Six Consequences If Easter Is About a Bunny (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)


In colder parts of the country, the Spring season reminds us of new life: flowers, animals, and sunshine, finally make their comeback after typically being absent for months. And the culmination of this celebration occurs on what is commonly known as "Easter," a day that is often associated with eggs, candy, and bunnies. Yet, for the Christian, this day is better known as Resurrection Sunday. It is on this day that we celebrate the triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Without the resurrection, a holiday intended to celebrate life actually becomes all about death.

But how important is the resurrection? Isn't this aspect of Christianity just a footnote to the more important things Jesus did? Do we really need to believe in such a miracle?

Very. No. Absolutely.

In reality, there are grave consequences (no pun intended) without a resurrection. We face insurmountable despair if Easter is about a bunny rather than a risen Lord. Without the resurrection, a holiday intended to celebrate life actually becomes all about death.

Dualism in the Early Church

Based on their pagan background, many first-century Corinthians believed in a form of dualism—a worldview in which immaterial aspects of life are inherently good, while material aspects are inherently bad. According to this view, most notably taught by the Greek philosopher Plato, the human soul was "trapped" in its body until death, at which point it was forever liberated from such bondage.

John MacArthur explains:

A basic tenet of much ancient Greek philosophy was dualism, a concept generally attributed to Plato. Dualism considered everything spiritual to be intrinsically good and everything physical to be intrinsically evil. To anyone holding that view the idea of a resurrected body was repugnant. For them, the very reason for going to an afterlife was to escape all things physical. They considered the body a tomb or a corpse, to which, in this life, their souls were shackled.[1]

As you can imagine, then, the last thing those with this worldview would ever want would be to receive their bodies back after death!

Sadly, some within the Corinthian church tried to marry this understanding of the body with their understanding of Christianity. Yet, this kind of thinking stands totally opposed to Christianity, since Jesus' bodily resurrection from the grave is so integral to salvation. Thus, the Apostle Paul taught the Corinthian church what the devastating consequences would be if there were no such thing as bodily resurrection. These consequences are instructive for us today, particularly as we fight to maintain a proper focus on the resurrection of Christ, rather than bunny rabbits, during the Easter season. Although we may not explicitly hold to dualism like many of the Corinthians, it's possible that we could live as functional dualists, all but ignoring the significance of Christ's resurrection (as well as our own bodily resurrection) on Easter and throughout the rest of the year.

In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Paul gives us six devastating consequences if there is no such thing as bodily resurrection: we are left with a dead Savior, a dead Gospel, a dead faith, a dead book, a dead sacrifice, and a dead end.

A Dead Savior (1 Corinthians 15:12-13)

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised...

If there is no such thing as bodily resurrection, then that includes Jesus' bodily resurrection. And if Jesus could not raise Himself back to life, then He cannot raise you back to life either. In fact, similar logic was employed by the Jews as they mocked Him in the cross: "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" (Matt. 27:40). And while their mockery was exceedingly sinful, their evaluation had some truth to it. Although they failed to understand what Christ came to do, and how He intended to do it, they certainly understood one thing: a dead Savior is a non-Savior. That holds true today. If there is no resurrection, then Jesus is a dead Savior.

A Dead Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:14a)

...and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain...

The Gospel is supposed to be good news, yet without the resurrection there's nothing good about it. After all, every man knows that he is going to die (cf. Heb. 2:14-15). That's not something to spend your time traveling around telling people about. The hope of the Gospel is that those who are trusting in Jesus will not perish, but have eternal life—the heart of John 3:16. Thus, apart from bodily resurrection, the preaching of the Gospel is "vain" (from the Greek word kenos, meaning "empty" or "hollow").[2] Evangelism is a colossal waste of time if it only amounts to telling people what they already know: some day they're going to die. And of course, that would make the Apostle Paul the biggest time-waster of all, because when he preached the Gospel, he spoke so much of "Jesus and the resurrection" that people misunderstood him as being a polytheist (cf. Acts 17:18)! If there is no resurrection of the body, then there is no resurrection of Christ. And if there is no resurrection of Christ, there is nothing to say.

Pastor Tom Pennington summarizes the point well: "It comes down to this, gentlemen: either the tomb is empty, or the Gospel is empty."[3]

A Dead Faith (1 Corinthians 15:14b)

...your faith also is vain.

It's often said that we are saved by faith alone, and while that's true, it's helpful to state that we are saved through faith alone. That's because we are actually saved by Christ alone, and faith is simply the means by which we receive forgiveness and Christ's righteousness. As theologian Louis Berkhof states, "Faith justifies and saves only because it lays hold on Jesus Christ."[4] Thus, your faith is only as good as that of which it lays hold.

Yet, as Paul explains, if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is "vain"—again, from the Greek word kenos, which means "empty." This means that no matter how vibrant your faith is, and no matter how subjectively good your faith makes you feel, if your faith is in a dead Savior (or the wrong savior, for that matter) it's likewise a dead faith. It is not the means by which forgiveness can be received.

And the concept of living faith versus dead faith is not isolated to the Apostle Paul. James, the brother of Jesus, made it clear that if your faith does not lead to good works (as evidence of salvation), then your faith is dead (cf. James 2:26). He stated that faith without works is dead, just like the body without the spirit. Ironically, a faith that believes in the spirit without a future resurrected body is also dead.

A Dead Book (1 Corinthians 15:15)

Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.

Not only would the Apostles be liars for proclaiming Christ's resurrection, but to deny bodily resurrection is to attack all of the other human writers of the Bible as well. After all, just a few verses prior, Paul stated that Christ was raised "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:4). Resurrection was not solely a New Testament truth; it was also prophesied throughout the Old Testament (cf. Dan. 12:2). In fact, the oldest book of the Bible, Job, speaks of the resurrection: " Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God" (Job 19:26). And of course, the Old Testament also depicts actual resurrection events (cf. 1 Kin. 17:20-23, 2 Kin. 4:34-35, 2 Kin. 13:20-21).

Thus, if resurrection is untrue, then the entire Bible is setting forth falsehood. Instead of being "living and active" (cf. Heb. 4:12), the Bible would be "dead and dormant." Instead of life-giving truth, the Bible would be a soul-damning lie. In short, without the resurrection, all we have is a dead book.

A Dead Sacrifice (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

Paul continues his extrapolation of consequences by describing further implications of our lives apart from bodily resurrection. If there is no such thing as bodily resurrection, then Christ is still dead, and if Christ is still dead, then our faith is "worthless." Here, the adjective describing faith is different—it's not kenos, as previously used, but mataios. Rather than meaning "empty," Paul now describes faith without resurrection as "unproductive." If Christ is still dead, your faith cannot do what you expect it to.

And why not?

Because if Christ did not rise, then there is no proof that He actually bore our sins fully and finally on the cross when He died. Under the Old Testament sacrificial system, a scapegoat was used to bear the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 16:10). This is the work of expiation: the guilt of sin is imputed, or transferred, to a sin-bearer so as to remove it from the sinner. Yet, the Bible tells us that animals cannot actually take away sins (cf. Heb. 10:4).

Instead, those animal sacrifices were meant to represent a greater reality, a greater expiation—that Jesus would die on the cross, bearing the sins of the elect, taking them away once and for all (cf. Heb. 7:27, 2 Cor. 5:21). He is the Lamb of God who appeared to take away our sin (cf. 1 John 3:5). The resurrection is the proof that Jesus' sacrifice was indeed an improvement on what those animal sacrifices could not do (cf. Rom. 4:25). Thus, no resurrection, no improvement. Your faith would be just as unproductive in a dead sacrifice as it would be in an animal sacrifice.

A Dead End (1 Corinthians 15:18-19)

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

Finally, Paul explained that those who have died previously have perished, and those still alive face the same end. For that reason, without the resurrection, believers in Jesus Christ are most of all to be pitied.

Expositor S. Lewis Johnson explained why:

For Christians, you see, have suffered for their faith. Every Christian who has believed in Christ has known what it is to suffer for his faith; some more than others. Some have suffered in horrible ways and have ultimately lost their lives; some have had their heads chopped off because of their faith. If it’s really true that Christ has not been raised from the dead, if in this life only, Paul says, we have hope in Christ, we of all men the most pitiable, the most pathetic. We’ve wasted our lives in the offense of the cross and then discover that our faith in him doesn’t have any content, doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. We are of all men most pitiable.[5]

True Life

But of course, Christians are not to be the most pitied. We, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ, have an eternal inheritance awaiting us (cf. 1 Pet. 1:4). Because Christ is a living sacrifice, we can live our lives as living sacrifices (cf. Rom. 12:1). Though the grass withers and the flowers fade, the Bible we believe in stands forever (cf. Isa. 40:8). Our faith is alive, vibrant, and set on things unseen (cf. Heb. 11:1). The Gospel we preach is the power of the living God unto salvation (cf. Rom. 1:16). And because the Savior lives, we will live also (cf. John 14:9).

Praise God that Easter is Resurrection Sunday. When you teach your disciples the book of 1 Corinthians, explain to them why Easter isn't about a bunny—and explain to them the devastating consequences if it ultimately is.


[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1984), 408.

[2] "kenos," Strong's Concordance, BibleHub, accessed February 27, 2018,

[3] Tom Pennington, “Up from the Grave: The Resurrection” (presentation, The Shepherds' Conference 2017, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA, March 3, 2017).

[4] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012), 500.

[5] S. Lewis Johnson, "How to Be Miserable," SLJ Institute, accessed February 27, 2018,