POST OVERVIEW. The first of a two-part study of 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on the Resurrection of the righteous that will occur on the last day.
The apostle Paul expresses some of his clearest doctrinal teaching about the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. A correct understanding of Paul’s teaching here allows the student of eschatology to avoid many of the most common end-times errors and instead to see the consistency of the Holy Spirit-inspired Scriptures. This article will explore 1 Corinthians 15 and identify key points in the doctrine of the Resurrection.
DEFINITION OF RESURRECTION
Before we begin our investigation, we need to define our terms. When we use the word “Resurrection,” we are referring to the general resurrection of all the righteous that will occur on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24). There are several events that characterize the Resurrection. First, Jesus Himself is the One who “will raise up” the righteous (again, John 6:39, etc.). The Resurrection occurs at the same time that the Lord Jesus descends from heaven with a shout (1 Thess. 4:16). The Resurrection includes both all those who are dead in Christ at His coming (παρουσία) and all those in Christ who are alive at His coming (1 Thess. 4:15-17).
THE PRIMARY MEANING OF “RESURRECTION”
The primary event in the Resurrection is that all the righteous of all time receive their eternal glorified bodies. Technically, “resurrection,” as used in reference to the general resurrection, does not mean merely rising from the dead (for those who are living will also be resurrected), but means “being glorified.” In the Resurrection, then, all the righteous of all time are glorified. Much of the teaching about our glorification comes from the chapter we are studying, namely 1 Corinthians 15.
Now that we have established the meaning of Resurrection, we will dig into select verses from 1 Corinthians 15.
23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 Then comes the end. . .
Paul is writing about the order of the resurrection. He has begun his teaching in this chapter by establishing the fact of the general resurrection from the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is an indisputable, undeniable fact, and since Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that we also will be resurrected.
“But what will be the timing of our resurrection?”
First, Paul describes Jesus’ resurrection as the “first fruits of those who are asleep” (see 15:20, also). “First fruits” was a term from the Old Testament which devoted the best of the harvest to the Lord and which also anticipated that the full harvest was certainly coming in. So here, Christ is the first and the best of those who will be resurrected and His resurrection guarantees that all His people will also be resurrected.
When will they be resurrected? In complete agreement with other Scriptures (see above), the Resurrection of all those who are Christ’s will occur at His coming (παρουσία) on the last day and will occur just before the end. Whether alive or “asleep,” all the righteous will rise glorified to meet their King as He descends with a shout to judge the earth. And then comes the end.
Thus from 15:23 we learn that 1) Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all those who are in Christ; 2) the general Resurrection occurs at Jesus’ coming (παρουσία) 3) on the last day; 4) the end immediately follows.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
The apostle now goes on to explain the difference between our natural body and our glorified resurrection body. He is answering the rhetorical question asked in 15:35, “And with what kind of body do they come?”
15:42. First, he says, we go into the ground “in corruption.” This is the literal translation of the Greek. Anyone who has seen a dead body understands what Paul is saying. The dead physical body is no longer of any use and lies motionless and cold, but it will soon be “sown” into the ground where it will gradually decompose and return to dust (Gen. 3:19). Thus it is sown in corruption.
But the resurrection body is not like that. When we are raised, we will be given glorified bodies that will never see corruption or decay (Psalm 16:10b).
15:43a. We go into the ground “in dishonor.” There was a time when our body was young and supple and strong and we proudly walked on the beach in our bathing suit. But the natural body does not bear the test of time, and soon we are stooped and stiff and saggy. Then finally we enter the ground in complete humiliation. All beauty is gone from our earthly body.
But the resurrection body is not like that. The resurrection body will be revealed in dazzling glory (Phil. 3:21). Our resurrection body will be like the glorified body of Jesus (1 John 3:2), whose glory is so powerful that just a momentary glimpse blinded Saul the Pharisee for three days (Acts 9:3-9). So will our bodies be, unimaginably beautiful and sinless and perfect.
15:43b. We go into the ground “in weakness.” There is nothing so weak and useless as a dead body. At the instant of death, all remaining strength vanishes. If standing, the body collapses to the ground. If lying down, all muscles immediately go limp. The earthly body that goes into the ground is the supreme example of weakness.
But the resurrection body is not like that. Our resurrection body will be marked with power, and that power will never diminish. We will have, in our glorified bodies, the power to do whatever works we are called to do throughout eternity with never a trace of fatigue.
We have more to learn about the Resurrection from the apostle Paul. Our study of this chapter will continue in the next post.
Soli Deo gloria rmb 5/8/2023 #648