1 Corinthians 15: 1-19; 42 – 58.
The resurrection became an issue within the Corinthian church, and Paul wrote part of this letter to explain the reality of Christ’s resurrection and how it impacted them. The resurrection turned the early churches’ Jewish leaning perspective upside-down. Jews generally believed that bodily resurrection was only earmarked for God’s final judgment; hence Jesus cannot be the Messiah without the last judgment taking place immediately. This explained why His followers were not expecting it despite His constant reference to it during His last days with them (Matt 16:21). It totally flipped their belief system! This historical event compelled them to change their worldview, given the numbers that had seen, spoken, eaten with, and touched their resurrected Lord (vv.4-8; John 20:19-21:14). And as they reviewed their short history with Jesus, I am sure their whole regard for their Lord began to change, and what He had said and promised took on a more solid foundation. The resurrection imbued them with a refreshing and assuring new hope in God concerning their future security.
The resurrection also bore its own fruits that were both present and future oriented. Death gains its power through sin. Paul explicated that it was sin that was poisonous (the Greek word denoted the poison in a scorpion’s sting; vv.55-56; cf. Rom 7), and the law, not only was it unable to arrest sin, it goads it on, and possessed the power to execute. Christ’s resurrection ensured a future resurrection for all believers, where they would possess imperishable and immortal bodies instantaneously (viz., death-less bodies), not unlike His own resurrected body. Paul’s paradox infers that death can no longer ‘kill’ the believer, even though the last judgment would be its determinant event. And this was because God had already given us the victory over death by transforming believers into ‘new creations’ (v.57; 2 Cor 5:17); becoming ‘real persons’ as God had meant them to be. These renewed men bore testimony to both an earthy-cum-heavenly image – an extraordinary Christlikeness, which is God’s redemptive conception of sinless man. And through Him the whole of creation would also one day be physically delivered (Rom 8:20-21). Paul’s exhortation denoted that it is this resurrection hope that would keep believers in every place and time from despair, and help them to stay faithful in Christian service by ensuring that their moorings are firmly anchored in Christ, they continue to build up the church, and in time, their present struggles in ministry will be fully rewarded (v.58).
An individual’s present journey is dependent on his future-orientation, be it consciously or otherwise. His life’s involvement and trajectory in achieving his goals belie his attitude and spirituality. As a believer, his hopes, if they were significantly positioned, would determine how he thought, lived his life and related to others. Several of Jesus’ teachings and parables addressed this perspective (Matt 6:19-21; 25:14-30; Mark 12:41-44). The greatest proof that Jesus’ work had been completed was His resurrection, for it entrenched this hope in God’s salvific purpose for man, and made the difference for Christians. The church’s history is also replete with examples of believers’ compassion to the sick despite the highly infectious nature of some diseases, praying for their persecutors as beasts tore into them, and being ethnically inclusive in a continually fragmented world. They stood apart simply because their hope was in a living God, who had their future firmly in hand.