For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:16-20 BSB)
There is so much depth here! Paul has already in this chapter defended the resurrection of Christ along two lines: the biblical prophesies and the eye witness accounts. Now he launches into a defence of the resurrection on the basis of logic, that it is illogical to think that human life ends at death, and if any man has ever been raised from the dead it is Christ.
One of the more interesting aspects of the biblical writings is that the emphasis of the Bible is not so much the immortality of the human soul as it is the resurrection of the body. Scientists have identified the difference between the brain and the mind – the brain is the biological mechanism that allows for thought but the mind is the thought itself – but many have wondered if the mind can exist without the body.
Paul does not enter into that discussion, per se. However, he does support the importance of the body to the human soul. There does come a time when our souls and spirits leave our bodies, and the Bible says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). Apparently, as it is sustained by God, the human soul may have an existence without a body for a while as we await our resurrection. Believers “enter into peace; they find rest, lying down in death” (Isaiah 57:2). To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).
But this non-body existence is temporary, intermediate, and not permanent. We receive a new body that is imperishable, that is made for eternity, that is a fitting home for the new spirit that is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Then we will have a new body for eternity.
One of the mysteries is how will we see, hear, and know things without a body. The human soul by itself has no hearing or seeing or sensing. It must be fed by some source, and the answer is that God shall tell us what we need to know. He shall supply our soul’s hearing and seeing and informing. Without the knowledge of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God, the thought of sightless and deaf spirits roaming any realm is frightening and disturbing. This fear gives rise to many superstitions, from ghosts to reincarnation.
But the Christian rests in the love of God, and the knowledge of His love removes all fear from what life after this life will be. Heaven stands out in the book of Revelation as a place of mercy and order and, thereby, praise. There is the triple awareness of the forgiveness found in mercy, of the restoring of order to what sin disrupted and corrupted, and of the new purpose found in redemption.
There is the sense of time in this three-fold work of God: the past is redeemed, the present is set in order, and the future is purposeful and meaningful. Because of God’s redemption of our souls in Christ, we can be confident in His love and rest in the reality of the resurrection – both Christ’s and our own! Then by faith we can live each day in this faith and confidence. God is faithful!