When I was a teenager, I remember reading a book about the possibility that Jesus’s bones had been found. Needless to say, such a discovery of Jesus’s body—if it were conclusive and beyond a shadow of a doubt—would provoke some changes to how we understand and celebrate Easter, not to mention what it would do to Christianity.

It was interesting to read different reactions to the idea that the bones of Jesus might be found, but there was one response that stood out to me. One pastor said something along these lines:

If the bones of Jesus were to be discovered, it would be a big finding! It would cause us to adjust our understanding of Christianity, yes. But ultimately, the truth and power of Christianity would remain undisturbed. We would still have all of Jesus’s teachings and we would have all of his stories and we would have his wonderful example of love for the outcast. . . . And even though Easter wouldn’t be about the physical resurrection of Jesus, we would go on celebrating the example and testimony of this great Man of God, who lives on in our hearts, and who inspires us to be kind to others. Even if the tomb wasn’t empty, our hearts would still be full.

This response sounds so innocent and plausible, so thoughtful and hope-filled.

But according to Paul, it’s absolutely wrong. If Jesus hasn’t been raised from the dead—bodily—then the whole of Christianity is lost. If the body of Jesus is decaying somewhere in the Middle East today, it’s an absolute disaster for our faith. Everything rises or falls with Easter!

What If Jesus Wasn’t Raised? 5 Implications

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul corrects those in the church who were saying, “There’s no resurrection of the dead.” If Jesus wasn’t really raised from the dead, five things follow.

1. We have no hope of rising from the dead.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. (v. 12-13)

The destiny of the Christian to resurrection life depends on the deliverance of Jesus from deathly decay. Easter is about Jesus’ sresurrection, but one reason we celebrate it is because we know it foreshadows what God is going to do with everyone who belongs to Jesus at the end of time.

Our souls are with Jesus as soon as we die, but our bodies are at rest, awaiting the day of resurrection when Christ returns and says, Wake up! I am making all things new. Paul says here, If Christ hasn’t been raised, you have no hope of resurrection.

2. Our preaching and teaching is false and pointless.

Paul adds, “and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain . . .” (v. 14).

If Christ hasn’t been raised, then every time anyone preaches, it’s all pointless and meaningless. It may inspire us in the short term, but it’s not going to change the fact that Jesus is dead and buried, and that one day, we’ll all be dead and buried, too, and death has won.

Paul also says we are “false witnesses” (v. 15). If Christ hasn’t been raised, then pastors are lying every Sunday.

You may say, But I’m encouraged by sermons. They help me! Paul would say to that: We don’t preach the gospel because it’s helpful; we preach the gospel because it’s true. And ultimately, if it’s not true, it’s not helpful.

3. Our faith is worthless.

Paul continues, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless” (v. 17). Paul is saying: Unless your faith is actually grounded in something worthy of your trust, it’s useless.

Christian faith is not generic. It’s not just important that you believe something, but that the Someone you believe in is actually able to save you! True faith has power because of who we believe in, not simply because we believe.

4. We are still in our sins.

Without the resurrection of Jesus, we also don’t have forgiveness. Our sins have not been washed away.

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (v. 17)

Without the resurrection the power of sin has not been broken, and the consequence of death has not been challenged. Sin and death are connected. The sign that sin has been taken care of is that death dies—death is reversed and is overcome by new life.

What happened on Easter morning vindicates what happened on Friday afternoon. Easter validates the cross. Easter is why we can say Good Friday.

5. Believers who have died are lost forever.

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, every Christian funeral has been invalidated. There’s no hope of heaven. Everyone you’ve grieved is gone for good.

Those, then, who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. . . . If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. (v. 18-19)

Paul wrote that if Christ wasn’t raised, and if we’re not going to be raised, “we should be pitied more than anyone” because we believe in a Jesus who is powerless over death.

Reversing the Logic

We see in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul’s rapid-fire list of terrible implications that would be true if Jesus wasn’t really raised from the dead. But what if we turn the passage around, to see what is true since the resurrection really happened?

  • Since there is a resurrection of the dead, then Jesus Christ has truly been raised.
  • And if Jesus Christ has been raised, then our proclamation is powerful, and so is your faith.
  • We are found to be true witnesses about God, because we have testified truthfully about God that he raised up Christ—whom he truly raised up, because the dead are raised.
  • And if the dead are raised, then Christ has truly been raised. And if Christ has been raised, your faith is full of worth and power.
  • Your sins are forgiven forever.
  • Those who have fallen asleep in Christ are safe in his arms.
  • If we have put our hope in Christ for this life and the next, we have reasons to celebrate forever!

If the heart of Christianity is true, everything has changed. Stephen Um puts it this way:

“The resurrection narrative tells a story with a beautiful, happy ending. The end of redemptive history is: God wins, and those who are in union with Christ will win along with him. He will renew the entire world to make it the way it is supposed to be and will undo all of the disintegration. . . . Death will not ultimately have the victory because of what Jesus Christ has done. It’s not possible that we could ever fail or consider ourselves as losers. Because Jesus Christ lost everything for us, we can’t ultimately lose anything.”