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What If There Were No Tomorrow?
The absurdity of life without God–I Cor. 15:12-19
Many of your friends, family, classmates and workmates are living without hope. Perhaps some of you here today have no hope. Like an orphan during war, when night comes and you’re alone–there’s only despair or a broken heart. You have no answer to life’s most important questions.
Man is the only creature in the universe who asks questions like, “Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?” My dog Cali doesn’t say, “I bark, therefore I am.” Only people ask questions, and for centuries man wisely looked only to God for the answers. But recently people have tried to answer them without God. Some don’t even know they can look to the God of the Bible.
How do you answer life’s key questions if there’s no God? Who am I, if there’s no God? You are a freak of nature, a blind product of matter plus time plus chance–simply, from the goo to the zoo to you. You’re just a lump of slime that evolved rationally. Why are you here if there’s no God? You’re here because of an accident of chance thrust into existence for no reason at all. Therefore you’re no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs. The same blind cosmic process that coughed us up in the first place will eventually swallow us up again.
If death is the end of all, then life is all for nothing. How should I live if there is no God? If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether you live like Adolf Hitler or as Saint Francis Assisi. In a universe without God, there’s no right and wrong because there’s no standard of morality, nor anyone or anything to be accountable to. That means it’s impossible to condemn crime as evil, or praise self-sacrifice as good. In a universe without God, good and evil don’t exist–there’s only existence.
Several years back, a terrible mid-winter air disaster occurred in which a plane leaving the Washington, D.C. airport smashed into a bridge spanning the Potomac River, plunging its passengers into the icy waters. As the rescue helicopters came, attention was focused on one man who again and again pushed the dangling rope ladder to another passenger, rather than being pulled to safety himself. Six times he passed the ladder by. When they came again, he was gone. He had freely given his life that others might live. The whole nation turned its eyes to this man in respect and admiration for the selfless and good act he had performed. And yet if the atheist is right, that man wasn’t noble–he did the stupidest thing possible. He should have gone for the ladder first, pushed others away if necessary, in order to survive. But to die for others he didn’t even know, to give up all the brief existence he will ever have–for what? For the atheist, there can be no reason. And yet, he like the rest of us instinctively reacts with praise for this man’s selfless action–why? Because no man can embrace a world without a standard of morality–no one lives as if there’s no right and wrong, or good and bad . . . no one.
Where am I going, if there is no God? If God doesn’t exist, then man is doomed. Without God there’s no immortality, and without that, man’s life leads only to the grave. His life is but a spark in infinite blackness that appears, flickers, and dies forever.
You see, modern man thought when he got rid of God that he had freed himself from all that stifled him. Instead he discovered that by killing God, he also killed himself. He destroyed all hope. If there’s no life after death, no resurrection, then life’s absurd. Like a child caught in war, alone at night, there’s only despair. If there’s no God, then life loses all meaning.
Come on, when you die you hope you are going to go to heaven. But don’t expect to go to heaven if you’re dissing God now. And God does not want a token affirmation, a gift, a prayer showing up when it’s convenient. No, He demands unconditional surrender. People are funny–they live for themselves, live in rebellion to God, spend their entire life living their way, only being religious if it fits their lifestyle, are indifferent to God Monday to Saturday, and for the most part totally ignore God. Then when they die they hope to be in a better place. They will even say of their friends who ignored Christ, “Oh yes, he is in a better place.” Friends, they are not in a better place. You will not be unless you exchange all that you are for all that He is.
But if God does exist, then there’s hope for you and me. Do you have that hope today? God has given each of us a hope for tomorrow. It’s not a slice of bread, but a historical fact. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our guarantee for “a tomorrow” better than today. The resurrection is our hope after death–there’s life, a better life, a perfect life, eternal life with God that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
If we believe there’s no God, then the world in which we live is worse than the German furnaces at Auschwitz. But if we turn to God, then we can experience true hope. Have you struggled with those life beliefs? The Corinthians did–they denied, not God, but the bodily resurrection. Now in I Corinthians 15:12 to 19 Paul is going to show them the incredible consequences of a false belief.
#1 The Concern
The Corinthians had rejected the hope of the resurrection. They had bought into a Greek philosophy that viewed the body as the perishable, discardable, contaminated seat of man’s sin. Although they accepted the Lord’s resurrection, they rejected the truth of their own physical resurrection. Look at how Paul states his concern in verse 12. The “if” is a first class condition if, and the word “raised” is in the perfect tense.
Paul literally says, since Christ is proclaimed as once risen bodily and currently in a risen state, how can a few of you teach and others of you agree there’s no bodily resurrection of the dead? In other words, you can’t say Jesus is bodily risen from the dead, but Christians are not going to be raised physically. Those two resurrections are connected–the one resurrection guarantees all others. Jesus promised He would raise us from the dead.
In John 6:44 Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” In John 11:25 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” And Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 4:14 that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also. Death is not the end of your body. When you believe death terminates your body, whether Christian or not, you’ll live incorrectly without hope. If death is the end of the physical, you’ll end up going for the gusto without God, getting physical, and seeking to eat, drink and be merry without God, for tomorrow you won’t be able to do this anymore. If you don’t believe in the resurrection, you destroy the hope of a better life in the future.
Part of the problem of the Corinthians and Christians today is a wrong view of the body. They believed that all bodily pleasure took place only in this life, not in the life to come–which led to all kinds of sins involving eating and pleasure. Is this life the end of physical enjoyment? Is it? The Christian answer is no–we don’t lose such delights forever. We will enjoy them in a fuller way than ever before when the body is raised from the dead. God has a future purpose for the body, as well as for the spirit. Our bodies will be transformed and enriched. All they’re able to do now will be experienced to greater degree than ever in the life to come.
We will eat and not get fat, go through walls, travel from one point to another–amazing things we saw Christ do after His resurrection. To sit and talk with someone in heaven will be bliss beyond imagining. And to worship God in a resurrection body will be an incredible mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical experience–better than we can imagine. We have much to look forward to. But if you believe there’s no resurrection for the believer, then you’ve totally destroyed all future physical hope.
#2 The Consequences of such a belief
In verses 13 to 19, Paul gives us an irrefutable if/then argument, totally destroying the Corinthian position. If there is no resurrection, then . . .
First Christ is still in the grave
Denying the resurrection of our bodies requires that we also deny the Lord’s resurrection. As Paul states in verse 13, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.” How do those who deny Jesus’ resurrection explain the displaced stone? Why were the Roman soldiers guarding His tomb bribed to lie about what happened to His body? Why was His body never found? What about the fact that He appeared to more than five hundred people in His resurrected body? What about all those who died because they had seen Him risen from the dead? They died proclaiming He’s alive.
Those who deny the resurrection of our bodies must also deny the Lord’s resurrection. And in the face of these facts, that’s a heavy burden of proof to carry. God has promised us a future with Him that can be secured only by faith in Jesus Christ. If the resurrection is false, then . . .
Second Our preaching is meaningless
Like dominoes, the second argument topples the Corinthians’ position like the first (in verse 14), and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, literally empty—meaning, if you take the resurrection from Christianity, there’s nothing left to share. Without the resurrection, the good news of Christ is no news at all.
The Gospel message has no validity because it’s based on just another good man who lived and died for just another good cause. Without the resurrection, we should all go home, for all preaching and worship is a waste of time. All Christian sermons, books, radio, or TV you’ve seen, heard or read is a total waste of time if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. But if Jesus is alive, then preaching should make a difference in your life. If the resurrection is a non-essential belief, then . . .
Third Our faith is worthless
Without the resurrection, not only is our message in vain, but our faith is useless. As Paul explains in verse 14b, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith also is vain.” What’s the point of going to church every Sunday, or to a group, or reading the Scriptures, or even believing God exists? All of it’s a religious game if Jesus is still dead. If there is no immortality, then life has no hope, for death will bring everything to a final end.
For the Christian, without the resurrection Jesus could never change our lives because only the resurrection gives us the power to change. Resurrection power is the power to change. When looking at Hoover Dam that holds back millions of gallons of water, we marvel at all the power harnessed there. But to see the greatest evidence of a dam’s power, all we need is to walk into a darkened room at home, flip the switch on the wall and watch the room light up.
In the same way, the power of the resurrection is best evidenced not in a fantastic display of faith, but in the most intimate places of our hearts where we can see the darkness that’s been changed to light. Are there signs of resurrection power in your life? Are the dark corners in your heart being illuminated by the Lord, and transformed into areas of holiness?
When is the last time you saw the living Christ demonstrate His power in your life by putting to death a sinful habit, by guarding a gossiping tongue, by killing unbiblical thoughts, by restoring a wounded relationship, by turning bitterness into forgiveness, by turning a negative attitude into thankfulness? Only the resurrected Christ can do that—is He? If there’s no bodily resurrection, then . . .
Fourth Preachers are liars
In verse 15, Paul buries the Corinthians’ position into its just grave. “Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.” If there’s no bodily resurrection, everyone who claimed to see the resurrected Lord, and those who taught Jesus is alive are liars.
Rather than being men of integrity and truthfulness, which every genuine spiritual leader strives to be, they’re sick hypocrites who deliberately deceive many into gross error. This means Paul, Peter, the apostles, James–even the 500 are all liars because all of them claimed Jesus had risen from the dead. To reject the resurrection of Jesus Christ means the Corinthians would have to reject all those who led them to faith in Christ. To not believe the resurrection means every Christian leader who has forged out our faith has lied–Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon and Tony Miller. Even Christ Himself who predicted His own resurrection and the resurrection of all men, who convinced people later to be martyred because they believed He had risen from the dead, who is considered the greatest moral teacher of all time–even He was a liar if there’s no resurrection.
Paul drives this truth home by repeating the same truth in verse 16 again, “For if [indeed, as they say, it’s true that] the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.” Then with the determination of a warrior, Paul fills in the dirt of the grave containing the Corinthian view with a fifth, sixth and seventh fact. If there’s no resurrection then . . .
Fifth We’re still under condemnation
Look at verse 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins.” If Christ is still in the grave, then your faith has no aim, no purpose, no end and no fruit–no heaven. But worse than that, you are still under condemnation for your sins. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, when we stand before God to give an account for all we’ve done, there’ll be no escape from God’s wrath for our sins. There will be no hiding place, no hope for mercy, no loving Christ to say, “I’ve paid the penalty for your sins. I loved you so much, I died in your place.”
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’ll get everything we deserve for every evil thought we’ve had. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then sin has won the victory over Christ and continues to be victorious over all men. But God did raise Jesus from the dead. As Romans 4:24 to 25 says, “God did raise Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” And Psalm 103 tells us we’ve been pardoned, healed, and redeemed, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit.”
If Jesus had remained dead in His tomb, we would still be dead in our sins. For you see, His death was only the beginning of healing our sin-diseased hearts. It’s His resurrection that makes us completely whole, and completely free from the shackles of sin. Are you free from sin, or are you faking it?
A soldier stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941 shared that on December 6th he went to a Bible study, and each man was to share a verse he knew from memory. The man had been a Christian since childhood, but couldn’t remember one verse except for John 3:16, which someone else had already taken. When it came time for his turn, he was humiliated. In bed that night he realized he was a fake.
He awoke on December 7th to the surprise attack. When they began to return fire, they realized they were shooting practice ammunition–in fact until the real bullets arrived, they shot at the enemy for fifteen minutes with blanks trying to scare away the planes. As this soldier stood there, he admitted to himself, “Robertson, this is how your whole life has been–firing blanks for Christ.” He made up his mind right there in the midst of battle that if he escaped with his life, he would get serious about following Jesus. He did—he helped found the Navigators. Have you?
There are only three kinds of people in church–believers, non-believers and make-believers. If the resurrection is a false hope, then . . .
6th Dead believers have perished
Look at verse 18, “Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ [this isn’t soul sleep, but a euphemism for death—those who have died] have perished.” All those loved ones who we thought have gone on to be with the Lord, who we hoped to meet again, we’ll never see. Our children, our parents, our friends–those who’ve been taken suddenly, those to whom we bade a weeping farewell with the hope that one day we would see them again in glory, are all gone forever.
If Jesus didn’t come back to life, then all believers from the first century till today who have already died, are ruined, destroyed, finished. All hope of seeing them again is gone–that’s terrible. How many times after the death of a loved one did you find comfort in the fact that they were with Jesus, where there’s no sorrow, no pain, no sickness, no death? Without the resurrection, this hope is a mere myth. Praise God that’s not how it is.
I challenge you to compare a Christian funeral with a funeral where someone died without Christ–they’re completely different. Christians enjoy real joy, hope–along with grief and pain. Some folks actually refuse to follow Jesus because a loved one died without Christ. They’re unwilling to admit someone’s eternal state, therefore they reject Jesus and join their fate. So instead of listening to God as He tries to get their attention through their loss, they refuse to enjoy the only hope anyone has through Christ. Finally, if there is no resurrection, then . . .
Seventh We are all pathetic fools
This bleak list finalizes in verse 19, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” If there’s no resurrection, we must give up our dreams of a glorious future and go back to coldness, selfishness, and drabness. If our hope in Christ only counts for this life, then we’re to be more pitied than a homeless bag lady or an innocent Aids victim. We are miserable. If Jesus is still dead, then He can’t help us now or in the life to come. We’ll have no comfort or satisfaction in life now, and no Savior, no forgiveness, no eternal life and no hope for the future.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we will not rise from the dead, and if that’s true, then
Our preaching is in vain
Our faith is empty
The apostles are made to be liars
Our sin still remains unatoned for
Death has triumphed over our loved ones, and
Life itself is made utterly miserable. Wouldn’t you love to live like that? Millions do–everyone who doesn’t know the reality of the risen Lord must live every day of his life on that basis. That’s why the world seeks so desperately to find some anesthetic to dull the pain of an empty heart. That’s why people are caught up in continual noise and action, so they won’t have to think about life. No one can stand life without hope beyond the grave.
#3 The Conclusion
The conclusion is–the resurrection is true, and the Gospel is powerful enough to change our hearts. If you believe the resurrection, then . . .
First You will live life to the fullest
If your future is secure, it will change your life now. Take this hope test–how many are true of you?
1 The older you get, the more you smile
2 You feel forgiven, knowing your sin is forgiven
3 You expectantly long for heaven daily
4 Your checkbook shows your hope in the future
5 Your schedule shows a service to the things of God
6 You really enjoy creation, weather, sky, stars, trees, wind, rain
7 You enjoy good things in life without sin
8 You are thankful for what you have and receive
9 You enjoy people, laugh, cry, hurt, joy
10 Your Sundays show you love being with God’s people
Now if 10-9 are true of you, you’re living life fully
if 7-8 are true of you, you’re missing God’s best
if 5-6 are true of you, you’ve lost touch with Jesus
if 3-4 are true of you, you’re in serious sin trouble
if less than 3, it probably shows you don’t know Jesus
If you believe the resurrection, then . . .
Second You will be committed to the cause of Christ
If you really believe there’s an incredible reward at the end of the race, you’ll run hard now to win. We serve a risen Savior. He is alive, and the way He shows it is by showing Himself to others through us. The greatest cause to live for is to be used of God to help as many people to become like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible to display His glory.
Is Jesus showing Himself alive through you?
Best–you’re witnessing with lip and life to the lost
Good–you’re sacrificing personal time, gifts, and money to reach the lost at work, school and neighborhood
Normal–you’re giving to missions and church for outreach
Bad–you are doing nothing to make Christ known
Are you committed to the cause with your best, good or normal? If you believe the resurrection, then . . .
Third You will see Christ reckon sin habits dead in you
Don’t be like the lady who was on a diet who prayed as she passed the donut shop, “Lord, if it’s okay for me to stop for a donut, there will be a parking space right in front of the store.” And sure enough, on her seventh trip around the block . . . No, if Jesus is alive, you’ll see Him put to death the sin habits of your life–all kinds. Jesus is alive, and He is our only hope, now and forever. Won’t you put your trust in Him? If you believe the resurrection, then . . .
Fourth You will follow Christ now
Jesus said my sheep hear my voice and follow me. That means if you are truly his sheep, you give, serve, gather faithfully, love others, share with others, you do what Jesus did–if you believe He rose from the dead. Do you truly know the risen Christ? Turn to Him today. Let’s pray.