Easter is good news to the World. It remembers that our Lord Jesus Christ died on Good Friday and rose on Sunday. The Resurrection of Jesus means that no matter what happens to us in life, we have an undying hope that never fails.
It is a simple truth, sometimes assumed, that changes everything. You can fail in everything and still have everything. You can die and gain a crown of immortality. You can sin in the flesh, yet know for certain that an incorruptible body awaits you.
Sometimes, when a parent helps a child do something hard, they support them. You want your kid to walk across a bridge at a play park. You tell them to do it. They are afraid. But they know that you are near, and you know that you can catch them if they fall.
The resurrection is like that. It’s good news because if Christ rose from the dead, nothing else really can threaten us in the final sense. Death has been defeated. The worst thing that can happen turns out to be the best thing that can happen to a Christian.
1 Corinthians 15 might be one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament as Paul meditates on the meaning of the resurrection. For him, the Gospel turns around two points: the death and resurrection of Jesus, and together these two realities sum up the Gospel, the good news.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives at least six reasons why the resurrection is good news for the Corinthians and so for us, In this article, I explain why the resurrection is Good News so that you may know clearly why we hope in the resurrection.
First, the Resurrection is good news because it Completes the Bible’s story (1 Cor 15:1–11)
In the first verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul claims two things. First, the death and resurrection of Jesus summarize the Gospel that Paul handed down to the Corinthians; and second, that Christ died and rose according to the Scriptures.
Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared …”
Note that Christ’s death is proved by his being buried; and Christ’s resurrection is proved by his appearing. And Jesus appeared to Cephas (v. 5), the twelve apostles (v. 5), and then more than 500 people at once (v. 6) before he appeared to Paul (v. 8).
But the point here is that Christ died and rose in accordance with Scripture. The Bible began its story at creation. But as time went on, us humans rebelled against God: so the world fell into sin and was exiled from the tree of life. Death became the reality for all.
When that happened, God promised to one day send a Redeemer, one who would reverse our fortunes. Our rebellion would be forgiven, our mortal life would be made immortal, and corruptible bodies would made incorrupt.
Christ’s death and resurrection end that story, give us its proper conclusion.
Second, the Resurrection is good news because without it “our faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:12–19)
Paul affirms that Christians proclaim Christ rose from the dead and then asks, “how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor 15:12). But, reasons Paul, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ can’t be risen either (1 Cor 15:13). And if that’s true, then Christian preaching and faith is vain (1 Cor 15:14).
Also, Paul claims that if Christ and the dead are not raised, then that would make Christian preachers liars (1 Cor 15:15–16). If the dead are not raised, neither is Christ (1 Cor 15:16).
Next, Paul also reasons that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). If that’s the case, then everyone who has died in Christ has merely died and perished (1 Cor 15:18).
Last, Paul concludes that if we do not hope in the resurrection, then we have wasted our life. We lived for the future, but there is no future for us. Paul says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19). They key word here is “only.”
What he means is: if Christ gives us hope in this life alone, but not in the next life, what’s the point? We have dedicated our whole life to Christ but it just ends. Death and corruption still reign over us. We die in our sin. And that’s it. We are to be pitied for this reason and in light of the other things he has said (so Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, 1221–2).
But Christ rose from the dead. And this is good news: death, corruption, and sin die at the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
Third, the Resurrection is good news Because Christ’s Resurrection Previews our Resurrection and God’s Universal Kingdom (1 Cor 15:20–34)
These next verses here are profound. I can only scratch the surface. Paul calls Christ the first fruits of a full harvest. He is the first plant in a field harvested. The rest come next.
The reason why is that Christ is like Adam. As Adam started the whole human race by being the first human, so Christ rebirths the whole human race as the Firstborn from the Dead (Col 1:18), the first of a new resurrection life, a new creation.
As Paul says: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:21–23).
This connection between Adam and Christ ties Christ’s work into creation and the new creation. Hence, Paul then ties together Christ’s work of destroying death (1 Cor 15:26) and subjugating all things under his feet (1 Cor 15:24–25, 27–28). The end of the resurrection is God’s supremacy over all (1 Cor 15:28).
Paul makes the same point in Romans 8. Christ grants us the firstfruits of the Spirit, and so the whole creation will be freed from bondage. The hope of the resurrection is not only our bodily resurrection but also the whole universe’s freedom from the bondage of corruption. As Paul says in Romans 8:21, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
Christ is the saviour of the cosmos, a cosmic saviour.
Fourth, the Resurrection is good news Because it Gives our Lives Meaning (1 Cor 15:29–34)
Paul, after making such grand claims, makes the common-sense observation that if none of this true, then why do people get baptized? But Christ rose from the dead, and saints live their whole lives in hope of the resurrection. Due to their example and testimony, many likewise want to experience baptism to identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus as they did. Hence, Paul knows that people want to get “baptized on their behalf” (1 Cor 15:29).
And as Paul says, the resurrection gives his life meaning and motivation. He says he dies “every day” (1 Cor 15:31). At a human level, what’s the point of proclaiming the Gospel among beasts in Ephesus without the hope of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:32). We might as well just live for pleasure if there is no resurrection: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32).
Canadians live bare lives, lives that don’t have deep and lasting meaning. By the time Canadians reach the age of 40, half of them will experience symptoms of mental illness: Burnout, depression, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and more. These illnesses mark our society today. Why is that? One reason is that we work and act but have nothing to keep us stable. Our end is merely to make money or to experience pleasure; but we were made for God, for glory.
Without the resurrection hope, we can fall into patterns of listless living—apathetic and unmotivated. Apathy is the opposite of love. Love is active and full of life. Apathy loves nothing. It lacks any feeling of love. It does not care about others. It is empty. And empty is how many us live and feel.
But resurrection hope changes how we live. It’s not about living for today only. We have something to live for. And hence, we can suffer and work for ends that are beyond mere pleasure and pain. So, as Paul says in verse 34: “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (1 Cor 15:34).
Fifth, the Resurrection is good news Because of how we are Raised and what kind of body we Shall Receive (1 Cor 15:35–49)
In verses 35–49, Paul answers two questions that he rhetorically asks in verse 35: “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’” (1 Cor 15:35).
First, the how is like a seed planted in the ground. Which when grown transforms a plant—in this case “wheat or of some other grain” (1 Cor 15:38). This change implies that our current body and our resurrection body have deep continuity and yet some difference—a seed of grain produces grain itself, but there is some difference between a seed and the grain itself.
Second, Paul affirms that God gives us a body appropriate to the seed planted (1 Cor 15:38). This is the what. After providing analogies in the created order, Paul explains how the seed and grain analogy applies to the body of flesh and the body of our resurrection.
Paul writes: “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:42–45).
Paul continues to show that as we have the body of the first Adam, so we will also have a body like the second Adam, Jesus. Hence, it’s so important that he rose from the dead. He is the firstfruit. We are the full harvest.
So what is this imperishable body that is like Christ’s resurrection body? Paul gives even more clarity in the last verses.
Sixth, the Resurrection is good news because it is a Mystery of the Faith (1 Cor 15:50–58)
The Bible sometimes defines a matter of utmost importance as a “mystery.” Now, the word mystery in English makes us think of some detective story. But in the Bible, the word mystery points to a profound truth that nobody fully expected but is better than we had imagined. For example, Paul includes Christ’s incarnation and ascension as part of the mystery of godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16.
In verses 50–58, Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:50). And he says twice that our bodies will be “changed’ (1 Cor 15:51, 52). His point is that our current bodies are planted like seeds. And they change into a glorious body at the resurrection.
Our body now is: perishable and mortal. Our body then will be imperishable and immortal. That’s the contrast between the flesh and blood body that we now have: it’s perishable and mortal. Our resurrection body is imperishable and immortal. Our bodies change.
Paul does not mean that our resurrection body no longer has flesh and blood in any sense, but that it has so transformed that it can no longer be thought of as a perishable or corruptible and mortal. It changes into an incorrupt and undying form. The seed becomes grain.
And Paul ends this passage in a flourish, beginning in verse 54:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:54–58)
Henry David Thoreau once said, “the mass of men lives of quiet desperation.” Even if he is not precisely right, something is going on in Canadian society. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), “By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have – or have had – a mental illness.”
Further, the groups that experience mental illness at highest rates are young people. As the CAMH notes, “39% of Ontario high-school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression).”
We live lives deeply struck by a lack of transcendence. Everything is mechanized. Machines plan cities. Computers run the day. Our lives in this technological age have become more and more inhumane. And we feel it. We are isolated, burned out, and cynical of everything.
The resurrection smashes our cynicism, and the hope of the resurrection renews our life. It draws us together out of our isolation as we worship Jesus.
Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death. He overcame corruption. He put sin to death. And we by faith become immortal, incorrupt, and forgiven. If Jesus rose from the dead, then in the end, nothing can stop us from complete victory over life, sin, and the devil—as long as we are in Christ.