MICHAEL GREENMichael Green is professor of evangelism at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia. He is the author of Evangelism in the Early Church (Eerdmans, 1970) and To Corinth with Love (Word [Dallas], 1988), from which a chapter was adapted for this article.
However hard a recession bites, the undertakers are not going to go out of business. Death is the unwelcome fact at the end of the road. Thus, one of the great tests of any philosophy is what it makes of death.
Reading the New Testament reveals how quickly the early church came to grips with this inevitable reality of life. The apostle Paul had to tackle the issue regularly in his preaching and writing. We see this especially in his dealings with the church at Corinth.
We are not altogether sure how the Corinthians themselves handled death. Some of them had died since Paul preached to them about Jesus and the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6). This raised problems there, as it did in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 4:13–5:1). On the whole, the Corinthians seemed to shy away from thinking about death and its implications. Theirs was a religion of a spiritual, realized resurrection. They reveled now in the powers of the age to come. They showed little interest in what happened after the last enemy struck. And they expected the return of Christ in power and glory, perhaps in their own lifetime. So why worry?
Some of them, however, did worry. This may explain in part why Paul wrote chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, a chapter that details the Christian implications of death and resurrection. It is hard, after all, not to worry when your loved ones die. Perhaps the Corinthians feared there might not really be life after death. Even more probably, Paul wrote this chapter because the idea ...1
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