…you saw what I did there. I’m a Dad now, so am licensed to make jokes like that. But onto answering questions that have come in this week as we preach through 1st Corinthians. This series of questions came from Sunday’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:
What happens when we die? Are we ‘asleep’ until Jesus comes again? Do we not get resurrected straight away? Also, what does ‘Baptised for the dead’ mean?
Great questions, some of which we touched on in the sermon, but I’m always happy to keep talking through what the Bible says. So open up to 1 Corinthians 15 and let’s take a look by answering the first three which are related, and leave the baptism of the dead to the end.
What happens when we die? Are we ‘asleep’ until Jesus comes again? Do we not get resurrected straight away?… 1st Corinthians 15 describes in the detail we need to know, and leaves what we don’t need to know. That is, we need to know that when we die we are either with Christ or not. That’s the great division for humanity. It won’t matter if you’re good or bad, Aussie or not, Hawks or West Coast supporter – it’s all about Jesus. Did you rely on Jesus by faith, in life before your death. If you did, you’re with him forever. If not, well that is a hellish thought – isn’t it? Why? Because in the face of death forever, wouldn’t you want to be with the one who has been to death and back, and now rules everything?
The Apostle Paul writes what God says on the matter here in 1st Corinthians 15, but also in Philippians 1:21-23, that those with faith in Christ who die, are with Christ. I know there are some who speak of a ‘soul sleep’, a kind of unconscious state until the resurrection day, but the Bible doesn’t form a view of this happening after death.
So we aren’t asleep, we don’t get resurrected with physical bodies straight away, but we are with Christ – and that is the best place to be spiritually until we are all raised physically. On that resurrection day, every person will be raised to eternally – some to everlasting life in Christ , and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). This is what humanity is heading for, and whilst we don’t know every detail – we know clearly that the resurrection of our bodies looks like the risen Jesus.
So, what’s this about getting baptised on behalf of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29)
There are many, many views on what this could mean, but I’ll place these into two broad categories.
- It was a weird and wrong practice of actually getting baptised on behalf of dead family and friends. Paul nowhere commends this explicitly, he does not command them to do this, and it appears as the Apostle answers a weird and wrong position that some at the church at Corinth had in 1 Cor 15:12 – “how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” That could be what’s going on, but there is another option that has merit…
- That Paul is asking the Corinthians, who like us are in dying bodies, “why get your body baptised if you don’t believe in the physical resurrection of the dead?” So Paul is showing how important our resurrection is to us because belief in Jesus and showing our belief in him by being baptised is so important to us.
As I said in the sermon, I think that the second category is more likely, but I am happy to be wrong on that knowing how weird and wrong the Corinthians were on some of their life and belief – which is why we have this letter, this book of the Bible of 1st Corinthians. Whatever they were doing in their baptisms, Paul’s point is that how they live makes no sense if there is no resurrection from the dead.
Remembering the reality of the resurrection with you,