I’ll let you in on a secret. Don’t tell anyone, but I had real trouble preparing today’s Bible Study, and only managed to get through two verses. Maybe, if you don’t say anything, people won’t notice and they’ll think I deliberately limited this week’s discussion to verses 23 and 24 of 1 Corinthians 15 for dramatic emphasis. I’m sure my secret is safe with you!
Despite my struggles preparing today’s Bible Study, I’m excited by the connection the apostle Paul makes between the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection and His Second Corning. Although eschatology isn’t my strongest area, studying verses 23 and 24 over the last seven days has sparked my interest in the subject. So, ladies, let’s get some context and then see how these two verses bridge the gap between Christ’s resurrection and the last things.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (ESV)
Please bear in mind that I believe verses 23 and (especially) 24 support the teaching of Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth before His final destruction of Satan (Revelation 20:7-10). So I will approach this study with that presupposition, apologizing that time doesn’t permit me to go into an explanation of the Millennial kingdom.
Verse 23 tells us that resurrection occurs in a specific order. The Greek word translated as “order” denotes the idea of ranks, as in the military. Each rank, therefore, experiences resurrection at its appointed time. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown believe those ranks are as follows:
- Christ (Colossians 1:18)
- Those who die in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
- Christians who are alive at Christ’s Second Coming (Matthew 25:1-30)
- The ungodly in the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46)
In this chapter, of course, Paul confines the discussion to Christ and those who belong to Him. Christ rose three days after His crucifixion, and believers will be resurrected when He returns. You’ll remember from our discussion of verse 12 (Study #5) that a faction of the Corinthian church, while apparently confessing that Christ rose from the dead, denied that anybody else would experience physical resurrection. Verse 23 reinforces Paul’s assurances that Christians will indeed share His resurrection.
The phrase, “at His coming,” must not be overlooked. Christ’s Second Coming completes the Gospel message as it points to His eternal kingdom. The resurrection assures believers that life extends beyond the grave; Christ’s Second Corning ensures the full realization of that life.
Moving to verse 24, Paul gives us a glimpse into eschatology. After the resurrection of believers, the end will come. This “end” includes the general resurrection, the final judgment, and the consummation of God’s kingdom. Barnes explains that this “end” completes Christ’s work of redeeming His Church. I hasten to add that we mustn’t confuse this idea of completion with Christ’s finished work of atoning for sin (John 19:30). Rather, redemption will be fully realized when He returns and our physical bodies become reunited with our spirits.
Paul goes on to say that Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father. Commentators give very complex explanations of this clause, which I think is best understood by comparing it with Matthew 11:27. As the Father handed authority to His Son, so at the end the Son will present His Kingdom back to His Father.
Christ will deliver the kingdom to the Father after He destroys the rule of His enemies. By this, according to Barnes, Paul means anything opposed to God. “They include, of course, the kingdoms of this world; the sins, pride, and corruption of the human heart; the powers of darkness – the spiritual dominions that oppose God on earth, and in hell; and death and the grave.”
Again, Revelation 20:7-10 describes the destruction of Christ’s enemies, and I highly recommend reading that passage. Next Monday, we’ll look at the final enemy to be destroyed, as well as the reason Christ will hand the kingdom over to the Father. In the meantime, I’d love to receive your comments and/or questions in the Comments Section, on The Outspoken TULIP Facebook page or even on Twitter.