By Apostolos Makrakis
In the fifteenth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of a resurrection of the dead by way of refuting those who at that time were preaching that there is no resurrection of the dead, but who believed in the resurrection of Christ. He says:
“Now if Christ is preached as having risen from the dead, how is it that some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12).
For, he says,
“if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hath not risen: and if Christ hath not risen, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor. 15:13-14).
Thereupon, he quite logically draws the following conclusion:
“Yea, and we are found to be false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, who he raised not up if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then Christ hath not been raised; and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:15-19).
But, he says further below (in verse 20), it is acknowledged, it is preached as a certainty, that Christ has risen from the dead and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Therefore, as a logical inference from the resurrection of Christ, he concludes that there will be also a resurrection of the dead in the future.
“For since by a man came death, by a man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all men die, so in Christ shall all men be vivified.” (1 Cor. 15:21-22)
After proving that a resurrection of the dead will follow as a result of the resurrection of Christ, by an appeal to the historical fact, he goes on to ask the following question:
“Else what shall they do who have been baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?” (1 Cor. 15:29-30)
In other, words, if dead men do not rise at all, as some persons teach, for what reason are these men baptized for the dead? Baptism is administered to bring about a resurrection of life. So, if there is no resurrection of life, why are we baptized? What is the reason for baptism? If Christ has not risen from the dead, what reason is there for our being baptized for Him? – if He did not rise from the dead? if He is dead? Why is it, he asks, that we risk our lives hourly for Christ, and what is our profit, if Christ has not risen from the dead? You can see for yourselves, he says, to what absurd conclusions such a doctrine leads that denies a belief in the resurrection of the dead, can you not?
It is plainly evident that those who denied the resurrection of the dead were some of them denying it absolutely, and even preached against the resurrection of Christ; and such were the unbelieving Jews, and the materialistic minds of ancient paganism, or heathenism, while some, on the other hand, denied it to men, but admitted it in the case of Christ. Others, again, preached that the resurrection had already taken place: such men were Hymenaeus and Philetus, who missed the truth in saying that the resurrection had already occurred, and upset the faith of some (II Tim. 22 :17-18). Of these men those who absolutely denied the resurrection of the dead were materialists and did not believe in the Gospel; such were the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, who jeered when they heard the dogma of the resurrection of the dead being preached through the mouth of divine St. Paul:
“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some jeered; but others said, We will hear these again concerning this” (Acts 17 :32).
Those, on the other hand, who admitted and acknowledged as a historical fact the resurrection of Christ, but denied the resurrection of the dead in general, were men inconsistent with themselves, because, notwithstanding that they believed in the resurrection of Christ, in the first-fruits, that is to say, of the resurrection of the dead, they incongruously disbelieved in the resurrection of the dead in general: though they believed in the antecedent, they self-contradictorily refused to believe in the consequences resulting therefrom; in other words, they reasoned awry and violated the laws of logic. As for those, again, who taught that the, resurrection of the dead had already taken place – as, for instance, Hymenaeus. and Philetus – they confounded the particular or partial resurrection of the dead which occurred on the day of the Lord’s crucifixion, with the common and universal resurrection of the dead to be actualized in the future, precisely as other afterwards confounded the particular resurrection of the saints, which is to take place during the future millennium of Christ’s reign as king upon the earth, with the universal, or general, resurrection, which is to take place is the last day of the universal trial and judgment. As concerns the particular, or partial, resurrection of the saints on the day of the Lord’s crucifixion the Evangelist says:
”And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks were rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who were asleep arose, and came nut of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27 :51-53).
As concerns, on the other hand, the particular resurrection of the saints which is to take place during the period of the millennial kingdom on the earth, the divine Revelation says the following:
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them who had been beheaded for serving as witnesses of Jesus, and for preaching the word of God, and who had refused to worship the beast, or its image, and had not received its mark upon their foreheads, or upon their hand; and they lived and reigned with Christ the thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4-6).
However, we must remember that as concerns the universal resurrection Christ also says:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment” (John 5 :25-29).
Those in Corinth teaching in the days of Paul that there is no resurrection of the dead were illogical and self-contradictory, because, though they believed in the resurrection of Christ, they disbelieved in the universal, or general, resurrection of the dead, which Christ confirmed through His own resurrection and which He taught in His own words as a truth worthy of belief. In disbelieving, however, in the resurrection of the dead, in the universal dogma of the resurrection, they indirectly disbelieved also in the resurrection of Christ, without being conscious of the fact. But disbelief in the resurrection of Christ was also disbelief in the baptism in His name; for what benefit can result from baptism if Christ has not actually risen from the dead? In that case why should we be baptized in the name of a dead man, if Christ has not actually risen? But since baptism, says divine St. Paul, is performed with a view to our resurrection, with a view to a new life, the first-fruits of which was the resurrection of Christ, what benefit can accrue therefrom in case there is no resurrection of the dead? Hence it becomes logically evident that baptism is performed thus for dead men, or, rather, for our mortification, if there really is no resurrection of the dead. We, says he, who have been bearing witness to the Christian truth, are in danger every hour, are suffering tribulation, afflictions, infamy, death, all on account thereof, and we are undergoing the baptism of blood, that which is pre-eminently one of martyrdom in the hope of a resurrection from the dead, and of an immortal life in God.
So, then, if there is no such thing as a resurrection of the dead, as those who deny this are illogically teaching, it is logically evident that we are wasting our efforts and laboring in vain; and what is worst of all, we are bearing false witness of God by preaching in His name a resurrection of the dead, and we make ourselves liable to be judged worthy of a still worse death on this account. So, then, it appears that we are laboring in vain in suffering and in dying for the dead, for Christ, unless He has really risen from the dead. But what is our benefit in dying for the dead, what is our reward? If in this transient life we have hope in Christ alone, we are therefore evidently the most wretched of all human beings. But not that Christ really did rise from the dead is a fact beyond dispute. Concerning it we have the testimony of the prophets, the testimony of the apostles; it is preached in the prophetic and in the historical word of the Gospel. It is attested by Logic; it is asserted as possible by right reason. The Messiah will rise again on the third day from the dead, after dying on the cross, and being wrapped up and placed in a new tomb. That is what the prophets predicted. The Messiah, Christ, was crucified, was buried, and rose again on the third day from the dead, and appeared to His disciples many times and after His resurrection kept company with them for forty days. That is what is asserted by the Apostles in their preaching – the historical account. After becoming a human being and showing many signs in proof of His Godhood, after raising dead men to life and resurrecting Lazarus from the dead in spite of the fact that he had been dead for four days, the Son of God, the Logos through whom all things were made that were made, who economically died and was buried, could not possibly remain in the grave like the rest of human beings: it was impossible for His body to perish or suffer decay, and to be eaten up by the worms. Life could not remain in the grave permanently or for any great length of time.
Hence it is logically evident that the historical fact of the Resurrection of Christ is true, and that even a universal or general resurrection of the dead is also possible, because the resurrection of Christ was the first-fruits thereof! He said that we should all be raised again in the last day. Accordingly, it is therefore a dogma of faith that there will be a universal, or catholic, resurrection of the dead; and we acknowledge this in the Symbol of the Faith (called in English the “Creed”) when we say: “I look forward to a resurrection of the dead and to a life in the future age.” He that disbelieves in a catholic, or general, resurrection of the dead is not a Christian, for he disbelieves in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. In disbelieving in the consequence, he is disbelieving in its cause, as was most logically proved by the great teacher of the Gentiles St. Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. The truths are connected together coherently in the logical order and sequence of antecedent and consequence. Accordingly, a reasonable person after admitting the antecedent will also admit the consequences of it; and in acknowledging the consequences, he will also grant and acknowledge the antecedent, or principle, from which they have been derived. He, on the other hand, who reasons illogically admits the antecedent, but denies the consequences of it, or acknowledges the consequences, but denies the antecedent principle from which they have been derived, or from which they follow as a matter of logic, or confounds both and fails to distinguish antecedent and consequence; this is the highest degree of illogicality and constitutes the summit of paralogism: it amounts to complete loss of reasoning power in the human species.