The End of Death

Some church members in Corinth were denying the future bodily resurrection. Paul responded by stressing the necessity for resurrection and appealing to the past resurrection of Jesus as the precedent for the resurrection of believers. Followers of Christ will be raised from the dead when he “arrives,” and that event will signal the end of death itself.

But Paul also revealed something new. Believers who are alive on that day will be transformed and receive immortal bodies. The bodily resurrection will mean nothing less than the end of death AND the arrival of the New Creation.

HIS PRECEDENT

In advancing his argument, Paul presents the sequence of events that will precede the parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus. He begins with a rhetorical question:

  • If Christ is proclaimed that he has been raised from among the dead, how say some of you there is no resurrection of the dead?” – (1 Corinthians 15:12).

From his perspective, the issue is the absolute necessity for bodily resurrection and all his arguments support this proposition. And the basis of his conclusion is the past resurrection of Jesus.

If there is no future resurrection, then “not even Christ has been raised,” and if that is true, then the gospel message is null and void. Thus, the future resurrection is based on the past resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and that historical event is pivotal to the faith and hope of the church.

Next, Paul argues that “all will be made alive, but each in his own rank” or “order.” Jesus was the “first fruit” – He rose first – and the rest will follow “at his arrival,” and that day will constitute “the end when he delivers up the kingdom to God and brings to nothing all rule, authority, and power.”

Thus, the raising of the dead began with Jesus, the “firstborn of the dead,” and at his “arrival,” the process will be completed – (1 Corinthians 15:23).

HIS ARRIVAL

Elsewhere in his letters, Paul uses the Greek noun parousia for the “coming” or “arrival” of Jesus. For example, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he links the resurrection of dead believers to that very day:

  • (1 Thessalonians 4:12-15) – “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” – (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:12-15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8).

Thus, his “arrival” will mean “the end” of the present age, the subjugation of all his enemies, and the cessation of death itself. And the latter is the “last enemy” that must be destroyed. Only then will Jesus deliver the “kingdom to God” to his Father, and after that, God will be “all in all” forevermore – (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

The purpose of his words to the Corinthians is not to present all the details and chronological markers related to the return of Jesus. Specific subjects are introduced to support his argument for the bodily resurrection of believers.

Christ was raised as the “first fruit” of those who have fallen “asleep.” Logically, dead believers who are “sleeping” will participate in the same kind of resurrection that he did, though only at the proper time.

Moreover, in the conclusion of his argument, Paul returns to the resurrection and the cessation of death:

  • (1 Corinthians 15:51-58) – “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… During the last trumpet, for it shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Thus, the termination of death coincides with his “arrival” from heaven and the resurrection of the dead. That day will mark the final and complete overthrow of all God’s enemies and the consummation of His rule. After that, there will be no more enemies to conquer; and therefore, death will be no more.

But the bodily resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of corpses. Instead, our mortal bodies will be transformed into another kind of body.

The resurrection will produce bodies geared for life in the Spirit, and ones that no longer are subject to disease, decay, and death. The irrefutable evidence for this is the glorified body of Jesus.

All this means that life in the future age will be an embodied existence, not living in a disembodied state – (1 Corinthians 15:35-50).

The “mystery” revealed by Paul in this passage is that disciples who remain alive when Jesus arrives will be physically transformed. The church’s hope rests on the belief in the future resurrection and life in the New Creation where death will be no more and the resurrected church will live forevermore.

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3 thoughts on “The End of Death

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