By Heath Jarrett
The resurrection of the dead is a gospel issue. It is essential. First, Christ's resurrection. Without it, we would have no future hope (1 Cor 15:19). Then our resurrection, without which we would never be outfitted for eternity.
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. . . But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:17, 20).
Drawing a picture from agriculture, Paul specifies Christ's resurrection as “the firstfruits” which automatically implies more will follow. The context makes it clear that believers are the rest of the harvest. Our physical resurrection, therefore, is dependent on and guaranteed by Christ's.
Paul continues with a farming analogy
(1 Cor 15:35–55). Take a seed. Put it in the dirt and when it comes out of the ground, that seed has been transformed into something much more glorious. One kernel of corn is tasty but insufficient. One dead kernel in the ground turns into corn on the cob on my plate, though. Much better. That's what resurrection is like. Go into the ground one way and come out greatly changed.
Unlike corn, though, the results of bodily resurrection are imperishable. You can add preservatives to corn, can it, freeze it—but it will eventually still rot. Once we're raised up, Christians, we will never die again.
“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. . . So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable” (1 Cor 15:40, 42).
It takes death, then resurrection and transformation to experience a glory free from death and sin, to experience a heaven of delight. We call this glorification, the culmination of our salvation. In other words, Christ's saving work is incomplete without the resurrection from the dead. For salvation sees us through all the way to a thoroughly new and permanent glory. Death really does lose. Therefore, Paul reminded the wandering Corinthian minds of it's primary importance (1 Cor 15:3–8). Even those who are alive when Christ comes will undergo the same transformation (1 Cor 15:51; 1 Thes 4:13–18).
Loved ones, your very lives are completely tied up with and connected to the resurrected, ever-living 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 15:58).