Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
1 Corinthians 15.1-11
The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” The first part of the reply goes, “That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” The emphasis on “body and soul” is important, because it means that God not only preserves the core of our personality (soul) when we die, he will also return us to our bodily existence. We don’t end up as disembodied souls in a netherworld (which is what is believed by many ancient civilisations) nor do we end up in another bodily existence without our present personality (the reincarnation of Indic religions like Buddhism). God preserves both our body and soul.
This is why the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our hope “in life and death.” If Christ was resurrected, it means we also share in the same kind of resurrection if we are united to him in faith and baptism. God preserves both our body and soul as he did for his Son our Lord. While they believed in the resurrection of Christ, the Corinthian Christians doubted if there would be the resurrection of the dead. The Apostle Paul found it ludicrous: how can one believe in Christ but doubt the final resurrection if the foundation of their faith is the resurrection? Christ is “the first fruits of those who have died” (15.20), and since he is the first harvest, we are the harvest that is to follow and we will also be resurrected as he did. If there is indeed no final resurrection, then neither would Christ have been resurrected, and all of the church’s work in proclamation would be in vain. However, since the evidence of Christ’s resurrection is irrefragable—having been witnessed by more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time—then there is hope for all in life and death.
We may lose our loved ones and our own bodies will deteriorate and die, but we have nothing to fear and we have no need to grieve as if we have no hope. The resurrected Christ is our hope and in him we are preserved for the age to come, to enjoy communion with him and our brothers and sisters forever. There is also another present implication of this hope. Since we are assured of eternal life, it “makes [us] wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for [Christ]” (Heidelberg Catechism). May God grant us the grace to do, just so as he did for the Apostle Paul.