Today, the expression “Eat, drink, and be merry” has become a cliché. If life ends at death, why not live it up? Why aspire to lofty values? If death ends it all, living for the present makes perfect sense. The apostle Paul said as much. He described the attitude of people who do not believe in the resurrection, saying: “If the dead are not to be raised up, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.'”— 1Corinthians 15:32.
PAUL himself did not believe that death meant an eternity of oblivion. He was convinced that the dead could live again, with the prospect of never dying at all. That conviction was founded on an event of immense importance, the truthfulness of which he considered to be unassailable—the resurrection * of Christ Jesus. That resurrection, in fact, was the greatest single event that strengthened the faith of the early disciples.
WHAT IF CHRIST HAD NOT BEEN RAISED?
Some Christians in ancient Corinth were confused about the matter, and others did not believe in the literal resurrection at all. The apostle listed the consequences if the resurrection were not a reality. He wrote: “If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain. Moreover, we are also found false witnesses of God . . . Your faith is useless; you are yet in your sins. . . . Also, those who fell asleep in death in union with Christ perished.”— 1Corinthians 15:13-18.
If the dead are not to be raised, then Christ, who died, could not have been rased to life. Then, preaching the good news would be in vain, a colossal hoax. After all, the resurrection of Christ was a key element of the Christian faith, being inseparably linked to some of the Bible’s most basic teachings about God’s sovereignty, his name, his Kingdom, and our salvation.
If Christ had not been raised from the dead, Christian faith would be in vain, empty, based on a lie. Further, Paul and the others would have spoken falsely not only about the resurrection of Jesus but also about the one whom they said resurrected him, Jehovah God. What is more, the assertion that Christ had “died for our sins” would also be untrue—for if the Savior himself had not been saved from death, he could not save others. (1Corinthians 15:3) That would mean that Christians who had died, in some cases as martyrs, had perished with a false hope that they would be resurrected. (1Corinthians 15:19)
WHY YOU SHOULD BELIEVE
Paul did not believe any of those negative consequences to be true. He knew that Jesus had been raised from the dead. (1Corinthians 15:3-8) What made Paul so sure of that? One reason was the testimony of many eyewitnesses. The resurrected Jesus appeared to individuals (including Paul himself), to smal groups, and even to a crowd of 500, many of whom had no doubt been skeptical when they heard the news that Jesus had been resurrected! (Luke 24:1-11) Most of the eyewitnesses were still alive in Paul’s day and could be consulted to confirm those appearances. (1Corinthians 15:6) One or two witnesses might be easy to dismiss, but not the testimony of 500 of more eyewitnesses.
Notice, too, that Paul mentioned twice that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were “according to the Scriptures.” Those events confirmed that prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures about the Messiah had come true, thus proving that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.
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