The doctrine of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book on the end-times to be published this summer. rmb

“The Resurrection Chapter.” That is the nickname attached to 1 Corinthians 15, and it is entirely appropriate. This chapter gives the most comprehensive teaching on the Resurrection in the Bible. In this article, we will be looking at Paul’s teaching on both the historical certainty of Christ’s resurrection and the certainty of the believer’s future resurrection at Christ’s coming. Our objective is to discover Paul’s doctrinal teaching on the Resurrection.

(NOTE: Since we are covering a large section of Scripture, only portions of Scripture will be quoted to illustrate specific points. It is assumed that the reader is following along in their Bible as we move through the chapter. rmb)

THE CERTAINTY OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION (15:4-8)

Paul begins by establishing the historical certainty of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. He does that based on the trustworthiness of the Scriptures and on the reliability of many witnesses.

THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES (15:4)

15:4 – The gospel of salvation declares the fact that “Christ was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” An essential element of the gospel is the claim that Christ was raised from the dead on the third day “according to the Scriptures.” The Scriptures are completely trustworthy, and the Scriptures declare that Christ was raised from the dead on the third day. Thus, these two trustworthy witnesses, the gospel and the Scriptures, agree.

SUMMARY: The gospel and the Scriptures declare that Christ has been raised from the dead.

THE EVIDENCE OF HIS APPEARANCES AFTER HIS RESURRECTION (15:5-8)

15:5 – He APPEARED to Cephas, then to the twelve

15:6 – He APPEARED to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep

15:7 – He APPEARED to James, then to all the apostles

15:8 – last of all, He APPEARED to me (Paul)

Paul lists eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, almost all of whom could have been consulted at the time this epistle was written because most of these eyewitnesses were still living. The risen Christ APPEARED to many people, and those people could testify to the fact that they saw Jesus Christ after He rose from the dead.

SUMMARY: Many eyewitnesses could testify to the APPEARANCE of the risen Christ.

THE NECESSITY OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION (15:12-19)

15:12-19 Paul argues that, if Christ has not been raised, “then your faith is worthless.” The salvation promised in the gospel is a vain hope if Christ has not been raised. Christ’s resurrection is essential to the gospel (see 15:4 above). Indeed, without the resurrection, there is no gospel.

CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND OUR RESURRECTION (15:20-23)

15:20 – “But Christ has been raised from the dead,” and since Christ has been raised, “in Christ all will be made alive (15:22).” This is a declarative statement of fact and so constitutes a PROMISE, that all who are in Christ will certainly be glorified in resurrection.

15:23a – “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits . . .” Christ’s resurrection on the third day was “the first fruits,” the prototype for the general Resurrection.

15:23b – “. . . after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (παρουσία).” The Resurrection of all the redeemed of all the ages will occur at Christ’s παρουσία. As Christ was raised up, so all who are His will be raised up at His coming. “Raised up” should be understood as “glorified.” (See Philippians 3:20-21; Romans 8:30)

SUMMARY: Since Christ has been raised from the dead, all who are in Christ will certainly be glorified in the Resurrection.

OUR RESURRECTION BODIES (15:42-49)

In this section of the chapter, Paul is describing the glorified, resurrection bodies we will receive at Christ’s coming, and he does this by making two comparisons. He compares our natural bodies which we have with the glorified bodies we will receive (15:42-44), and he compares the first Adam and the body he gave us with the last Adam and the body He will give us (15:45-49).

COMPARING THE NATURAL AND THE GLORIFIED BODIES (15:42-44)

15:42 – Paul is very explicit about his subject – “the resurrection of the dead.”

15:42 – Sown in corruption (“perishable”); raised in incorruption (“imperishable”)

15:43a – Sown in dishonor; raised in glory

15:43b – Sown in weakness; raised in power

15:44 – Sown a natural body; raised a spiritual body

SUMMARY: Our resurrection body will not be subject to corruption, will be glorious, will be powerful, and will be a spiritual body.

COMPARING THE FIRST ADAM AND THE LAST ADAM (15:45-49)

15:45 – The first Adam received life from God and so “became a living soul,” but the last Adam is God and “became a life-giving spirit.” Adam received life from God, but Jesus, as God, gives life to men (John 5:21).

15:46 – First we receive a natural body and then a spiritual (glorified) body.

15:47 – The first man was made of dust, but the second man was sent from heaven.

15:48 – “As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.” Those who remain in Adam remain subject to corruption and dishonor, but those are now in Christ will look like Christ at His coming (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:29).

15:49 – We have borne the image of Adam, but because we are in Christ, we are PROMISED that we will also bear the image of the glorified Christ.

SUMMARY: Because we are in Christ, we are PROMISED that we will also bear the image of the glorified Christ.

THE EVENT OF THE RESURRECTION (15:50-55)

15:50 – Paul states that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” and “corruption (perishable) does not inherit incorruption (imperishable).” What he is saying is that there is no way that our natural body can be modified or dressed up to make it admissible in heaven. How, then, do we who believe in Christ inherit the kingdom of God

? How do we who are currently subject to corruption and decay become incorruptible? There is only one answer to those questions, and that is, “through the Resurrection.”

            15:51 – Paul tells us a mystery; “we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” When Paul says, “we will not all sleep,” he means that at Christ’s coming (παρουσία), there will be believers who are still alive in “flesh and blood.” But we already know that all believers, whether in the grave or in “flesh and blood,” must go through the Resurrection to inherit the kingdom of God (15:50). Hence, “we will all be changed.”

            15:52 – The glorification of believers will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” Our “change” will be instantaneous. The trumpet of God (1 Thess. 4:16) will sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised first (1 Thess. 4:16) “incorruptible,” and then we, the living, will be changed (1 Thess. 4:17). In the Resurrection, the dead in Christ will instantaneously be transformed from decaying corpses into glorified and incorruptible spiritual bodies, and those who are still living will instantaneously be changed from “flesh and blood” into glorified and incorruptible spiritual bodies.

            15:53 – For this perishable MUST put on the imperishable, and this mortal MUST put on immortality.” It is necessary that our perishable bodies put on imperishable resurrection bodies, and our mortal bodies put on immortal resurrection bodies, and this is exactly what happens in the Resurrection.

            15:54-55 – When we have received our resurrection bodies, and have put on the imperishable and the immortal, then “Death will be swallowed up in victory.” Why? Because death will be no more! All the righteous will have become imperishable and immortal and will, therefore, no longer be subject to death. Death no longer has any victory and death no longer has any sting.

SUMMARY: In the Resurrection, at the last trumpet, all who are in Christ will instantaneously be changed into glorified, incorruptible spiritual bodies which are not subject to death.          

These “Summary” sections constitute Paul’s foundational doctrinal teachings about the Resurrection from this chapter.

SDG rmb 5/7/2021

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