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The Resurrection of the Dead October 17, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:12-34.

Summary: Paul begins by appealing to the preceding passage: if it is accepted that Christ rose from the dead, then it cannot be denied that the dead can also be raised. Now if Christ did not rise from the dead, the following would be true:

  • the apostles’ preaching is empty and the Corinthians are trusting in a lie
  • the apostles are lying about His resurrection, as they have asserted that God raised Him from the dead (an impossible act if the dead cannot be raised)
  • the Corinthians’ faith is fruitless, as they are still condemned for their sins
  • believers who have died will suffer God’s eternal penalty for their sins
  • the Corinthians have based their present and future happiness on a resurrected Christ – making them more miserable than unbelievers in this life.

Yet Christ did rise from the dead, and His resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all believers. This stems from the fact that Adam’s sin guarantees physical death for all of his descendants. All men share Adam’s life – thus, all men are condemned for his sin; on the other hand, all believers share the life of Christ – thus, all believers will live on account of His righteousness. Now Christ is the first to be resurrected – securing the future resurrection of His people at His second coming. When the end of the world occurs, Christ will have subdued all hostile powers, enabling Him to surrender His authority over heaven and earth to God the Father. This act of surrender stems from the following facts:

  • Christ reigns over the universe until He has completed His great work of redemption
  • at Christ’s second coming, even death will be subdued
  • when God declares that Christ reigns over all things, all things – except God Himself – are then subject to Christ
  • at that time the Son of God incarnate will be subject to God, and God will reign supreme.

Now if the dead cannot be raised:

  • how will those who are baptized in their place explain their actions?
  • as for Paul, why does he expose himself to danger on a constant basis?

Indeed, Paul constantly exposes himself to mortal danger – yet he constantly rejoices over the fact that as a minister of Christ, he can count the Corinthians’ salvation as one of his successes. If Paul did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, he would not have fought angry men in Ephesus; instead, he would have embraced hedonism. Now the Corinthians should guard against embracing hedonism, as they can be led astray by it. Paul concludes by exhorting the Corinthians to be vigilant and avoid falling into sin, as some of them actually denied the truth of the resurrection of the dead – which should put the entire Corinthian church to shame.

Thoughts: In verse 24, we see that at the end of the world, Christ will hand “over the kingdom to God the Father.” Hodge offers some thoughts on this nebulous statement:

It must be remembered that the Scriptures speak of a threefold kingdom as belonging to Christ:
1. That which necessarily belongs to him as a divine person, extending over all creatures, and of which he can never divest himself.
2. That which belongs to him as the incarnate Son of God, extending over his own people.
3. That dominion to which he was exalted after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to him. This kingdom, which he rules as the God-man and which extends over all principalities and powers, he is to hand over when the work of redemption is accomplished.

I must admit that I still struggle with the notion of Christ being subservient to God the Father, especially after His resurrection – which is clearly the most awesome act in human history. We know from the Scriptures that only God the Father knows the time of Christ’s second coming; in that case, is Christ omniscient? If Christ is subservient to God the Father (in terms of the third kingdom as noted in Hodge’s quote), can He be omnipotent? As believers we are taught that both of these questions are to be answered in the affirmative, yet the accompanying explanations are often unsatisfying.

In verse 29, we see that some of the Corinthians were being baptized in place of dead believers. Hodge offers some insights on this interesting practice:

This supposes that the custom of vicarious baptism, as practiced later by the Marcionites and other groups, had already been introduced into Corinth. Among those heretical sects, if a catechumen died before baptism, someone was baptized in his name in order that he might be enrolled among Christians and receive the benefit of the ordinance.

Through a close reading of the New Testament, one can form a picture of the various heresies – and errors in terms of Christian practice – that plagued the early church. Now I was inspired to learn about the Marcionites; it appears that they practiced “reverse Judaism” in that they completely rejected the Old Testament. Apparently Marcion actually asserted that the God of the Old Testament was the source of all evil. It should be noted that heresies – and errors in terms of Christian practice – continue to beset the modern church, so we must not think of ourselves as being superior to early believers in that regard.

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