Summary: In this lesson we learn that because Christ has been raised from the dead, Christians must be raised from the dead because of their relationship to Christ.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of what happens to us when we die. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “Christ’s Resurrection Assures Our Resurrection.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 15:20-28:
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)
Physicist and bestselling author Stephen Hawking may believe in extraterrestrial intelligence and the theoretical possibility of time travel, but for him, the notion of life after death is a fiction too fanciful to accept.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Hawking referred to heaven as a “fairy story” and spoke in support of a humanist ethic that emphasizes making the most of our time on Earth rather than the promise of life after death. Hawking said:
I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first . . .. I regard the brain as a computer that will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
There are many people who are like Stephen Hawking. They do not believe that there is life after death.
However, the apostle Paul believed that there is life after death, and it is all based on Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church to address a number of challenges facing the Christians. They had first written to Paul, and he wrote this letter in response to theirs. Paul had also heard about challenges, and he addressed those too.
The issue of what happens to Christians when they die is what Paul addressed in chapter 15. Earlier in the chapter (15:1-11) Paul set down the evidence for Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Then, Paul showed that because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, there can be a resurrection from the dead for Christians (15:12-19). Now, in the section we are going to study today, Paul showed that because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, there must be a resurrection from the dead for Christians (15:20-28).
So, in our lesson today we learn that because Christ has been raised from the dead, Christians must be raised from the dead because of their relationship to Christ.
Let’s learn about this as follows:
1. The Fact of Christ’s Resurrection (15:20)
2. The Causal Relationship Between Christ’s Resurrection and Our Resurrection (15:21-22)
3. The Time Relationship Between Christ’s Resurrection and Our Resurrection (15:23-28)
I. The Fact of Christ’s Resurrection (15:20)
First, let’s look at the fact of Christ’s resurrection.
Paul said in verse 20: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Paul insisted that in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. Paul had already given the insuperable evidence for Christ’s resurrection in verses 1-11. Only a blind person could not see the evidence for Christ’s resurrection.
But Christ’s resurrection was more than just one person’s conquering death. The very purpose of Christ’s resurrection was the fact that he was the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Paul drew an analogy between Christ’s resurrection and the Old Testament ritual of firstfruits. When the Israelites harvested their crops they were to bring a representative sample, called the firstfruits, to the priests as an offering to the Lord. Leviticus 23:10 says, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest . . ..” The firstfruits indicated that this was the first portion of the entire harvest.