Victory over Death

Members of the Corinthian congregation denied the future resurrection of the righteous. Paul responded by stressing the necessity for resurrection. He also appealed to Christ’s past Death and Resurrection as the precedent of our resurrection. We will be raised bodily when he “arrives… at the last trumpet.” His appearance will mean nothing less than the end of death and our receipt of immorality. Thus, the Apostle declared, “O Death! Where is your sting?

Paul revealed something new in his defense of the resurrection. Believers still alive on the Last Day will be transformed and receive immortal bodies animated by the Spirit. In doing so, he described several events that will precede the “arrival” of Jesus.

Tombstone sunny day - Photo by Elimende Inagella on Unsplash
[Photo by Elimende Inagella on Unsplash]

He began with the rhetorical question - “
If Christ is proclaimed that he has been raised from among the dead, how say some of you there is no resurrection of the dead?” – (1 Corinthians 15:12).

The heart of his argument was the absolute necessity for bodily resurrection. All of Paul’s arguments were designed to support this proposition, and its basis and confirmation are the past Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

If there is no future resurrection, “not even Christ has been raised.” If that is the case, then the Gospel is null and void. Furthermore, his past resurrection is pivotal to the salvation hope proclaimed by the Church.

All will be made alive, but each in his own rank” or “order.” Jesus was the “first fruits” - He rose first - The rest will follow “at his arrival.” That will constitute “the END when he delivers up the Kingdom to God and will void all rule, authority, and power.”

Paul elsewhere labels the Gift of the Spirit the “first fruits” of the believer’s resurrection, the “redemption of our body.” The Spirit is intimately involved with the resurrection of the body and the New Creation - (Romans 8:23).

  • But if the Spirit of him that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you” - (Romans 8:11).

Thus, the raising of the righteous dead began with Jesus, the “firstborn of the dead.” He was the first of the many who would follow “in their rank” when he arrived - (1 Corinthians 15:23).

HIS RETURN


Paul uses the Greek noun ‘Parousia’ for the “coming” or “arrival” of Jesus. Similarly, he linked the resurrection of dead believers to the “arrival” of Jesus from Heaven in his first letter to the Thessalonian assembly - (1 Thessalonians 4:12-15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8).

His ‘Parousia’ will mean “the end” of the present age, the subjugation of all his enemies, and the termination of death, which is the “Last Enemy” that must be overthrown. Only then will he deliver the "Kingdom” to his God and Father, after which, God will be “all in all” - (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

Paul’s purpose was not to present a detailed list of final events and timetables. He introduced specific subjects because they supported his argument for the resurrection of the righteous dead. The necessity of resurrection was the central issue.

Jesus was raised as the “first fruits” of those who “sleep.” Logically, dead believers will participate in the same kind of resurrection that he did, though only at the appointed time. In the conclusion of his argument, Paul returns to the subjects of the resurrection and the end of death:

  • (1 Corinthians 15:51-58) - “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… During the last trumpet, for it shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

The cessation of death will coincide with the “arrival” of Jesus. That day will mark the final overthrow of all God’s enemies and the consummation of His rule. After that, no more enemies will remain – death will be no more.

The bodily resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of corpses. Our mortal bodies will be transformed into another kind of body equipped for life in the Spirit and the New Creation. It will not be subject to disease, decay, or death. The evidence for this is the glorified body of Jesus. We, likewise, will receive glorified bodies. Our life in the coming age will be an embodied existence, not a disembodied state - (1 Corinthians 15:35-50).

  • So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruptible. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a sensual body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a sensual body, there is also a spiritual body” – (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

Alpine Flowers - Photo by Rodrigo Curi on Unsplash
[Photo by Rodrigo Curi on Unsplash]

The “
mystery” that is revealed in the passage is that believers who remain alive when Jesus arrives will be physically transformed. They will not experience death. Instead, they will receive immortal bodies dominated by the Spirit, “spiritual bodies.”

Because of this glorious hope, Paul concluded his discussion by exclaiming, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Our hope of salvation rests on belief in this coming resurrection and life in the New Creation. Moreover, this hope has been secured by the past Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and his present existence in a glorified body as the “Life-Giving Spirit.”



RELATED POSTS:
  • Resurrection Power - (Paul expressed his goal of going on to perfection to the Philippians, a process that will culminate in resurrection when Jesus arrives)
  • Abolishing Death - (Paul reminded Timothy of the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death since false teachers were denying the future resurrection of believers)
  • The Foundation - (Paul reminded Timothy of the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death since false teachers were denying the future resurrection of believers)

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