|Lesson 12||March 15-21|
|The Reality of the Resurrection|
Read For This Week's Study: 1 Corinthians 15.
Memory Text: "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed "(1 Corinthians 15:51, 52).
Key Thought: Neither Christ's resurrection from death nor that of believers at Christ's return is to be reasoned away. The first is the foundation of our faith and the second the goal of our hope.
|Sabbath Afternoon||March 14|
THERE IS NO RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD? Human beings possess a craving for immortality. One group, CBJ (the initials of founders Charles, BemaDeane and James), headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, purports to train its adherents to live forever. CBJ's disciples, mostly college-educated people in their thirties and forties, pay significant sums to attend the annual "convergence" in their quest for immortality. They hear the message, "Will yourselves to live forever" and believe they experience "cellular awakening" and a dawning awareness of physical immortality. With a mailing list of twelve thousand in eighteen countries, CBJ is growing rapidly.
The same drive for immortality led some Christians at Corinth to revise radically their understanding of the resurrection. They argued that "there is no resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:12, NRSV) and instead sought immortality elsewhere. Paul corrects this train of thought by arguing strongly for the future, bodily resurrection of believers who have died.
OF FIRST IMPORTANCE (1 Corinthians 15, especially verses 1-11).
To what events does Paul point as the foundation of the Christian hope in the future resurrection? 1 Cor. 15:1-11.
As Paul nears the end of his first letter to the Corinthians, he takes up yet another difficulty, a doctrinal one about the resurrection. Paul asks, "How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Cor. 15:12).
It is difficult to know just what prompted such a view. It may have been a return to ideas of their Greek culture about the immortality of the soul and thus the impossibility of physical resurrection. Or it may have represented a spiritualization of the concept of resurrection. Does not conversion to Christian faith represent a "resurrection"? Isn't the one who is baptized resurrected to walk in newness of life? (Rom. 6:1-4). On this basis they may have argued that the resurrection had already occurred.
Paul responds at length, and this thorough treatment leaves us in his debt. How many have been heartened by Paul's deep convictions about the Christian hope?
Which of the appearances of the resurrected Lord described by Paul are also mentioned in the Gospels? 1 Cor. 15:5-8. Compare Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20, 21.
Paul's account of Christ's appearances after His resurrection, probably the earliest in the New Testament, is a treasure trove. It mentions an appearance to "five hundred" (Is this the same event as mentioned in Matthew 28:16-20?). It also describes an appearance to James that is not described in the Gospels and one to Cephas (Peter) that is only briefly alluded to in Luke 24:34. And Paul includes himself as one who has seen the risen Lord. He is presenting what he hopes will be convincing evidence that Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead.
The appearance to James is probably to James, the Lord's brother, who became a prominent Christian leader (Acts 15:13-21). Earlier in Christ's ministry he was not a believer (John 7:5). Did he become one as a result of Christ's appearance to him? (In Acts 1:14 Jesus' brothers are already worshiping with the believers.)
Has your life been transformed by the reality of the risen Christ? Share a brief testimony of your experience with the class?
IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION, THEN WHAT? (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
A friend at work asks, "Do you really believe that Christians who have died will be resurrected?" How would you respond? How did Paul respond in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19?
Paul is writing to his Christian converts, and so he adapts his arguments about the resurrection for them. He argues that if there is no future, bodily resurrection of believers, the following would be true: 1. Christ would not have been raised (verses 13-17; the first verses of the chapter have already provided Paul's arguments to the contrary); 2. the work of Paul (and other Christian missionaries) would be both futile and deceptive (verses 14, 15); 3. their own Christian experience is useless and they are still in the grips of sin (verses 14, 17, 19); 4. directly to the point, those believers who have died have no future (verse 18). Paul is trusting that none of this will sound like very good news to his audience! And, hopefully, this realization will lead them to reconsider their views.
In what different ways is the view that there is "no resurrection" popular today? How dangerous is such a perspective?
A flood of television programming and movies proclaims in ways both subtle and deceptive the world's enticement for the teaching of reincarnation. Blending the thought of Eastern religions, ancient traditions, and New Age concepts, the media proclaim that human life does not end, it endlessly reappears. Without watchfulness, this popular support for reincarnation may begin to corrupt our own faith in the Christian hope. The idea of reincarnation is, in total, contrary to the concept of resurrection.
Others today adopt a secular-humanist perspective and strongly hold to the idea that death is the end. There is nothing more. And many of our Christian friends, with their views of the immortality of a disembodied soul and an ever-burning hell, offer an alternative that is neither biblical nor appealing.
How can Seventh-day Adventists play a vital role today in proclaiming with fervor the Christian hope of a future, bodily resurrection founded on faith in the risen Lord? How can the certainty of this hope have a transforming impact in your life today as you relate to your family members and others around you?
CHRIST THE FIRST FRUITS (1 Cor. 15:20-34).
What does Paul mean when he calls Christ "the first fruits" (verses 20, 23).
Paul draws on the Old Testament offering of the first fruits of the harvest: "When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall raise the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance . . ." (Lev. 23:10, 11, NRSV). Christ is "the first fruits," the promise of a future harvest. The fact that He has been raised from the dead ensures that all who died in Him will, likewise, be raised. In Christ the harvest is begun, but it is not finished.
What do you think Paul means by his mention of baptism "for the dead"? 1 Cor. 15:29.
Various responses have been given in explaining 1 Corinthians 15:29. Yet as we consider carefully the language and context of this verse, this likely explanation emerges: people in Corinth were apparently involved in the practice of baptism for the dead, and Paul uses this to bolster his argument of the resurrection. The very fact that they were baptizing for the dead shows clearly that they believed in some form of resurrection of the dead. And because the people already had such belief, Paul tries to redirect it to believe in the glorious resurrection of Christ and His followers.
Paul by no means supports the idea of baptism for the dead. That would not be consistent with the context of 1 Corinthians 15 and the rest of Scriptures. Baptism requires a personal decision of repentance from sin and faith in Christ. (See Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38-41; Ezek. 14:14, 16.) In a similar way Jesus used the story of the rich man and Lazarus, not to endorse the erroneous teaching of immortality of the soul, but to show that only in this life do we have the opportunity to prepare for the life to come.
What link should exist between a correct view of the resurrection and Christian behavior? 1 Cor. 15:32-34.
Our understandings of "the end" shape the way we behave now. If there is no resurrection, no heaven to win, or hell to shun, we may appropriately quote the proverb, "Let us eat and drink: for tomorrow we shall die" (Isa. 22:13).
IMPERISHABLE BODIES (1Cor. 15:35-50).
The advocates of "no resurrection" may have argued in this way: Who would want to have these sinful, deformed bodies of ours raised? For them, resurrection life would only be prolonging the agony of earthly existence.
Among the illustrations provided by Paul to describe the difference between present bodies and resurrection bodies, which is your favorite? Why? 1 Cor. 15:35-41.
In the continuing discussion, verses 42-50, Paul draws contrasts between present bodies and those given by God at the resurrection. At the resurrection, God's saints exist in bodily form--the age to come is not for disembodied spirits! But the bodily existence of the future age will not suffer the limitations and pain of our current lives. What God has in store is dramatically different. Consider these contrasts highlighted in verses 42-50:
Comparing the two columns is a bit like being asked which of two automobiles you would prefer to receive as a gift--a dilapidated, ancient model in disrepair or a new, state-of-the-art model.
What do you find most attractive about the biblical teaching of the resurrection?
"I confess openly, that I am not persuaded that they [dead Christians] be already in the full glory that Christ is in, or the elect angels of God are in. Neither is it any article of my faith; for if it were so, I see not but then the preaching of the resurrection of the flesh were a thing in vain.-- William Tyndale as quoted in The Great Controversy, p. 547.
"WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?" (1 Cor. 15:51-58, NIV).
When does the dramatic shift from present existence to resurrection life occur? 1 Cor 15:51-57
Paul wants to inform his readers of the timing of the change from the perishable human body of the present to the imperishable body of the resurrection. The climactic change in the Christian's wardrobe, from "wearing" a perishable, mortal body to "wearing" an imperishable, immortal body occurs "at the last trumpet" (verses 52, 53; see 1 Thess. 4:13-18). It is at the Second Coming of Christ that the believer receives a resurrection body.
As Paul concludes his ringing affirmation of the resurrection, he again calls for corresponding Christian behavior. With what words does he motivate Christians to live as resurrection-bound people? 1 Cor. 15:58.
What response do these additional passages invite from Christians who
await the blessed hope of the resurrection?
Titus 2:11-14 __________________________________________
Acts 24: 15, 16 _________________________________________
Phil. 3:10 _____________________________________________
"Amid the reeling of the earth, the flash of lightning, and the roar of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints, He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then, raising His hands to heaven, He cries: 'Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!' Throughout the length and breadth of the earth the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live. And the whole earth shall ring with the tread of the exceeding great army of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. From the prison house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory, crying: 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?' 1 Corinthians 15:55. And the living righteous and the risen saints unite their voices in a long, glad shout of victory."--The Great Controversy, p. 644.
What one word best expresses your emotion as you read this paragraph?
Further Study: The Corinthians were not alone in thinking that "there is no resurrection of the dead." Compare the erroneous views described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Timothy 2:16-19. How do we avoid such views today?
"Suppose that the trump of God should sound tonight, who is ready to respond with gladness? How many of you would cry, 'Oh, stay the chariot wheels; I am not ready?' Of how many would it be written, as it was written of Belshazzar, 'Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting?' To be wanting in that day is to be wanting forever; for when Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, we must be all ready to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Your only safety is in coming to Christ, and ceasing from sin this very moment. The sweet voice of mercy is sounding in your ears to-day, but who can tell if it will sound to-morrow?"--Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, Aug. 29, 1892.
"The earth mightily shook as the voice of the Son of God called forth the sleeping saints. They responded to the call and came forth clothed with glorious immortality, crying, 'Victory, victory, over death and the grave! O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?' Then the living saints and the risen ones raised their voices in a long, transporting shout of victory. Those bodies that had gone down into the grave bearing the marks of disease and death came up in immortal health and vigor. The living saints are changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and caught up with the risen ones, and together they meet their Lord in the air. Oh, what a glorious meeting! Friends whom death had separated were united, never more to part." --Early Writings p. 287.
|1. What Christian relative or friend, now dead, do you most long to see on resurrection day? Why? What do you imagine doing or saying when you meet again?|
Summary: The biblical view of the resurrection is not a meaningless doctrine that meets no human need. It answers our human quest for immortality in the way God plans, and it motivates us toward loyalty to our risen Lord as we await the grand day of reunion with believers who have died.
In some countries of Eastern Europe people still stand in line to buy daily necessities. An Adventist woman stood in a long line to buy milk. When she finally reached the front of the line, she gave her order and paid the clerk for her milk. But the clerk gave her too much in change. When she tried to return the extra money, the clerk brushed her aside; she was busy with another customer. The woman waited quietly until the clerk had finished with the customer, then called her attention to the overpayment. The clerk took the money, thanked her curtly, then turned to the next customer. The Adventist woman smiled and turned to leave the store.
Two students standing in line had watched her. They wondered why this woman returned the money. Most people would have been glad for some extra change!
The following day the woman stood near the front of the same line when a weary young mother carrying a little child in her arm approached the front of the line. When the clerk saw her, she scolded her sharply and demanded that she wait in line like everyone else. The Adventist woman felt sorry for the weary young mother and offered her place in line. Then she walked to the end of the line and began her wait all over.
The same two students who had seen the money incident the previous day, watched in amazement as this Christian woman again acted generously to a stranger. They decided they had to know what motives prompted such unusual behavior. They followed the woman home and explained that they had seen her in the market. They wondered why she was so different. She invited them into her home and answered their questions. During their conversation, she shared her faith in Jesus. As the students were leaving, she invited them to come back again.
The students returned several times. In time they asked if they could attend church with her so they could learn more about Jesus, who made such a difference in her life.
We never know when we are being a testimony to others. Through our prayers we can strengthen others as they witness to their faith. Through our offerings we support the work others are doing. And through our actions we can witness to our own faith, and help others find the way to Jesus.
Edwin Ludescher recently retired as president of the Euro-Africa Division.
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