What will happen after we die? That is a question that people struggle with. Sadly, it is also a question Christians often struggle with. Despite the assurances we have in scripture, many are still anxious about what happens when we die and what will happen after death. If only someone would come back and tell us what it is like, we often hear.
Yet someone did! He left us the information that we need to know about what happens when we die.
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 NIV)
This is the very question that Paul was dealing with when he wrote to the Christians in Corinth. How can we be sure that there is a resurrection, that there is life after death? I’ve always thrilled at the logical way he addressed this.
What if ‘resurrection from the dead’ doesn’t exist? If there is no resurrection of the dead then that means Jesus did not come back to life either! There are serious implications for us if he did not resurrect.
If Jesus did not come back from the dead then why are we listening to and following him? Notice what Paul said: if Jesus did not raise from the dead, then what we do as Christians is useless! In fact, having faith in Jesus would also be useless! Sometimes we don’t realise that our hope of eternal life is based on Jesus conquering death.
If Jesus did not come back from the dead, then what we say about Jesus and the hope he provides is a lie. Why? Because we are telling others that he did come back to life after being dead. We tell them that God raised him from the dead, which would not be true if he didn’t. If there is no resurrection of the dead then Jesus was not raised either!
But there is more to it than that. If Jesus was not raised from the dead not only is our faith in him worthless but we are still in our sins. Forgiveness is based on Jesus dying for our sins and then conquering death. If he didn’t conquer death then his death was the same as anyone executed by the Romans. It really is that serious!
If our faith is only in a teacher who lived two thousand years ago and that by following his teachings we can have a better life, then “we are of all people most to pitied”. Why? Because all we are doing is following a way to live but with no purpose. This also means that everyone who has died is gone – there is no hope without a resurrected Messiah.
We can thank God that none of this is true!
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
Because he was raised from the dead we have forgiveness of our sins and the hope of eternal life with him. He was the ‘firstfruits’ – this is an agricultural term that indicated this was the beginning of the harvest: there is more to come. Because of Jesus’ resurrection we have hope.
When we remember Jesus each Sunday, think not only of his death for our sins but remember his resurrection. It is the resurrection that confirms who Jesus is (Romans 1:3-4).
Photo by Jon Galloway: Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.
Readings for next week: 1 Corinthians 10-15