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Job 14:14 asks: "If a man die, shall he live again?" This question has challenged people throughout history. All kinds of answers have been proposed.
First-century Sadducees claimed man is wholly material, having no immortal spirit, so at death he simply ceases to exist. Modern materialists and Humanists likewise say we evolved by natural forces from animals, so like the animals, we simply cease to exist at death.
Hinduism, other Oriental religions, and the New Age Movement, teach that, after death, we simply are reborn in a different form (higher or lower, depending on how we lived).
They claim the wicked simply perish, but the righteous will be raised to an eternal reward.
What about resurrection, judgment, eternal rewards, heaven and hell, immortality? Does the Bible teach reincarnation?
We will study mainly 1 Corinthians 15, tying in other passages. This passage addresses people who, like the Sadducees, denied that people will be raised from the dead. Paul refutes that belief by discussing its consequences. Notice:
1 Corinthians 15:12,13 - If there is no such thing as life after death, then Jesus could not have been raised.
This would mean resurrection is impossible. It follows that Jesus could not have been raised. But if Jesus has been raised - if life after death occurred in His case - then those who deny the possibility of life after death must be wrong.
Jesus' resurrection and our resurrection go hand-in-hand. This is why ancient Sadducees and modern materialists get so upset when Jesus' resurrection is preached.
This is a simple matter of history. It is not a matter of personal opinion or philosophy. Either it is a historical fact that He was raised or He was not. There can be no middle ground. Which view is correct?
How is the validity of a historical fact confirmed? By the testimony of witnesses (John 8:17; Matt. 18:16).
Paul had just provided a whole list of eyewitnesses who had seen Jesus alive after He died (v1-8). Most witnesses were still alive and could be questioned.
Hence, Jesus' resurrection is a confirmed fact of history. To deny the possibility of life after death is now foolish. Not only CAN it occur, it HAS occurred! To deny it is to simply deny historical fact.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23.
The first fruit to ripen in an orchard, garden, etc. gives assurance that more will come. So Jesus' resurrection is not a one-time unrepeatable event. He assures us we will all be raised at His second coming.
1 Corinthians 6:14 - God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
2 Corinthians 4:14 - He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus.
Jesus' resurrection not only proves resurrection is POSSIBLE. It also proves God spoke through Him.
Romans 1:4 - He was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. The purpose of miracles was to confirm the message of God's spokesmen. [Mark 16:20; John 5:36; 20:30,31; Acts 2:22; 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:11,12; Hebrews 2:3,4]
Jesus claimed He spoke from God and prophesied He would be raised from the dead. When this came true, it proved He did speak from God, as He had claimed. Now when He says WE TOO will be raised, we must believe this is God's word.
Jesus' resurrection is one of the best-attested events of ancient history. It is one of the surest proofs that the gospel message is true. One thing it proves is that WE too will be raised from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:13-15 - If there is no resurrection, the Bible writers are not trustworthy.
The Bible contains many testimonies that Jesus was raised, including here in 1 Corinthians 15. Consider some that testify that WE will be raised.
John 6:40,44,45 - Jesus will raise up at the last day those who hear His gospel and believe in Him.
Acts 24:15 - Paul preached that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
Luke 20:27-39 - Sadducees denied resurrection because, like modern materialists, they denied the existence of spirits (Acts 23:8). Jesus responded by quoted God's statement, "I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." God said this after these men had died. This proves that "all live to God" - even dead people. Though men may die physically, to God they still live. As with the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), their spirits continue in a conscious state.
This disproves the basis on which Sadducees and materialists deny resurrection - that man has no spirit that exists after death. This disproves the grounds for objecting to resurrection and shows that resurrection is reasonable.
Since Jesus is a prophet (see above), and since He affirmed resurrection, it must be true.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul affirmed the following consequences of denying Jesus' resurrection, but the same applies if we deny man's resurrection:
The Bible writers taught that Jesus was raised and so will we be. If we deny this, how can we believe anything the Bible says? We could never use it to prove anything, because we could never know when it was right or wrong.
Some want to claim to believe the Bible while denying resurrection. How then do you know what parts are right and what are wrong? Why bother to believe any of it?
Faith comes by hearing God's word (Rom. 10:17). We believe Jesus is God's Son because of the eyewitness testimony in the Scriptures, including the testimony about His resurrection (John 20:30,31).
But if we admit there is error in the evidence on which our faith is based, how can we know our faith is valid? Denying the resurrection removes all assurance for our faith.
The gospel is the power of God to save sinners (Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:15,16). Only Christ can save man from sin (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).
But to deny the resurrection is to deny the basis for our faith in the gospel (see above). This removes all assurance of our salvation. If we are saved only by the gospel of Christ, but if we deny the basis for believing in the gospel, how can we know we are saved?
Furthermore, Jesus' resurrection is essential to our salvation (Rom. 4:25; 5:10; 6:3-5ff; 1 Peter 3:21). If He was not raised, then we could not possibly be saved.
There are many reasons to believe the Bible is from God, including fulfilled prophecy and the miracles done by God through Bible writers. If we accept this evidence, then we must accept what the Bible says about the resurrection. But if we deny the resurrection, then we are denying the accuracy of the Bible, which leaves us with no hope of salvation.
Hebrews 9:27 - It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. The primary rewards or punishments for our lives do not come during this life but afterward. Note that after death comes, not another life (reincarnation), but rather judgment.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Matthew 25:31-46 - Everyone will be gathered before Jesus and receive eternal life or eternal punishment.
Because God is a gracious, He offers eternal life to those who obediently receive Jesus' salvation. But because He is just, He must punish those who do not repent and live for Him.
1 Corinthians 15
V18,19 - Without resurrection, the dead in Christ have perished. If we hope for reward only in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.
v32 - Why suffer and sacrifice for Jesus if there is no reward after death? Why face persecution? We may as well eat, drink, and enjoy life because only death ultimately faces us. This is exactly what Humanists believe.
The Christian life is the best life, but it requires much sacrifice and opposition. If there is no reward after death, what is there to motivate people to make the sacrifices God requires?
V58 - The fact we will be raised is what assures us our labor for the Lord is not vain. If there is no resurrection, why steadfastly abound in the Lord's work? If there is a resurrection, then even death cannot prevent our reward.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - Some were concerned that the dead in Christ might lose their reward. But as surely as Jesus arose, he will come again and bring the dead with Him (v14). He will raise the dead so they, along with those still living, can forever be with the Lord (v16,17). [Cf. Luke 14:14]
If there is no reward after death, then there is no real grace. Many good people suffer in this life just as much or more than evil people. Grace demands a resurrection so the righteous may be rewarded.
Many wicked people prosper in this life far above righteous people. Many criminals and sinners are neither caught nor punished. If there is no resurrection and punishment after death, there is no real justice.
John 5:28-29 - But the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
Acts 24:15 - Paul preached that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. [Cf. 17:30,31]
If there is no resurrection, then God is neither gracious nor just. His word states that the inequities of this life will be corrected AFTER this life. If you believe God is just and righteous, you must believe in life after death. To deny this is to deny the very character of God.
Genesis 3:16,19 - Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin. Death was a punishment for sin, and that death passes to all people. All are subject to death. Death exists because Satan was successful in getting men to sin. So long as death has no remedy, man continues to be burdened by Satan's victory.
Hebrews 2:14,15 - Jesus came to bring to nothing the one who has power over death (the devil), so He could deliver man from bondage and the fear of death.
Casting out demons showed Jesus' power over demons (Luke 11;14-22).
Disease, like death, is a result of sin being in the world; hence it is a consequence of Satan's victory. When Jesus freed people from disease, He was also showing His superior power over Satan (Luke 13:10-16).
Specifically, when Jesus raised people from the dead, He showed His superior power over Satan (John 11:23-44; 12:1,9-22; Matt. 9:18-26; 10:8; 11:5; 27:52; Luke 7:11-17; John 5:21).
Had Jesus remained dead, the ultimate victory would have belonged to Satan. When Jesus arose, He proved that His power is greater (cf. Rom. 8:34).
1 Corinthians 15:24-26 - Jesus will reign till He defeats the last enemy, which is death. Death entered because Satan seduced Adam to sin (v21,22). Christ's ultimate victory will occur when He defeats this last remaining enemy.
V53,54 - At the resurrection, the spirit reunites with the body, then we are changed so we can inherit the kingdom of heaven. So death is swallowed up in victory.
If there is no resurrection, Satan is the ultimate victor and God has been defeated. The ultimate victory of God requires a resurrection.
How much do we think about the fact that someday we really will die, someday we really will be raised and stand before Jesus in judgment and enter our eternal rewards. How seriously do we take this?
If Jesus really arose from the dead, if the Bible is really true, if God is really just and merciful, and if God will ultimately defeat Satan, then there will be a resurrection. If we really believe this, would we live as we do, or would we be more diligent servants of God?
Are you ready for death, resurrection, and the judgment?
Copyright 1998, David E. Pratte; gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.