One helpful example of the radical nature of this message can be seen in one of Paul’s most graphic thoughts. Apart from eternal life, he claims, the most sensible philosophy is “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32 NKJV)! Paul seems to be pointing out that, if it were not for the eternity that is secured by Jesus’ resurrection, our ethical life in the present would be reduced to living for the moment’s enjoyment. But Jesus’ resurrection is what grounds our ethics; it is the reason and motivation for our good behavior. For if the dead are not raised, then we should stop meeting the needs of others and concentrate only on ourselves and how we can enjoy life to the fullest! Admittedly, there is a huge difference between these two modes of living.
But since Jesus was raised from the dead and God will raise believers as well, Paul is able to count all other things as rubbish for the sake of keeping his eyes on the prize, knowing and pursuing Jesus all the way into eternity (Phil. 3:7–11; 1 Cor. 9:24–27). The apostle knows that the sacrifices and persecutions he endured are far surpassed by the glory and quality of life that are to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:21–23).
Other examples of living our present lives to the fullest are drawn from the close of Paul’s resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. He commands us to remain “steadfast, immovable” (15:58 NKJV). Christian beliefs comprise the best-grounded, practical, and emotionally satisfying worldview anywhere. We have no excuse but to persevere in our faith, without wavering toward any other options.
In the same verse, Paul also explains that our work in the Lord is not in vain (15:58). To illustrate how practical this is, in the very next verses he is collecting funds to assist impoverished believers (16:1–4). Here he is applying his own hierarchy of giving, expressed in Galatians 6:8–10. Though there are different views among believers on this particular subject, elsewhere Paul seems to say that our work for the Lord after salvation will be further rewarded in eternity (1 Cor. 3:8, 14–15). In all these instances, our labor is presented as being not in vain!
Further, this future hope provides a present comfort. Suffering, pain, and death are a reality in this world, and Scripture does not teach that believers are exempt. While we still grieve at the loss of loved ones and friends, the promise of resurrection ensures that we do not have to grieve as do those who do not live in the hope of eternal life (1 Thess. 4:13–14). There is indeed a huge difference between grieving with hope and grieving without hope. We know that what happens in this world is not the last word, as God will “wipe away every tear” and will remove all death, mourning, crying, and pain (Rev. 21:4 NKJV). What an encouragement, knowing that as believers our tribulations in this world are only momentary in the light of eternity (2 Cor. 4:16–18).
Meditating on the truth of the resurrection and eternal life by bringing them to the center of our thinking can help us act now in light of their reality. Adopting an eternal perspective can reorient our entire lives if we allow it to do so. By concentrating on the historicity of this past event and looking ahead toward eternal life, we can live a life that is wonderfully full of meaning and fulfillment in the present and the future. Thus the resurrection is not just an isolated past event without relevance; it is an occurrence that offers help now even as it provides hope for the days ahead.
In 1995 the Habermas household watched helplessly as the wife and mother of that home lay dying of cancer that would claim her life just days later. At one point a graduate student inquired, “Where would you be now if it were not for the resurrection of Jesus?” That brief but gripping question spawned rich soul searching and meditation on the power of this event.
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