In the ancient world, there were many who believed that death was simply the end of life completely, while others believed in a nebulous and insubstantial existence in the underworld. The notion of a physical, embodied resurrection was considered foolishness by the educated and elite within the Greco-Roman world. However, for early Christians the physical resurrection of Jesus was the cornerstone of their entire belief system. As Paul argues in today's reading, "if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins!" The resurrection is proof that Christ's death was, in fact, God's victory over the power of sin and death. If Christ has not been raised then he is still dead, which means there is no victory!
After Paul has established the essential character of Jesus' resurrection, he goes on to discuss the future resurrection of dead. If Christ has been raised, then we can be assured that we will one day share in his resurrection; we will one day enjoy a renewed physical existence with God for all eternity. The language that Paul uses to describe this new physical reality is somewhat vague; however, it is important to remember that Paul is attempting to describe a future reality, the reality of God's new creation. No one has any first hand knowledge of this reality, so we can only speak in general terms. Paul's major point is that in this present world we experience sin and brokenness; consequently, our bodies are perishable and subject to decay. However, in the age to come where sin, death, and human brokenness are no more, we will experience a physicality that is imperishable. This is difficult for us to fully comprehend!
Early Creedal Statement?
The major Creeds of church (Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed) were not develop until several centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, we do find evidence that some of the basic beliefs about Jesus were already being codified within just a few decades after his death. For example, Paul says in today' reading, "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received," which implies that this tradition preceded Paul's own ministry. In other words, this basic statement that Jesus died, was buried, and raised according to the scriptures may represent an early creedal statement, an early statement that described the essential beliefs about Jesus.