There is a continuity in 1 Corinthians 15 from beginning to end. We’ve shown in two prior blog posts that Hosea 6 is a starting point with the emphasis on reconciliation of spirits to God, versus resuscitation bones and body. Here we offer that so goes the beginning of Paul’s line of reasoning and source of his resurrection thesis, that so goes the end as well. In other words, he does not change horses mid-stream or at the end of the chapter. It is one consistent theme.
Sure I promised this a few days ago, but a lot happened between that time. Besides all that, Michael Jackson‘s death and the news coverage became a distraction. Being a former musician in my teen years, and one who really appreciated his musical influence, I was caught up with the “Man in the Mirror” for a few episodes of CNN. Besides, I attended a Jackson 5 concert to see the future King of Pop when he was about 11 years old. I was 15 at the time.
However, it is my aim, to stay with the topic at hand and speak briefly on Paul’s consistency in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 15. The question before us, is, did Paul change the meaning of the death and argumentation he began with from Hosea 6? Let us note a few verses from the end of the chapter.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:55)
Now what possibly could be the relationship between death, sin, Hades, and the Law? For starters, is there an Old Testament source for Paul’s language. Again, we answer in the affirmative. Paul cites Hosea 13:14.
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death [Sheol], I will be your plagues! O Grave I will be your destruction.
Interestingly, the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament reads agrees precisely with Paul’s quote in 1 Corinthians 15.
“I will deliver them out of the power of Hades, and will redeem them from death; where is thy penalty, O death? O Hades, where is thy sting?
Beginning in Hosea Chapter 13 verse 1
God again offers that Ephraim offended [sinned] through Baal worship, breaking the first of the ten commandments in the Law. However, observe that God says, when Ephraim offended through Baal worship, he died? Now what death was that? While you’re thinking about it, note verse 2, which adds, “Now they sin more and more and have made for themselves molded images, idols of their silver, according to their skill; All of it is the work of craftsmen.
How can physically dead men both make and worship molded images? Will they yet be crafting idols and worshiping them in death? The answer should be obvious that Ephraim’s death in this text is sin-death, i.e. separation from God. They are not physically dead. It is this verse (among others) which Paul quotes at the end of 1 Corinthians 15 describing the death under discussion in the chapter.
How Do Physical Bodies Enter Hades?
Another question is how do biological bodies enter Hades? They don’t. The focus is the destruction of Hades and the ransoming of those captured by it. I will deliver them out of the power of Hades. Death is destroyed by the destruction of Hades. This is precisely why Christ built the church saying that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it, (Matthew 16:18). Unlike the body of Moses, which could not defeat death, it is conquered through the body [church] of Christ. “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Death is personified as the scorpion with a deadly stinger. The sting of death is sin. The potency or strength of sin is the law, because man could not perfectly keep the law, thus fell under its condemnation.
The End of sin and Hades Occurs at the End or Fulfillment of the Law
The conclusion is inescapable that for Paul, the death under discussion is defeated when the law is fulfilled. “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallwed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54). There is but one alternative for those who argue biological death in this chapter. They must perpetuate the law until an alleged yet future return of Christ. Death ends when the law ends, and when the law ends, death ends.