If I were to cite this verse for any Bible-believing saint, he or she would immediately affirm a belief in what it says.
Yet, most Christians today not only ignore the message of this verse but live as though it’s not true.
What is the verse that’s so overlooked, so disregarded by so many in the church today? It’s 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Many believers, particularly in America, live with a one-world focus that assumes their Gospel hope for just this life is sufficient to carry them through its ups and downs. But how long can a perspective that ignores our glorious eternal hope sustain one in the midst of tragedies and tribulations without opening the door of one’s heart to doubt and despair? Not long. Not long at all.
In his daily devotional book, Restoration Year, John Eldredge wrote this for November 11, “Most Christians have no solid grip at all on their future; they are fixated completely and entirely on the present moment. But we cannot live without a future…. Without a glorious hope blazing in your heart, you will be crushed by the pain of the world.”
Most sermons today not only discount the realities of eternity but rather reflect a sanctified version of Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now. When we look in Scripture, however, we see a drastically different emphasis, one that highlights the truths of 1 Corinthians 15:19.
Jesus Repeatedly Linked Belief with Eternal Life
Jesus again and again linked belief in Himself with eternal life (see John 3:15-16; 5:24, 39-40; 6:40; 10:27-28; 11:24-27; 14:1-6). One cannot miss the forever aspect of His teaching. He died so that we might inherit eternal life. He never promised us a great life before then but warned of tribulation (John 16:33).
After her brother Lazarus died, Martha expressed a belief in his future resurrection as she spoke to Jesus about his death. In response, “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:25-26). The Lord wanted Martha’s focus to be on the future resurrection of all believers, even as she watched the Lord raise her brother from the dead.
The last recorded words that Jesus spoke to His church were these: “Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). If our Lord’s imminent appearing was so important to Him that it became His last words to the church, should it not also be on our lips as we navigate through the heartaches and pains of life?
Consider What Paul Taught His New Converts at Thessalonica to Expect Jesus’ Soon Appearing
Journey back in time with me as the apostle Paul proclaims the Gospel in the city of Thessalonica. His success at winning many to Jesus there created much jealousy among the Jews who forced him to leave town much earlier than he planned (Acts 17:1-9).
Despite Paul’s short stay in the city, which ended in a riot, consider how he instructed these babes in the Christian faith. He taught them…
- To expect Jesus’ soon appearing (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10), which resulted in the Thessalonian converts mistakenly believing it would occur in their lifetime rather than that it could happen before they died (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
- The details of the event we now refer to as the “Rapture” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Paul only needed to add details concerning the fate of the “dead in Christ” during it.
- The “times and seasons” of the end times. Because they knew all about the signs of the end, the apostle did not need to provide them with more information regarding them (1 Thessalonians 5:1).
- All about the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2) would have included in-depth teaching from several Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Zephaniah, and Joel.
- The surprise beginning of the wrath of the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
- About the coming of the “man of lawlessness” or the antichrist, his opposition to God, and his future desecration of the Jewish temple during the tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5). This would have included instruction from the book of Daniel and Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew 24:15.
- About the work of the Restrainer in regard to the appearance of the antichrist, which signifies that the Rapture must happen before Satan unveils him to the world (2 Thessalonians 2:2-7).
- That the Lord Jesus Himself would kill the “man of lawlessness” at His Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Oh, to have heard Paul teach on these things as he proclaimed the Gospel to the Thessalonians!
What Causes the Popular Dismissal of the Words of 1 Corinthians 15:19?
Speaking as an American, I believe the affluence in my nation keeps many believers and pastors from fully absorbing the truths of 1 Corinthians 15:19. We have lived in a bubble of prosperity for so long that many of us do not recognize the many and varied threats from those who seek to destroy our county and put us under the heels of the globalists.
Many remain under the illusion that Marxism cannot happen here despite the openness of many in our government who tell us that is what they want for the U.S.
In addition, American Christians under the hypnotic spell of the mainstream media see only hope for their future even as the walls close in on them week by week and their freedoms slowly vanish.
The many discouraging caricatures of heaven also contribute to the neglect of these things in our daily lives. How can sitting in on a cloud with a harp compare with the technology of modern life? Who wants to jump into icy waters to earn one’s wings as an angel? Is not life here more exciting than a never-ending worship service?
One of Satan’s biggest lies today is that heaven will be boring. Randy Alcorn, in his wonderful book, Heaven, addresses this fallacy in one of my favorite quotes from his book:
Our belief that Heaven will be boring betrays a heresy—that God is boring. There’s no greater nonsense. Our desire for pleasure and the experience of joy come directly from God’s hand. He made our taste buds, adrenaline, sex drives, and the nerve endings that convey pleasure to our brains. Likewise, our imaginations and our capacity for joy and exhilaration were made by the very God we accuse of being boring. Are we so arrogant as to imagine that human beings came up with the idea of having fun? [i]
Nothing dulls Paul’s Romans 8:18 perspective of eternal glory than the lie that the Lord will not bless us physically in heaven or that our experience there will be joyless.
That’s why we refer to heaven as paradise. For us, the millennium, and especially the eternal state, will be the utopia that people can only dream about today. It will be… paradise! Why would Jesus refer to it in that way if it’s not what we imagine when we hear the word “paradise” (Luke 23:43)?
A third reason is perhaps the lack of sound biblical teaching in most churches today on future things, which has led to many getting their beliefs on such things from dubious sources on social media that prioritize human wisdom above the words of Scripture.
Please know that it’s not the preaching of biblical truths regarding these things that causes divisions among the saints; it’s the scoffers who reject what the Bible says about the Rapture and the millennium.
Please pay close attention in this regard to these words from Jude 17-19:
“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”
More often than not, it’s the scoffers who cause strife when pastors proclaim biblical truths regarding Jesus’ imminent appearing and thousand-year reign on the throne of David (see also Proverbs 22:10).
Only Our Hope of Paradise Enables us to Make Sense of this Life
Without the hope of eternity, it’s totally impossible to make sense out of what we experience in this life. Paul David Tripp wrote this in his excellent daily devotional book, New Morning Mercies, “Without eternity at the center of our thinking, our picture of life is like a jigsaw puzzle missing a central piece.” Tripp added this about a biblical worldview:
“For God’s children, eternity promises that sin will die, suffering will end, our trials will be no more, and we will live with God in perfect peace forever…. You just can’t make proper sense of life without viewing it from the perspective of eternity.”
Perhaps you’re reading this in the midst of a great loss, a sickness, or much suffering. Of course, you can rely on Jesus’ continuing strength and comfort in the moment, but do not discount the eternal hope you possess in Christ that encourages and comforts us during such times (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
If you are like me, you feel greatly overwhelmed at times as you watch the wicked carry out their evil schemes. Those motivated by greed and power seem to be winning the day as they inflict pain, grief, and even death on a great many people. Their reign of terror, however, will quickly come to an end during the Tribulation period.
If you’re groaning because of what you see (Romans 8:23-25), take heart; that’s a good sign because it means you have given up on this life to fulfill all your dreams and look for the joy of Jesus’ appearing with excited anticipation.
The best comfort for the afflictions of this life is to keep the message of 1 Corinthians 15:19 in mind at all times, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Whatever happened to eternal life? It’s alive and well on the pages of God’s Word but needs to make its reappearance in Bible-believing churches today.
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[i] Alcorn, p. 410.