The Resurrection of Christ
1Dear friends, # 15:1 Or “brothers.” let me give you clearly the heart of the gospel that I’ve preached to you—the good news that you have heartily received and on which you stand. 2For it is through the revelation of the gospel that you are being saved, if you fasten your life firmly to the message I’ve taught you, unless you have believed in vain. 3For I have shared with you what I have received and what is of utmost importance:
The Messiah died for our sins,
fulfilling the prophecies of the Scriptures.
4He was buried in a tomb
and was raised from the dead after three days,
as foretold in the Scriptures. # 15:4 See Ps. 16:9–10; Luke 24:25–27, 44–46.
5Then he appeared to Peter the Rock # 15:5 Or “Cephas.” Paul includes the bodily appearance of Jesus to his followers as part of the gospel to be believed. What Paul states as the heart of the gospel is (1) Christ’s death, (2) the fulfillment of prophecies, (3) Christ’s burial, (4) Christ’s resurrection, and (5) Christ supernaturally appeared (manifested) to his followers. More than 515 followers of Jesus saw him after his resurrection, including those mentioned by Paul and Miriam (Mary) at the garden tomb.
and to the twelve apostles. # 15:5 Most scholars conclude that vv. 3–5 represent an early creed of the apostles on which our Christian faith is based.
6He also appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at the same time, most of whom are still alive as I write this, though a few have passed away. # 15:6 Or “Some have fallen asleep,” a Hebrew euphemism for death when referring to believers. 7Then he appeared to Jacob # 15:7 See also Gal. 1:19. Jacob was the half brother of our Lord Jesus. It is unfortunate that other translations of the Bible have substituted James for Jacob. Both Greek and Aramaic leave the Hebrew name as it is, Jacob. At first Jacob did not believe that his brother was the Messiah (John 7:5). Yet after he believed, he wrote what many have come to know as the book of James (or Jacob) and he became the leading elder of the church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). and to all the apostles. 8Last of all he appeared in front of me, like one born prematurely, ripped from the womb. # 15:8 Or “as one born at the wrong time.” The Greek word ektroma is used to describe a premature birth or miscarriage or abortion. This means Paul’s call to be an apostle was not normal; it was sudden and unexpected. Paul never claimed to be part of the Twelve, but an apostle chosen by the resurrected Lord Jesus. See also Eph. 4:11. 9Yes, I am the most insignificant of all the apostles, unworthy even to be called an apostle, because I hunted down believers and persecuted God’s church. 10But God’s amazing grace has made me who I am! # 15:10 Or “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” And his grace to me was not fruitless. In fact, I worked harder than all the rest, # 15:10 See 2 Cor. 11:16–28. yet not in my own strength but God’s, for his empowering grace is poured out upon me. 11So this is what we all have taught you, and whether it was through me or someone else, you have now believed the gospel.
The Importance of the Resurrection
12The message we preach is Christ, who has been raised from the dead. So how could any of you possibly say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13For if there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. # 15:13 Paul is showing us that the resurrection of Jesus cannot be separated from the coming resurrection of believers. To remove the truth of Christ’s resurrection is to destroy the message of the gospel of hope. 14And if Christ has not been raised, all of our preaching has been for nothing and your faith is useless. 15Moreover, if the dead are not raised, that would mean that we are false witnesses who are misrepresenting God. And that would mean that we have preached a lie, stating that God raised him from the dead, if in reality he didn’t.
16If the dead aren’t raised up, # 15:16 The Aramaic can be translated “if there is no life after death.” that would mean that Christ has not been raised up either. 17And if Christ is not alive, you are still lost in your sins and your faith is a fantasy. 18It would also mean that those believers in Christ who have passed away # 15:18 Or “those who have fallen asleep in Christ.” In the Hebraic mind-set, this is a euphemism for believers who have died. have simply perished. 19If the only benefit of our hope in Christ is limited to this life on earth, we deserve to be pitied more than all others! # 15:19 Why would we be the most pitiable people of all? Because we live a life that contains a measure of hardship and suffering and, at times, possible martyrdom, with no hope of an afterlife. The Aramaic places the emphasis on the apostles who preached the gospel: “If through these [false pretenses] we have preached life eternal through the Messiah, then we [apostles] are the most miserable of all humanity.”
20But the truth is, Christ is risen from the dead, as the firstfruit # 15:20 The first part of the harvest is called the firstfruits. Jesus’ resurrection is the firstfruit of those who will be raised in resurrection power, never to die again. of a great resurrection harvest of those who have died. 21For since death came through a man, Adam, # 15:21 See Rom. 5:12–21. it is fitting that the resurrection of the dead has also come through a man, Christ. 22Even as all who are in Adam die, so also all who are in Christ will be made alive. 23But each one in his proper order: Christ, the firstfruits, then those who belong to Christ in his presence. # 15:23 Or “appearance” (Gr. parousia).
24Then the final stage of completion comes, when he will bring to an end every other rulership, authority, and power, and he will hand over his kingdom to Father God. 25Until then he is destined to reign # 15:25 As translated from the Aramaic. as King until all hostility has been subdued and placed under his feet. # 15:25 See Ps. 110:1. 26And the last enemy to be subdued and eliminated is death itself. # 15:26 See Rev. 20:14.
27The Father has placed all things in subjection under the feet of Christ. # 15:27 Or “under his [the Messiah’s] feet.” See Ps. 8:6. Yet when it says, “all things,” it is understood that the Father does not include himself, for he is the one who placed all things in subjection to Christ. 28However, when everything is subdued and in submission to him, then the Son himself will be subject to the Father, who put all things under his feet. # 15:28 Christ and the Father are equally one. The work of the Son and the work of the Father may differ, but both will result in all evil being overcome on the earth and the kingdom being given to God. This is so that Father God will be everything in everyone!
Implications of the Resurrection
29If there is no resurrection, what do these people think they’re doing when they are baptized for the dead? If the dead aren’t raised, why be baptized for them? # 15:29 This is one of the most puzzling verses in all the New Testament. Bible scholars are divided over its meaning, with nearly two hundred interpretations offered. Paul is not condemning nor commending this practice, but merely using it as evidence that the hope of resurrection life after death for the believer is widely believed. Apparently, some believers were baptized in hopes of benefitting those who died before receiving baptism. This practice is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible nor in other writings of the earliest church fathers. 30And why would we be risking our lives every day?
31My brothers and sisters, I continually face death. # 15:31 Some translations render this “I die daily,” implying a dying to sin. Yet this is not in the context at all. Paul faces death day by day because of the danger of preaching the gospel in a hostile culture. He is not referring to dying to sin daily, for our death to sin took place on the cross. We died once and for all to sin. See Rom. 6:6–11; Gal. 2:20. This is as sure as my boasting of you # 15:31 Or “I affirm [swear] by the act of boasting in you.” Paul uses a Greek particle that is reserved for taking an oath or swearing to the truth of a statement. This statement by Paul may contain an ellipsis that could be supplied by saying, “I swear by the confidence I have of your salvation that I am confident also of a coming resurrection.” and our co-union together in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gives me confidence to share my experiences with you. 32Tell me, why did I fight “wild beasts” # 15:32 It does not appear that these wild beasts were animals. Rather, Paul is referring figuratively to beastly men and their savage opposition that Paul had to endure in Ephesus (Acts 19:28–31). Elsewhere in the Bible wicked men are called beasts (Titus 1:12; 2 Peter 2:12; Judah 10). The author of Ps. 73 described himself as a “brute beast” when he wandered away from God (Ps. 73:22). When naming all of the hardships that he endured, Paul did not mention fighting wild beasts (2 Cor. 11:23–28). in Ephesus if my hope is in this life only? What was the point of that? If the dead do not rise, then
Let’s party all night, for tomorrow we die! # 15:32 See Isa. 22:13; Luke 12:19.
33So stop fooling yourselves! Evil companions will corrupt good morals and character. # 15:33 This is likely a quotation from the Athenian poet Menander (Thras. 218). Paul is using this quote to encourage the believers to stay away from those who deny the resurrection. 34Come back to your right senses and awaken to what is right. Repent from your sinful ways. For some have no knowledge of God’s wonderful love. # 15:34 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “Some have not the knowledge of God.” You should be ashamed that you make me write this way to you! # 15:34 The motivation of Paul giving them the exhortation in this verse is the resurrection from the dead. We have a glorious hope of resurrection awaiting us, and for that reason, we live our lives with eternity in view.
Our Resurrection Body
35I can almost hear someone saying, “How can the dead come back to life? And what kind of body will they have when they are resurrected?” 36Foolish man! Don’t you know that what you sow in the ground doesn’t germinate unless it dies? 37And what you sow is not the body that will come into being, but the bare seed. And it’s hard to tell whether it’s wheat or some other seed. 38But when it dies, God gives it a new form, a body to fulfill his purpose, and he sees to it that each seed gets a new body of its own and becomes the plant he designed it to be. # 15:38 Paul is teaching us of the resurrected body every believer will one day possess. Our bodies will then be perfect, renewed, transformed, indestructible, and not limited to the laws of nature. We will never get sick and never experience death again. We will still have our personalities as individuals but without any hint of sin. See Phil. 3:21.
39All flesh is not identical. Animals have one flesh and human beings another. Birds have their distinct flesh and fish another. 40In the same way there are earthly bodies and heavenly bodies. There is a splendor of the celestial body and a different one for the earthly. 41There is the radiance of the sun and differing radiance for the moon and for the stars. Even the stars differ in their shining. 42And that’s how it will be with the resurrection of the dead.
43The body is “sown” in decay, but will be raised in immortality. It is “sown” in humiliation, but will be raised in glorification. # 15:43 The Aramaic can be translated “They are buried in agony, but raised in glory.” 44It is “sown” in weakness but will be raised in power. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45For it is written:
The first man, Adam, became a living soul. # 15:45 See Gen. 2:7.
The last Adam # 15:45 The last Adam is Jesus Christ. As the last Adam, he ended Adam’s race and began a new species of humans who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and carry the life of Christ within them. became the life-giving Spirit. 46However, the spiritual didn’t come first. The natural precedes the spiritual. 47The first man was from the dust of the earth; the second Man is Yahweh, # 15:47 As translated from the Aramaic. from the realm of heaven. # 15:47 In God’s eyes there are only two men, Adam and Christ. Every human being is a copy of one or the other. To be in Adam is to be lost and merely human, but to be in Christ is to be wrapped into the Anointed One as one who carries the life of Christ within. 48The first one, made from dust, has a race of people just like him, who are also made from dust. The One sent from heaven has a race of heavenly people who are just like him. 49Once we carried the likeness of the man of dust, but now let us # 15:49 The Aramaic word can be translated either “let us” or “we shall.” This may explain the variation among Greek manuscripts. carry the likeness of the man of heaven. # 15:49 That is, just as Jesus now has an earthly body transformed into a spiritual body, so we will have our bodies transformed into heavenly bodies.
50Now, I tell you this, my brothers and sisters, flesh and blood are not able to inherit God’s kingdom realm, and neither will that which is decaying be able to inherit what is incorruptible.
51Listen, and I will tell you a divine mystery: not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. 52It will happen in an instant # 15:52 Or “in an atom of time [Gr. en atomo].” —in the twinkling of his eye. For when the last trumpet is sounded, the dead will come back to life. We will be indestructible and we will be transformed. 53For we will discard our mortal “clothes” and slip into a body that is imperishable. What is mortal now will be exchanged for immortality. 54And when that which is mortal puts on immortality, and what now decays is exchanged for what will never decay, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says:
Death is swallowed up by a triumphant victory! # 15:54 See Isa. 25:8; Hos. 13:14.
55So death, tell me, where is your victory?
Tell me death, where is your sting? # 15:55 The Aramaic can be translated “your scorpion sting.” See Hos. 13:14.
56It is sin that gives death its sting and the law that gives sin its power. # 15:56 In reading vv. 55 and 56 together, we can see that the victory of v. 55 is the total victory over sin at the cross where we were co-crucified with Jesus Christ. The sting of v. 55 that is removed is the empowering of sin by the law. 57But we thank God # 15:57 The Aramaic can be translated “Accept God’s grace.” for giving us the victory as conquerors through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. # 15:57 What an amazing summary of what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us! Although Satan seemed to be victorious, the cross of Christ defeated him, defeated death, and defeated sin, making us into victorious conquerors who have hope beyond the grave. 58So now, beloved ones, # 15:58 Or “dear brothers and sisters.” stand firm, stable, and enduring. Live your lives with an unshakable confidence. We know that we prosper and excel in every season by serving the Lord, # 15:58 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek can be translated “Always have the Lord’s possessions in abundance.” because we are assured that our union with the Lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures. # 15:58 Or “Your labor in the Lord is not without effect.” This final clause is litotes, a double negative, which is best conveyed in a positive form.