The Collins family gathered around the bed of their wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She was near death. She had slipped into a coma several hours earlier and her breathing was growing labored. The family shared memories and shed tears. They sang hymns, prayed prayers and comforted each other with the hope that there was life after death. Jesus had been raised from the dead. Death had lost its sting.
This truth not only gave them strength and hope in the face of death, but it also shaped their daily lives. They knew that God was in the resurrection/new life business. When they experienced the various “deaths” that life’s changes brought about, they took courage in the fact that God would lead them into new life. Family members also knew that there was more to life than the seventy or eighty years they would spend on this earth. Their perspective on life shaped their lives’ priorities and goals, the way they interacted with people and the way they spent their money.
For Paul the resurrection of Jesus Christ was at the very center of the gospel message. He had seen the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Over five hundred people had seen Jesus before he ascended to his Father. If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead then Paul would be misrepresenting God in his discussions with others and the hope of all Christians would be in vain. The Easter greeting is true, though. “He is Risen!” “He is Risen Indeed!”
1 Corinthians 15:1-26
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 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. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.