1 Corinthians 15:19-20 - The Christian Hope
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.1 Corinthians 15:19, 20
Is there hope in your heart today? I am sure that you have many hopes for this life: hopes concerning yourself and your family. But do you have any hope beyond this life?
Do you have that confidence which will sustain you all your days in this world, taking you through the dark valley of death and into the great eternity? How few have this sort of hope! Let us consider it together.
1 Corinthians 15 is the key chapter in the Bible concerning the resurrection. Paul begins it by providing a summary of the gospel. Then he refers to some of Christ’s resurrection appearances to His disciples. Sadly there were those in the church at Corinth who denied the resurrection of the body. Paul shows us that many uncomfortable conclusions follow if there is no resurrection. If this is the case Christians are to be pitied for they are deluded. Christians often suffer scorn and persecution – and to what purpose? Soon they die and that is it. They enter oblivion. So ultimately their faith is pointless. They have put their hope in a Saviour who promised them eternal life but who never left His own tomb. They are no better by their hope than the unbelievers. In fact they would be just as well to follow those who say: ‘let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die’ (v.32).
What is Paul’s response to this lie? He says that the Christian has a sure hope. With conviction he writes, ‘now is Christ risen from the dead’. It was meeting the risen and ascended Lord that led to Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:5, 6). The Old Testament foretold the great events in the life of the Saviour. So we read that Jesus Christ died for our sins ‘according to the Scriptures’ (v.3) and rose again the third day ‘according to the Scriptures’ (v.4). The two truths stand or fall together. While there are many evidences and arguments for the resurrection the only resting place for our faith is the inspired and infallible Word of God. How precious it is to read there that Jesus ‘showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs’ (Acts 1:3).
Then the Christian has a lasting hope. By His own resurrection Jesus has become the ‘firstfruits’ of those who are now asleep in the dust of the earth. In Israel the people were to offer to God the firstfruits of their wheat harvest. Green corn was presented to the Lord in thankfulness for a successful crop (Leviticus 2:14). It was the token of the full harvest to be gathered in shortly. Having paid for the sins of His people the Lord Jesus Christ has taken our humanity into heaven. The bodies of believers are resting in their graves but they are united to Christ. Jesus is described as ‘the first begotten of the dead’ (Revelation 1:5). He is first in order and in dignity and because He rose in ‘the power of an endless life’ (Hebrews 7:16) it is certain that His people shall one day rise also.
Finally the Christian has a joyful hope. The Bible speaks of the unconverted as ‘having no hope, and without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12). If you are still in your sins then you are guilty before God and heading for hell. Those who foolishly deny the resurrection of Christ can have no joy as they look ahead to death. The fact is that a joyless believer is a contradiction. Certainly, we are ‘in heaviness through manifold temptations’ as we struggle with the sin and trials but in Christ we already rejoice with ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Peter 1:6-8).
Christ Lives and Saves
Hope placed in Jesus Christ can only fail if Christ Himself can fail. That is an impossibility. He paid the ransom-price for sinners when He died for them on the cross. Having paid the price, death cannot hold Him or them. Christ is ‘alive for evermore’ (Revelation 1:18) and He will raise us up at the last day (John 6:54). The Christian has a hope born in his soul by the very power that raised Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). As ‘an anchor of the soul’ (Hebrews 6:19) this hope keeps him in all the storms of life.
Friend, do you have this hope that ‘maketh not ashamed’ (Romans 5:5)? You need to repent of your sins and trust in Christ crucified and risen. Then you will know the meaning of these precious words: ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27). You too will enjoy the wonderful prospect of a perfect and blessed life in heaven with the Lord.