Clearly, the hope of eternal life alone can give our suffering — indeed our entire lives — ultimate purpose and significance. Good does not always triumph over evil in this world. Sometimes the wicked prosper. Tragedies and suffering that have no apparent meaning or reason behind them often come our way. Without a clear picture of God dealing out punishments and rewards, it seems there is no right or wrong. No wonder the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “Without God all things are permitted.”
It is true that a select few, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, have embraced nihilism — the denial of all ultimate meaning and purpose. Most people, however, live as if there is an objective, eternal right and wrong and as if some kind of ultimate purpose governs all of history. The postmodernist thinking that infects the minds of millions might verbally deny that ultimate meaning exists, but hardly anyone lives out the lawlessness and hopelessness that inevitably results from this view. That few conduct their affairs in a way that lines up with their denial of eternal, objective truth demonstrates powerfully the existence of transcendent truth — the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good Creator.
Knowing that a god of some kind exists is not enough, however, to give us hope of eternal life and a just future order. We still have the question: “Which god?” Paul addresses this issue in today’s passage by arguing for the certainty of Jesus’ resurrection. First Corinthians 15:13 explains that if there is no resurrection, then even Jesus has not been raised. And if Jesus has not been raised, we have been misrepresenting God, for we have claimed that God raised Him from the dead (v. 15). Ultimately, however, if Jesus has not been raised, there is neither resurrection nor judgment, and we might as well indulge in whatever we want (v. 32).
Thankfully, none of this is the case. We can be confident that Jesus is alive because of the Old Testament prophecies about Him (v. 3) and the abundant testimony to His post-resurrection appearances (vv. 4–8). Jesus’ resurrection proves His claim that judgment day is indeed coming; therefore, our suffering has purpose, and everyone, famous or not, will one day receive mercy or justice.