12If we preach that Christ was raised from death, how can some of you say the dead will not be raised to life? 13If they won't be raised to life, Christ himself wasn't raised to life. 14And if Christ wasn't raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is your faith. 15If the dead won't be raised to life, we have told lies about God by saying he raised Christ to life, when he really did not.
16So if the dead won't be raised to life, Christ wasn't raised to life. 17Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins. 18And those people who died after putting their faith in him are completely lost. 19If our hope in Christ is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else.
20But Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life. 21Just as we will die because of Adam, we will be raised to life because of Christ. 22Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us. 23But we must each wait our turn. Christ was the first to be raised to life, and his people will be raised to life when he returns. 24Then after Christ has destroyed all powers and forces, the end will come, and he will give the kingdom to God the Father.
25 Christ will rule until he puts all his enemies under his power, 26and the last enemy he destroys will be death. 27 When the Scriptures say he will put everything under his power, they don't include God. It was God who put everything under the power of Christ. 28After everything is under the power of God's Son, he will put himself under the power of God, who put everything under his Son's power. Then God will mean everything to everyone.
29 If the dead are not going to be raised to life, what will people do who are being baptized for them? Why are they being baptized for those dead people? 30And why do we always risk our lives 31and face death every day? The pride that I have in you because of Christ Jesus our Lord is what makes me say this. 32 What do you think I gained by fighting wild animals in Ephesus? If the dead are not raised to life,
“Let's eat and drink.
Tomorrow we die.”
33Don't fool yourselves. Bad friends will destroy you. 34Be sensible and stop sinning. You should be embarrassed that some people still don't know about God.
Death is more than the result of age, disease, and accidents. Powerful individuals and groups can use the power in an evil manner to inflict death. In Paul’s time, Rome’s armies were feared by conquered people and nations on the borders of the empire. Today, violent people engage in genocide, terrorism and war. These observations help us to understand Paul’s statement that every human authority and power someday will be subjected to Christ’s rule, including the last enemy – death.
Paul emphasizes that the resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that God will raise believers from death to life. He makes an analogy with the appearance of the first fruits in an orchard. They give certainty that the harvest is at hand.
In the final section Paul deals with the absurdity of resurrection denial (vv 29-34). The reference to baptism for the dead is puzzling. We lack information that explains this practice in Corinth. We understand more readily that popular philosophies encouraged lifestyles of unrestrained pleasure based on the premise that only this life mattered. The same message is conveyed today in advertisements and entertainment that emphasize consumption and indulgence.
Paul, as a missionary-pastor, knew that the future hope of faith shapes the daily decisions of believers. He lived with courage and endurance in dealing with hardships, opposition, and threats for the sake of the gospel. These sacrifices made no sense apart from Paul’s confidence in the resurrection. The expression “fighting wild beasts” is probably figurative and evokes the image of powerless people awaiting death in a Roman stadium.
There are dimensions to the universe beyond our limited experiences in this world. Our lives are the preparation for eternity in God’s presence.
Eternal Father and Creator, we grieve at the violence, destruction, and death in our world. We long for the day when all human power and authority is made subject to your Son, Jesus Christ. Enable us, through your Spirit, to bear witness to our hope in the resurrection. In the name the Risen Lord. Amen.