For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. . . . Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (1 Corinthians 15:16, 18)
Today’s big question: will we perish?
As we study today’s passage, there are several questions we can ask. What does Paul mean by “asleep”? What does perish mean? If the sleeping perish without the Resurrection, what will happen to those who sleep with the Resurrection? The main topic Paul examined in this passage was that Christians will perish as a result of Christ not rising, but we will need to answer all the questions in order to fully understand this topic.
One could say, “Well, I have slept many times, and I am still here.” Of course, this is assuming “asleep” means “a state of sleep” rather than “death.” Both definitions are valid for the term in question, since this word is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to death. For example, Jesus said the following regarding Lazarus:
[Jesus] said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” (John 11:11–14)
John 11:11–13 and 1 Corinthians 15:18 both use the same Greek word for “sleep.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul refuted the idea that there is no resurrection of the dead, so if we use the context to determine the meaning, he is referring to those who have died. In the following passage, as Jesus was speaking to Martha about her brother Lazarus, He promised that whoever believes in Him will live, even though his physical body may die:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26)
As a direct result of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and Resurrection, the bodies of believers will also be resurrected, and we will transformed into something new like Christ’s glorified body (Philippians 3:20–21). However, if there is no resurrection of the dead, our bodies perish when we die, and our soul sentenced to eternal punishment. Paul pointed out that the Resurrection of Christ is critical to the gospel, and if it did not happen, the gospel would be an empty message.
Praise God that we do know for a fact—thanks to Scripture—that Jesus Christ has risen. There were hundreds of witnesses who saw Christ alive again, including Paul. We will not perish, because Jesus Christ is alive.
Today’s big idea: we will not perish—Jesus is alive.
What to pray: praise God that we will not perish but live eternally with Him.