Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died[a in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
It’s been almost three weeks now since I sat in the delivery room at St. Joe’s Women’s Hospital with Taylor holding our newborn son for the first time. As I took in that amazing moment that nothing could have prepared me for, I also had another aspect of the circle of life in mind. In the hours leading up to Sam’s birth, one of my aunts (who had just been in the hospital with heart issues) had collapsed at home and been rushed back to the hospital. Her situation was looking very grim as Sam entered the world, and I felt a vast array of emotions as I pondered the beauty and frailty of life. Thankfully, my aunt has recovered well over the past weeks, but that vivid experience is one I’ll never forget.
As Christians, we know, of course, that the standard cycle of life and death on this earth is not the end for us. Because Christ defeated death in his resurrection, we can have eternal life with him as well. Without the reality of the resurrection, our “faith has been in vain” and “we are of all people most to be pitied.” What many believers forget though, is that Jesus’ resurrected body was “the first fruits of those who have died” and not the end of true resurrection. As scholars and theologians like N.T. Wright remind us, the hope of the Gospel is not a disembodied heaven (floating on clouds like angels, as some have imagined) but a “new heavens and new earth” where the saints live eternal lives of worship in their own resurrected bodies! The reality of resurrection bodies for Jesus and his saints should inspire a hope and joy in us that death can never snuff out!