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From the comments I have received, readers are rekindling their interest in eschatology—the study of last things or last days. Some are even excited by the potential for change in their lives.

We have avoided contentious questions of when, how, and who; issues that frequently force the biblical text into rigid constructs of dates, arrangements, and personalities— while chopping off the offending bits that do not fit. There is a place for those questions when handled intelligently and humbly, but (for purposes of this series) we are treating them as secondary. 

Instead, we are focusing on eschatology to discern how glimpses of the future impact our present. I repeat scholar, J. Robertson McQuilkin:

A great deal of predictive prophecy of Scripture is yet unfulfilled. In the time before a prophecy comes to pass, it is designed to affect present thought and conduct, not to satisfy curiosity concerning the future.

We now turn to the great topic of resurrection. We will ponder 1 Corinthians 15. Please take a few moments to read through this rich chapter. 

The Resurrection of Christ (15:1-11)

This first section recalls the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Paul lays out the historical evidence of the witnesses. It is not my purpose to cover this ground again. That has been done ably by many others. See Gordon Carkner’s “Is There Rational Evidence for the Resurrection?” and N. T. Wright’s short clip, “The Resurrection of Jesus: Fact or Ancient Fiction?” (7:03).

The reality of resurrection was established and historically demonstrated in and by Jesus Christ. 

One thing is clear: the resurrection of Jesus Christ drives a spike through the denial of life after death and the fiction of reincarnation. (See: “When Death Comes Knocking”).

What are the implications of the resurrection of Jesus?

The consequences of Jesus’ resurrection (15:12-34)

Let’s break this extended argument into three manageable sections. As you read, take note of the interplay of the past, future, and present.

1.         If resurrection is not true (15:12-19)

As you reread this text, if the resurrection is false, then:

  • Christ has not been raised.
  • Our preaching and faith are useless.
  • We are false witnesses.
  • We are still in our sins.
  • Those who have died are lost.

If the resurrection is not true, these are present realities and (15:19):

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all [people].

2.         Since resurrection is true (15:20-28)

  • Christ is the firstfruits, meaning he is the first of a vast ‘crop’ of resurrected humanity.
  • “When he comes, those who belong to him” will be resurrected.
  • Death will be destroyed.
  • Everything will be subject to God, the Father, and his Son.

Since the resurrection is true, the future outcome will be ultimate divine victory and vindication.

3.         If resurrection is not true (15:29-34) 

  • What is the point of endangering ourselves for the Gospel?
  • What is gained if we suffer for Christ?
  • Why not “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”?

If the resurrection is not true, why not just “eat, drink, and be merry,” for there is no future? Paul alludes to Christians who have bought into this error, declaring they were being “misled” and “sinning.” 

The resurrection body (15:35-49)

The following questions skeptics might ask are (15:35):

How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come? 

First, Paul teaches about the resurrection body using metaphors from nature:  

  • death precedes new life/resurrection.
  • different kinds of creatures have different kinds of flesh.
  • different kinds of bodies have different degrees of splendor.

David Garland points out, 

Paul’s point is that the resurrection body is not a spruced-up version of the physical body. The two bodies are totally different. 

A “spiritual body” does not mean it is ethereal or non-physical. Biblically, “spiritual” means it is “defined altogether in terms of the Spirit of God (or Christ)” (Gordon Fee). G. E. Ladd adds: 

A spiritual body is therefore a real body, a tangible, objective body, but one which is completely and perfectly energized and animated and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God.

We should link this concept of a “spiritual body” with the future action of the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:21):

who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

When, how, and who of the resurrection (15:50-57)

As mentioned earlier, these questions have their place but are not our focus.

We are told that this resurrection is an instantaneous change that will occur in the future (“in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet”).

I encourage you to discover what else this text says about the when, how, and who. 

What is the present impact?

Here are three practical impacts for your life that flow from the future certainty of resurrection, which are drawn from 1 Corinthians 15:58. 

1.         Stand firm and immovable.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.

This encouragement links us with the opening statement (15:1-2):

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. 

Whatever confronts us, whether doubts, mockery, antagonism, the temptation to compromise or deny, or persecution, the future certainty of resurrection to all those who belong to Christ is assured. Because of that assurance, stand firm and immovable here and now.

2.         Serve energetically.

Always give yourselves fully [perissos] to the work of the Lord,

In 15:10, Paul testifies:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder [perisseuō] than all of them— yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

When you are resurrected, every energy you put into doing God’s work with God’s grace will be worth it. So, give it your all here and now.

3.         Strengthened by purpose. 

you know that your labor [kopos] in the Lord is not in vain [kenos].

In 15:14, we read (NASB):

and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain [kenos], your faith also is vain [kenos].

The Greek word kopos includes more than labor. It encompasses a burdensome activity and includes discomfort, distress, trouble, difficulty, and toil.

Because of the certainty of your future resurrection, nothing you do now, no burdensome activity, nothing that causes discomfort, distress, trouble, difficulty, or toil is too much because it is never useless, empty, or wasted. So, persevere and push forward with your all here and now.

My intention is that you will be excited, directed, and empowered by the fact that the resurrection of the body “is a hope for all the hours of life from the first to the last.” (Jurgen Moltmann)

A parting encouragement

There is so much more to discover of the present impact of eschatology.

As you read or listen to the Bible, I encourage you to watch for predictive prophecies, promised events, or last times. As you encounter them, look for the intended ‘present’ impact on the attitudes or behavior of the audience, which might include you.

What do you have to add? Please let me know by using this link


BACK TO Your Motivation to Gain a Crown

Image credit: From a post by the PostBarthian, which credits the drawing of the unborn child to Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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