We live in a death-defying culture. Many of us spend a lot of money and effort trying to stave off death—from diets to exercise to medical care. The fear of death is a powerful motivator.
In today’s reading, the apostle Paul describes one of the most remarkable gifts we have received through Christ. Jesus claimed the ultimate victory over death (v. 26)! One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead. This is a breathtaking assertion. Jesus died, then three days later He physically and bodily arose. The grave could not hold Him. Paul points out that Jesus’ defeat of death was not just good news for Jesus, it is good news for us as well. The resurrection of Jesus confirmed everything He had said. He is the Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world.
Jesus’ resurrection is also described as the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20). The concept of firstfruits comes from the Old Testament. At harvest, Israel was instructed to offer the firstfruits of their crops to the Lord (Lev. 23:9–14). These firstfruits were simply the first portion of their much larger harvest. They would withhold that first portion and reserve it for God. The same is true with Jesus. He rose from the dead, but that resurrection was just the beginning. When He returns, all who “belong to him” will also be raised from the dead (v. 23).
One puzzling part of this passage is Paul’s questions related to the baptism of the dead (v. 29). Scholars have long debated what Paul means by this. Certainly, Paul and the Corinthians knew what he was talking about, but it is difficult for us to reconstruct today.
>> The Bible teaches that people are saved through personal faith in Christ (John 3:18; 14:6). As believers, we can know for certain that our physical death is not the end. This is made possible because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The hope of eternal life is the most precious gift of all.
You’ve taught us that we don’t have to fear death. Through the resurrection of Jesus, You showed that the grave holds no power over You or Your children. We can look unflinchingly at our future knowing that You are in complete control.