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1 Corinthians 15:50-58 Study Guide: The Death of Death

Community Group Study Guide — The Death of Death
1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Main idea:
The Resurrection gives followers of Jesus a hope that the world does not have. The victory of Jesus means the death of death, and though we can still grieve, we do not grieve as those without hope. Rather we look forward to the day when in a moment followers of Jesus  shall all be changed from perishable to imperishable bodies. 

Study Information:
Unless we are alive when Jesus returns we will all experience physical death. Our mortality can feel really heavy at times, especially when we hit our limits. Our world offers us the temptation to look for outside help to try and cheat death. For some we try to delay aging and fight the inevitability of death through health and fitness, medical treatments, security in money, and may a sense of avoiding risk and chasing safety. Yet, the death rate is 100%. Our world gives us an empty promise that certain strategies will help us have victory over death, but only Christ can grant that and even though death is defeated, we still hurt and grieve when death strikes a loved one. On top of all this, living in the global West makes it even more challenging because we’re more insulated from death than most of the rest of the world and our secular world view does not offer us much counsel for how to handle death. 

In this last part of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wants to show us death is a defeated enemy. Even though our mortal bodies will perish, for those in Christ death is just a gateway to a true and better experience in the presence of the victorious Christ. The best is yet to come. 

It’s a Mystery! We Shall All Be Changed
1 Corinthians 15:50-53
Those in Christ shall all be changed! Our mortal bodies will not remain this way forever, there is a powerful transformation that awaits them. The reference to “flesh and blood” in verse 50 is short hand for our perishable and mortal lives. We’ve already covered the theology of this in our study guides, but New Creation will be a physical experience with new imperishable bodies, but “flesh and blood” is an attribute of our mortal bodies which will all one day fail and die. To inherit the kingdom of God we need a new body that is fit for the new creation. Paul calls this transformation a mystery; one day the trumpet will sound and in a moment we will go from perishable to imperishable. This trumpet was an instrument that declared victory at the end of a battle and this passage points forward to a time when Christ will come back. Those who died in Christ are said to be “asleep” but there will also be believers who are still alive when he returns and all of those who are in Christ will experience this promised transformation and receive bodies fit for the kingdom of God. The mystery of it all is that we do not have all the details of how this will take place or what it will be like. Think of it this way, on this side of eternity we are growing in Christ and being shaped more and more into the image of Jesus which can be a slow and difficult process as we put sin to death and try to walk in holiness and yet what our passage teaches us is that in a moment, a twinkling of an eye we will be changed and be like him. What feels difficult for us is not difficult for God. 

To put our hope in this physical world alone is vanity. As followers of Jesus, of all people, we should have a greater appreciation for the world God created and declares to be good and beautiful. Likewise, we should want to care for the bodies we’ve been given. However, to put our hope in trying to cheat death or to live like this world is all there is would be vanity. The greatest athlete, the richest businessperson and the wisest human you know all will face the same end as the laziest person you can imagine. The writer of Ecclesiastes called this a grievous evil, which points to the difficult reality that this is for many of us to come to grips with, regardless of our status we all face the grave (Ecc 5:13-17). Enjoy your life and this world as a gift from God but at the same time remember that your hope in Christ is that even though you will die your mortal body will put on what is immortal because of the victory of Jesus!

The Pain of Death and Victory of Christ
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
One thing that you may hear at a funeral is that death is a natural part of life. While this is true in a sense, the scripture sees death as an enemy and an intruder. Paul in verse 56 interconnects death, sin and the law. Sin entered the creation when Adam disobeyed God and since he was our representative we are born into Adam and into sin. Death is an intruder and an enemy and exists as a bi-product of sin. God warned Adam by saying “in the day that you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you will surely die.” So in Adam’s sin, all die. More than that, the Mosaic Law created opportunity for us to trespass against it (Romans 5:20-21, 7:5-25). The Law was designed to restrain sin and to reveal our need for a savior but all fall short of God’s glory and transgress against the Law. We’re stuck and hopeless apart from God intervening. Yet, even though everyone may experience death it is not presented in the Bible as “natural,” death is an enemy and will be defeated. In Christ we experience the death of death. 

To mark the victory of Christ, Paul quotes from Isaiah 25:8 which is set in the larger context of God reconciling people to himself who gather to rejoice in his salvation (Isaiah 25:6-12). This passage in Isaiah gives us an image of the mountain of God, a wedding feast and death being swallowed up forever. We know from practical experience that this day is in the future because death is still painful. Death still hurts when we have a loved one who dies and for some of us passing out of this world will be a painful process. Death still has a sting to it, but 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 is Paul’s open mockery of death’s limited and fleeting power. Paul taunts death because the victory of Christ is certain and the victory of Christ is shared with his people (1 Corinthians 15:57). This gives followers of Jesus hope as we are commanded to be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor is not in vain. Simply put, we can endure and keep our eyes on being faithful to God because the hope we have is certain. Our work for the Lord will bear fruit because God is at work in it. So even when life feels and the experiences of death around you feel heavy, know that it is not in vain and that God has worked to defeat death in Christ. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

How does our culture view death and in what ways are we tempted to try and cheat aging and death?

What does Paul mean by “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” and how does that fit with what we’ve learned about new physical bodies and eternity being described as “new creation?”

How is the hope of a believer different when a loved one dies in Christ? Does Paul’s mocking of “death where is your sting?” mean that death should be easy for us to deal with? Explain your thoughts to the group.

What does it look like to put Paul’s commands in 1 Corinthians 15:58 into practice?