If contemporary secular society has retained a flicker of interest in any department of religion, it is surely in the question of life after death—if only to provide answers for inquiring youngsters. Faith in the reality of life beyond the grave seems to be faltering, since an article in the NOW magazine of December, 1979 quoted the astonishing statistic that 50% of those who claim to be Christians and churchgoing members of the Church of England do not believe in an afterlife! And yet, in New Testament terms, Christianity without a belief in the afterlife represents an absurd contradiction. Indeed, the tendency to doubt the future resurrection of the faithful called forth some of Paul’s most forceful words. To the church at Corinth he wrote:
First and foremost, I handed on to you the facts which had been imparted to me: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter] and afterwards to the Twelve. Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. In the end he appeared even to me…This is what we all proclaim, and this is what you believed. Now if this is what we proclaim, that Christ was raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there be no resurrection, then Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, then our gospel is null and void, and so is your faith; and we turn out to be lying witnesses for God, because we bore witness that he raised Christ to life, whereas, if the dead are not raised, he did not raise him. For if the dead are not raised, it follows that Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, your faith has nothing in it and you are still in your old state of sin. It follows also that those who have died within Christ’s fellowship are utterly lost. If it is for this life only that Christ has given us hope, we of all men are most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:3-8, 11-19, NEB).
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