
·  It is problematic to stop at the cross when speaking of the forgiveness of our sins and not go all the way to Easter Sunday.

In this comment of Paul’s, he is beginning his allusions and references to Genesis 1-3.
·  God created everything, and created it good.
·  God created Adam in His own image to inhabit creation and fellowship with Him in it.
·  Is Adam still fellowshipping with God in creation as God intended?
·  Is Charles Spurgeon? Is John Calvin? Is Paul?
·  Why not?

And what was the cause of this death?
·  The answer, of course, is sin.
·  Death is not natural – it is the fruit of sin.
·  So because death is still present in creation, we know that sin still reigns.

So, how is it that we will know that sin no longer reins?
·  The answer is, of course, that death will be defeated.
·  And how is death defeated?
·  The answer, of course, is resurrection.

Therefore if there is no future resurrection you are still in your sins.
·  This is because if there is no future resurrection then Christ wasn’t raised, and this means that the death knell for death was not sounded.

This is why Paul says further on in 1 Corinthians:
·  1 Corinthians 15:54–55 (ESV) — 54 When 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?”

It is because of all these reasons that N.T. Wright says this:
·  “Paul simply does not rate a prospect of future disembodied bliss anywhere on the scale of worthwhile goals; he would not classify non-bodily survival of death as ‘salvation’, presumably since it would mean that one was not rescued, ‘saved’, from death itself, the irreversible corruption and destruction of the good, god-given human body. To remain dead, even ‘asleep in the Messiah’, without the prospect of resurrection, would therefore mean that one had ‘perished’. For there to be no resurrection would mean that Christian faith and life, including suffering, would be ‘for this life only’” – N.T. Wright.


1 Corinthians 15:20–28 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” [Psalm 8:6] it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

In the OT, we saw how the burgeoning idea of resurrection had its expression in the “but God” texts.
·  Paul echoes these texts with the same language but with Christ at the center.
·  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (vs. 20).

And because Christ has risen (and we will rise) certain things are true.
·  By implication, of course, the nine things at stake, if there is no resurrection, are no longer in jeopardy.
·  They are sound.
·  We can have complete assurance in them.

But Paul goes on to identify certain “now and not yet” profound truths that result from Christ’s resurrection which will be fulfilled at our future resurrection.
·  (1) Christ is the “firstfruits” and “then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (vs. 20 & 23).
·  (2) The “kingdom of God” inaugurated by Christ’s resurrection will be fully “delivered” at ours (vs. 24-28).
·  (3) Death is – “the last enemy to be destroyed” (vs. 26)
o   Christ defeated death at His resurrection, but we currently still die.

Very important to remember this – the dead in Christ might be in heaven now, but death is still having its way.
·  After all, how are you going to end up in heaven? – You will Die.
·  We and creation still groan.
·  Heaven does not remedy this situation.
·  Heaven does not put right this situation.
·  But what is “stored up” in heaven does.
·  Our future resurrection will fully and finally defeat death (vs. 26).
·  This is why for Paul, the “imperishable” wreath (1 Cor. 9:25) and “the prize” he is seeking to obtain (Phil. 3:10-14) is resurrection and not heaven.

N.T. Wright sums up these (3) points as follows:
·  “This is the point above all where Paul is trying to teach the Corinthians to think eschatologically…the future has already burst into the present, so that the present time is characterized by a mixture of fulfilment and expectation, of ‘now’ and ‘not yet’, pointing towards a future in which what happened at the first Easter will be implemented fully and the true God will be ‘all in all” – N.T. Wright.

The “age to come” (eternal life) that Jews longed for is at hand.
·  And it will be fully inaugurated at our future resurrection.
o   A resurrection, as we saw last week, that is “stored up” in heaven.
·  This is why it is “now and not yet”.

What is (1) – the “firstfruits”?
·  To begin with, it is yet another way he links resurrection with Genesis 1-3.
·  But, more than that, this link is the vehicle that provides the context for both Jesus’ resurrection and ours.
o   The context being creation, the fall, sin, death and how it is all put right.

Death came through Adam.
·  So because we are all “in Adam” we are all in death (vs. 22).
·  But God sent Jesus, the second Adam, to remedy the death that comes with being “in Adam”.
·  Christ died without sin to bear the sin of those “in Adam”.
·  And this work of Christ on the cross was realized when Jesus rose from the dead.
·  Therefore, those who are “in Christ shall be made alive” because he was “made alive” (vs. 22).
·  He rose first – the “firstfruits” – and, “then at his coming those who belong to Christ” will rise (vs. 23).

What is (2) – this future delivery of the kingdom of God business?
·  As we previously said, this is when the “not yet” is fully consummated.
·  Jesus returns, we are raised, death is finally defeated and all things are “in subjection under him” – God (vs. 28).

And this kingdom language is yet another connection Paul makes between OT Jewish expectations and resurrection.
·  Daniel 2:44 (ESV) — 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
·  Daniel 7:14 (ESV) — 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
·  Psalm 8:6 (ESV) — 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

Paul is saying Jesus is the king of this coming Kingdom, and “thy kingdom come”, the kingdom spoken of by Daniel, will be complete when He returns and we are raised.
·  And it is in this kingdom that (3) – the defeat of death – will be fully realized.
·  This is the emphasis of the “all things” that are put under subjection.
·  Sin and Satan’s last word, death, will speak no more!

Resurrection Connections:
It should be apparent that Paul is continuing to expand the connections resurrection makes.
·  Our future resurrection is inseparably connected to Christ’s resurrection.
·  If we don’t rise, then Christ didn’t rise.
·  If Christ didn’t rise, then we won’t rise.

And now Paul connects resurrection to the very beginning of it all and the Kingdom of God.
·  If no resurrection then the intention of God for creation as expressed in Gen 1-3 is thwarted.
·  We all will forever remain “in Adam” and God’s creation will not be put right.
·  And the Kingdom of God spoken of so long ago will never be without resurrection.

If you haven’t seen yet why resurrection is central to the Christian faith, I hope you are beginning to see now.