We have come to the thrilling fact of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the joyful promise of the bodily resurrection of God's people. The resurrection is the great comfort and hope of God's people. The contrast between one person's spiritual focus and another person's material focus is clearly revealed in their reaction to the Bible's teaching of the resurrection. For some the resurrection, as presented in the Bible, is a myth. Others rebuild the promise of the resurrection to suit their own expectations. Only a truly saved person delights in the resurrection as promised in God's Word.
A Christian, a truly spiritual person, looks at the world and is saddened, but he is not overwhelmed or consumed by sorrow. He knows that the resurrection is the answer of God to all that is evil in the universe. The spiritual person sees in the resurrection the power of God to overcome sin, decay, and death. Why does he have that confidence? A Christian trusts in God's own Word, the Bible, for all the answers. The Bible faces the sin and trauma of the universe squarely and honestly. First of all, the Bible says that God created the universe perfect. The Bible says sin and decay are foreign invaders to His original creation. The Bible says the universe was not always spoiled. That was not how the universe was originally designed. The curse upon the universe is the perfect response of a holy God to the awful rebellion of Adam and mankind who descended from him. God committed His universe to death because He is absolutely fair. Sin must be punished because that is right.
Secondly, the Bible says there is nothing in the physical universe that can help. Left to himself, man has no answers or power to avert the total destruction to which he and his world are headed. Finally, the Bible says that God has not given up in the face of His ruined universe, nor has He attacked it in desperate anger or revenge. The Bible says there is a God to whom this universe belongs, who understands the problem, who is willing to solve it, who has prepared a solution promised in His Word, and who has the power to carry it out. The resurrection is the final glorious step in that solution and proves that the promised Good News is true.
A person with a material focus looks at the world and is disturbed. All the natural disasters and diseases, all the hatred and injustice, all the death and decay repels him. It is not just that he is trying desperately to survive, but that the anguish and chaos of the universe deeply disturbs him emotionally and intellectually. He cannot explain why things are so bad. He has no satisfactory answers. In addition, a person with a material focus experiences great frustration. None of his achievements give him lasting fulfillment. He never finds the deep happiness and peace that he seeks. He hurts but cannot take away the pain. Nevertheless, he is compelled to do something to find relief. Let us briefly describe two ways in which people try to live in a cursed universe.
Some people try to immerse themselves in the pleasures of this world, not just because they want to satisfy their lust, but because they want to postpone thinking about the suffering and sadness in the world. They hope that somehow things will work out or that their future death will bring some unconscious blankness. This temporary solution of surrender takes many forms. Some people abandon themselves to the base lust of carnal desire. They are driven by the selfish pursuit of money, sex, power, or any other carnal gratification that answers the call to "get all you can now." Some people fill up their lives in an elevated desire of personal achievement. They are driven by the prideful pursuit of intellectual or artistic acclaim, by the gratification of athletic excellence, or by the self confidence of hard work that results in accumulated possessions. Some people are consumed by a mindless zeal for some ideology. They are driven by a self righteous and ruthless dedication to a political or religious ideal. In a way, in a shallow, temporary way, these people achieve their goal through all these different desperate solutions. For a while, taking one of these easy ways out numbs them to their sharp disappointment in this universe. Even as they keep themselves busy in the physical world, they experience moments, however fleeting, of fear and insecurity. They know that something is terribly wrong, and they are afraid.
Some people with a material focus look at the universe and find it quite unsatisfactory. However, instead of surrendering, they try to find a solution. They courageously wrestle with the meaning and purpose of the universe and boldly try to find answers by themselves. Some conclude that the universe is capricious or evil and seek to appease or trick the higher powers through mysterious or secret ceremonies. Some conclude that the universe is neither evil nor good, that such moral statements are irrelevant. They think that situations which seem bad are just part of the random process of the universe that just happen to temporarily work against them. Some conclude that the universe itself is an illusion. They insist that pain and sorrow are part of our mental perception and have no reality. Relief for them is found in releasing their mind from this physical existence and achieving a greater level of consciousness. Some conclude, with some merit, that this wicked universe must be cast aside for a better one to come. Still true to their materialistic focus, they look forward to another perfect material world. They hope for a sort of second chance in another Garden of Eden. Some of the solutions people invent can be quite sophisticated, but they are all just as vain and hopeless as the way of those who abandon themselves to their lust.
We can say, then, that the message of I Corinthians 15 is the one great spiritual hope for mankind. The resurrection is the answer to people who see the destruction and decay in the world and feel that God is weak. These are bitter and disappointed people. The resurrection is the answer to people who feel that this physical world holds all the answers to their needs. These are self satisfied people. The resurrection is the answer to people who are confused by the chaos and evil of this world. These are fearful people. Unfortunately, most of these people do not see the resurrection as a hope because they are people with a material focus. The message of this chapter is the great revealer of the heart of a man. The Bible says, "Look at the resurrection. There is your hope." The people of the world say, "No."
God has answers in the sense that He helps us understand the misery of this universe. God also has answers in the sense that He has a solution for the misery. Furthermore, God has the power to heal His injured universe. God has great power, resurrection power. Amazingly, God can make things right again. However, there is another amazing truth to be found in this chapter. God's plan includes the creation of a new spiritual universe. These are the things that delight a person with a spiritual focus. They are a joy not just because he will live in that new universe, but especially because that is God's plan. The truly spiritual person wants God's will to be done.
Verse 1, "Moreover ... I declare ... I preached"
These opening phrases link Chapter 15 to the previous chapters. The use of "I" can be understood in this way. As a follow up to Chapter 12 which discusses the distribution of gifts, he says, "This is my gift whereby I aid the body, namely, preaching." As a follow up to Chapter 13 which describes the love of God, he says, "Now it is time to show you God's love as He uses me to send out the Gospel." As a follow up to Chapter 14 which teaches the preeminence of prophecy, he says, "Now it is time for me to prophesy and edify the church."
This is a present tense verb based on the root ginosko, which means to know by experience rather than just intellectually (Rom. 9:22; II Cor. 2:4).
"unto you the gospel"
This phrase, together with the above phrase, gives us this idea, "I am sharing my experience in the Gospel with you by means of this letter." This is similar to the idea expressed in I Corinthians 11:1 in which Paul urges the Corinthians to learn from what he does as a follower of Jesus Christ. Throughout the letter to the Corinthians, Paul adds his own experience to his teachings. (See for example Chapters 1, 4, 8, and 9.)
"which I preached unto you"
The verb "preached" is in the aortist or simple past and is a reference to the times when Paul was with them (see Acts 18:1-17). Taken together with the opening phrase "I declare," the idea is presented that what Paul had some time ago preached unto the Corinthians, he now declares unto them in this letter. Essentially, what he is about to write is a reminder. Why would he bother to repeat himself?
1. He wants to be sure they are saved. What Paul has said is very important. It bears repeating. The big message of Paul for the Corinthians was the Gospel, which promises spiritual life now and spiritual life to come. This is the only hope which God offers. This spiritual Gospel is the only antidote to the material interest that seemed to plague that church (see Chapter 6).
2. What Paul had said did not changed. Years ago, he spoke to the Corinthians in person. Now, he wrote to them in a letter. There were no changes in his story, no corrections. God did not have some new program for Paul to declare which was different than what he preached before. God is not a God of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). The warning is, "Do not forget what you heard in the past. It is still valid."
"which also ye have received"
The verb is a combination of a prefix para, meaning "along side of," and a root lambano, meaning "receive." It is a receiving that is effective and reaches its objective, as we see by its use in I Corinthians 2:12. The idea is that God was along side of them as they received. In other words, only with God's help did they receive the Gospel unto salvation. This idea is supported by comparing the use of the word "receive" in John 1:12 with John 3:27. Only God can enable a person to receive the Gospel.
"and wherein ye stand"
The word "stand" is used in Romans 5:2 to indicate a believer's permanent standing before God, that is, his security in salvation. In I Corinthians 4, Paul makes a point that a believer has no certain standing in this world before men (I Cor. 4:11). That does not concern him. The true believer seeks the approval that lasts (Ps. 121:3, Rom. 2:29, 5:2).
Verse 2, "By (actually "rough") which also ye are saved"
This is the goal of the preaching of the Gospel which they had received (notice I Cor. 1:18, 21).
The three verbs, "received," "stand," and "saved," found in the first two verses refer to the goal of the preacher and the hoped for results of his preaching. They are blessings promised to the true "brethren" who read this letter. "Brethren" again refers to all who somehow outwardly identify with the church. The spiritual reality is realized only in the true believers within the congregation.
"if ye keep in memory"
The verb is a combination of a prefix kato, which means "down" and a root echo, which means "hold." The idea is to hold down firmly either for bad as in suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:18) or for good as in courageous faithfulness (Heb. 10:23).
Actually, this is two words in Greek, tinilogo, the idea being close to "what word."
"I preached unto you"
Tying this phrase to a similar phrase in verse one, we see that what he preached was the Gospel, which is the "word" to which the word "what" refers.
The whole phrase "If...you" is a conditional statement. The idea is not that "if ye cling tightly to what I preach ye shall therefore be saved," but rather "if ye hang on it is because ye are saved." This statement is similar to Matthew 24:13 which also seems to put the responsibility upon man's effort to endure. The unstated condition is the work of God. He makes a man endure. Salvation is a work of a powerful God. He has the power to save us, make us adhere to that salvation, and complete it in the resurrection. It is all His work. It will become evident if He has worked in a person as that person holds fast to what he had heard (Eph. 1:13, 19).
"unless ... vain"
We can think of this phrase as saying, "unless you are really a phony." A false brother who has a material hope has a vain or empty faith and will not endure. It is exhausting to pretend to trust and obey the Gospel. No one can endure such a game for very long.
Verse 3, "For I delivered ... received"
The Gospel was not Paul's invention. Paul received it from God as we read in Galatians 1:11, 12. Paul simply carried the message to them as it was given to him. This is an important concept because it is the basis for Paul's urgent insistence and desire that they believe what he says. Paul is not boasting about what he delivered to them. He is providing a great service. The fact is, if they quarrel with Paul, they are really quarreling with God. Paul wants the best for them and knows what he says is the best. The idea is similar to I Corinthians 14:37 and II Peter 1:16.
"how that Christ died for (actually "on behalf of") our sins"
Believers have no liability for their sins. Jesus Christ paid the full price for all their rebellion, which was not just physical death, but eternal death under the wrath of God. It is as if they died in Him. They did not really die, but they died in the sense that Jesus died representing them (Gen. 22:8, Isa. 53:4-6, II Cor. 5:21, I Peter 2:24).
"according to the scriptures"
When this letter was written, the only Scriptures available were the Old Testament and possibly a couple of New Testament books. Therefore, this is a reference to the myriad passages such as Isaiah 53:5 and 6 that promise the substitute sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Verse 4, "and he was buried"
The word "buried" teaches at least three things:
1. Jesus was truly dead, absolutely dead. Only dead things are buried. Therefore, His resurrection was a true restoration of life from death. It is not a poetic word or some trick. Jesus was dead.
2. Jesus' death was more than a physical death. Jesus was out of sight as all buried people are. His burial is a picture of hell, that is, out of the presence of the Father, out of the Father's sight (Matt. 12:40, II Thess. 1:9).
3. The word "burial" describes God's program of salvation. His people must die the same spiritual death. They must face the judgment for their sins. The wonder is they die in Christ. His death is applied to them. It is as if they died too (Rom. 6:4).
"and that he rose again the third day"
The resurrection is the main theme of I Corinthians 15, so we shall deal with it later as the chapter presents it. The word "third" or the number three has an important spiritual meaning. It is a numerical equivalent to the words "thus saith the Lord," in the sense that it is God's final word with no appeal. It is essentially a number associated with the will of God. Jesus' resurrection is the declaration of God's completed salvation plan, against which the cavil of men will not stand.
"according to the scriptures"
The phrase "according to the scriptures" at the end of this verse applies to the word "buried" as well as to the words "rose again." There are many Old Testament verses that speak of Jesus' burial. For example, the words "cast out of thy sight" in Jonah 2:4 and "the earth with her bars was about me forever" in Jonah 2:6 are referring to His burial as well as His death.
The Old Testament is a frequent witness to the resurrection, of both Christ's personal resurrection (Job 19:25, Ps. 16:10, Hosea 6:2) and the general resurrection of all believers (II Sam. 12:23, Job 14:14, 19:26, 27, Psalm 3:5, 4:8, 17:15, 49:15, 113:7, Isa. 26:19, 60:1, Daniel 12:2, 13).
Before continuing, we must put aside one common misunderstanding of verses 3 and 4. It is often said that these two verses are the Gospel, in the sense that they are a complete statement of the Gospel in summary form. However, that encourages the false idea that other concepts presented in the Bible have value, but are not really "the Gospel." Yet that is not true. Everything in the Bible is part of the Gospel. The Gospel is not limited to the content of verse 3 and 4, nor are those verses even a summary of the essentials of the Gospel. Jonah brought the Gospel to the city of Nineveh and mentioned only judgment. Moses brought the Gospel in the wilderness (Heb. 4:2). The teaching of creation in Genesis 1 and election in Ephesians 1:4 is the Gospel. The emphasis of our sinful condition found in Romans 3:10 and following is the Gospel. The comfort of the return of the Lord found in I Thessalonians 4:14 is also part of the Gospel. Essentially, the Gospel is the content of the whole Bible.
Verse 5, "And that he was seen"
The first and most important evidence for the resurrection is the witness of the Scriptures, as verses 3 and 4 state. The truth of the resurrection is as good as God's Word. This verse presents the second evidence of the resurrection, the fact Jesus "was seen" alive.
This is the other name for Simon Peter (John 1:40-42). He is singled out probably because he had denied Jesus, and Paul was restoring the church's confidence in him by reminding the Corinthians that Jesus Himself still included Peter among the twelve.
"then of the twelve"
By this, Paul does not imply that there were twelve other apostles besides himself and Cephas, adding up to 14. This phrase means that Jesus appeared later to all of the apostles at a time when Peter was again present.
Verse 6, "above 500 brethren"
When we stop and think about it, this is really a very small number of people. Thousands upon thousands of people saw Jesus during His ministry on earth, but only a little more that 500 saw Him after His resurrection.
Jesus' exposure was limited to the "brethren." Historically, this means He limited His appearance to those who knew Him before and were chosen to be His witnesses (Acts 10:40-43). Jesus did not go around the countryside and advertise His resurrected body. He knew that a physical appearance would not impress men spiritually (Matt. 13:58, Luke 16:31). Physical phenomena do not create faith. Believers are given faith by God as He chooses. They continue by the grace of God without supporting physical props (II Cor. 5:7, I Peter 1:8).
God deliberately highlighted the number 5 which is associated with God's grace. (See comments on I Cor. 14:19.) Also, the number 10 or its multiple 100 implies completeness (Luke 15:4). Spiritually, the number 500 is a picture of all believers who have received grace, who have seen Jesus by faith, and are His witnesses.
"of whom the greater part remain"
The implication of this phrase is that when Paul wrote this letter to Corinth, there were some people still living who actually saw Jesus alive. Therefore, if anyone did not believe Paul, they could go and ask those other witnesses to confirm that what he wrote was true. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is not some carefully contrived plot. There was strong evidence for the accuracy and truth of the historical event of Christ's resurrection. The Corinthians could ask the surviving witnesses for their testimony. We can read what those witnesses wrote (Acts 2:32, I John 1:1-4).
Verse 7, "After that, he was seen of James"
Comparing this phrase with verse 5, we conclude that James was not one of the 12 apostles. He was another James known by Paul, namely, Jesus' brother (Gal. 1:19). This phrase then is another statement of grace. Jesus' brother originally did not believe in Him (John 7:5). Now we see that James received grace and was comforted by the Gospel, even after he had rejected Jesus in his unbelief.
Verse 8, "seen of me"
Compare this with Chapter 9 verse one. Paul is including himself among those who know what they say. He had a personal confrontation with Jesus and has the authority of an apostle. As always, this part is included, not for self-glorification, but because he has the Corinthians' best interest in mind. He wants them to believe what he writes to them."born out of due time"
The whole phrase is the single Greek word ektromati, used only here in the Bible. It is composed of the prefix ek, "out of," and a form of the root titrosko, "wound." When we compare this root with Luke 10:34 and Isa. 53:5, the idea emerges that the phrase is really saying Paul's apostleship and witness came out of or is based upon Christ's wound. The fact that Jesus was wounded for Paul's transgressors allows him to be a witness of the resurrection. The point is that Paul does not deserve to be an apostle. Paul is a witness only because God graciously applied Christ's work on the cross to his life.
The whole verse is talking about the fact that after Paul was saved, He saw Jesus through the eyes of a believer. Paul finally saw Him as the Lord that He was. As a believer, Paul was then qualified to be an apostle.
Verse 9, "For ... called an apostle"
This phrase is again stating Paul's realization that he does not deserve to be an apostle. The word "least" can mean different things, such as "least esteemed" (Matt. 2:6, "least") or "of small size, little" (James 3:4, "very small"). It is certain that "least" does not imply that Paul's authority is less than any other apostle.
The meaning becomes clear when we look at the word "meet." This word, based on the word hiko, "to arrive," carries the idea of arriving at a certain amount, whether of a certain number of people, certain time, or certain ability. It is used by John the Baptist to describe his lack of personal righteousness (Matt. 3:6, "worthy") and by Paul himself to describe his need of God's sustaining power (II Cor. 2:16, "sufficient," 3:5, "sufficient ... sufficiency "). Therefore, Paul is saying in this verse that in himself he did not attain to any level of righteousness or competence in order to merit apostleship. In himself, he is the least. As he says in the next verse, his position as an apostle is a "grace."
"because ... God"
If the facts were examined, Paul merited the opposite of what he received from the hand of God. As an enemy of God and His believers, Paul merited judgment, not grace. Paul is not waving his past sordid life before the public eye. He is reminding the Corinthians of what they already knew. However, he does that for a purpose. All his authority and therefore all his words to them are from God who has placed him in the position he now holds. He does not want them to look at him as a "successful man" and think that his words are some clever invention of his own, but as a "faithful man" and think that his words are God's Words of which he is only a steward.
God may have given Paul intelligence and certain other tools to do his job, but his apostleship is absolutely not a result of his effort or ability. In fact, if it were up to him, he would not have even wanted to be an ambassador of Christ. God had to change his heart so that he would want to be an apostle. In himself, he persecuted the church (Acts 7:58-8:1, Gal. 1:13, 14). In Christ, he persuades the church.
Paul, of all the apostles, was the only one who actively opposed the Gospel before he became a Christian. We could think of the verse as saying that from a human point of view Paul was the least among all the other apostles because he deserved it less.
Verse 10, "But by the grace ... what I am"
The word "grace" is used three times in this verse. Whatever Paul is, does, or says is God's idea and work. Paul is an example of what he preached, namely, that God is the God who saves sinners (I Tim. 1:12-15). God waited for a while before saving Paul. God allowed Paul to go his own angry and rebellious way. Paul then became a trophy of the transforming power of God's amazing grace (Acts 9:20-22).
"and his grace ... vain"
There was a big change in Paul's life (Phil. 3:8-11). God's work did not come up empty. Paul's salvation and apostleship was a goal that God wanted and achieved (Acts 9:15, Gal. 1:15, 16). Even though Paul had no right in himself to claim apostleship, he was an apostle by grace. Paul is made equal with all the other apostles of God (II Cor. 12:11, Eph. 2:20). When Paul came to the Corinthians in the authority of an apostle, he was simply obediently exercising the grace given to him.
"but I laboured...all"
This phrase probably means that Paul was given more pioneering missionary assignments than any of the other apostles.
"yet not I...with me"
This sets up the right balance. He must obediently exercise his authority. At the same time, he is always aware of the source of that authority.
Verse 11, "whether it were I ... believed"
The word "they," first of all, refers to the other apostles with which he has been comparing himself in this chapter. If we took the perspective of the whole letter, we could say that the word "they" also includes those ministers of the Gospel mentioned in Chapter 1:12. The point of the verse in either case is still the same. Paul does not really care who preaches or what kind of following a man has. The main thing is that the man be faithful (4:2), because it is the Word through which God works to create faith (Rom. 10:17). Paul's greatest desire is that the Corinthians hear the word and believe.
This verse displays Paul's personal care for the Corinthians. Paul is glad that he can bring a message that results in their faith. Paul has emphasized the fact that he is an apostle so that they will believe the message he presents, just as they believe the message of other faithful stewards of God. It does not matter personally to Paul if he or another person brings the message. The important thing is their response. The idea is similar to I Corinthians 9:22, "Whatever it takes, that I will do so that you are saved." The idea here is, "Whoever it may be, we all preach so that you are saved." There is also in this verse a hint of the obligation of an apostle similar to the idea in I Corinthians 9:16. We should expect the apostles to bring the Word of God. Otherwise, why would they be an apostle?
We can look at verses 1 through 11 as a unit with verse 11 as the point of this segment. That is, the most important thing of all is that the Word of God is preached in order that the listeners believe what is said and either become saved or examine themselves to be sure that they are saved.
At this point, there is a change in the discussion. In the first eleven verses, Paul established his apostolic authority so that the readers would believe the Gospel that he preached to them. He also described a little of the content of that Gospel. Verse 12 begins an answer to some who challenge the truth of that Gospel, especially in one particular point, the Gospel's promise of the bodily resurrection. To make sure that we clearly understand what is being said in these verses, we should make two points.
1. It is true that all men will be raised at the end of time, but this chapter is not discussing the resurrection of unbelievers. This chapter always presents the resurrection as something to look forward to. The resurrection is only a blessing for believers (John 5:28, 29). Therefore, the word "resurrection" is used to refer specifically to the bodily resurrection of believers.
2. These verses discuss the resurrection as a fact that must be true for the Gospel to be true. However, the logic is not to prove that the resurrection is true, but to describe the consequences if there were no such thing as a bodily resurrection.
Verse 12, "if ... he rose from the dead"
This is a conditional phrase like saying "assuming that...." This phrase does not imply that Paul doubts whether it is true that Christ rose from the dead. Paul is not saying, "I am aware that some people preach Christ rose from the dead, but what they are saying is only a theoretical possibility." The idea is really, "Inasmuch as Christ is preached that He rose from the dead...." Paul is saying, "I am assuming that these men are preaching about the resurrection, and I happen to agree with them."
"how say some ... the dead?"
Some challenged the statement of the apostles that a human being can and will experience the resurrection. Some doubted that a man can be resurrected.
This question is sort of a statement of surprise. In that light, the idea would be, "How can some say that there is not such a thing as a resurrection if I and the others have been preaching that Christ rose from the dead? Are you calling us liars? Do you think we are making up silly stories or myths?"
This question could also be looked at as a challenge. The idea would then be, "Look, we preach that Christ rose from the dead. Some of you say there is no such thing as a resurrection. How do you arrive at that conclusion? I would like you to explain just how you are able to say what you do."
To whom does the word "some" refer? Which members of the Corinthian congregation are included in this "some"? Here are three possibilities.
1. There were always Jewish leaders who plagued Jesus and were a thorn in the side of Paul (Acts 23:6-8). Some of these leaders were Sadducees who denied the fact of a resurrection (Matt. 22:23ff). It could be that some from the local Jewish community in Corinth were trying to discredit the new religion in town which was based upon a risen Christ. Also, it could be that some who joined the church had brought some of their Jewish ideas with them.
2. The resurrection was also a joke or at least a surprise to most of the Gentiles (Acts 17:31, 32). Some of the Gentiles who had joined the church could have continued to believe as they had in the past.
3. There were some in the church who were carnal, regardless of their heritage (I Cor. 3:3). These were people who loved this physical world so much that they had no interest in a future resurrected life.
There are many in the church today who deny the resurrection. It is not the bodily resurrection at the end of time that they question. That resurrection is too much a part of the basic creed of the church. Denying that resurrection would clearly brand them as a heretic. There is another resurrection that is just as important and just as real as the bodily resurrection. It is the resurrection that takes place when a person becomes saved. That is a spiritual resurrection of a person's soul. That resurrection is misunderstood and denied by many in the church today.
It is proper to call a person's salvation experience as a resurrection. That is what the Bible calls it, and that is what actually happens. It is the only thing we can call a passing from death into life. In Adam, all men had life in the Garden of Eden. In Adam, all men died, in their souls and finally in their bodies (Rom. 5:12). In Christ, believers have life again (I Cor. 15:22), spiritual life in their souls immediately (John 5:24, Eph. 2:5, Col. 2:13), and new life in their bodies at the end of time (John 5:28, 29). In both cases, soul and body, believers experience a resurrection. There are really two resurrections for every believer (Rev. 20:5, 6, John 6:40). Both resurrections are spiritual resurrections and are part of God's total salvation program. Denying one in a real way means denying the other.
From the above discussion, then, we could add another candidate as a possible antecedent to the word "some." It could refer to some people who simply did not understand God's salvation program.
Verse 13, "But ... dead"
Paul continues to press on to the logical consequence of denying the resurrection. This phrase is the same as saying, "O.K., let's assume that what some of you say about the resurrection is true...."
"then ... risen"
The idea is that if it is true there is no such thing as a resurrection, then that includes Christ's resurrection too.
The point of this verse is that Christ's resurrection is not a freak. He was not raised just because of His Sonship or deity. Christ's resurrection depends on the fact of the general resurrection of all men because Christ is a man too. One consequence of denying the resurrection is that Christ is left in the grave.
Verse 14, "And if ... preaching vain"
Another consequence of the theory that there is no resurrection is that all the things Paul and the other apostles said are empty, worthless, and pointless. The word "our" in this phrase includes all the prophets who ever lived. Paul includes himself as one of the messengers of God. All the prophets brought the same message, the Bible's promise of the resurrection. The consequence is not just that the preaching is vain, but that the Bible itself is vain, and the Gospel it contains is vain. If the resurrection is not a reality, then the Bible provides no answers to life and has no power to help.
"and your faith is also vain"
This is a third consequence of denying the resurrection. This phrase implies that those who denied the resurrection did, in fact, believe in something. Based upon the conclusion Paul draws in verse 13 and again in verse 17, it seems that those people mentioned in verse 12 who denied the resurrection were denying the resurrection of men in general but still believed that Jesus rose from the dead. Paul wrote what he did in verses 13 and 17 to hopefully shock them. Paul wanted them to realize the terrible results of taking what they said to its logical conclusion. By denying the resurrection of men, they undermined their own faith in Christ's resurrection. One support for the view that they believed in Christ's resurrection was that Paul never tries to prove that fact. He simply assumes it to be true in the discussion and shows that if "some of you" persist in denying the resurrection, then the result is that Christ also has not been raised.
The content of their "faith" mentioned in this verse must have been a strange combination of agreeing that Christ rose but denying that men are raised. The implication is that they believed either Christ was a special exception or that He was not truly man. Possibly, they did not believe that Jesus had a body like men.
This verse expands the first half of verse 14. If the resurrection is not a true promise, then not only is preaching about Christ's resurrection empty and pointless, but also those who preach the resurrection are liars. The idea is that Paul and others are then deliberately trying to teach something that they know is not true.
This verse is saying that not only are the words of Paul and others not true, but also their motive is bad as well. They are leading people away from reality if they insist Christ rose from the dead, if in fact He was not raised.
"if so ... not"
This phrase strengthens the view that there is a separation in the minds of some Corinthians between Christ's resurrection and the concept of the resurrection in general. Paul is showing that Christ's resurrection depends on the fact of the general bodily resurrection of men. He is showing that those two resurrections cannot be separated, as it seems to have been in the minds of some.
We must remember that Paul may be willing to make the temporary assumption that the dead bodies of men do not rise, for the sake of the discussion. Nevertheless, he never agrees with that assumption or its logical consequences.
This verse makes the same point as verse 13. Denying a bodily resurrection means denying Christ's resurrection too. These people might have some sort of Jesus that suits their own imagination. If their theory is true, then the person who went to the cross is still dead and buried. That kind of Jesus is of no help to anyone.
This verse takes the logic of verse 16 one step further. If verse 16 is true, then the kind of faith they have designed is empty. It is empty because the kind of salvation program in which they trust cannot save them from their sins. They can believe what they want, but without the bodily resurrection, they are still liable for the penalty that their sins merit. They must still face the wrath of God. They are still under the Law. As Christ died, they must die too. Furthermore, they are still under the bondage of their sinful, carnal nature.
"And if Christ be not raised ... ye are yet in your sins."
Why is Christ's resurrection so important? Why are we yet in our sins without it? Doesn't the Bible say Jesus died to pay for our sins? Why is the resurrection necessary, especially if Jesus' death paid the price for our sins? Isn't the resurrection an extra blessing in addition to the payment for our sins?
The Bible says that without the fact of Christ's bodily resurrection and the promise of our resurrection, we are still in our misery and sin. The following points demonstrate why that is so:
1. The resurrection reflects upon the person of Jesus Christ. It shows us what kind of person He is. It shows us that Jesus is the kind of person who can save. The resurrection reveals Jesus to be an able Savior.
Physical death does not satisfy God's justice. Only a special kind of death will, eternal death (II Thess. 1:9, Heb. 6:2, Jude 13, Rev. 20:10, Ps. 49:7, 8). The penalty is a perfect reflection of the nature of the transgression. Sin requires this penalty because it is against an infinite Holy God.
Jesus the man died for our sins (Heb. 2:14). He may have been without sin (Heb. 4:15), but He was not a superman. He was just like all other men (Heb. 2:17). However, if He was only a man, He would still be paying for our sin, because an eternal payment never ends. Furthermore, all the sins of all who would be saved were laid upon Him. Therefore, He would have to either endure all the eternal payments, one after another, for all those sins, or He would have to endure all the eternal payments simultaneously. No matter what we might imagine the situation to be, the result is the same. The final payment for our sin would still be in question. Our liability would still be outstanding, and the Law would still have a claim on us.
The answer to this dilemma is that Jesus' payment would have to be compressed into a limited amount of time (Matt. 12:40). Jesus the man would have been consumed by that intensified penalty. Only if He were also God could He have endured the equivalent of an eternal death for the sins of all His people.
When Jesus was found alive again, it showed three things. First of all, it showed that the full payment for our sins was made. There no longer was any doubt. Jesus did not take any privileged shortcuts. If He was raised, it must have meant that He went all the way through the required punishment and completed the course in hell demanded by the Law. Secondly, Jesus' resurrection showed that He was God (Rom. 1:4), the only one able to do endure the wrath of God for all of His people without being destroyed. Thirdly, the resurrection showed that the payment was acceptable. Jesus Christ was the perfect Holy one, the only one who was worthy to be a pleasing sacrifice for sin.
Therefore, if Jesus is not raised, He is not God and He is not the Savior and we are still in our sins. In the words of Ephesians 1:19, 20 (cf. Rom. 4:17), the power of God available to help us is displayed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
2. The resurrection reflects upon the Word of Jesus Christ. It shows that Jesus is the kind of person who can keep His Word.
According to Acts 2:31, 32, God said hundreds of years before that He would raise Christ from the dead, and many witnessed the fulfillment of that Word. Jesus Himself promised it (Matt. 16:21, John 2:18-22). In fact, Jesus as God promised to raise Himself (John 10:17, 18). He did what He said He would. We can be confident that when Jesus promises to raise us too, He can do it (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54, II Cor. 4:14). Therefore, when Jesus said that He came to save us (John 12:47), we can be confident He will keep that promise as well.
Therefore, if Jesus is not raised, He cannot keep His Word, and we cannot expect Him to help us as a Savior. We are still in our sins. In the words of Matthew 22:29, the God who wrote the Scripture is the same God who is able to fulfill all that they say, including the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
3. The resurrection reflects upon the plan of Jesus Christ. It shows that Jesus is able to carefully design and plan what He wants to do. It reveals His ability to figure out what must be done to achieve the goal He has set for Himself.
According to Acts 13:30-34, Jesus had been promised an inheritance long before He had come to earth. Verse 34 calls the promise "the sure mercies of David." According to Psalm 89:3,4 and Isaiah 55:3-5, the promise was that Jesus was given people and nations as an inheritance (John 17:6, 9). Hebrews 10 discusses the care with which God carefully planned and carried out the different parts of His salvation program to insure that those people who were promised to Jesus would be redeemed (Heb. 10:5-10).
If Jesus was not raised, His plan did not work out as He intended. Events were out of His control. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was not a mistake but a part of that plan which included the resurrection. God had a goal for Jesus Christ and His people. Steps were taken to insure that the goal was reached. The resurrection shows that the cross was not a failure but a fulfillment of His great design to provide salvation for His people.
Therefore, if Jesus is not raised, that is the end of the matter. There is no future for Him or us, and we are yet in our sins. In the words of Matthew 22:31, 32, God is not a king over an empty kingdom, without subjects. His plan is not skimpy or shoddy. God has a great plan. He is a great king. His kingdom is full of resurrected subjects.
We ought to add one more thought which is not directly related to our salvation, but which is, nonetheless, an important aspect of the resurrection. The bodily resurrection of believers is not a publicity event meant to impress people with God's control over the physical creation. It is a display of God's power and advertises His greatness, but there is also a great necessity in the bodily resurrection. We were created body and soul. Both parts are what we are as a person. The separation of the two parts at physical death shatters the union, and we are incomplete. Our body may seem like a prison from which we must seek release. In its corrupt state, it is often a source of frustration and pain, but the body is designed and created by God to participate in worship of Him and is a tool to serve Him. If we lose our body, we lose part of what God has intended us to be. We lose part of our historical self, part of who we are. The question is, Can God redeem all of what He has made? If God is truly a Savior of a person, then the evidence is that He can redeem Him people, body and soul, and unite the parts into one complete person again.
Verse 18, "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ"
The words "which are fallen asleep" are one word in Greek which is used in John 11:11-13 and I Thessalonians 4:14 to refer to death. It is particularly the death of those who were believers when they lived on the earth. The word "sleep" is used because it emphasizes a temporary situation. The expectation of those who die in Christ, that is, as a believer, is that their bodies will be raised at the end of time. (Unbelievers' bodies are also raised. That is something that they neither expect nor desire, for they must then face the Judge.) This verse tells us that if there is no resurrection, those who died in Christ had a false and worthless expectation. If those who deny the bodily resurrection are right, then their ideas affect those who have previously died as well.
This is the same word as "perish" in John 3:16. It refers to the death which is the just consequence of sin (Matt. 10:28, "to destroy"; II Peter 3:6, "perished"). From other passages, we know that such a death is not just physical death nor annihilation. "Perish" means "to cast into hell forever" (II Thess. 1:9). In fact, the word "perish" is composed of a prefix and a root which is a form of the word "destruction" used in II Thessalonians 1:9.
The idea of the verse is that without the bodily resurrection the alternative is not just death but the eternal death of the wrath of God in hell. This is because without the resurrection, Jesus is not raised and so is not a Savior from sin.
Notice that amid the dispute about the truth of the bodily resurrection of men, all the other biblical truths are never questioned. For example, judgment for sin is still assumed to be a reality, no matter what other quarrels there may be concerning the resurrection.
Verse 19, "If in this life only ... Christ"
The word "only" does not modify "life" as if to say, "If in this life alone we hope in Christ, but in another life we hope in something else." Rather, it modifies "Christ." The phrase is equivalent to saying, "If in this life, we hope in Christ alone." The idea of the phrase is, "If our hope is in Christ and if that is the only hope we have ..."
"we are of all men most miserable"
This phrase means, "We are more miserable than all other men." The words "most miserable" are a translation of the comparative form of the word for "pity" or "mercy" (eleos, Eph. 2:4, "mercy"; Titus 3:5, "mercy"). The words "most miserable" describe something that is most in need of pity or mercy.
This verse is a repetition of verses 17 and 18. Without the bodily resurrection, we are still in need of mercy to save us. The logic behind the word "most" is probably that more than anyone else, we who are hoping in something false or not real, like the resurrection, are especially in need of mercy. The reason is that we are like people who have their mind made up and are not seeking another way that might help us. This thought is similar to Chapter 1 verse 18 in which the Gospel is considered to be foolish to those who do not believe it. The accusation is that the Gospel is not the way to God, and anyone who trusts in it is in the greatest need of help.
Verse 20, "But now"
This verse is like a breath of fresh air. Paul is saying, "Enough of this argument." It is like saying, "It does not really matter what speculations, imaginations, or theories men may have. The fact is..."
"Christ risen from the dead"
There it is. The apostles believed what they saw (Acts 13:30-33). We believe the testimony of God's Word which they wrote (John 17:17).
We do not believe, first of all, because it gives us a fuller life or helps us face the difficulties of life. We do not believe just because we want to escape judgment and hell. We believe what is believable. We believe that Christ rose from the dead, and because He arose, we will too. Christian faith is an agreement that what God says in His Word is true, a submission to God as the only authoritative source of truth and a confidence that God wants the very best for us.
"and become the firstfruits"
The word "firstfruit" is not the clearest way of translating the Greek word aparche. The word "fruit" is not even in this verse. The word "firstfruit" in this verse is a combination of the preposition apo, "from," and arche, "beginning." This word describes something that is "from the beginning."
The Bible sometimes uses the word gennema to refer to fruit or the product of vine (Matt. 26:29), the product of God's work in us (II Cor. 9:10) or the offspring of evil (Matt. 3:7). Many times the word karpos is translated "fruit" to mean products of agriculture (James 5:7, 18), a certain kind of behavior (Matt. 3:8, 7:20, Gal. 5:22), or children (Luke 1:42, Acts 2:30). The word opora is translated once as "fruit" to mean the products of this cursed world (Rev. 18:14). None of these words are used in this verse.
The standard way of understanding the word "firstfruit" is that Christ is the first person to experience the bodily resurrection. The word "firstfruit" causes people to think agriculture. They make the conclusion that Christ is first among His brothers and represents them in the way that the firstfruits of summer represent the whole harvest. The idea is that the firstfruits are a promise of more to come, a harbinger of God's promises to resurrect all His people. The idea is also that Christ's resurrection is the pattern for His people's resurrection. While these ideas are found in the Bible, they are not the thought of I Corinthians 15:20. To repeat, the word "fruit" is not even in this chapter. Besides, this verse's main intent is to emphasize the reality of Christ's personal resurrection, which is the main rebuttal to the denial of the promise of a resurrection for all of God's people. It is, first of all, Christ's personal resurrection that gives us the hope of our own resurrection.
Another thought concerns the observation that the same Greek term translated "firstfruit" is applied to believers as well as to Jesus Christ personally (James 1:18, Rev. 14:4). They, too, from the point of view of God, exist from the beginning, inasmuch as they are elect. They are believers who were from the beginning chosen to receive God's grace (Eph. 1:4-12). In that sense, too, Christ is a "firstfruit" since He was chosen to be our Savior. From the beginning, it was ordained that our sins would be laid upon Him and He would go to hell. In a sense, He was one of those who were elect and who had to be saved from the wrath that came upon Him, because our sins were laid upon Him (Ps. 22:21, 31:5, 16). The resurrection shows that He was saved from the wrath of God, in the sense that it did not consume Him, but that He endured it to the end and came out victorious. From the beginning, His success as a Savior was anticipated (Ps. 16:9, 10, Acts 2:30-32). Therefore, the election of God's people from the beginning will result in their victory over death too (I Cor. 15:57).
"of them (of the ones) that slept"
The verb "slept" is a past participle which functions more as an adjective which describes the people as those who slept, rather than as a verb which states what they did. In awkward but accurate words, we can write the phrase as "of the slept ones." The idea is that they were people who died with the expectation and assurance of awakening. They were people who were given the promise that death was not permanent but was only a sleep. They were people who had hope, because they the truth, namely, that they will experience God's promised resurrection (Job 19:25, 26). The phrase is equivalent to saying that they were saved people. When they died physically, their bodies remained in the grave. However, they are described as ones who slept because their physical death was not the end of the story for their bodies.
This verse also reminds us that Jesus Christ is one of those who slept and that He has been and still is risen. Therefore, we can be certain that the hope of the resurrection of those who slept is real. If that is what happened to Jesus Christ, then that is what will happen to them too.
Now we should ask the question, "Christ is among those who slept from the beginning of what?" I Peter 1:19, 20 and Revelation 13:8 tell us that Jesus Christ died before the foundation of the world. From before the beginning of creation, it was ordained that He should be the one who would be the sacrificial Savior who would fulfill the terms of the Gospel (I Cor. 2:7). I Corinthians 15:20 is focussing upon Jesus Christ's appointment as one who would not only die a special death but would also rise from the dead. Therefore, this verse is really a statement of election.
This verse is saying that Jesus was one of those people who, from the beginning, was promised that His sleep would end in a resurrection, even though it did not come to pass until long after the promise was made. Jesus Christ's death and resurrection was as good as accomplished the moment God had spoken it. The reality of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection was secure from the beginning of the formation of God's Gospel plan. Jesus Christ's death and resurrection were guaranteed as a fact of history long before He came to earth. Before the historical fulfillment, God decided how His salvation plan would come out and to whom it would apply.
This verse emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the power of God. He alone designed and was able to carry out His elective program of salvation. The wonderful fact is that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, which shows that the promised plan is real and God is able to keep His word. Of course, Jesus was more than just one of the elect. He was the Savior whose work on the cross made the promise of God good. Nevertheless, the logic of the verse is clear. As Jesus was appointed from the beginning of the world to be raised according to God's promise (Acts 2:23-32, 13:29-37), so would all the other elect who were given the promise to be raised too (II Cor. 4:14, I Thess. 4:14).
This verse explains the reason why it was necessary for God to plan from the beginning that Christ would sleep and rise from the dead. God knew that man would sin, so He planned ahead.
"For since by man came death"
This is a true statement. However, between the creation of man and the entrance of death, there is a step which is not stated in this phrase. The missing step is Adam's sinful rebellion. According to Romans 5:12, through Adam sin entered into the world and then death through the door of sin. Furthermore, death passed into all men because all men come from Adam who passed on his sinful nature.
The idea of the words "by man" is not that man had control over death and sent it into the world. The word "by" is dia, "through." Through man's rebellion sin entered. God sent death as a just reward for sin. The question is, "Is there any hope for man?" Could man overcome the penalty for sin, or would he be forever under its dominion? The next phrase gives the answer.
"by man came also the resurrection of the dead"
It was man who was in trouble. Man was accountable to God for his sin. The rocks, trees, and animals were not. Therefore, it was man that must somehow pay for his sin. Jesus Christ became man and made that payment (Heb. 2:10-16).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ insured that the bonds of death were broken for all those for whom He died. His resurrection is a proof and a declaration that He was the man for the job. He was a successful Savior. The payment had been fully made for all those sins He carried to the cross. The man Jesus Christ and all those men for whom He died would be free from death, body and soul. Jesus had the right and the power to raise Himself and His people from the dead (John 10:17 ,18, 28, 11:25, 26). It is fitting and proper for those who had settled their accounts with the Law to be released from the grip of death and be raised. Despite the fact that all men were cursed since the fall of man, it will not be a surprise to see men in heaven with raised bodies. Why? Because the man Jesus Christ took care of the liability which kept men in death, and He is now in heaven.
This verse essentially repeats the point of the previous verse, except that it leaves no doubt that the first word "man" in verse 21 refers to Adam and the second word "man" refers to Christ. The phrases in verse 22 are written a little differently. One difference is that in one phrase "all" are described as being "in Adam" and in the other phrase "all" are "in Christ."
The words "in Adam" mean that every human being that ever lived was in Adam, in the sense that they are all his offspring. They derive their physical life from him. They also inherit all that he passes onto his offspring, which includes the infection of sin and a spiritually dead soul.
We must understand the phrase "in Christ" a little differently. First of all, we can think of it as describing the location of the recipient of the gift of life. God Himself places His chosen ones in Christ. Being in Christ, they are sheltered from condemnation (Rom. 8:1) and are part of the source of life which sustains them eternally. Another way of understanding this phrase is to think of it as expressing the location of the life which believers obtain. The Father gives the gift of life to the Son (John 5:26). Jesus Christ, in turn, gives that gift of life which is in Him to those whom the Father has given Him (John 10:10). Jesus Christ obtains life, and we find it in Him alone (John 14:6).
Notice the double use of the word "all" in this verse. The first word "all" certainly applies to all mankind inasmuch as all men die. The second "all" can only apply to believers. It cannot mean all mankind, because all men are not in Christ nor will all men be made alive in the sense that they are saved. This use of the word "all" in two different ways is a classic illustration of the necessity to compare Scripture with Scripture in order to properly understand a verse (I Cor. 2:13).
This verse continues the thought of the last half of verse 22. It explains the order in which "all shall be made alive."
"But every man"
The words "every man," hekastos, are really "each one." Although the word "man" is not in this verse, that is what the word "each" refers to. The idea is not "every," as in "many," but as in "each of the two cases we have been discussing." There is the case of one man, Adam, and the case of the other man, Christ.
The phrase starts out with the word "but" as a caution. The Corinthians must keep in mind the fact that believers and Jesus Christ do not experience the resurrection at the same time. There is a proper order, as this verse goes on to explain.
"Christ the firstfruits"
This can be expressed in an awkward but more accurate way as "the from the beginning Christ," that is, "the kind of Christ we are talking about is the one who was from the beginning." The focus is upon the truth that, the instant God designed His plan of salvation, Christ in principle rose from the dead. Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead physically until long after creation, but it was as if He had risen the moment God had settled His plan in the beginning, because the promise was that certain. Above all things, God's promise is as good as His Word. That insured that the Gospel plan was sure to be fulfilled in history.
The words "Christ the firstfruits" do not imply that He was the first one in time to experience the bodily resurrection, because He was not. Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:3), as well as Enoch (Gen. 5:24), had their risen bodies before Christ did. The word "firstfruits" tells us that Christ had risen in principle from the beginning.
It turns out that practically all people who will be raised, will be raised at the end of time. The only exceptions are mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Taking the whole verse together, we can say that the emphasis is not upon the time sequence of Christ's resurrection and His people's resurrection, but upon the fact that Christ's resurrection is the reason why His people can be resurrected. The word "firstruits," or more accurately "from the beginning," and the word "afterward" tells us that Christ's resurrection is antecedent to His people's resurrection, in the sense that His resurrection is the cause and their resurrection is the effect. In other words, Jesus Christ was elected before the foundation of the world to secure the salvation of His people. Because it was so certain that He would come to Earth, die, and be raised from the dead as He promised, it was as if He had fulfilled that promise when it was made before the beginning of time. Christ's work of designing and sealing the salvation plan had to take place first. "Afterward," that is, as a consequence of that work of Christ, His people could be raised at the appointed time. A few were raised before He actually was in time, but the remaining await the resurrection at the end of time.
The word "coming," parousia, is used in the Bible, not to refer to the action of approaching but to Jesus Christ's actual arrival and presence. Christ's coming is not a long, drawn out affair. It happens quickly. Like lightening, He is there (Matt. 24:27). It will be obvious and noticeable (I Thess. 4:16). The word's use in II Cor. 10:10 ("presence"), in Phil. 2:12 ("presence"), and in I John 2:28 ("coming") shows that the word refers to Christ's appearance among His people at the end of time.
This verse is the guarantee. Christ will be there. Why? Because He was raised from the dead. He is alive to be able to come again. Also, human nature in the person of Christ was raised. Therefore, we can be sure all His people will be raised too.
The next three verses are difficult to understand. The traditional way of explaining these verses is that at the end of time Jesus will transfer all His authority as King and will present His people (called a kingdom) to the Father. In the meantime, Jesus will continue to reign over the kingdom. Perhaps that is the correct way to think about these verses. However, there is compelling evidence for explaining these verses in another way.
"when he shall have delivered up"
The word "delivered up" is paradidomi. It is used many times in the New Testament. A few times, such as in I Corinthians 15:3 and Jude 3, it has a neutral idea. The overwhelming use of the word is "to deliver for destruction, condemnation, or judgment." The picture conveyed by the word is of a person being along side and making sure another person is delivered into judgment. In John 18:2 and 5, it is translated "betray." In John 18:30, 35, and 36, it is translated as "deliver," the idea being to deliver to the cross, which was Judgment Day for Jesus. Acts 3:13 renders it "delivered up," referring to the fact that Christ was crucified. In Romans 1:24, 26, and 28, it is translated "gave up," not in the sense of quitting, but in the sense of sealing people in their own sin. I Corinthians 5:5 renders it "to deliver" to Satan, and in 11:23 as "betrayed." In I Corinthians 13:3, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:2 and 25, it is translated "give," "gave," or "given," all referring to Christ's experience on the cross.
"the kingdom to God"
A careful look at this phrase shows that it would be more reasonable to think that the word "kingdom" refers not to the kingdom of God, but to the kingdom of sin and of Satan as in Revelation 16:10, and 17:17 (the same word for kingdom is used in these places). Also, the action of delivering up is not directed toward God as if He were the target or object of the action. "God" is not the location toward which the kingdom is delivered. The words "to God" are in the dative case which describes an indirect object. The use of the dative here is in the sense of "to benefit" or "on behalf of." The dative case here highlights the person for whom or on whose behalf the action is taken. The picture is not as if Jesus were to pick up the kingdom and place it in the custody of the Father. Rather, we can think of Jesus at the end of time personally judging the kingdom of Satan because that is what God the Father wants (John 5:22, 12:48, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:16, Revelation 6:16, 19:11-15).
We can summarize our thoughts about the first half of verse 24 this way. The kingdom is the rival kingdom, populated by all those who deny the resurrection (verse 12) and oppose Christ's authority and will. At the end of time, Christ will deliver the kingdom of Satan to God's judgment as has been decreed by His Word.
The next half of the verse explains or clarifies the first half.
"when He shall have put down ..."
The word "when" in this phrase is identical to the word "when" in the first part of this verse. Both phrases are talking about the same event. The description is different, but the second phrase beginning with "when" is a repeat of the first one. In other words, we might ask, "When will He deliver up the kingdom to judgment?" The answer is, "When he puts down all rule, all authority, and power." Obviously, God's sovereignty is not put down or abolished. It must be the rival rule, authority, and power of Satan that is put down in the judgment. Therefore, we can be confident in our conclusion that the first half of the verse describes the judgment of Satan's kingdom. As further support, Colossians 2:15 tells us that Christ's death on the cross insured that it would happen. Colossians 2:15 uses the same Greek words for "principalities" and "powers" to refer to Satan's kingdom that we find in I Corinthians 15:24, as "rule" and "authorities."
The words "put down" in verse 24 are the same word in Greek as "destroyed" in verse 26. By comparison, we can say that as death is an enemy, so the words "rule," "authority," and "power" refer to an enemy kingdom. This adds to the evidence which supports the idea that verse 24 is talking about God's judgment upon the kingdom of unbelievers, rather than a presentation of the kingdom of believers to God.
We can complete our summary of verse 24 in this way. The time when the kingdom will be judged is the same time when all rival authorities are destroyed. That happens at the end of time, Judgment Day.
There is one more idea in verse 24 which we ought to consider. However, it would be best to do that when we look at verse 26.
Verse 25, "For ... till"
This verse reminds us that the resurrection and judgment cannot take place without a prior action. The events are preceded by Christ reigning as King, during which time He puts all enemies under His feet. The enemies are all that oppose and hate God. They include Satan (Matt. 13:39), unbelievers (Matt. 5:44), and as the next verse tells us, death.
Notice that the kingship of Christ precedes the resurrection and judgment. This supports the idea that Jesus Christ is presently a King ruling over His kingdom. The kingdom is a present reality (Luke 17:20, 21, John 18:36, 37, Col. 1:13, I Thess. 2:12).
The action of putting all enemies under His feet refers to Christ sending forth the Gospel through His people, in the sense of Luke 10:16, 17 and II Corinthians 2:14-16. In other words, Christ sends out His Word that cuts two ways (Heb. 4:12). Some enemies are saved (Rom. 5:10). They are made servants of Christ, made spiritually alive and given the promise of a new, resurrected body. Others are sealed in unbelief (John 8:44,45). They remain servants of Satan, spiritually dead and ripe for judgment and eternal death in hell (Phil. 3:18 19). All this happens during the time Christ reigns as king and precedes the events at the end of time.
Verse 26, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death"
The words "that shall be destroyed" are the present tense verb katargeitai in Greek and are best rendered "is being destroyed." The word does not mean that death does not exist because it is destroyed. We know death will exist for all unbelievers throughout eternity. To understand this verse, we must recognize that the words "he shall have put down" in verse 24 are a form of the same verb "shall be destroyed" in this verse. We can also observe that the word "rule" in verse 24 and the word "enemy" or "death" in this verse both receive the action of this same verb. This means "rule" and "death" refer to the same thing. Therefore, we can say that the rulership includes death's. It is death's rulership that is being destroyed. This is fulfilled first of all when death's rulership over the souls of Christ's people is destroyed as they are raised from the dead as soon as they are saved (Eph. 2:1, 5, Col. 2:13). Also, death loses its grip upon the bodies of Christ's people when they are raised "at His coming."
Death's rule is destroyed in the lives of those to whom the Gospel comes and who turn from their sins and trust in their Savior. According to Romans 5:12 and 14, death rules over all men because they are sinners. Death has a claim or rule on men because of the Law. As long as they are subject to the Law, they are subject to death. The Law says the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, to fulfill the demands of the Law and release death's grip over men, Christ must die in the place of His people. The battle is not with some alien enemy, but with the Law, which is the enemy of all sinners. Christ must be victorious over death by removing the sin of His people before the Law. The resurrection proves that He overcame death and therefore satisfied the demands of the Law. Today, when that Word goes out and saves men (I Peter 1:23), it releases men from their obligation to obey the Law for righteousness (Gal. 5:1, Eph. 2:15). Therefore, death's rule over their soul and eventually their body is abolished (John 5:24, Rom. 6:9-10, II Cor. 1:10, II Tim. 1:10).
The point of this verse is that for the believer, death has no power. That is, the spiritual death of our souls has been abolished and the second death of an eternity in hell is no longer a threat. Our Savior is alive today, showing that He has completed His work as a Savior, thereby removing the condemnation that sends us to hell. Our Savior is also alive to impart to our souls the eternal life that begins the moment that we are saved. Finally, our Savior rose from the dead as a promise that He will raise our bodies too. The grip of death on our bodies is not to be destroyed until Jesus Christ has brought the Gospel to the world. After that, God will fulfill His resurrection promise.
Verse 27, "For he hath put all things under his feet."
The verb "hath put" is in the simple past (aortist active tense) and refers to the cross which is a past reality with present effects. The words of this phrase belong with and complete the sentence of verse 26. That is, the thought is, "The enemy, death, will be destroyed by Christ. After all, all things have already been put under His feet." At the cross, Christ triumphed over all things, death included (Heb. 2:14). When He returns, He will apply that victory to our bodies.
"But when he saith all things are put under him"
The word "he" refers to God. The implication is that somewhere God said these words. That is, we should be able to find them in the Old Testament. The reference is to Psalm 8.
The first verse of the Psalm 8 praises God's excellent name, that is, His self-revelation as Savior (Matt. 1:21-23, Acts 4:10-12). Psalm 8:2 refers to God in Christ (Matt. 21:16) who is revealed to be our Savior because He triumphs over His enemy. The kingdom of Satan is delivered up. That "enemy" is "still" and cannot claim or accuse those whom Jesus has redeemed. Also, we read that the "avenger" is "still." That opponent is God's Law which will avenge the transgressor. There is no condemnation heard for those whom Jesus has redeemed. Verses 3 through 5 tell us the victory Christ obtained is applied to man, not only to the man Jesus, but also to the men who are His. Verse 6, the verse quoted in I Corinthians 15:27, tells us that the triumph was Christ's experience of paying for our sins on the cross ending in His resurrection. We can prove that by comparing this verse with Ephesians 1:19-22, which quotes and explains it. Finally Psalm 8, verses 7 and 8 continue the story, explaining that all creation is under His dominion. The universe is no longer under the bondage of Satan and death. Jesus is King. The universe is His, and He will return to renew it (Rom. 8:19-22, II Peter 3:13).
Incidentally, Psalm 8 is quoted in Hebrews 2 to explain that although we do not yet see all things under Jesus' feet, the cross nevertheless made it so. I Corinthians 15 adds the truth that at the last day it will be plain that He is the victor.
"it is manifest ... him"
This phrase reminds us that God Himself is not subordinated to Jesus. When Jesus canceled the demands of God's Law upon us (Col. 2:14), He did not cancel the Law (Matt. 5:17-18, Ps. 119:89) nor reduce God or His Word in any way. Besides, Jesus is God Himself (John 10:30, 20:28, Titus 1:4 with 2:10, Heb. 1:8). It does not make sense to say God is under Jesus' feet.
This is another verse that requires careful consideration if we are to properly understand it. One thing is for sure, this verse does not teach that someday Jesus Christ in some way will have less authority than God.
"and when all things shall be subdued unto him"
This phrase is a time reference. The word "when" points to the end of time. The word "him" refers to the Son. According to verses 23 and 24, the time when all things will finally be subdued unto Him, or in the words of verse 24, the time when all things will be put down and when He delivers the enemies for judgment will be when Christ comes back at the end of time. Verse 25 reminds us that in the meantime Jesus continues to reign on earth until He is finished subduing His enemies by His Word.
This word introduces the next step in a sequence of events. That is, after the event mentioned in the first phrase of this verse, we can expect another event.
"shall the Son also himself be subject unto him"
The words "be subject" are a form of the word hupotasso in Greek, used six times in verses 27 and 28. It is a combination of the prefix "under" and the root that means "appointed" or "ordained" (as in Matt. 28:16, "had appointed"; Acts 13:48, "ordained"; 28:23, "when had appointed"). This is a strong word and clearly means that the Son has been appointed to be under "him." The next phrase tells us who "him" is.
"that put all things under him"
The word "him" in this phrase refers to the Son. The Son is subject to the "him" of the previous phrase who put all things under the Son. Again, who is the "him" of the previous phrase who did that? Who was able to subdue the enemies and put them under the Son? God did that. Therefore, the Son is subject unto God. What does that mean? The next phrase explains the nature of that subjection.
"that God may be all in all"
We shall first describe the idea contained in this phrase. Then we shall discuss three problems that might seem troublesome. After God had designed the plan of salvation before creation, He worked it out in time and in His physical universe. It was God's plan that the different persons of the Godhead participate in the fulfillment of the salvation plan in different ways. For example, it was the Son who went to the cross, not the Father or the Holy Spirit. Also, it was the Holy Spirit who was poured out on Pentecost, not the Father or the Son. As God worked out His program of salvation, the distinction among the three persons of the Godhead was highlighted.
At the end of time, when all the enemies are subdued, only God as God is the object of worship. The phrase "God may be all in all" is not some pantheistic statement. The idea is that God as God, rather than as the three distinct Persons, will be all things to all people. Negatively, for all unsaved people, God will be truly God in the sense that they will bow to His authority, giving Him honor as God and be subject to His judgment. Positively, for all saved people, God will be truly God in the sense that they will never disobey Him, but honor Him at all times and in all ways as He fully deserves to be. God as God will finally get all the glory and praise and honor He so much deserves, to the consternation of His enemies and to the joy of His people.
It is important to clarify some misunderstandings. First of all, this verse does not teach that there are levels of authority in the Godhead. All three persons are fully God and do not change for all eternity. This verse simply is teaching that a single person of the Trinity is no longer emphasized over the other. Verses such as John 17:5, 21-23 hint at the essential unity of the Godhead that was emphasized before the creation and to which the emphasis will return.
Secondly, the word "Son" is not used to mean "less than the Father." In fact, it is a word that actually means equality with the Father. As a Son, He is of the same kind as the Father. He is the only begotten Son, not an adopted son as believers are. That He is the begotten Son emphasizes the fact that He was resurrected (Acts 13:33) , especially that He the authority and power to raise Himself (John 10:17,18), inasmuch as He is God.
Even the phrase in John 14:28, "for the Father is greater than I," does not mean that the Son is less than the Father in any way. The word "for" is hoti in Greek and can be understood as "because" (John 7:1, 7, 14:12, 17, 19). This phrase is an explanation of the previous phrases in the verse. Jesus said in John 14:28, "I go away" and "I go unto the Father" because the Father is in a "greater" place than Jesus is. The word "greater" means Jesus is not where the Father is. The Father is in a greater place where His glory is not obscured as Jesus' is. John 14:28 means that the Father is in heaven and Jesus will soon join Him.
In addition, we know that the phrase at the end of John 14:28 cannot mean that the Son is somehow less than equal to the Father, by comparing it to John 14:12, which has the similar phrase "and greater works than these shall he do." We know that believers do not do greater works than Jesus, in the sense that their works are more effective or valuable. After all, it is Jesus who is in all believers doing His will (John 15:5, Gal. 2:20). John 14:12 means that more people will be saved when the believers witness than when Jesus brought the Gospel when He was on the earth. The believers have a job to do which Jesus did not do when He was on earth. Their job is different, but not greater in the sense that Jesus did a lesser job. Similarly, the term "greater" in verse 28 is referring to something other than a difference in who the Son and the Father are. It refers to their temporary separation while Jesus was on earth doing the job of a Savior.
Thirdly, I Corinthians 15:28 is not referring to a change in the relationship between the Son and the Father. The Son was always subject to the Father (John 5:19, 30). There was always perfect agreement among the persons of the Godhead, agreement in will, motives, and goals. Also, the Son subjected Himself to the plan to carry out God's will (Gal. 4:4, Phil. 2:8). I Corinthians 15:28 is not stating that there will be something new in the relationship of the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always have been and always will be in perfect subjection to and agreement with each other.
In short, the point of I Corinthians 15:28 is that Jesus as the man-God Messiah was sent to destroy the enemies. The job is seen to be completely successful at the resurrection. Once the job was done, the distinction among the persons of God is no longer emphasized. God as God will now receive all the glory from all His people.
Verse 29, "Else"
This is similar to the idea of "otherwise." The implication in the flow of the logic is, "What if the resurrection were not true, not for Jesus and therefore not for the believers? What if Jesus is not the great sovereign King who has subdued all enemies including death?"
The implication is that there is a connection between the emphasis that Jesus puts all things under His feet and the reality of our bodily resurrection. That connection is clearly made in Philippians 3:21. The promise which God makes for our bodies is as strong as the power He has to subdue all things.
"what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if (assuming) the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?"
These two questions are repetitions of each other. Let's examine this verse in parts and then put all the pieces together in order to get a clear idea of the meaning.
The key to understanding these questions is to realize that the words "they" and "the dead" refer to the same people. The words "the dead" can refer to people's physical bodies at the time they have died which then have no life at all or to their physical bodies they now occupy which have some temporary physical life but are full of death and will soon pass away. Either idea will produce the same understanding of this verse.
One thing is for sure, the words "they do which are baptized" do not refer to one group of people, while "the dead" refer to some other people who have previously died. Rather, the words "the dead" refer to the bodies of those who are baptized. The words "the dead" are used to highlight the condition of the physical bodies of these people. Their spiritual souls are perfect and eternally alive, but their bodies are the same old bodies full of the smell of death, which is eating away at them. Their bodies are still part of the sin cursed physical world.
Next we must recognize that the word "baptism" can refer to either their spiritual baptism in the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:13), that is, their real salvation experience, or it can refer to their water baptism (I Cor. 1:16), which points to the true spiritual baptism. It does not really matter. In either case, our understanding of the verse will be the same. The word "baptism" in this verse describes the spiritual condition of a believer's soul. Whether he has additionally experienced the sacrament of baptism or not, his soul has been washed clean from sin. The words "they which are baptized" refer to those who are truly saved. They are people who are washed from their sin.
The words "baptized for the dead" can have two slightly different meanings. If the word "baptized" refers to the actual washing away of sin by the work of the Holy Spirit (Ez. 36:25-29, John 3:5, Titus 3:5, I Peter 3:21), then the phrase means that people are saved in their soul for the benefit of their physical body which is full of death now and which will soon be dead if the Lord tarries. The idea is that salvation of their souls is a benefit for their physical bodies, because it proves that the salvation program is real and guarantees the fulfillment of the rest of the salvation promise, namely, the resurrection of their bodies at Christ's coming. In this light, the questions of this verse can be thought of as implying, "Why am I saved in my soul if my body is not included in God's program? What kind of salvation is it if it includes only part of me? That is not a very good salvation at all."
If the word "baptized" refers to the sacrament of water baptism, then the phrase means believers partake of the sacrament because they anticipate the resurrection of their bodies. The sacrament is a statement that God has done a work in their souls, that is, God has washed them free of sin and made them alive. It is a statement of confidence that God will also do a work in their bodies, that is, God will resurrect them too. In this light, the question of this verse can be thought of as implying, "Why bother with the sacrament of baptism if it is not true that God will raise my body? If the promise the Gospel holds for my body is empty, the salvation of my soul probably is not real either."
The point of this verse can now be clearly understood. This verse is not talking about some strange, mysterious rite in which those who are physically alive participate, in order to somehow secure spiritual blessings for those unsaved loved ones who had died sometime before. The idea of a vicarious baptism or baptism by proxy is ridiculous on the face of it and is foreign to everything else the Bible teaches. Instead, the point of the verse is the very familiar idea that Christians anticipate the resurrection of their bodies. They know that, because they have experienced the resurrection of their soul, their bodies have a deathless future as well. This is their inner confidence because their souls have been baptized. This is their bold witness as they submit to the sacrament of water baptism. In short, being saved now means that there is hope for their bodies later. To put it in the logic of this verse, if there is no hope for their bodies, neither is there hope for their souls. This thought is nothing more than a restatement of verse 17.
This verse through verse 32 continues to discuss the implications of the assumption that there is no bodily resurrection. One result is that without a promise or hope of a bodily resurrection, there is not any point to the sacrifices we make in life.
This word, kindunuo in Greek, is used four times in the New Testament. It is used in Luke 8:23 and Acts 19:27, 40 to describe physical danger. So, it must be similarly used here. The idea of the question is, "Why do I constantly put my body in danger and risk shortening my physical life if this present earthly life is all the life my body has?" The dangers Paul describes in II Corinthians 4:7-12 and II Corinthians 6:4-10 only hasten his body's death. Why not make his body's life last as long as possible?
One could argue, "Well, the real person is inside, and if our souls are secure, who cares about the body?" First of all, as verse 17 states, there is no salvation of any kind without the fact of the resurrection of the body. Secondly, our bodies are part of who we are. Corrupt as they are, they still belong to us and we are incomplete without them.
Verse 31, "I die daily"
We can think about the words in two ways:
1. This phrase can express Paul's attitude, his own desire (Phil. 3:8). In other words, if the real future for his body is in the resurrection, then he does not mind denying himself now for more valuable spiritual goals later (Matt. 10:38, 39, 16:24-26).
2. This phrase can state a fact. At all times, standing for the Lord, being a faithful steward of the Gospel means there will be opposition. Sometimes the opposition leads to physical harm. Only a certain knowledge of God's total plan for our soul and body makes it worth while (Psalm 44, Rom. 8:35-39, II Cor. 4:16-18).
In the King James Bible, the phrase "I die daily" is at the end of the verse, but this phrase actually begins the verse in Greek. The rest of the verse is sort of an oath or emotional statement, emphasizing what he has said. The words "I protest" are not part of the Greek text. The word "rejoicing" is sometimes translated "boasting" (Rom. 3:27, II Cor. 8:24, 9:4) or "glorying" (II Cor. 7:4). We could render the word as "confidence." The verse could be written in a form closer to the original in this awkward way: "I am in constant physical danger by your confidence which I also have in Christ Jesus the Lord of us all." This is not easy to convert into a simple English phrase. It is something like, "I am willing to risk danger to my physical body which results from having and expressing the same confidence which you and I both have in Jesus Christ who really is the Lord of us all." That is, Paul's witness in a hostile world can sometimes be a physical liability to him.
Paul cannot see into the future. All he says about the resurrection is based upon a promise. Even though he cannot see a risen Lord and even though he still lives in a world that is an enemy threatening to destroy him, he is confident of what he says. His confidence is as secure as the person in whom he places it. That person happens to be the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:23-25, I Pet. 1:6-9).
Verse 32, "If after the manner of men ... Ephesus"
This phrase does not mean "I have fought with beasts like men do." Rather, it means, "To use an expression used by man, `If I have fought with beasts in Ephesus.'" Perhaps to fight with beasts in Ephesus was a well known punishment or sport. The Bible provides no clues. Secular records are interesting but are not God's Word. They do not provide information that can be completely trusted. Because the question in this verse uses the word "advantage," the idea of the above phrase could be that among men there was some personal glory in fighting with the beasts. But so what? If my body stays in the grave after fighting with beasts, it is such an ephemeral glory as to be worthless. Or the implication is that this is an experience so horrible that it is part of a common expression to refer to the worst case of physical danger people can think of. In that case, Paul uses it to make a point that in every lesser case what he is saying will be true also, as if to say, "No matter how awful my physical danger or death may be, the experience will merit me no personal benefit."
The word for "beast," theerion, can mean "animals" (Mark 1:13, James 3:7) or it can refer to Satan's opposition to Christ and His people, as it is used in the book of Revelation. Since there is nothing in the Bible that discusses any special kind of persecution in Ephesus, we cannot develop this idea further.
"let us eat ... die"
The word "die" means "to die away from." It does not refer to the sleep of a believer, but to death as the final event a person experiences on this earth. The death in view is the separation of the body "away from" the soul. The idea is that if as some people say there is not such a thing as a bodily resurrection, then we should make the most of this present life.
However, behind this idea is the point of verses 17 and 19. It is not that without a resurrection we should live it up because tomorrow we cease to exist. Rather, the idea is that we should get whatever joy we can now because tomorrow we face judgment. Without the resurrection, the alternative is "ye are yet in your sins," not "ye face an eternity of nothingness." Notice the logic of Isaiah 22, from which this quote comes. There God says His people should have repented (verse 12). The next verse is the one quoted in I Corinthians 15:32, which states that instead of coming to their spiritual senses, they rejoiced in this world (verse 13). The result of their folly is that they will face an eternity in hell (verse 14).
We must state again, as we stressed at the beginning of the chapter, that underlying all of I Corinthians 15 is the assumption that the term "resurrection" means the believer's resurrection to glory. It is never assumed that the unbelievers will be forever separated from their bodies. Believers, and unbelievers too, for that matter, will be complete in the future, body and soul. However, unbelievers' souls and bodies are full of sin. They are resurrected to face judgment and hell. Therefore, the thought of this verse is, "If we are not resurrected to glory but resurrected to wrath as all other men are, then let us live like them now and get whatever joy we can get out of our temporary physical life."
With all his personal troubles (I Cor. 4:9-14), Paul should be crying. Why is he rejoicing? It is not because he has given up and gone mad. His joy is not evil laughter of worldly joy that sounds like the crackling of a fire. It is the song of heavenly joy that praises God. Paul rejoices because the promise of the resurrection is true.
Verse 33, "Be not deceived"
This is a serious life and death warning. Notice how it is used in I Corinthians 6:9 and Galatians 6:7. (See also Matt. 24:4, 5, 11.) The Corinthians' view of the bodily resurrection tells what kind of hope they have. What they think about the resurrection reveals their heart and determines where they will spend eternity.
"evil ... manners"
The idea of this phrase is that if a person hangs around with the crowd that believes there is no resurrection, his own behavior will eventually change. He will no longer behave like someone who lives his life based upon the fact that there is a resurrection. Paul had taught them about the resurrection when he first came to Corinth. It was part of the Gospel message that eventually affected their lives. They turned from idols to serve the Living God. Because they tolerated and talked with some int he congregation who said there is no resurrection, they were allowing those unbelievers to influence the behavior of the church. This verse is an illustration of the basic truth that doctrine and behavior are an inseparable couplet. A problem in one will eventually always affect the other.
Verse 34, "Awake to righteousness"
The word "awake" is a form of the word eknepho which is found only here in the Bible. It is made of a combination of the prefix meaning "out of" and the root which means "sober" as it is translated in I Thessalonians 5:6, 8. This phrase is saying, "Think out of a sober mind. Stop daydreaming and thinking like the world. Think what is right."
"and sin not"
This refers especially to the sin of not believing that there is a resurrection and to the sinful life that results from that belief. The next phrase puts it, "for some have not the knowledge of God." This can mean they do not have the knowledge which belongs to God and which He gives to His people who have the ability to receive it. The phrase can also mean that they do not have a sufficient appreciation of God Himself and so do not trust His promise of the resurrection.
"I speak this to your shame"
The word "shame", entropee, is used only here and in I Corinthians 6:5. A similar word, entrepo, is used several times. It is a combination of the words "in" and "turn" (James 1:17, "turning"). The idea is "to turn in upon themselves," as in a recoil from that which is wrong. That is the sense of its use in II Thessalonians 3:14. Rather than the shame of being discovered a sinner and being judged, the idea is more positive. Paul is saying that he speaks to them so that they will turn from wrong thinking and wrong living and honor God's Word as well as the God who spoke it. In fact, the word entrepo is also used to convey the idea of reverence (Matt. 21:37, Luke 20:13, Heb. 12:9).
Verse 35, "But some man will say ..."
The word "some" is singular, that is, it can be rendered "someone." Of all the people who are part of the unbelieving "some" in verse 12, one has asked some questions.
"How are the ... up?"
This is the first question. The word "how" is used in the sense of "in what way" (I Cor. 7:32-34, "how"; 14:7, 9, 16, "how"). Someone wants to know some details about the way the resurrection takes place. This person excuses his unbelief because he is ignorant of all the details of how God works out His will. The person is implying, "Since I do not happen to know how it is done, then it must not be real." This question reveals an insufferable pride. It is like saying, "Until I know as much as God does about this and put my approval upon what He does, I will not believe it."
"and with what ... come?"
This is the second question. This person also wants to know the final results of God's plan. Since they really do not trust God's Word of promise, this question is like saying, "I want to see it before I will believe it." For this "someone," the resurrected body must be explained in earthly terms. The idea is, "Show me some kind of body in this world that the resurrected body will look like. Then I may believe." This question is putting God on trial. It is like saying, "Until you show me in terms I can understand what you plan on doing, I will not believe it."
Verse 36, "Thou fool"
The word "fool" is aphron, a combination of the word a, "no," and phron, "mind." The idea is the "someone" of verse 35 has no mind to think God's things. The questions of verse 35 are not questions of inquiry for information but challenges of unbelief. They come from a mind that has decided the resurrection is not possible, that God does not and really cannot do such a thing. These are dangerous questions, in the sense that they come out of a person with a material focus who is defiling the temple of God with man's wisdom (I Cor. 3:17, 18). These are questions unsaved people ask. More than that, they are questions people who do not want God's salvation ask.
The first question is, "How can we have life from death?" The proper answer is, "Who can understand how it happens? Only God can do that. Are we equal to God so that we can understand it?" The second question is, "What does the resurrection body look like?" The proper answer is, "Do not focus upon the material world to understand God's promise. There is a greater spiritual reality that you cannot comprehend or examine with your physical senses. Do not think that all that is real is physical, part of this material world."
Verse 36 answers the first question of verse 35. The implication of the first question is that death is so terrible and seems so final. Death comes to all men in many ways. No exceptions have ever been observed (except for Enoch and Elijah). There does not seem any way that life can come out of it. The "someone" who asks the question cannot understand what process can begin with the disintegrated results of death and end up with a resurrected body. He concludes that it is not possible. The answer is ...
"that ... except it die."
This verse and the following verses are not a proof that the resurrection exists. Paul will not provide a blue print and instructions for manufacturing a resurrected body. This verse simply illustrates the fact that death is a requirement for a resurrection to happen. Paul is using a well known agricultural fact to clarify the relationship between death and the resurrection. No physical illustration can prove a spiritual idea. An understanding of the resurrection is received as a gift from God to those who are spiritually alive (I Cor. 2:12-14).
As we look around us in the world, we might conclude that death is all there is in anybody's future. Death seems to be one of the few certain realities of the world. Death may be all that we know about the body's future now, but that is not the end of the matter. Men have always had an intuition that there is some kind of existence after death. They have tried to understand that existence in terms of their present life, trying to imagine what is past the mysterious dark veil of death. This verse agrees with the latent belief in man that death is not the final event for a person.
The existence of death is not a contradiction to the reality of the resurrection. They are two events that are both real. It is a fact of this universe that the results of sin eventually catch up with all men. However, just as sin and death are real, so is God's answer for sin real.
A material focus, a focus upon this physical world, sees only the curse of God upon men. The only thing that men who have a material focus know is that death results in a rotting, disintegrating corpse. In the view of men, death is ugly and a terror. It appears as an ultimate victor which always has the last word. If someone comes to men claiming a solution for death, the only evidence they are impressed with is a prolonged physical life. However, God's promise is not a continuation of this physical life. Instead, the hope He promises is a new life. As this verse puts it, death is a necessary step in obtaining the new life. Death is necessary in order to provide the salvation for many (John 12:24). Death is necessary in order to receive the new life in our soul (Rom. 6:5). Death is necessary in order to receive the new life in our bodies (I Cor. 15:36). The promise of God is a resurrection. That is, God does not deny death or hide from it. He, more than anyone else, faced death. God's promise is life from death. God's plan does not avoid death but triumphs over it, in Christ and in His people. Death is necessary for a resurrection to be a resurrection. A resurrection is not a continuation of present life but a new life out of death.
This verse, and in fact most of the remaining verses in Chapter 15, answers the second question of verse 35. The agricultural idea is that when we look only at a brown, shriveled up, tiny seed which is put into the dirt, we are not able to imagine from that observation the appearance of the plant that eventually comes out of the ground.
The old seed and the new plant are both related to the same seed. A wheat seed results in a wheat plant. A wheat seed does not result in a rice plant. However, the forms of a wheat seed and a wheat plant are very different. The point of the illustration is that we cannot find any clues in this physical world to help us understand the nature of the resurrected body. There is nothing about the physical body that goes into the grave that can help us understand what that same body will be like when it is resurrected. Death is the barrier that separates the two forms. A believer is the same person after the resurrection as he was before the resurrection, but his bodily form is different.
Verse 38, "But ... body"
We must rest our case with God. As it is totally His idea what body He will give each seed, so it is totally His idea what body we receive in the resurrection. We must trust Him. We must believe that whatever He does is always the very best for us.
"as it hath pleased him"
This phrase is an echo of creation. When God surveyed His handiwork, He saw that it was very good (Gen. 1:31). What God creates perfectly fits His will. The resurrected body is something only God has designed and made. We cannot imagine it. As all of God's creation, it is exactly as He wants it to be. It is perfect for whatever function He has planned, and it is perfect for us too. As we can rejoice over God's perfect creation of our soul in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), so we can rejoice that whatever body He creates will be what pleases Him and therefore what pleases us.
"to every ... own body"
Resurrection is not the same as reincarnation. Each seed has its "own" particular body after it is sown. It does not change into another seed or into a different plant. So, too, people do not change into some other person or into an other material form and live another life on this earth. We are the same person and we have our "own" body. It is new, but related to the same body we always had.
Verse 39, "All flesh ... flesh"
This phrase is the point of verses 39 through 41. The idea of this verse is that the variety of forms displayed by all those things we see in this universe illustrates the difference between our present bodies and our resurrected body. The logic is that there is a great difference among different bodies in the universe. Similarly, there is also a great difference between the present body and the future body. The emphasis of this verse is upon the difference among the forms in God's physical created world. In other words, this phrase is not saying, "We shall compare the flesh of our present bodies with the flesh of our resurrected bodies." Rather, the phrase means, "We shall concentrate upon the differences of the bodies in this world and from that limited perspective try to gain an appreciation of the tremendous difference between our present body and the resurrected body.
"men ... beasts ... fishes ... birds"
God created a great difference among the forms in this material world. There are two important ideas here. First of all, from Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 26 and 28, we read each of the forms of flesh mentioned above brought forth after their own kind. This means that one kind never produces another kind. In that sense, the different forms are not related to each other. Secondly, there is more than one kind of body which God is able to create. Although all the bodies are physical, the amazing variety is a testimony to the imagination of God. God never runs out of ideas. He creates as He wills to accomplish whatever purposes He has in mind.
We can apply these two ideas to the comparison between our present body and our resurrected body. First of all, the resurrected body is another kind of body than the present fleshly body and is not brought forth from the fleshly body. The fleshly body does not give life to the resurrected body. In that sense, they are not of the same kind. Both bodies may be part of the same person, but they are different from each other. As the next verses repeat, the contrast is that the present body is fleshly and the resurrected body is not fleshly. Secondly, God's ability to create is not limited to the physical universe. There are more bodies He can design and create than the fleshly bodies He has already created. As a matter of fact, as the next verses state, the spiritual bodies He creates are far more glorious than the physical bodies He creates.
Verse 40, "celestial ... terrestrial"
The idea is not that the earth is composed of different elements than the heavenly bodies. The comparison within the universe is not concerning composition but form. The solid earth does not have the same form as the interstellar clouds of gas or the flaming sun. The difference is great. In a limited way, it illustrates the difference between our present body and the resurrected body.
Verse 41, "sun ... moon ... stars"
Each object has a different size, make up, and appearance. From Genesis 1:14-18, we also notice that each has a different purpose. This adds to the developing contrast between our present and our resurrected bodies. The future resurrected body is greatly different because it has a different purpose than our present fleshly body.
"for one star ... in glory"
It is interesting that this particular object is highlighted. Perhaps this is done because there is only one sun and only one moon, but many stars. To press the point of the verses, Paul highlights the fact that even the stars which look similar are quite different. This fact has been verified in a physical way by astronomical observations.
Even modern scientists do not realize the magnitude of the variety among stars. Astronomers attribute some differences in stars, such as apparent difference in brightness, to their differences in distance from the earth. Unlike what most scientists say, there are good scientific reasons to believe that the stars are not as far away as they suppose. Therefore, the differences in the distances from the earth are not as great as they think, and the differences in brightness are more intrinsic than apparent. The stars differ from each other in glory much more than men realize.
Verse 42, "So also is the resurrection of the dead"
The word "so" has the sense of "in this manner" as it is used in Matthew 6:9 and I Corinthians 7:7. The sense of this phrase is, "In the manner we have been discussing, the resurrected body differs from the present body." However, we shall now see that contrast is even greater than any we have considered so far. Until now, we have been comparing one corrupt part of the physical universe with another corrupt part. The resurrection requires us to compare a corrupt body with an incorrupt body. We are really beyond our limits as we try to imagine what that is like, because no one has ever seen an incorrupt body.
"It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption"
This phrase reminds us that the resurrection in view in these verses is the believer's resurrection. There is a resurrection for unbelievers, but their whole person, body and soul, will forever be corrupt.
Now we must ask an important question. Is the issue that corruption is changed to incorruption or is the issue that the body is changed from one form to another entirely different form? That is, does the resurrection result in an incorrupt, material, physical body? The answer is that the resurrection results in incorruption as verse 42 states but also in a spiritual body as verse 44 states. These are two simultaneous changes which take place in the resurrection. One is a change from corruption to incorruption. The other is a change from natural to spiritual.
There are only four possible resurrected bodies. One is a material or natural corrupt body. The second is a material or natural incorrupt body. The third is a spiritual corrupt body. The fourth is a spiritual incorrupt body. The first choice cannot be correct. Verse 42 tells us that. Besides, that is the kind of body we now have and the one subject to death. That kind of body has the problem for which we are trying to find help. The second choice is not correct because verse 44 tells us the resurrected body is not a natural body. The third choice is eliminated on the basis of verse 42. The only possibility left is the fourth choice.
Verse 43, "sown in dishonor"
The word "dishonor" is based upon a word that has a prefix a, "no," and a root word timee, "price," "honor" (Matt. 27:6, 9, "price"; I Cor. 7:23, "price"; Heb. 2:7, "honor"). The idea of the word is "without price" in the sense of zero value. The present body is worth absolutely nothing in eternal measurement. It will not last, and it does not contribute toward God's righteous purposes. In the words of Chapters 2 and 3, it is that carnal part that cannot understand spiritual things and that cares for this sin cursed world.
"it is raised in glory"
This phrase is more than just a contrast to the previous phrase. The word "glory" is doxee, which is used to particularly describe God and His people. More than just having great worth, the resurrected body has a glory that is similar to God's own glory (Phil. 3:21)!
"it is sown in weakness"
It is the physical body that goes into the ground or is sown. Since Matthew 26:41 links the flesh with weakness, we can understand this phrase as saying the body goes into the grave as a weak, physical thing. That body has no power to arrest its death and decay. It does not please God.
"it is raised in power (dunamis)"
II Corinthians 10:4 also describes the two ideas, "carnal" and "mighty" (dunamis), as opposites. This adds support to the idea that whatever we might think about the resurrected body, one thing is for sure, it is not a carnal physical body. The contrast in these last two phrases of I Corinthians 15:43 is between the physical body which has no power to please God and the resurrected body which is not physical and has the power to please God.
It is true that dishonor and weakness come to our bodies as a result of sin. They are not originally part of Adam's created physical body. However, the promise of the resurrection is not a physical body restored to its original condition. A Christian's hope is that the present fleshly body which is subject to dishonor and weakness is replaced by a spiritual body which is glorious and powerful.
It is easy to see that our bodies must be changed from a corrupt to an incorrupt state. In the next few verses, we shall see why we must additionally exchange a natural body for a spiritual body.
"It is sown a natural body"
The word "natural," psukikos, is a cousin to the general word for "soul" or "life." In this form, it is used in the Bible six times to emphasize the body's subjection to sin and lack of spiritual life (I Cor. 2:14, "natural"; James 3:15, "sensual"; Jude 19, "sensual").
"it is raised a spiritual body"
We can say very little about the spiritual body. We do not know what a spiritual body looks like. Nevertheless, we know that it is not a natural body. Again, the contrast is between a physical body corrupted by sin, empty of spiritual life, and the spiritual body full of power. Never is the hope held out for a repaired or improved version of a physical body.
At this point, someone might say, "Wait a minute. The problem is with a corrupt natural body, not a natural body. Maybe the spiritual body is a way to describe a non-corrupt physical body." That is not how things are. First of all, God's promise is not of a physical resurrected body with some mysterious ethereal qualities of a ghost. Secondly and more telling is the statement in verses 47 through 50 that the contrast between the present body and the resurrected body is the contrast between the body composed of the elements of the soil of this earth and the body that has no earthly elements to it.
"There is ... spiritual body"
The first two phrases in verse 44 and the phrases in verse 43 are a list of facts which can be thought of as being connected by the word, "if" or "since." The idea of the phrases together is that if it is true that there exists a physical body, then it is true that there exists a spiritual body. The same God who created a physical body created a spiritual body too. The spiritual body is just as real as the physical body we know so much about. While this logical connection is a fact, it is only recognized as a proof of the existence of a spiritual body in the eyes of those who trust God's Word. Do we accept Paul's authority and believe that what he says is true? Only if we are spiritual people can we do that.
Incidentally, this verse shows us that the hope for the physical body, which I Corinthians 15 teaches, is not a contradiction of the main theme of I Corinthians, which is that we must desire and hope for spiritual things. The hope believers have for their present body is that it will eventually be spiritual.
Verse 45, "And so"
As in verse 42, these words convey the meaning of "in this manner." The idea is that "in the manner described in verse 45, verse 44 is accomplished." Verse 45 is a support to verse 44.
"it is written ... quickening spirit"
These words are written in Genesis 2:7. We must add that the word "made" does not mean God used a lower life form and guided its development into a man, nor does it mean God chose one of the existing higher life forms and designated it as a man. Instead, God put life into a physical form that never existed before. God created man independently of any other creative work.
The idea of this verse is that Adam had a body and a soul. If sin had not entered into the world, he would have continued as he was. There would have been no change. But something happened. Sin entered and through sin, death. Adam remained body and soul. This time, though, he was thoroughly corrupt. Again, unless helped by some external agent, he would continue in the same situation until Judgment Day and beyond.
The second Adam also had a physical body. It was perfect as the first Adam's body was originally. Like the first Adam, He was laden by sin, not His own, but His people's. Also, the second Adam experienced death, physical as well as spiritual, that is, not the spiritual death of a dead soul, but the spiritual death of enduring the wrath of God. The difference is that the second Adam, Christ (Rom. 5:14, 15), did not remain in the grip of death. His physical body never saw corruption, even in the grave. It was raised from the dead. Later, when He went to heaven, it was changed.
The link between verse 44 and 45 is that there is such a thing as a spiritual body, and it is Christ, not Adam, who is the example of that kind of body. The implication of verse 45 is that God made a natural body for Adam, and God made a spiritual body for Christ when He went to heaven. The precedent of history means we can expect our future resurrection to be like Christ's. He is a life giving spirit. The spiritual life He shares with our souls is similar to the spiritual life He shares with our bodies.
At this point, some may doubt that Jesus has only a spiritual and not a perfect physical body. That issue will be discussed when we get to verse 50.
These verses state a fact. This is how God has arranged His created universe. The order of things is first physical, then spiritual. Notice also the contrasts, natural and earthy against spiritual and heavenly. Additionally, the implication of these verses is that "the second man," Jesus Christ, is not "of the earth." In other words, Jesus Christ no longer identifies with the physical elements of this earth. His body is not physical but spiritual.
Verse 48, "As is the earthy ... earthy"
The word "earthy," koikos, is found four times in the Bible, all in I Corinthians 15:47-49. It is based on the word koos, used only twice as "dust" (Mark 6:11; Rev. 18:19). It refers to the soil of the earth, the elements from which man's body was created (Gen. 2:7). The idea of this phrase is that we who are Adam's descendants receive what he can give us, physical life in an earthy body. That is the only life which Adam passes on. That is the bodily form we get.
"and as is the heavenly ... heavenly"
The second Adam, however, is a life giving spirit (verse 45). He is the Lord over all things (verse 47). He is the Lord of life and Creator of all forms of life. As a spiritual Adam and as a Creator, we receive what He can give, eternal life in a heavenly body.
This verse is another statement of fact. Just as it is true that in many ways, when we were created in our mother's womb, we were like Adam, so when we are re created upon salvation and upon the resurrection, we will be like Jesus Christ. Like Adam, we have a physical body, because we are intended to function in a physical universe. Paul is saying that "we" who are saved, now faithfully use the physical bodies God has given us to do His will. The promise of this verse is that like Christ, "we" will have a spiritual body that functions best in a heavenly environment. Then we will be able to perfectly glorify Him in our resurrected body as well as in our resurrected soul.
Also, the implication of the contrast is between the lesser and the greater. The first Adam's body, composed of dust, even in its perfect state, had severe limitations in comparison to the new spiritual bodies reserved for the resurrection of believers. For one thing, physical bodies have no ability to help men understand spiritual things (I Cor. 2:9). This contrast is also an appropriate lead in to the next verse.
It is appropriate at this time to say a few things about the phrase "image of God." Adam was created in the image of God. Essentially, Adam bore the image of God in that like God, Adam was accountable to God's Holy Law. Adam was the only created creature who was. God would never contradict His own will and neither should Adam. Additionally, Adam had some intellectual abilities and heart desires that were like God, as well as certain physical abilities that in a very limited way imitated God's abilities. After the fall, Adam and his descendants retained a portion of this image. Unsaved men are not animals. They still bear the image of God, in the sense that they are accountable before God's Law. Also, while their desire to think and care about what God thinks and cares about is dead, they still have a greatly reduced ability to imitate God in their intellectual and physical abilities.
When this verse says we bear the image of an earthly Adam it is in the sense that we bear the marred image of God as he did. However, for God's people there is more to the story. Saved men, in principle, have fully satisfied their obligation to the will of God through the work of Christ and have in their hearts a perfect desire to do God's will just as God does. Also, they can, to a greater degree, by means of God's power, do God's will in their corrupt physical bodies. Eventually, believers' images of God will be complete as God had always intended it to be. As this verse states, they will bear the image of the heavenly Lord Jesus Christ. They will be able to display His image as a complete person, body as well as soul.
Verse 50, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"
This is a principle that must be revealed to us. It cannot be surmised by observation or deduction. It is a spiritual principle that can only be received by spiritual people. This is the root principle upon which the whole conflict of spiritual versus material turns. This phrase states that there is no material future to God's plan of salvation. Anyone with a material physical concern either will be graciously turned from that attitude by God and have a new, spiritual hope or will be excluded from His kingdom. There is no place for a physical dimension to His kingdom (Luke 17:20, 21, John 18:36, Rom. 14:17). Therefore, anyone with a physical hope does not have the hope of the Gospel of the Bible. This principle is a killing blow to the material hope any Corinthians had or any present day people have.
Incidentally, Paul makes this statement to the "brethren." Of all the people of the world, it is those who are in the church and say they are God's people who must have a desire for a spiritual kingdom now and forever. God is ashamed of people who claim to be Christians but who have an earthly rather than a heavenly desire (Heb. 11:16). God is pleased with those who walk totally by faith and not by sight (II Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:6).
This phrase confirms and clarifies many ideas that we have discussed in Chapter 15 as well as in the rest of this letter to the Corinthians. Let us think about this phrase carefully and see what conclusions can be drawn from it.
The words "flesh" and "blood" do not refer to corrupt bodies. Rather, they refer just to physical bodies. The word "flesh" is applied to Jesus in Luke 24:39, 43. That teaches us that Jesus was truly human. His flesh and bones were as Adam's were (Gen. 2:23), but His body was never corrupt, not even in the grave (Acts 2:31). Jesus Christ partook of flesh and blood but was still not corrupt (I Tim. 3:16, Heb. 2:14). The words "flesh" and "blood" simply mean "a human in a physical body." In Galatians 1:16, the words refer to people without a focus upon their sinful nature. The words refer to the material part of a human. Similarly, in Matthew 16:17, the observation is made that "flesh" and "blood" are not able to help us understand that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. This point is equivalent to I Corinthians 2:9, in which we learn that the physical part of a man cannot understand God's things. It is true that the physical part of man is sin corrupted, which further hinders his understanding of all things, but in both Matthew 16 and I Corinthians 2, the idea is that physical equipment by itself is not able to detect spiritual realities.
We must recall that in Genesis 1:26, God said He created man originally after His own image. We mentioned this phrase when discussing verse 49. We should add a few things in light of verse 50. Does the image include man's body in some way? According to John 4:24, God is a spirit, but Adam is of the dust, earthy. Therefore, the image in view cannot be physical. The image Adam bore originally and which people bear after having been saved is that their hearts and minds are patterned after God's. Saved people have the same desires, goals, motives, and interests that God has. Their will conforms to His will and shapes their behavior to do what He wants them to do, or rather to do what He would do if He were in their place. The message of this chapter is that the completed transformation of people into the image of God has nothing to do with "flesh and blood." The glorious promise and hope is that when Christ returns and the Christian's bodily resurrection is a reality, the spiritual image will be complete in body as well as soul.
Our flesh beckons us to seek a better material existence, but God provides something greater than we can know with our physical senses. Our flesh, full of rebellion, sin, and death, is the seed which is sown. Our resurrected body, incorruptible, is the spiritual plant that grows out of the dead seed. It is a new body that completes the image of God in our body. We are then fully in the image of God Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ. By the grace of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can even now rejoice in that hope.
Let us try to understand how Jesus' own body fits into the picture. Jesus added to Himself a human nature, died, rose from the dead, and went to heaven. Jesus will never abandon His humanity. Therefore, we who are human have the hope that humans have a place in heaven eternally. However, if according to verse 44, our new body is spiritual, what kind of body does Jesus have now? Verse 50 is the principle that applies to Him too. Jesus must have a spiritual and not a physical body.
Let us examine some objections to the idea that Jesus has a spiritual rather than a physical body. Some people insist that Jesus must have a physical body because it was possible for the apostle Thomas to physically touch Him (John 20:27). It is true that in the few weeks after His resurrection and before His ascension He was in a physical body. However, Jesus made a special point in Luke 24:39 that He was only in a physical body and not yet in a spiritual body after the resurrection. Therefore, according to I Corinthians 15:44 and 50, Jesus was not in His final resurrected state, namely, a glorified spiritual body. He arose in the same physical body with which He entered the grave to show that He had power over death. However, after He ascended to heaven, He received the full resurrection promise for His body. The present glory of His body is far greater than that of a physical body (I Cor. 15:43, 44, 49). Jesus Christ is a King whose kingdom is not of this physical world (John 18:36). According to I Corinthians 15:50, He must not be flesh and blood to inherit that kingdom. Therefore, after Jesus ascended, His physical body was transformed into a glorious spiritual body. In heaven, He has a glorified spiritual body, after which our spiritual bodies will be fashioned (Phil. 3:21).
Some people may argue that Jesus went through doors after He was resurrected (John 20:26). Doesn't that miracle show that when He was in His physical resurrected body, He was in His glorified body too? Doesn't that show that His physical resurrected body was already heavenly or spiritual in some sense? No, the fact that he went through a door does not mean His body was His spiritual body. He had occasionally set aside the laws of the universe even before He was in His resurrected body. For example, when He was alive in His physical body He walked on water.
Another objection to the statement that Jesus now has a glorified spiritual body and not a body of flesh and blood appears to be Acts 1:11. There the angels said when He ascended that He would come back "in like manner" as the apostles saw Him go into heaven. Yes, that is true, but that phrase refers to the manner or way in which He was taken up, not the body He had when He was taken up. When He was taken up, He was seen of men going into the clouds (Acts 1:9). This is the way He shall return, in the clouds and seen of men (Matt. 24:27, 30). The reference in Matthew 24 is a description of the end of time. That is a situation that is beyond our experience and ability to fully understand. One thing is for sure, we cannot draw a picture of what kind of body Christ has, since it cannot be flesh and blood. Whatever His body is like, it is certainly not physical as ours is now. In fact, the book of Revelation describes Him in a way that has no physical counterpart (Rev. 1:13-16; 5:6; 19:11-16).
Finally, I Corinthians 2:9 tells us that it is not possible for people to see a spiritual body with physical eyes. Jesus must have been in His physical body in the few weeks after His resurrection in order for His friends to see Him. Mary, as well as the disciples on the road to Emmaus, saw Him as just a human being and not as an unusual spiritual being (Luke 24:18, John 20:15). Again, it was after He ascended that He was transformed into His glorious spiritual body. Besides, who could have stood before Him if He were in His fully glorified spiritual state? Only at the end of time will men confront Jesus in all of His glory. Unbelievers, still in their sin, will be consumed by His wrath (Heb. 12:29). Believers, holy and spiritual, will rejoice in His presence and honor Him as He deserves (II Thess. 1:10-12).
According to Philippians 3:21 and I John 3:2, whatever our future body is, we know it is different than the body that we can now see. It will be like His glorified body, which we also cannot compare with anything we can now see.
"neither doth corruption inherit incorruption"
Although flesh and blood were not originally corrupt, since the fall of man, sin and death cannot be separated from the natural body. This phrase means, by parallelism to the first part of the verse, that the physical flesh and blood body does not inherit our incorrupt future. Instead, it is put aside and the future body is spiritual, a totally new kind of body fit for God's eternal kingdom in heaven.
These two verses complete the thought of the last verse. They briefly describe and restate in different terms the change we can expect in our bodies.
"I show you a mystery"
As we discussed at length in Chapter 2, the word "mystery" is equivalent to the word "gospel." The use of the word "mystery" emphasizes that the Gospel cannot be understood except by revelation. The Gospel is a totally spiritual concept, and those who understand it must be given the spiritual equipment to receive and understand that Gospel. The point is that resurrection is the culmination of the spiritual Gospel. Since only believers understand spiritual things and unbelievers cannot, it is called a mystery. In short, the term "mystery" emphasizes the spiritual nature of the Gospel of which the bodily resurrection is a part.
"We shall not all sleep"
This adds a new idea to the discussion. "Sleep" means "to lie down with the anticipation of rising again later." It describes the death of a believer's body. His body's burial is not permanent, for it will certainly be raised in time (John 11:11, 13, 25, 26). The idea of this phrase is that Jesus will come back when some Christians will be alive physically on this earth (I Thess. 4:13-18). In that case...
"we shall all be changed"
These people's bodies will be transformed from a corrupt physical body to an incorrupt spiritual body without the intervening experience of physical death. The words "we shall be changed" are one word in Greek, allagesometha, which is a form of the word allatto. Used six times, it refers to a big change, as in Galatians 4:20. In fact, in Romans 1:23 it describes the biggest change possible, namely, the change from worship of God to worship of corruptible things of this world. In the case of this chapter, the biggest change possible is a change from corrupt earthly to incorrupt heavenly or spiritual.
"In a moment"
The word "moment" is used only here in the Bible. It is composed of the prefix a, "no," and the root tomos, "cut" (used one time, Heb. 4:12 "sharper"). The word atomos then refers to an uncuttable portion. The idea is our bodies will change in a span of time so short that it cannot be divided further. We cannot understand time that short.
"twinkling of an eye"
The word "twinkling" is ripee, used only once in the Bible. A similar word, ripto, is used eight times and means "to cast or hurl." It conveys the idea of a quick movement (Matt. 27:5, "cast down"). We would say today "in a blink of an eye."
The idea behind these last two phrases is that the change from earthy to spiritual is beyond men's physical abilities to examine and measure. Not only is the final result of the resurrection beyond physical senses to comprehend but so also is the manner in which the resurrection takes place. It is something God does, and men do not have to understand nor can they describe the process by which God does it. This fact glorifies God and humbles man.
"at the last trump"
This is the last trumpet in the sense of Revelation 10:7. In the days of the seventh and last angel's trumpet, the mystery or Gospel program is finished.
"for the trumpet shall ... changed"
The word "trumpet," among many things, is a time reference. It fixes the time of the resurrection (this verse). It fixes the time of the rapture (I Thess. 4:16, 17). It fixes the time of wrath and judgment (Rev. 11:15, 18). All these events are simultaneous events which occur when Christ comes back at the end of the universe's existence and at the end of time as we know it (Matt. 24:29-31; II Pet. 3:10). The point of all this is that the resurrection is part of the end of this existence as we know it and is a fitting transition into a greater spiritual reality to come.
Verse 53, "... must ..."
The necessity of the events described in verse 53 is based upon the principle stated in verse 50. Verse 53 is both a description of the resurrected body and a prediction that the resurrected body necessarily will conform to that description.
"put on incorruption"
Comparing this phrase with verses 42 and 52, we see that the words "put on" refer to the resurrection. Although it is not the first time we have encountered the word "incorruption," it is especially appropriate to analyze it now. It is the word aphtharsian, used eight times in the Bible. Its uses do not really give us much of a clue to its meaning. A similar word, aphthartos, is used seven times and is used to describe God Himself (Rom. 1:23, "incorruptible"; I Tim. 1:17, "immortal"; I Pet. 1:4 mentions an "incorruptible" inheritance, which according to Gen. 15 is God Himself). God is without any corruption.
"and this mortal ... immortality"
The word athanasian, "immortality," is used only three times, in this verse, the next verse, and in I Timothy 6:16 to refer to God Himself. God is eternal.
This verse, then, continues and adds to the thought of the previous verse. We get a short but amazing glimpse into the nature of the change to come. Those who experience the resurrection enter into an existence that is without sin, the curse, and death. They are pure, just like God! Also, those who experience the resurrection will never experience a reversal of their state in heaven. They never change, just like God!
Verse 54, "So when ... immortality"
This phrase can also be expressed as, "when the resurrection happens...."
"then shall ... written"
This phrase can also be expressed, "Then the following promise in the Scriptures will be fulfilled."
"Death is swallowed up in victory."
This phrase is a quote from Isaiah 25:8. I Corinthians 15:54 fixes the time of the prophesies of Isaiah 25 as the time of the resurrection, or the end of time. Isaiah 25:1-5 promises the judgment upon the unbelievers. Isaiah 25:6-8 promises blessings upon the believers including the bodily resurrection (verse 8). The words "covering" and "veil" in Isaiah 25:7, messekah in Hebrew, are used 18 times to refer to a molten image (Ex. 32:4, 8, Isa. 30:22, 42:17). The sense of the covering is as in Isaiah 28:20 and 30:1, which is an attempt to cover up sin by some religious invention. The picture in both Isaiah and I Corinthians is not just that God does wonderful things, but also in contrast, all of men's works accomplish nothing, particularly the effort of man to design his own salvation plan.
Men who are unbelievers try to deal with death by covering themselves with their own religion. They invent some sort of salvation program that will cover their sin. They think that they have made an agreement with death (Isa. 28:15), but their plan will not work (Isa. 28:18). The reason that man's coverings fail is that their salvation is rooted in this physical world. This world is sin corrupted and so is part of the problem. There is nothing in this world that provides answers to the curse or has the power to keep death at bay. Those who cling to this world will be destroyed along with it.
The things of this world, the material, physical things which men hope will help them, include religion, armed might, wealth, influence, mental ability, personal achievement, social and political programs, moral good works, and self sacrifice. These things provide no answers for man's sin nor the power to help. Death swallows all unbelievers who trust in their vain imaginations.
The things of heaven, the spiritual things, provided by God include righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption (I Cor. 1:30). These are part of God's plan and power to save. These things provide victory over the death required by the Law because of sin. These things provide victory over the death resulting from the curse. God's powerful and successful plan provides victory over death for His people, in soul and in body.
At this point, we can compare this verse with the questions in verse 35. In that light, we can think of the Old Testament quotes as God's final authoritative words on the subject. Paul has not been trying to convince the readers of this letter by means of the force of his logic. Paul knew that the questions of verse 35 were really an unholy inquiry into those matters that did not concern those who asked them and were not necessary for them to know. Such questions were really a smoke screen for unbelief. The people who asked those questions did not trust God or His Word. Rather than submit to God's plan and rejoice in it, they pridefully decided to inspect God's plan to see if it was worthy of their consideration. God does not accommodate Himself to man in this particular area (Deut. 29:29). That is why the logic of I Corinthians is not intended to prove the reality of the resurrection. Much like Paul did in verse 20, he simply stated that the promise of the resurrection is true. If a person does not believe it, then he must live with the consequences.
These questions are answered in the next verse. Before we go on to the answers, we must notice that this verse refers to Hosea 13:14. An inspection of that verse reveals that the questions can be answered by "it does not exist." There really is no sting or victory by death. The reason is that God Himself, not man, has personally battled death and triumphed over it. (Notice the word "I" occurs four times in Hosea 13:14.)
This verse can be understood by comparing it with Romans 5:12 and 7:8. The issue is not that death is some alien enemy from another planet which must be fought off and conquered. Death was sent upon men by God Himself. In a real way, it is the Law, or the Lawgiver Himself, who is the enemy of men and sought to kill them. The hurt of death is based entirely upon the fact that men sin. Sin is a heart felt rebellion against God and His Law (I John 3:4). It is the Law of God that declares death must come to sinful men. However, Jesus Christ on the cross took care of the Law's demands and endured the full fury of God's wrath. The Law could not keep God's people in the grave. Therefore, death has no sting, not for their soul or for their body.
Verse 57, "God ... giveth us the victory through ... Jesus"
Now we can understand the boast which God makes in verse 55. The victory does not belong to death but to God. He alone has met the demands of the Law in Jesus Christ for all of His people. They are eternally alive in their souls. Therefore, death is only a physical event that has no eternal consequence for believers. There is no real sting to it. Death is only a physical phenomenon that means a believer will immediately be in heaven with his Lord (II Cor. 5:8). Furthermore, death is only a temporary situation. His body will be raised. Not only that, His body will experience a glory far greater than it had before it was buried.
Notice that the verse does not say that God gives us the tools by which we may obtain the victory on our own. We do not contribute toward the victory. God gives us the victory. He first does His victorious work on the cross. Then He gives that victory to His people. God does it all. God alone does it. God does it completely and permanently. (Compare Ex. 14:13, 14.)
Verse 58, "always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord"
The point of the verse hinges on the words "for as much as ye know." A believer is in a similar position to a person who is about to observe or engage in an athletic contest and who somehow knows before the event happens what the final results for his team would be, namely, victory. The future is not a matter of debate nor is it doubtful. God has given His promises in His Word. Only His spiritual people can really know that what God has said is true. Supported by the certainty of God's Word, a believer is faithful in his attitude and actions. He is busy doing God's will. He is joyful because he knows that all that God does in his life will never be vain, that is, empty and worthless. Instead, it will always result in spiritual blessings for himself and others now and forever.
This verse is similar to the words of a coach or a military leader that are meant to inspire and stimulate the players or the troops into continued action. This verse is also meant to encourage those who identify with God's people to take their eyes off this cursed and frightening world and put them on Jesus Christ who is the victorious Lord.
The encouragement of this verse is always appropriate. However, it is possible that Paul also included these words in anticipation of a question many faithful Corinthians may have had in their mind. Perhaps the question could be expressed, "If the great power and wisdom of God that is spoken of so gloriously in this chapter is real, why are so few people in Corinth attracted to and transformed by it? Not only that, why does God allow people who are faithful to Jesus to be persecuted and killed? What value can it have to God's cause or His people's well being for Christians's to die?" In that light, we can think of this verse as saying, "Look, don't focus upon the material in evaluating the results of God's spiritual work. If death over takes believers, even an untimely death for what ever reason, God has said that He would give us the victory in our own life, and you know that He will give all the rest of His people the victory too. The results of the Gospel are measured in the lives of those people who are faithful while they are on this earth. Only a spiritual focus will give you a proper perspective of the success of the Gospel" (II Cor. 2:14-17).
Paul does not want the Corinthians to modify the message or reduce their effort because only a small percentage of the citizens of Corinth became saved, or if death claims believers who are living obediently and who are witness in the world. As he said to the Romans, he is not ashamed nor does he lack confidence in the Gospel because so few Romans are saved, or, as he adds here, if they die as all men do. We see the results of God's powerful Gospel in the lives of those who have faith. The results are glorious, now and at the end of time (Rom. 1:16,17, I Cor. 15:52, Phil. 3:21). Therefore, we can be steadfast and unmoveable in the face of a dying world because we know the truth. Not only that, but we can be used of God to bring the message of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Home 1Cor. Page Top of Page Next