Eternal Life After Resurrection
The importance of Resurrection was/is so critical to the church and to the understanding of eternal life. Paul felt the utmost need for the church to understand the truth concerning the resurrection that we have seen him argue on three points.
- The hope of resurrection lies at the heart of the gospel, which the church believed by Paul’s testimony.
- Christ Himself was raised, proving the reality of resurrection.
- And Christ’s very purpose in leaving Heaven to be born as a man was to conquer death by making a way for men to receive new, eternal bodies through resurrection.
While these arguments provide substantial evidence that resurrection is indeed a reality, Paul uses two examples to show that the practices of the Corinthian Church contradicted what they were claiming as their beliefs opposing resurrection. Paul hasn’t finished with his case for the resurrection. His first example is found in verse 29:
1 Corinthians 15:29 (NKJV)
Effects of Denying the Resurrection
29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?
Paul begins with the word otherwise, meaning “If resurrection isn’t true, then…” and if you say the resurrection is not true, why then are you baptizing for the dead? This phrase could be the subject of some confusion. The Mormon religion has misunderstood this phrase to the point of creating a strange and false doctrine. Joseph Smith and his followers first began the practice of researching family genealogies to discover the names of family members who died without believing in the Mormon religion. And through secret rituals, the Mormons perform a so-called ‘baptism’ on behalf of these dead relatives. And in their wrong thinking they were giving them eligibility to the dead to enter and be a part of the Mormon version of heaven. Through one verse the Mormon Church came to practice this bizarre and unbiblical ritual, thinking that Paul in verse 29 was advocating for the baptisms for the dead. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to see the errors in the Mormon’s false teaching and practice. You can see the heresy of this.
We know the Bible teaches after death comes judgment and that is without the possibility of any second chances. Hebrews says:
Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV)
27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
God has appointed time that men will die once and after our physical death eternal judgment will follow. There is no alternative.
Secondly, we know every man or woman will be judged according to
their own faith and decisions.
Ezekiel 18:20-22 (NKJV)
20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
21 “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.
At judgment we will stand or fall on what is supported of our own righteousness. Which is the righteousness we received by faith in Christ alone. Thus, no one can be saved by the decisions of another person. We cannot save one another either before or after I/we die. And a parent is unable to save an infant by baptizing them. Plus the reality that a child can save a dead parent by some fabricated Mormon ritual is impossible.
Therefore if Paul is not talking about baptizing dead people in verse 29, then what is he talking about? Also, how does it reinforce the truth of resurrection? Let’s take a closer look at the text. We see Paul is asking what will those do who are baptized for the dead? Here, Paul is actually speaking of water baptism that every believer under goes following their profession of faith. Water baptism was something that Christ told the church we are to do and through it we communicate a picture concerning the death and resurrection. In the process, when we enter the water there is someone who submerges our body, as such we are testifying to our belief that our sinful nature was/is put to death with Christ through our faith in Him. Additionally, when that person lifts us out of the water, we are testifying to our hope that one day Christ will return and will raise our dead bodies from the grave to eternal life. In fact, baptism always requires a second person to conduct the ritual to illustrate that we cannot save ourselves. We are depended on Christ as we lay in our grave, in our place relying on the Spirit to raise us into a new body for eternal life.
In this sense Paul is asking, why is this church practicing baptism for the dead if they don’t believe in resurrection? And to make a bit more sense of Paul’s question we find it better said when we add something that is implied in verse 29 but not stated in Paul’s wording.
1 Corinthians 15:29
Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the resurrection of the
dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
This is what Paul is asking those who are against resurrection. Why does the church continue to practice water baptism if they don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead? Meaning, if they don’t believe in resurrection, then why do they perform a
water baptism that illustrates a belief in resurrection?
Paul’s second example of their behavior contradicting their beliefs is verses 30-32
1 Corinthians 15:30-32 (NKJV)
30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
Now we see Paul ask why are he and the other apostles placing themselves in harm’s way for the sake of the Gospel if resurrection isn’t true? Paul says the apostles remained in danger every hour of their lives. Even hunted down, imprisoned, beaten, and starved constantly. They could never be at ease and every where they went they were always at risks. By the founding of the church in Corinth and because of Paul’s work there, he received even more persecution. He is dying daily from the persecution by boasting about the church in Corinth. And Paul asks the church why would he choose to live a life with such risks if his body in this life was all there was. With no hope of a new eternal body. For him to work in this manner would mean he was working for his own selfish motives because most certainly, there would be no spiritual reason to persevere as much as he was doing. In verse 32, Paul says, that if working for the Gospel only produced rewards in this lifetime, then why would he have risked his neck? The phrase “wild beasts” doesn’t mean animals. It’s a euphemistic reference to the enemies of the Gospel in Ephesus, where Paul was as he wrote this letter. So why take these risks if resurrection is a lie? Instead, it would have been far more sensible to adopt Solomon’s perspective that we squeeze every last ounce of physical enjoyment out of our earthly lives for as long as we can. Because when we die it all comes to an end anyway. But that’s not what Paul and the other apostles did. Instead, they fought hard against the Gospel’s enemies in Ephesus and elsewhere to ensure they pleased the Lord and served Him well. And they took risks with their earthly lives because they understood that the abundant life Christ promises is the life that follows resurrection, eternal life, not the one that precedes it, death. It’s the only explanation for why Paul would place himself in harm’s way time and time again for the Gospel.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”