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I came across the following verse in a YouTube advertisement about christianity.

NIV 1 Corinthians 15:19
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I do not understand what this actually means. Why must we of all people be the ones who are most pitied if we are to have hope in Christ? It particularly states that "if only for this life, we have hope in Christ ..." but wouldn't we have hope in Christ in our afterlife when we conclude that he and God actually exist (pursuant to the belief of Christianity)? Unless it is not strictly referring to the afterlife, but possibly reincarnation...? But, since the latter is not affirmed in the bible1 then maybe, a different type of rebirth, like spiritual rebirth or resurrection2 (though what spiritual rebirth in particular actually is, might be subject to interpretation; e.g. I view it as somewhat like accepting Christ from your heart or a pre-eminent equivalent therefrom).

Overall, the verse does not entirely make sense to me, albeit it sounds like a pretty powerful assertion.

I am aware that there is the mention of scriptures in 1 Corinthians3 but I do not know if these relate to the given statement. I know this also belongs to the early New Testament, but thus far, this has not helped me either. I would much appreciate it if somebody were to explain to me. For the sake of the Christianity Stack Exchange, my research into this has not extended beyond its scope; i.e. I have not fully read through sites or commentaries foreign to that site.


1Isn't reincarnation affirmed by the Bible?
2What's the difference between resurrection and reincarnation?
3What are the 'Scriptures' mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15?

Another version of the verse is: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable.

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It might be easier for you to understand the statement if it were put into a more natural modern English word order, such as:

We are the most pitied of all people if we have hope in Christ for only this life.

I've known many people that talk about Jesus, loving one's fellow man, praising God, having wonderful feelings, etc., without ever really being aware of Jesus's real message. They are like those people that dream of becoming movie stars, with Hollywood parties, red-carpet events, glamour and fame, etc., without ever thinking about memorizing lines, rehearsing, 5am calls for 3 hours of makeup, etc.

They experience wonderful feelings, but ignore their real purpose and goal that should have been the cause of these good feelings.

These are the kind of people Paul is talking about.

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It means if there is no afterlife then why bother go through all the opposition, persecution, and trouble of living for God? Why lose friends when we turn to Christ, why give up sinful pleasures? Why give up selfish ambitions if this life is all there is? What would be the point? Why not renounce our faith rather than be thrown to the lions, or covered in tar and set alight, or beaten, or stoned? Why go to the trouble of dangers at sea, or robbers on land? Why not renounce our faith rather than be sent down mines to dig for radioactive material without protective clothing (as happened in the days of the Soviet Union to Pastors)?

But the point is there IS a Day when we shall all appear before the Judgement Seat of God, we shall spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell.

  • And then comes the question of what happens then, but that is off-topic (albeit interesting). The given question focuses more strongly on people having hope in Christ, however, but only for this life on earth. Of course there must be an afterlife, with logical reason provided by your answer... but then why would people have hope in Christ if they do not believe there exists such a life after death? What even is the point? Hence my underlining question about this in the first place. Thanks for sharing your answer, whilst reinforcing my question! (+1) – user477343 Apr 11 '19 at 8:49
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    @user477343 All you say is true. But there are some who mislead others by claiming to be Christians but who do not believe in any afterlife. Maybe they do this for financial gain, or they have a position in a church organisation or Bible College. They do it for money. Others claim to be Christian but do not believe in any afterlife because they grew up in a Christian family and do not feel comfortable giving up entirely on the faith of their parents/grandparents. There are probably other reasons, reasons of honour/prestige, etc why people pretend to faith when they have none. – Andrew Shanks Apr 11 '19 at 8:54
  • Fortunately, I did not find any alternative "gains" from having hope in Christ and not His promise of good news as an everlasting afterlife; but it is better now that I have, actually, because it still has not changed my standpoint, thus making me a stronger believer in Christ. Perhaps this is yet another point that the verse is trying to share in addition to what you said in your answer; and although your answer might be subject to interpretation, I cannot disagree with it. So, again, thank you for your answer! I think my question kind of answers itself too, somewhat :P – user477343 Apr 11 '19 at 8:59
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In context, St. Paul is rebuking those who say Christ was not raised from the dead, arguing that if He isn't raised from the dead in reality, all Christian hope is absolutely in vain, Jesus was a liar, and so forth.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (DRB) Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. 14 And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up, if the dead rise not again. 16 For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. 17 And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

The Christian hope is to look for a kingdom "not of this world," (Jn. 18:36) "a better country—a heavenly," (Heb. 11:15-16) "where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal" (Mt. 6:19-20), etc. If Christ cannot fulfill His promised because He died and perished along with all who ever lived, and is not truly alive, raised from the dead once again, we are destined to misery until death, and have no hope.

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Because Christians have much misery in this life. As to where the wicked do not. How much more is a Christian to be pitied if he be not counted worthy for the kingdom of God but end up in Hell with the rest of the wicked and hypocrites. At least the wicked would have gotten to live in pleasure for a short season, as to where the hypocritical Christian lived in much misery but still ended up with the wicked who lived a life of abundant worldly carnal pleasure.

  • Yeah, how many times have I said that to myself; how many times have I said it does not pay to be decent and then the people around me who, I believe, deserve the misery I have finally get it 'til the end... and then it's not the end, and life still goes on. I much agree with your answer, and I do view it as a source of hope, so (+1) :) – Mr Pie Apr 12 '19 at 0:11
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The logic is that being a Christian implies a difficult life of following the path of Jesus: suffering unjust insults, ingratitude from those whom you have done good, and moreover, not being allowed to avenge them, but on the contrary to empathise with them and praying for them. Furthermore, it implies not sparing one's own life for the fulfilment of commandments and being at odds with the established habits of the surrounding world, and keeping this non-acceptance of the world's ways with all strengths, lest becoming a conformist ("nolite conformari huic saeculo" (Romans 12:2)), which makes a Christian sometimes deprived of world's goods, such as well-paid jobs, social ranks, and ultimately makes him abhorred by the society and persecuted by it, sometimes even killed by it.

Therefore, if Christ's following lasts only in this historical short life, without any afterlife perspective, then non-Christians are more well-off and less miserable than Christians, for neither they have hope in the afterlife, but at least they make best of this life and do not deprive themselves of its pleasures for the sake of very difficult commandments and self-sacrificial life-style of which the end is also death and disappearance. The death and disappearance makes all self-denying exertions of Christians stupid and logically groundless, and thus pagans are right, in Pauline logic, to have a condescending sneer over Christians: "poor fools, they suffer much voluntarily for their Jesus, who is dead and have disappeared, as they will die and disappear, while we take maximum from this life, which is the only one and unrepeatable." Thus, Paul fights this Epicurean attitude of pagans, asserting that there is afterlife and our self-denial for the sake of Christ will be rewarded eternally.

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