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1 Corinthians chapter 15

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What does 1 Corinthians chapter 15 mean?

Will Christians really be raised from the dead as Christ was after the crucifixion? Some of the Corinthians did not think so. A group of them either believed false teaching or blended Christian ideas with the Greco-Roman philosophies of their day. Perhaps they imagined life completely ends in death. More likely, they thought the human spirit continues into the afterlife without a body of any kind.

Paul writes this chapter to correct their thinking, teaching about what resurrection from the dead means for born-again believers.

He begins by reminding the Corinthian Christians of what they believed when he taught them the gospel of Jesus. They believed in both the death of Christ for their sins and the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead on the third day. In short, they believed the gospel. Since so many eyewitnesses to Christ's resurrection were still living, the Corinthians could choose to remain confident that Christ did indeed walk alive out of His tomb (1 Corinthians 15:1–11).

Having established that the Corinthians do believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Paul challenges their unbelief in the coming resurrection of all who trust in Christ. He begins to show why this is so significant by working out the logical implications of believing there is no resurrection from the dead. It starts with this: If nobody is resurrected from the dead, then Christ was not resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:12–13).

That would mean that Paul's preaching of the gospel was false and worthless, as was the faith of anyone foolish enough to believe it. In fact, Paul and the other apostles would be guilty of misrepresenting God the Father by claiming that He raised Christ from the dead. Even worse, if the gospel is false, all who have believed in Christ for their forgiveness of their sins by God remain unforgiven and destined for hell. In fact, those who have already died are already separated from God forever (1 Corinthians 15:14–18).

Truly Christians are to be pitied more than anyone if our hope in Christ ends in death. Especially given all the hardships endured for the sake of faith, a resurrection-less end would be a disaster (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Thankfully, Paul declares once more that Christ has been raised from the dead. Further, He was but the first of all who will follow Him. Just as death came to all people through one man, Adam, resurrection will come to all in Christ when He returns for all those who belong to Him. At that time, Christ will defeat every power on earth and the Father will cause everything to be under His authority. Once that is secure, Jesus will deliver the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:20–28).

After declaring that he would not continue to lead the dangerous and costly life of an apostle of Jesus if there was not resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:29–34), Paul begins to describe what the resurrected body will be like. Shallow thinking, or superstitions of that era, might have assumed "resurrection" meant a reanimated corpse. Or, they might have wondered how a rotting or corrupted body could exist in a heavenly realm. Instead, Paul described our current bodies as the seed that will die to make way for a far better body built to exist in eternity. That body will be as different from our current bodies as a man is from a star or the moon (1 Corinthians 15:35–41).

The natural-born physical bodies of believers are perishable, temporary, dishonorable, and weak. They will be raised imperishable, eternal, glorified, and powerful. These natural bodies, made as Adam's was from the stuff of earth (Genesis 2:7), will be transformed into bodies like the one Christ was raised with and made of the stuff of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42–49).

Though it is hard to comprehend, when Christ returns, both the dead in Christ and those who still live will be transformed in an instant into these new and glorified heavenly bodies that will never die. Death will be swallowed up in victory, never to hurt anyone again (1 Corinthians 15:50–58).

This concludes the main doctrinal content of Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth. What follows in chapter 16 is mostly tying up loose ends, addressing scattered issues, and giving his closing remarks.
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