1 Corinthians 15
1Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;
7then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;
8and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
9For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Paul outlines the basics of the gospel message which he has preached to the Corinthians and which he has hoped saved them unless they had only professed faith without really repenting. It is important to note that this was a church with a lot of sin issues, but Paul believed most of the Christians were indeed saved. This church needed a lot of growth and refinement, but just because a person struggles with sin, does not mean that they cannot be saved. It simply means that they need to grow up and regain a sound testimony so that they are fit to be an example to others. Those who habitually practice sin, however, may not be saved (1 John 3:9). One must be above reproach in order to lead as Paul did in the church, otherwise the church will grow corrupt quickly (1 Timothy 3:2). Such is also the desire of God for all believers (Philippians 2:15). Paul went to the Corinthians not to dance around his reason for coming but to give them the thing of utmost importance in life, which is the gospel. He received it from God, and he was instructed to teach the truth that Christ died for the sins of the world according to the Scriptures (Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22). He was thus a perfect fulfillment of prophecy, and He was God’s plan from the beginning (Genesis 3:15, Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20, Luke 24:27). He was buried because He was dead, but on the third day He rose again from the dead according to the Scripture (John 2:18-22, Psalm 16:10). Jesus appeared to Peter in His resurrected body and to the twelve disciples (John 20:19-20). Christ had also appeared to 500 people at one time (all appearances of the resurrected Christ took place over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3) and are recorded in Matthew 28:9, Mark 16:9, 12, 14, Luke 24:31-39, and John 21:1-23, although this one is only recorded here), and Paul makes the point that the vast majority of these eye witnesses were still alive. This thus confirms his credibility and the truth of the gospel. 500 eyewitnesses who can tell the same story is undeniable. Jesus then appeared to James, probably His half-brother, given that Paul then mentions that He appeared to the apostles, of which only this James was not one. Finally, He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8). Paul says he was untimely born in that he saw Christ after Christ had ascended. He had missed out on all of the glorious events of the life of Christ firsthand because he was still a persecutor of the church, not a believer. Because of his past, he considers himself to be the least of the apostles and totally undeserving to be called an apostle because he had persecuted the church. But it was the grace of God which came to him and helped him see, and it was the grace of God that enabled him to be such an effective tool for advancing the gospel. Paul’s life was a total testimony of God’s intervention and grace, which is never in vain. Paul has worked harder than all the rest of the apostles because of the grace of God. The others had families and other concerns, but Paul began traveling extensively and, by the grace of God, preaching to city after city after city. He was clearly a chosen instrument of God (Acts 9:15). The Corinthians received his preaching as Paul did his part along with the rest of the apostles. Paul, though chosen last, was equally on par with the other apostles as far as authority from God.
12Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;
14and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
15Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.
16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;
17and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
19If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
Some among the church at Corinth were falsely teaching that there was no resurrection from the dead. Yet, as Paul just mentioned, Christ Himself rose from the dead in a resurrected body and appeared to many, many people as evidence. But if there is no resurrection, then Paul’s preaching is in vain because the gospel is undermined because Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead. Then, any who proclaim the gospel of Christ are made to be false teachers because they would be lying. The Christian faith rests upon the resurrection of Christ. If He didn’t rise from the dead, we don’t serve a living Savior, and God is dead. We would have no hope of our own resurrection into eternal life in heaven, and we are a shameful people. Not only are we liars, but we have no hope and are thus wasting our lives. But, of course, Jesus is alive, seated at the right hand of God in heaven (Colossians 3:1), and thus we do well to put all of our hope in Christ and in the life to come. Sacrificing and serving as Paul did only makes sense if Christ is alive, if the gospel is true, and if eternity is indeed coming.
20But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
21For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, and He is thus the firstfruits of those who have died in Christ. Through Adam, death came to all men because of the consequence of sin. But through Christ, all who repent and believe in the gospel can be saved and be resurrected from the dead. Death will have no power over those in Christ, just as it had no power over Him. In Adam all die physically and spiritually, but in Christ physical death leads to eternal life and a new resurrected body.
23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming,
24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.
26The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
27For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.
28When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
Christ was the first to be resurrected and next will be those who belong to Christ when He comes again. Christians alive at Christ’s appearing will be raptured, and the dead in Christ will rise (Revelation 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), while those who are saved during the tribulation will be resurrected at the end of that period (Revelation 6:9-11, Revelation 20:4). The millennial kingdom will begin during which Satan is bound (Revelation 20:1-3). He will be released for a short time at the end only to be defeated forever by Christ (Revelation 20:7-10). This is the end of sin and death to the full extent, and Christ can hand over the kingdom to the Father because all rebellious rule and authority will have been subjected to His authority. Christ will reign until all of God’s enemies are put under His feet, which will happen. Death is the final enemy to be abolished, and the resurrection of dead believers unto eternal life will be a glorious day. They will be free of sin, the flesh, and the power of death. Unbelievers will suffer forever in the eternal fire (Revelation 20:10-15). The only thing not subject to Christ is the Father Himself to Whom Christ will turn over all authority once He has achieved it. At that point, the Son will be subjected to the Father Who previously had subjected all things to Him so that the Father can be all in all, the final and ultimate authority and God.
29Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
This verse cannot and does not mean that believers should get baptized for the sake of trying to save dead loved ones. The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by faith and not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore baptism cannot save the living and certainly not the dead, who are judged on the same basis as the living. What Paul might have in view here is that there were faithful believers who are now dead but who during their lives influenced others to come to Christ. These who were saved were then baptized, and their testimony was that it was the lives of those before them that moved them to such a decision. Their baptism was thus for the sake of the faithful example of faithful believers who were now dead. Those who are dead have hope because they will be resurrected, and those who came to faith also have that same hope and expectation. If the dead had no hope, then there is no reason for the living to want to follow in their steps. This seems to be Paul’s message.
30Why are we also in danger every hour?
31I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
32If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.
33Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."
34Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God I speak this to your shame.
As an apostle, Paul risked suffering, persecution, imprisonment, and even death regularly. He was in near constant danger, and to him this was worth it because to live was Christ and to die was gain (Philippians 1:21). His purpose for living was to serve Christ, and he knew that when he died he would be resurrected and rewarded. Thus, it was worth it, even to suffer greatly daily and to die to self and the comforts of the world. Paul may have literally fought wild beasts, but it is reasonable to suppose he is referring to the fierce crowd that he faced at Ephesus where he was in danger of his life for the sake of the gospel (Acts 19:23-34). But to put himself through these daily predicaments for the sake of Christ was worth it because of his future inheritance and the promised resurrection. Thus, the prospect and promise of resurrection gives us hope as believers that it is worth it to live for Christ now because of the glory to come. Christ rose from the dead, and He will come and take us also. If this wasn’t the case, then, since our faith is in vain, we may as well just live a life of fleshly indulgence. If all life is is a short existence on earth and then nothing, pleasure could be justified as the extreme ideal. But, since this is not the case, believers must be careful to not be deceived by the false wisdom in the world, but rather they must follow Christ in obedience and not allow themselves to be corrupted by being unduly influenced by evil people, even immoral Christians (1 Corinthians 5:5). Paul wants the believing to be sober-minded, not carried away with various lusts and corrupting influences. He desires that they stop their pattern of sin for the sake of maintaining a holy testimony before the world. Some have no knowledge of God, and part of the evidence for God is to come through changed people who love (John 13:34-35) and do good works (Matthew 5:16). We have the resources in Christ to live holy lives and walk in victory (2 Peter 1:3), and Paul wants the Corinthians to do this.
35But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?"
36You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies;
37and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
38But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.
Paul seems to be anticipating a lack of belief and acceptance of his teaching on the resurrection. Thus, he goes on to explain that a new body is given once the old one dies. Just as a seed must die in order to sprout into new life, so too, God has sown in man bodies that will be immortalized in eternity, some to heaven and some to hell.
39All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.
40There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.
41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42So also is the resurrection of the dead It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;
43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
There are different varieties of flesh. There is the flesh of animals and there is the flesh of humans. Paul is concerned with human flesh in this passage, and his point is that there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The heavenly body has a greater glory than the earthly body because it will not be corrupted by sin. Just as the sun, moon, and stars have differing degrees of brightness or “glory,” the new resurrected body will surpass the earthy body in glory. It will be imperishable, whereas this body is perishable. It must and will die, but the good news is that a new body will be given to us by God which will be fit for heaven and no longer susceptible to pain. Our bodies will go from dishonor and weakness to honor, glory, strength, and power because of the imperishable nature of our new bodies. While on earth, we have natural bodies of destructible, fallible, sinful flesh. In the coming kingdom, we will have imperishable bodies which will endure forever and will be free of the defects of sin and the fallibilities of the flesh. Finally, we will be free from our vulnerability to sin.
45So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL " The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
48As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
49Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
Paul explains from Genesis 2:7 how God breathed life into Adam to make him a living soul. But when Adam sinned, he was corrupted along with his body. The spirit of man endures forever and is purified by Christ at salvation, but the body must be laid aside and changed into a new immortal body. The natural body comes first, and then the new spiritual body. Adam was from earth, and thus had an earthy body. Christ, the last Adam or second man (Romans 5:19, 21), was from heaven, and His resurrected body was thus heavenly. It could still eat (John 21:12) and be touched (John 20:27), for it still had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Yet it could come and go miraculously (Mark 16:12, 14), clearly indicating that it was far different and advanced than the earthy bodies we have as we walk this earth. While on the earth, we have earthy bodies, but when we get to heaven, we will have a new body.
50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
The earthy body made up of flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is sinful, fallible, and corrupted. It must die, but the new, imperishable, uncorrupted body will be given us to enter heaven.
51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 will be changed.
53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about 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.
Paul now informs the Corinthians about the rapture of the church which, up to this point, had not been revealed. Thus, it is a mystery which God gave to Paul to share to the church (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Revelation 3:10). The second coming of Christ is clearly presented throughout the Old Testament, so this mystery must refer to something different. Not every Christian will die, for some will see the return of the Lord for His own while they are still alive. But all of us will be changed because all of us need new bodies (Romans 8:11). There will be a trumpet sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised to meet Christ with their new bodies. Then, we who are alive and remain will be caught up with them to meet our Lord in the air with our new bodies as well. With so many dying in one day, it is no wonder Christ mentioned vultures would be around (Luke 17:30-37). This will be an instantaneous event, in the time it takes for an eye to twinkle, and those who are Christ’s will be with Him before He returns to bring wrath upon those who rejected Him during the tribulation period. Death will be totally defeated at the time we receive our new bodies at the rapture because the grave could not hold those who belong to Christ just as it could not hold Him. Because of sin, we all deserved to die. We had all broken the law of God, but through Christ, we can be victorious over sin and death because He has fulfilled the law on our behalf (Romans 8:1-4). Thanks be to Him for giving us new life and new bodies in the future. We are truly beneficiaries of divine grace.
58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
In light of Christ’s completed work on the cross and promised coming to rapture His church and give us new bodies, we must be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. If we remember what is true and the hope we have to come, it should motivate us to continually walk in obedience and live for the kingdom. Our focus should be eternally driven rather than motivated by temporal gain because of our inheritance to come. If we desire rewards in eternity, we need to do what we can to abound in the work of the Lord while we are yet alive. Our toil, labor, and service are never in vain because Christ will come again (Galatians 6:9). As believers, we have great hope because we have a great God Who will give us an inheritance with Him forever.