In correcting the Corinthians’ view that there is no resurrection, Paul argues that resurrection is an essential part of the way God intends to solve the problem of sin and death.
The majority of 1Corinthians is Paul’s response to questions the Corinthians asked him. 1Corinthians 15 is the last topic he covers: whether there is a bodily resurrection. A group in Corinth denies the idea that believers are looking forward to a bodily resurrection.
Paul started by arguing we know there is a resurrection because Jesus was raised from the dead. A large number of people saw him, including the apostles. Many of those eye witnesses are still alive at the time that Paul is writing this letter and can testify that Jesus was resurrected.
Then Paul confronts the Corinthians with their inconsistency. If there is no hope of resurrection from the dead, then Jesus was not resurrected. His death accomplished nothing and being a Christian is foolish.
Paul just finished saying for the sake of argument let’s assume Christ was not raised. In this section, Paul abandons the false assumption, and says but now, Christ was raised.
15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. – 1Corinthians 15:20-22
- In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the first fruits of the harvest belonged to God. Giving the first of our harvest to God is symbolic of the fact that we trust God and believe He will provide for us.
- Depending on context, the idea of “first fruits” can emphasize either the fact that something has been dedicated to God or the aspect of being the first part of something bigger. Here it is the latter nuance.
- Jesus is the first of the human beings to be resurrected from the dead and we can trust that God will resurrect the rest of His people.
- Ultimately history is about two men: Adam and Christ.
- All of humanity lives in a world with death because our forefather, Adam, rebelled against God. Death came into the world by this one man.
- Jesus lived a life of obedience to God. He offered his life to God on our behalf. By dying in our place, he made it possible for his people to live. Death will not ultimately conquer those who follow Jesus because we will be rescued from death and resurrected to life.
- Jesus solved the problem that of sin and death that Adam created.
- The gospel will be fulfilled and the promises of God realized when Christ returns, God resurrects His people and establishes His kingdom with Christ ruling over it.
15:23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. – 1Corinthians 15:23-29
- 15:24 “end“: This is the end in the sense of crossing the finishing line or reaching the goal. First, Jesus rose from the dead. Then he returns and raises his people from the dead. When that happens, we arrive at the goal, the culmination of this age.
- 15:24 “abolished all rule and all authority and power“: Much evil in the world today is in the hands of people in power who are abusing that power from government leaders to bosses to families. When Jesus establishes God’s kingdom on earth, nothing in creation and no one will stand in rebellion to God anymore.
- God puts all creation under submission to Christ. Then Christ puts himself under submission to the Father, with the result that we have a world under submission to God, the Father, through Christ.
- Paul quotes Psalm 110 and borrows the language of Psalm 8.
- Jesus reigns now at the right hand of God, but we are waiting for the time when God vanquishes all His enemies.
- God will establish His rule over all the rebels of the earth, and the last one of those, metaphorically speaking, is death.
- Psalm 8 applies to Jesus 3 ways: 1) as a man, it applies to Jesus as a steward over creation; 2) as a son of David, it applies to Jesus who rules from David’s throne; and 3) as the Messiah, it applies to Jesus in the ultimate sense as king of kings and Lord of Lords.
- Ultimately, all of history is heading to the place where followers of Jesus will live perfected in our humanity under the rule of Jesus Christ, who in turns submits himself to the Father, so that the world will be everything that it ought to be. That is the gospel story.
- The culmination of history is when we live in resurrected bodies, perfect and mature, reflecting the character and holiness of God, under the reign of Jesus Christ who rules under the authority of the Father.
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