I find a constant contrast between two sides in life. Northerners and southerners. Type A and Type B personalities. Democrats and Republicans. The list goes on and on.
Reading 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses this same language when writing about the resurrection of the dead. The connection between the two will come later on but first I want to examine the text. He writes this in 15:16-19: “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
In the general context of this passage that lasts from verses 12-34, Paul is discussing the connection of the resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of believers on the final day. Paul starts with the future and backtracks; if the dead aren’t raised, then Christ isn’t raised. If Christ isn’t raised, then we are still stuck in our sins with futile faith. Our faith in Christ leads to a death and a resurrection in the same way Christ died and was resurrected (c.f. Gal 2:20). This is not to say we will we experience our death and resurrection in the same way as Christ’s, however, in the same way Christ submitted to the will of the Father, we obediently follow Christ and receive a death to ourselves and a future resurrection.
Verse 19 is what gets me: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” If the hope we have in Christ is only on this finite planet Earth, we are wasting our time. The persecuted worldwide church is dying in vain, martyrdom isn’t necessary, and disciples don’t need to be made in unreached areas because we don’t have a future perfect state to look forward to. What a sad life this would be. There wouldn’t be glory in suffering (Rom 8:18) but shame. The beauty in this verse is seeing where we would be if we didn’t have what Christ promised-eternal life. The two sides: if we only have hope in Christ in this world, we are to be pitied. BUT-if we do have hope in Christ in this world and the next, the situation changes.
The antithesis of verse 19 is the concept that we do have hope in Christ beyond this world. My prayer priority is this: that my hope in Christ wouldn’t be him bringing me a better situation on Earth but that he would have a banquet prepared for me in Heaven. I am not saying to stop asking Christ for needs here on earth; I routinely pray for personal things that are important to me here on Earth. I have hope in Christ not because of what is to happen to me in this world; I believe I’ve already died. Restating Paul, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be the most pitied.” I have learned and am still learning to have hope in Christ for what he is preparing in the next life. I’m praying you would find this kind of hope.