Formations 04.09.2023: God Isn’t Finished Yet

1 Corinthians 15:12-24, 51-57

We can debate why some in the Corinthian church denied the resurrection of the dead. We can be confident, however, that no one in the first century took this stance because they had been immersed in a skeptical, scientific worldview.

Instead, it may be that they adopted this view because they held what might be called an overly realized eschatology. Realized eschatology means God’s saving work in Christ has brought the kingdom into our present reality in real and tangible ways. Most Christians believe this to one extent or another.

Some in the early church apparently pushed this view to the extreme, however. They believed that all the blessings of kingdom life are available to believers today, and there is nothing left for God to do in the future. Even things like the final judgment and the resurrection of the dead are happening right now, perhaps in some spiritualized or metaphorical sense.

It may not have helped that Gnostic religions of the ancient world devalued the physical body and, at least in some cases, longed for a purely spiritual existence. If the goal is to be set free from the body, what could it possibly profit anyone to be stuck in a body for all eternity?

Nor may it have helped that, as early as twenty years after the first Easter, some in the church were already concerned that Jesus’s promised second coming seemed to be taking longer than expected (see 1 Thess 4:13-18). If somehow, the resurrection had to do with spiritual glorification and not the redemption of the entire self—spirit, soul, and body—that might put their minds at ease.

Whatever their reasons, from Paul’s point of view, their denial of the resurrection undercuts the entire gospel. Against the idea that there is no future resurrection to look forward to, the apostle forges a strong link between the hope of future resurrection for the faithful and the resurrection of Christ. Christ is the “first fruits” of those who have died, reversing the death that came into the world through Adam. Now, therefore, Paul can rest in the hope that “we will all be changed” (v. 51) when death, the last enemy, is swallowed up in victory.

“We will all be changed” is the hope to which Paul’s gospel aspires. Yes, Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection have torn the veil between this world and the next. The blessings of the kingdom are ours—today. And yet, God’s saving work is not yet finished.

When we see the ample evidence of suffering and sin all around us, we don’t have to shut our eyes and pretend that this is the best God can do.


• How does the resurrection challenge an overly spiritualized approach to faith?
• How can we embrace our bodily existence and bring it into our discipleship?
• How does Jesus’s resurrection make life different today?
• How does Jesus’s resurrection give hope for the future?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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