By Dr. Lawrence Butler, The Bridge Church, Pembroke.
There were, of course, two major branches of early Christianity – the Jewish group and the Greek group. They came from very different backgrounds, with Greek thought and philosophy influencing much of the world, not just those of Greek origin. To the Jews death was a very bleak and dark subject. The Sadducees denied any life after death. In the Old Testament there seems to be little hope of a bright and happy eternity. Death is in Sheol, a place where the soul of man entered following life, and was a shadowy, gray land without light where the soul existed without God. To the Greek there was a fear of death. The immortality of the soul resulted in the dissolution of the body. There was no resurrection of the body. Into this controversy came Paul with his powerful teaching on the resurrection in I Corinthians 15.
The problem: The people at the church in Corinth needed a clear understanding of the resurrection through Jesus Christ. However, some did not believe in the resurrection: (1Co 15:12) “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” What is the purpose of preaching, ministering or baptizing if there is no life after death? (1Co 15:29) “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” The Response: Paul clearly enumerated the appearances of Jesus following His crucifixion and resurrection, proving that He was alive, was not just a spirit, and possessed a body. To those who questioned how the body could be given life, especially considering the length of time spent in death as well as the manner of death, Paul states that the new body will be a spiritual one. (1Co 15:44) “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” It is the work of God to perform the resurrection, therefore it will never be completely understood by natural man. The Application: Jesus promised to prepare a place for His people, and often spoke of that place. (Mat 25:34) “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” These are just two of the many references to heaven.
Listen now as Paul concludes his thoughts on the resurrection: (1Co 15:52) “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”