From our conversion until we see God in glory, we are called to live by faith in the Lord, to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). This is not a call that is limited to only one area of life or to selected events. No, we are to walk by faith in every breath that we take, even our last breath as we pass into glory.
In other words, just as we live by faith, we also die in faith. When we speak of the relationship of faith to our natural deaths, it is important to note how death prompts human beings to ask the same question no matter their religious, cultural, ethnic, political, philosophical, or socioeconomic background. Everyone will at some point ask whether there is life after death.
One key thinker in the history of Western thought is the eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. He observed that we have an innate sense of right and wrong that drives our actions and decisions. In turn, this sense of right and wrong moves us to make laws, punish criminals, and take other steps that prevent society from breaking down into total anarchy. But Kant also contended that living according to a system of fixed ethics makes sense only if justice is sure to come. Only if we know that we will be rewarded for doing good and punished for doing wrong will we live by a set of moral principles.
Yet, Kant also knew that justice is not perfect in this life. Sometimes what is right is not rewarded and what is wrong is not punished. Justice will prevail only if there is life beyond death, if there is a perfect Judge who will right all wrongs that do not get rectified or are only imperfectly rectified before death. To do right, we must know that there will be justice, and there will be justice only if there is an afterlife. If there is no afterlife, no final judgment, there is no good reason not to do whatever we want whenever we want.
That truth is a key background for today’s passage, wherein Paul argues that the resurrection of Christ guarantees our resurrection and thus that there will be a final judgment where justice will prevail (1 Cor. 15:20–28, 50–58). Christians alone have a true basis for believing that justice will be done, for Christ’s resurrection proves that the just God will set all things right. Knowing this, we can persevere in faith even in the midst of great injustice. We can die believing in Christ, confident that our just God will set right everything at the last day. We can die confident in Christ when we take our last breaths.