In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul teaches that God will defeat the power of death for all his people. When Christ returns, God’s people will live again. They will have a new quality of life, and that life will never end.
We may ask where Paul’s ideas came from. It is clear that Jesus taught similar things (see Matthew 24:30-31; Matthew 25:34; Luke 20:34-38; John 11:25-26). So did Peter and John (2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation chapter 21).
However, Paul’s authority for these things comes from the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). God had shown these things not just to the first Christians, but also to his prophets (holy men) before Christ came.
In 1 Corinthians 15:54, Paul uses words from Isaiah 25:8. The word ‘swallowed’ is a word-picture for the complete defeat of death. It is like when a wild animal kills another animal. That wild animal does not just kill the other animal, it eats the animal completely.
1 Corinthians 15:55 is from Hosea 13:14. That verse surprises us as we read the Book of Hosea. It is in the middle of a passage about how God will punish his people for their evil deeds. Then, suddenly, we find this promise. The explanation is in Hosea 14:1-4. God does not want to punish his people. He wants them to return to him, so that he can rescue them from all their enemies – even from death.
Before that, in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, Paul uses a word-picture about new clothes. It is a way to describe the astonishing change that God will make. It may remind us of Isaiah 52:1. Enemies had completely destroyed the city called Zion (Jerusalem). Its inhabitants who were still alive were very weak (Isaiah 51:19-20). But God told those weak people to put on new clothes that would show their strength. He would give them complete success against their enemies.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.