Monday, July 2, 2018

Faithful in the Face of Death

"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised" (1 Corinthians 15:13).

Death is the last enemy (v. 26). It is not our friend. It is hard, frightening, and absurd. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus and shrank from death on the Mount of Olives. Because death is so fearful, it is difficult to retain faith in the face of it, but thankfully the Holy Spirit enables us to.

Philosophers such as Plato and Immanuel Kant have wrestled with the problem of death, but they cannot give us any assurance of a life to come. It is only in the Gospel that we find the facts that enable us to die in faith. Primary among those facts is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His resurrection in a glorious body proves that there is a new life in glory for believers.

Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrected Christ appeared “to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (vv. 5–8).

Notice that Paul does not say that the apostles drew a deduction from the empty tomb. It is not as if they went to the tomb, found it vacant, and decided that Christ had come back from the dead. No, they were personal eyewitnesses of Jesus Himself in His glorified body.

Paul proves the resurrection of the body throughout chapter 15. Death is an enemy Paul has fought more than once. Confident in his own resurrection, he ends this way: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (vv. 52–53). Because Christ has been raised, we can face death in faith.

Death is the punishment for sin because death destroys sin. We must accept death, unpleasant though it is. The Bible assures us, however, of a life beyond death. If we die in faith, death holds no fear; if we die in our sins, great fear is appropriate. Reaffirm your standing today in the light of God’s promises.