You’ll probably think I’m off my rocker (if you haven’t thought so already), but I can’t decide whether this week’s study of 1 Corinthians 15:25-20 was difficult and demanding or exhilarating and fun. I can tell you, however, that the Lord used it to give me greater clarity into eschatology. Even better: He left me with a sense of wonder as I anticipate an eternity of worshiping Him!
To give some context, I want to quote today’s verses within their passage. Anyway, a reminder of what we studied last Monday wouldn’t hurt, right?
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 15:20-20 (ESV)
As we approach verse 25, we discover that Jesus must reign as mediator of God’s kingdom in accordance with Scripture. Psalm 2:6-10 and Psalm 110:1 clearly show that God commissioned the Messiah with the task of destroying His enemies. Jesus, in fact, quoted the latter in reference to Himself in Matthew 22:44-45. This reign reaches its completion, as Paul just explained in verse 24, when Christ fully dominates His enemies (Ephesians 1:22).
MacArthur explains that conquering kings often put their feet on the necks of enemies they subdued as a symbolic gesture of victory. Paul means, then, that Christ will ultimately show Himself to be victorious over all entities — human and demonic — that dared to rebel against Him. See Hebrews 10:12-13.
Although verse 26 is pretty straightforward, let’s unpack it just a bit. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that, although death exercises power over all creation, the Lord has power over death itself. Therefore, our own resurrection defeats death. In the case of believers, death loses its power because we will enjoy eternal life in His presence, gladly worshiping Him. In that sense, death has, even now, lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Christ will conquer even death itself. In other words, He will do away with it (Revelation 20:14). This final defeat of defeat will take place at the end of Christ’s Millennial reign, as Paul already demonstrated in verse 24.
Commentators offer some fairly complex explanations of verse 27, much of which goes well beyond the limitations of this blog post. But let me offer a couple observations I’ve made from studying this verse.
In declaring that “God has put all things in subjection under His feet,” Paul indicates that its as good as done (see Matthew 28:18, John 17:2 and Ephesians 1:22).
Barnes suggests three possible reasons that Paul might clarify that God the Father will not be in subjection to the Son. Firstly, to distinguish Christian truth from pagan myths of gods overthrowing their fathers. Secondly, to dispel any notions that Jesus is greater than the Father. And thirdly, to exalt God’s absolute dominion. We must remember that the Son has authority because the Father gave it to Him (John 5:26-27).
I love the way Paul ties this passage together in verse 28! The Son, unlike created beings who will bow the knee at that time (Philippians 2:10), voluntarily subjects Himself to the Father. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that in His subjection Christ retains equal honor to the Father (John 5:22-23, Hebrews 1:6). Notice Paul’s reciprocal writing in saying that “the Son Himself will be subjected to Him Who put all things in subjection to Him.”
MacArthur clarifies that Christ will continue His eternal reign (Revelation 11:15) in His place within the Trinity. He will not eclipse either the Father or the Holy Spirit as He will (from our perspective) in the Millennial kingdom. Thus, His subjection to the Father by no means should be conflated as meaning that His reign will end.
Paul reaches the climax of this passage with the idea of God being all in all. Zechariah 14:9 intimates that the Lord has always purposed to reign as one King. I don’t know about you, but this absolutely thrills me! Although my limited human mind can’t quite comprehend an environment totally given over to the undistracted worship of God, I long for that blessing. Don’t you?
Next Monday we’ll attempt to tackle one of the toughest verses in the Bible. I’ve been dreading this verse until recently, when I bought a commentary that shed light on Paul’s writing. Now I actually look forward to taking you ladies through it. Who would have thought?
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