Hard but refreshing words from Richard Hays’ commentary on 1 Corinthians (Interpretation Series, 1997):
In a culture that evades telling the truth about death, the teaching of the resurrection comes as a blast of fresh air.
If asked, “What do we hope for after death?” many devout Christians would answer with sentimental notions of their souls going to heaven and smiling back down on the earth. Such ideas have virtually no basis in the Bible, and those who exercise the teaching office in the church should seek to impress upon their congregations that the predominant future hope of the New Testament writers is precisely the same as the hope presented here in 1 Corinthians 15: resurrection of the body at the time of Christ’s parousia and final judgment.
I have never forgotten a conversation I had with a young woman in my church years ago. I will call her “Stephanie.” Her eighteen-year-old sister (whom I will call “Lisa”) had been killed in a car accident. All the members of her family were saying things like “Lisa is so much happier now in heaven; she was always such an unhappy child here” or “God must have wanted her to be with him” or “I just know that Lisa is watching us now and telling us not to be sad.” Stephanie was infuriated by such sweet, pious talk, for it seemed to deny both the reality of Lisa’s death and its tragedy. Yet Stephanie felt guilty, because as a Christian she thought she ought to believe the pious things her family was saying. Thus, it came as a liberating word to her to learn that Paul speaks of death as a destructive “enemy” that will be conquered only at the end of the age. 1 Corinthians 15 enabled her to acknowledge soberly that Lisa was now really dead and buried in the ground while at the same time realizing that she could hope to hold Lisa in her arms again, in the resurrection. (p. 279)