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The historic fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a matter of evidence, and the doctrinal consequences of this stupendous miracle belong to another department of truth, this study being particularly concerned with Dispensational Truth. Apart from the actual record of the resurrection given in the Four Gospels, no one passage is of such outstanding importance as 1 Corinthians 15. Let us therefore give this chapter our consideration.
The structure of 1 Corinthians 15 as a whole
A 1 Cor. 15:1-11. The evidence and evangelistic importance of the resurrection of Christ.
A 1 Cor. 15:12-34. The fact of the resurrection of Christ and of man.
A 1 Cor. 15:35-58. The manner of the resurrection.
Resurrection dominates the chapter, some phase of it being present throughout the whole discourse. The opening section is concerned with the gospel and its connection with the resurrection of Christ. Let us therefore consider 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 a little in detail.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
The evidence and the evangel
A 1 Cor. 15:1-2. The gospel -- ‘I preached’ ‘Ye received’.
B 1 Cor. 15:3. The gospel no human invention?
‘I delivered unto you that which I received’.
C 1 Cor. 15:3-4. Evidence of Scripture
a Christ died.
b He was buried.
c He rose again.
C 1 Cor. 15:5-8. Evidence of eye-witnesses.
a Seen of Cephas.
b Then of the twelve.
c Seen of 500 brethren.
a Seen of James.
b Then of all the apostles.
c Seen of me also.
B 1 Cor. 15:9-10. Paul’s apostleship no self-appointment
‘Yet not I but the grace of God’.
A 1 Cor. 15:11. ‘I or they’ ‘So we preach’ ‘So ye believed’.
This clears the ground for the great controversy. All the apostles preached Christ risen. The Corinthians believed it as a vital part of the gospel of their salvation, and many eyewitnesses were still living who attested the fact; this converging evidence the apostle brings to bear upon the doubts of the Corinthians regarding the fact and then the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
We are now ready for the fuller structure of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34. First of all it is important to realize that after the introductory words of verses 1-11 which we have briefly considered, the remainder of the chapter is one whole. Let us see this first:
1 Corinthians 15:12-58
A 1 Cor. 15:12. The fact of resurrection. ‘How?’.
B 1 Cor. 15:13-33. Adam and Christ. Death destroyed. ‘When?’.
C 1 Cor. 15:34. Exhortation. ‘Awake’.
A 1 Cor. 15:35. The manner of resurrection. ‘How?’. ‘With what?’.
B 1 Cor. 15:36-57. The first and last Adam. Death swallowed up ‘When?’.
C 1 Cor. 15:58. Exhortation. ‘Be stedfast’.
It will be recognized that the pair of members denominated B and B contains the great theme of the passage, and the doctrine is crystallized in the name Adam. We shall see this more clearly as we proceed, but it is important to realize the unity of the theme at the beginning of the study.
We can now go back to the first half of this section and give it closer attention.
1 Corinthians 15:13-33
A 1 Cor. 15:13-18. The fact of resurrection and its relation to doctrine.
B 1 Cor. 15:19. The fact of resurrection and the present life.
C 1 Cor. 15:20-28. The fact of resurrection and the purpose of the ages from the Second Coming to the end of the Mediatorial Kingdom.
B 1 Cor. 15:29-32. The fact of resurrection and the present life.
A 1 Cor. 15:32-33. The fact of resurrection and its relation to practice.
It will be seen that, just as in the preceding section, the apostle’s first emphasis is upon the historic fact, and not upon the doctrine that is based upon it. If Christ indeed rose from the dead, then, whatever varieties of opinion may be held, that fact remains and necessitates the fulfilment of the great plan of redemption. By comparing the corresponding members of the structure set out above, it will be seen that the apostle brings the fact of resurrection to bear upon doctrine and practice, the trials and experiences of this present life, and the great reconciliation towards which the purpose of the ages slowly but surely moves. Let us examine each section. First we have the bearing of the resurrection upon doctrine.
1 Corinthians 15:13-18
a 1 Cor. 15:13. If no resurrection.
b 1 Cor. 15:13. Christ not raised.
c 1 Cor. 15:14. If Christ not raised.
d 1 Cor. 15:14-15. Preaching and faith vain. False witness.
a 1 Cor. 15:16. If no resurrection.
b 1 Cor. 15:16. Christ not raised.
c 1 Cor. 15:17. If Christ not raised.
d 1 Cor. 15:17-18. Faith vain yet in sins. Sleepers in Christ perished.
The section 1 Cor. 15:13-34 is introduced by the question of 1 Cor. 15:12:
‘Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?’
We have here an argumentum ex absurdo. The apostle had established upon indubitable evidence and the testimony of Scripture that ‘Christ rose again the third day’. How, therefore, could anyone say, ‘There is no resurrection of the dead’, for if resurrection is proved to have taken place once it may take place again.
‘If the species be conceded, how is it that some among you deny the genus?’ (Alford in loco).
1 Cor. 15:13 takes up the other position and shows its disastrous results:
‘But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen’.
If it be absurd and unphilosophical to give credence to the idea that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, it renders also faith in the resurrection of Christ absurd and vain too. Pursuing this aspect, the apostle with relentless logic shows that they who deny the doctrine of the resurrection deny the whole scheme of salvation. The apostles’ preaching would be vain. The word literally means ‘empty’. Their proclamation would be like sounding brass or tinkling cymbals. So also their faith was vain who had put their trust in the Christ they had preached. Then for a moment the apostle pauses to consider the position in which this denial placed the apostles themselves -- men who had hazarded their lives for the truth they believed -- men who had all to lose and nothing to gain in this life by their testimony -- these must be branded as false witnesses of God, if Christ rose not from the dead, for they declared that God had raised Him from the dead as the very basis of their evangel.
Notice further the way in which the impersonal doctrine of the resurrection, is used interchangeably with the historical fact of the resurrection of Christ. He does not say, ‘Whom He raised not up, if so be that Christ rose not’, but ‘Whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not’, and that this is the thought, 1 Cor. 15:16-17 show:
‘For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins’.
Surely the apostle perceives, and would have us see, that Christ took no empty title when He called Himself ‘The Son of man’. His resurrection is the pledge, not merely of the resurrection of some, but of ‘the dead’. We shall see that this thought is embodied here when we come to the central passages which speak of Adam. The apostle’s final exposure is given in 1 Cor. 15:18:
‘Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished’.
Words could not more strongly plead for the absolute necessity of the resurrection. The apostle had no place in his teaching for ‘a never dying soul’; immortality was a part of his gospel, but it did not pertain to the human soul by nature, it was found only in Christ. This gift of immortality however, has not yet been given to any believer. Further on in this chapter he shows that this mortal puts on immortality at the time of resurrection. With one sweep the apostle disposes of the idea of a conscious intermediate state, or that at death the believer passes straight away to heaven or to paradise. If there be no resurrection, and if Christ be not raised, there is not even a state of hopeless despair or unclothed waiting, but all will have perished. John 3:16, so often quoted and so little studied, places perishing as an alternative to everlasting life. In 1 Thessalonians 4, when the apostle would comfort the mourners, he does not adopt the language of our hymn books or of poets, and say to the sorrowing ones that their departed friends were then with the Lord, and therefore they should rejoice; what he does say is, that when the Lord comes all will be raised and reunited, ‘Wherefore comfort one another with these words’ (1 Thess. 4:18). If we do not feel that our all hinges upon the fact of Christ’s resurrection and our own, then we have not the same faith as the apostle who penned 1 Corinthians 15:18.
One verse only now intervenes between this long argument and the triumphant assertion of positive truth. That verse just pauses to reflect upon the hopeless state of the Christian in this life:
‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable’ (1 Cor. 15:19).
Comment upon such a statement is unnecessary. All who have sought to live godly in Christ Jesus have realized that it involves in some degree loss in this life, and a forfeiture of some of its advantages.
The apostle now opens up the great spiritual fulfilment of Israel’s feasts. The great type which supplies the theme of this chapter is that of Israel’s Feast of the Firstfruits. Let us see its setting:
1 Corinthians 15:20-23
a 1 Cor. 15:20. Now is Christ risen. 1st Coming
b 1 Cor. 15:20. Type Firstfruits.
c 1 Cor. 15:21. By man came death.
d 1 Cor. 15:21. By man came resurrection. The Seed
c 1 Cor. 15:22. In Adam all die.
d 1 Cor. 15:22. In Christ all made alive.
b 1 Cor. 15:23. Christ the firstfruits. 2nd Coming
a 1 Cor. 15:23. They that are Christ’s.
The Risen Christ is called ‘The Firstfruits’. This fact begins and ends the section. Every statement found within these two bounds must be related to the Scriptural concept of a Firstfruits. Those who fell asleep, are said to have fallen asleep ‘In Christ’. Is that a Scriptural way of speaking of the unsaved? Will the unsaved be those who are Christ’s at His coming? Would a sheaf of early ripened Wheat be a firstfruits of a mixed harvest of both wheat and tares? ‘If the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy’. That is true when spoken of an elect people as were Israel, but is it not a contradiction to speak of all men universally as though they were or could be an ‘election’? The harvest of which Christ was the Firstfruits was to incorruption, to glory, to immortality.
From gospel and faith, the apostle now goes further back to the connection which Christ’s resurrection has with the whole seed as viewed in Adam, showing that Christ must be raised from the dead for the accomplishment of the gracious purposes of God. This is indicated by the firstfruits. There are eight occurrences of the word aparche ‘firstfruits’, in the New Testament. Eight is the dominical number, the octave, the new start, the resurrection. The eight references are as follows:
‘Because creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption ... ourselves also (groan) which have the firstfruits of the spirit’ (Rom. 8:21-23 author’s translation).
‘What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy’ (Rom. 11:15-16).
‘Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ’ (Rom. 16:5).
‘But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept’. ‘Christ the firstfruits’ (1 Cor. 15:20-23).
‘Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia’ (1 Cor. 16:15).
‘That we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures’ (Jas. 1:18).
‘The firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb’ (Rev. 14:4).
It will be seen that the reference in Romans 8 links the type to the deliverance of creation from the bondage into which it was subjected by Adam’s sin. James too speaks of a firstfruits, ‘His creatures’. Romans 11 uses the word of the remnant of Israel. Now what common bond is there that will bring these passages together? There is one word, the key word of the period under review, reconciliation. This is implied in Romans 8 and expressed in Romans 11:15. Immediately following the word reconciliation (A.V. atonement) in Romans 5, we read, ‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin’. This is implied in 1 Corinthians 15 by the connection which we have noticed between firstfruits and Adam, in the other passages.
There is no actual reference to this type of the firstfruits in the epistles of the Mystery. The resurrection of Christ in the sphere of the Mystery goes back further still and places the title ‘Firstborn from the dead’ in line with ‘Firstborn of all creation’. Leviticus 23:10-11 must be considered in order to see the type in its original setting:
‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it’.
There is undoubted prophecy in this type of the resurrection of Christ. The first day after the passover Sabbath was the actual day upon which Christ rose from the dead. The apostle does not detail the outworking of this great type beyond that which immediately applies to the believers of the period, whose hope was the parousia of the Lord. The resurrection and the hope of the One Body as revealed in the Prison Epistles, written after Acts 28, find no mention here. Neither is there anything said of ‘the rest of the dead’ that ‘lived not again till the thousand years were finished’. Paul is not teaching here the reconciliation, or expounding the great purpose of the ages; he is rather correcting the error of the Corinthians on the one subject of the resurrection, and brings this great type to bear upon them, in order to reveal the tremendous issues that rest upon that fundamental doctrine.
The ‘coming’ of Christ here is the parousia. This word means His personal presence, and is found in the Papyri in reference to the coming of a king (Teblunis Papyri No. 11,657).
‘We now may say that the best interpretation of the primitive Christian hope of the parousia is the old advent text, Behold thy king cometh unto thee’ (Deissman, Light from Ancient East, page 372).
Its first occurrence is Matthew 24:3. It comes again in Matthew 24:27, Matt. 24:37, Matt. 24:39; also in 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thess. 3:13; 1 Thess. 4:15; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Thess. 2:8; James 5:7-8; 2 Peter 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:4; 1 John 2:28. It is associated with the time when the earth will be like it was in the days of Noah; with great signs in the heavens; with the man of sin and the temple; with the period immediately after the Great Tribulation. The word parousia is never used by Paul in his later epistles for the hope of the church of the One Body. It is limited to the period covered by the Gospels and the Acts, and is associated with the people of Israel, and with the day of the Lord.
The death brought in by Adam is removed by Christ in the case of some believers at His Coming, in the case of others, after the Millennium. He is the Firstfruits. The Corinthians are now taken one step further in the endeavour to impress upon them the fundamental importance of the resurrection. The very goal of the ages is impossible without it. This is shown in the verses that follow:
1 Corinthians 15:24-28
A 1 Cor. 15:24. The end.
B a 1 Cor. 15:24. when He delivers up the kingdom.
b 1 Cor. 15:24. when He abolishes all rule.
c 1 Cor. 15:25. For He must reign.
d 1 Cor. 15:25. Till all enemies under foot.
d 1 Cor. 15:26. The last enemy; death abolished.
c 1 Cor. 15:27. For He hath put all things under His feet.
b 1 Cor. 15:27. when The one exception.
a 1 Cor. 15:28. when The Son Himself subjected.
A 1 Cor. 15:28. That God may be all in all.
There is no word for ‘cometh’ in the original of verse 24. It simply reads ‘Then the end’. Some understand the words to mean ‘Then the end rank’, but we can find no justification for such a rendering. Cremer, in his note on to telos says, that this word does not primarily denote the end, termination, with reference to time, but the goal reached, the completion or conclusion at which anything arrives, either as issues or ending; or as a result, acme, consummation, e.g., polemon telos, ‘victory’ (literally, ‘the end of war’, end, not measuring time but object); telos andros, ‘the full age of man’ (not the end of man -- death), also of the ‘ripening of seed’. In Luke 1:33 and Mark 3:26 the idea of termination seems uppermost. The idea of issue, end, conclusion, is seen in Matthew 26:58, ‘To see the end’; James 5:11, ‘Ye have seen the end of the Lord’; 1 Peter 4:17, ‘What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel?’
The idea of a goal reached is seen in Romans 6:21, ‘The end of those things is death’; Philippians 3:19, ‘Whose end is destruction’. So also 2 Corinthians 11:15; Hebrews 6:8. When the apostle wrote the words of 1 Corinthians 15:24 ‘Then the end’, what goal had he in view? What is the object of resurrection? Does it not take man back into the place intended for him in the Divine purpose, for which sin and death had for a while rendered him unfit? The goal, this end in view, is contained in the words of 1 Corinthians 15:28, ‘That God may be all in all’. Although ‘the end’ is mentioned immediately after the resurrection of those that are Christ’s at His parousia, it is not attained without a reign of righteousness and a rule of iron. The uninterrupted statement at the end is as follows:
‘Then the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father ... with the object that God may be all in all’ (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
The reader is aware, however, that the end is not attained in this unbroken sequence. The first ‘When’ is conditional upon the second, ‘When He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power’. This will not be effected by one grand miraculous stroke, but by the reign of Christ as King, ‘For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet’. He reigns ‘till’; His reign has one supreme ‘end’, and that end cannot be reached while one unsubdued enemy exists. All this, be it noted, is long after the Millennium.
In this category comes death, the last enemy of mortal man. ‘Even death, the last enemy, shall be abolished’. This is included in the Divine purpose, ‘For He hath put all things under His feet’. The resurrection therefore is absolutely essential to the fulfilment of the great purpose of God.
But it may be asked, Can such an expression as ‘destroyed’ or ‘abolished’ speak of resurrection? Take the statement of 2 Timothy 1:10:
‘But now is made manifest by the manifestation of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who abolished (katargeo) death, and illuminated life and incorruptibility through the gospel’.
This refers to the Lord Himself in the first instance. He abolished death when He arose from the dead. Not only did He abolish death, but He commenced that destruction of all rule and power which He will carry through when He sits upon the throne of His glory:
‘That through death He might destroy (katargeo) him that had the power of death, that is, the devil’ (Heb. 2:14).
Other passages illustrating the meaning of katargeo (‘put down’, ‘destroyed’ 1 Cor. 15:24-26) are Romans 6:6; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 13:11; 2 Corinthians 3:7; Ephesians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:8. When we read ‘all rule and all authority and power’, we may be inclined to make too wide a sweep, but the corrective of verse 26 enables us to see that we are dealing with enemies. There are two distinct actions, and two distinct classes in view in these verses. The enemies are ‘abolished’, but others are ‘subdued’.
This word ‘subdued’ (hupotasso) is a cognate of tagma, ‘order’, ‘rank’, of verse 23, and looks to the perfect order and alignment that will characterize the kingdom of Christ. It is used of Christ Himself in the words, ‘Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him ... that God may be all in all’ and He will not be put down as an enemy. The first occurrence of the word is beautiful in its suggestiveness. That One, of Whom it was prophesied that ‘all things should be subjected beneath His feet’, did not presume to act out of harmony with the Father’s will for Him during His boyhood, for:
‘He ... came to Nazareth (with His parents), and was subject unto them’ (Luke 2:51).
In Romans 8:7 the two words ‘enmity’ and ‘subjection’ are seen to be irreconcilable:
‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’.
The word ‘subject’ involves the idea of a ‘willing surrender’. All must come down in that day. Some by being ‘abolished’ or ‘destroyed’, others by a willing surrender like unto that of the Son of God Himself. In Romans 8:20 it is revealed that the creation has become involuntarily subjected to vanity, and this cries aloud for that willing submission of all things to the true goal of all creation, Christ. The word is used in Philippians 3:21, where the transforming of the body of humiliation is said to be according to the self-same energy whereby He is able to subject all things unto Himself. Surely this cannot include the power that destroys -- it is foreign to the thought. Destruction or subjection is the idea of 1 Corinthians 15.
While this chapter is mainly concerned with the human phase of the great purpose of God, as expressed in the words ‘in Adam’, nevertheless the reference to ‘all rule and all authority and power’ goes beyond the sphere of Adam. Before the Son delivers up the kingdom, all rule, authority and power will be abolished (arche, exousia, dunamis). These are the principalities and powers of Colossians 1:16 and Ephesians 1:21. They are linked with death in the closing verses of Romans 8, over which the believer is more than conqueror. Ephesians 6 reveals that the church of the One Body has principalities and powers among its spiritual enemies, and Colossians 1:16-20 shows that some principalities and powers will be reconciled. Once again we are forced to see that the reign of Christ before ‘the end’ is reached, will be a process of discrimination. Some will be ‘destroyed’, others will be ‘reconciled’, and when all enemies have been abolished and all the redeemed and unfallen brought into perfect line with the great Archetype of all (subjection carries with it the idea of perfect order and harmony), then ‘the end’ is reached and God will be all in all.
There is a tendency on the part of some expositors to wander outside the passage and introduce subjects which are quite foreign to the intention of the apostle. This is so with regard to the word ‘death’. What ‘death’ is intended in verse 26? The subject is introduced in verse 21 definitely and exclusively. There can be no doubt as to what is intended:
‘By man came death ... as in Adam all die’ (1 Cor. 15:21,22).
‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ (15:54).
Its sting is removed (verse 55), which sting is sin (verse 56). Death, here, refers to that which came into the world, as a consequence of Adam’s transgression.
By comparing the two balancing portions of this chapter together, we shall get further and fuller light upon the whole subject. The two portions are balanced in the structure:
1 Cor. 15:13-33. Adam and Christ Death destroyed ‘When?’
1 Cor. 15:36-57. The first and last Adam Death swallowed up ‘When?’
The differences of every one’s ‘order’ are amplified (15:23 with 15:37-44).
The nature and relation of Adam is explained (1 Cor. 15:21, 1 Cor. 15:22, 1 Cor. 15:28 with 1 Cor. 15:45, 1 Cor. 15:47, 1 Cor. 15:49).
The nature and relation of Christ is explained (1 Cor. 15:20-22, 1 Cor. 15:28 with 1 Cor. 15:45, 1 Cor. 15:47, 1 Cor. 15:49).
The meaning of the destruction of death is given (1 Cor. 15:26 with 1 Cor. 15:54).
The time periods are illuminated (1 Cor. 15:24 with 1 Cor. 15:54).
These amplifications by the apostle of his own words are worth more than libraries of other men’s thoughts, and give us inspired explanations, which to see, is to come under an obligation to accept and hold against all theories. Let us briefly notice these Divine amplifications in the order in which they occur.
(1) Every Man in His Own Order (1 Cor. 15:23);
Amplification (1 Cor. 15:37-44)
In the first passage only one order of the redeemed is indicated, viz.: ‘They that are Christ’s at His coming’. The amplifying verses 1 Cor. 15:37-44 keep within these bounds, and do not add other orders, but rather shew the variety of ranks that will be found among the redeemed at that time. This explanation arises out of the answer to the question of 1 Cor. 15:35, ‘But some will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?’ The apostle’s answer is short and pointed. ‘Thou fool!’ The question ‘How?’ is not always a question of faith or unto edifying. The Lord has nowhere revealed ‘how’ the resurrection will take place; He has revealed the fact for our hope and our faith. The apostle, for answer, calls the questioner’s attention to a phenomenon of the physical world:
‘That which thou sowest is not quickened (made alive, as 1 Cor. 15:22), except it die; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare (naked) grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body’ (1 Cor. 15:36-38).
There is much food for thought here. Many Christians wonder how it is possible for the individual dead body to be raised, and ask many questions to which no answer is available. One might put to them a question in this form. A certain man 3,000 years ago died, and was buried. Five hundred years later, the elements that composed the first man’s body became the body of another man. He also died, and each five hundred years the same elements became the body of another man. At the resurrection whose body would it be, for all these men had it? The answer would be, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God’. First of all, Scripture does not speak of the resurrection of the body, but of the resurrection of the dead. The body that is given by God at the resurrection will be in accord with the believer’s rank. ‘There are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies’. These words do not refer to the ‘heavenly bodies’ of astronomy, but to the resurrection bodies of believers. In resurrection there will be some raised to sit at the right hand of God far above all; some will walk the streets of the New Jerusalem; some will inherit the earth, and for each sphere of blessing an appropriate body will be given. ‘How’ God preserves the identity and individuality of each soul is not explained, possibly the explanation would not have been intelligible to us even if it had been given. Then as to the differing ‘ranks’:
‘There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for star differeth from star in glory. So also is the Resurrection of the Dead’ (1 Cor. 15:41-42),
that is, each is raised with a different body, and the glory of one raised believer will differ from another, ‘every man in his own rank’. The contrasts between the body which we have ‘in Adam’ and that which God will give ‘in Christ’ are given:
Corruption ..... contrasted with incorruption
Dishonour ..... contrasted with glory
Weakness ..... contrasted with power
A natural body ..... contrasted with a spiritual body.
The ‘sowing’ here in each of the four instances must not be translated as of the death and burial of a believer. When seed is sown it must be alive, or nothing will come of it. If living seed be sown, it dies, and lives again. That is the teaching here. The ‘sowing’ is our birth into the life of the Adamic race, the ‘raising’ is our new birth into the life of Christ.
Following this statement the apostle says, ‘There is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body’. This is a revelation. The conception which is formed of the life after death by the religions of men is that of disembodied spirits or souls, but the resurrection necessitates a body. The word ‘natural’ is psuchikos and occurs in 1 Corinthians 2:14. James 3:15 translates it ‘sensual’. The word ‘spiritual’ (pneumatikos) is contrasted with the natural in 1 Corinthians 2:13-15; and with ‘carnal’ (sarkikos) in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. The English language does not contain a word that allows us to see the contrast clearly. If we could use the expression ‘soul-ical’ we should the better see the intention. ‘There is a soul-ical body, there is also a spirit-ual body’. Now the soul-ical body is ‘flesh and blood’. Such cannot inherit the kingdom of God (see 1 Cor. 15:50); and the fact that the verse continues ‘neither does corruption inherit incorruption’ is confirmatory of the interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:42 given above.
This reference to the soul-ical body which we now possess and the spiritual body which we shall possess in that day, introduces the next amplification, viz.:
‘And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul (psuche, see psuchikos); the last Adam was made a quickening (life-giving) spirit’ (pneuma, see pneumatikos) (1 Cor. 15:45).
(2) The Nature and Relation of Adam to the Race (1 Cor. 15:21, 1 Cor. 15:22);
Amplification (1 Cor. 15:45, 1 Cor. 15:47 and 1 Cor. 15:49)
Here it is clear that the two bodies, the natural flesh and blood body (with its corruption, dishonour and weakness), and the spiritual body (with its incorruption, glory and power), are directly associated with Adam and Christ. Adam was made a living soul. Many theologians have sought to show from Genesis 2:7 that by this statement man is differentiated from all else in creation, and is possessed of an ‘immortal’ soul, which is often further confounded with the spiritual part of man. When we know that the word translated ‘soul’ has already come in Genesis as follows, ‘Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life’ (Gen. 1:20), a ‘creature’ (Gen. 1:21, Gen. 1:24); and ‘life’ (Gen. 1:30), we see that the word ‘soul’ does not confer upon man any special dignity. Leviticus 17:11 says, ‘The life (soul) of the flesh is in the blood’. Here we have the three words of 1 Corinthians 15:45-50 together. If this Scriptural fact does not seem sufficient we shall find further teaching in the nature of Adam by reading 1 Corinthians 15:46-47:
‘Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second Man is the Lord from heaven’.
Adam, therefore, when created was not ‘spiritual’, he was a natural man quite apart from sin. Christ is the spiritual head of mankind, not Adam. Adam’s nature is closely connected with his relation to the race:
‘As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy ... we have borne the image of the earthy’ (1 Cor. 15:48,49).
(3) The Nature and Relation of Christ (1 Cor. 15:20-22, 1 Cor. 15:28);
Amplification (1 Cor. 15:45, 1 Cor. 15:47, 1 Cor. 15:49)
This is not fully revealed in the chapter, but only so far as the subject necessitates. It has already been put in those pregnant words, ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’. Here, these words are rounded out a little more. Christ is a life-giving spirit in contrast with Adam who was of the earth, earthy. Then, as to His relationship, Christ is the last Adam, and the second Man. Here are the two great heads of mankind. The earthy passes on the earthy image; the heavenly, the heavenly image. This image refers to the body; the earthly image being the natural body, the heavenly image the spiritual body.
All this necessitates the statement ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’. If we collect together all that is said of Adam and Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, we shall realize somewhat the fulness of this theme. We should also realize that although the word reconciliation is not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, it is latent in the subject.
(4) The Abolition or Destruction of Death
Receives its Interpretation Here (15:26);
Amplification (1 Cor. 15:54)
If verse 26 stood alone it would not be easy to decide whether resurrection was intended or whether the casting of death into the lake of fire was in view. We are left without doubt by1 Cor. 15:54-57:
‘So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’.
Death, the last enemy, is abolished by being swallowed up in victory. That victory is given to the believer through the Lord Jesus Christ. It can be nothing else than the resurrection of the redeemed. The lake of fire cannot be intended here. The second death is not the result of Adam’s sin. It is foreign to the subject of 1 Corinthians 15.
(5) The Time Periods also Receive Explanation (1 Cor. 15:24);
Amplification (1 Cor. 15:54)
The end will be attained ‘when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father’, and this is not done until all enemies are abolished, and all the redeemed are placed in their proper rank under Christ. The Millennial Kingdom will be the final trial of delegated authority. The abolishing of death is timed for us in 1 Corinthians 15:54 by the words, ‘When ... then’. Isaiah 25:8 contains the verse quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:54 :
‘Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously’ (Isa. 24:23).
‘And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it’ (Isa. 25:6-8). (See also Isa. 26:1 and Isa. 27:1).
What is true in the Millennium, ‘in this mountain’ and for ‘His people’, will be universal when ‘the end’ comes.
A further note of time given in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is, ‘At the last trump’. In Revelation 11, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, ‘the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ’. Immediately follow references to the ‘great power’ and a ‘reign’, the ‘time of the dead’, and the ‘destruction of them that destroy the earth’. These Scriptures therefore place the period in view as being before the second death.
Perhaps a word will be expected upon that difficult verse, 1 Corinthians 15:29:
‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?’
We do not for one moment believe that the passage teaches baptism for the dead, by proxy, although this strange rite is practised by ‘The Church of the Latter Day Saints’, commonly known as ‘Mormons’. This practise is swept aside by the one majestic statement, ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’.
The meaning of 1 Cor. 15:29 appears to be this. It enlarges on the words of 1 Cor. 15:19, ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable’. If so what is the good of being baptized? It is merely a baptism into death if the dead rise not. Baptism, however, is not only ‘into His death’ but:
‘We are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection’ (Rom. 6:4-5).
The apostle follows the question, ‘Why are they then baptized for the dead?’ by another which illuminates his meaning, ‘And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? ... I die daily’ (1 Cor. 15:30-31).
The grand conclusion with its spiritual exhortation must not be omitted in this summary:
‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 15:58).
The connection between the resurrection and reconciliation is shown to be vital. It takes us out of the sphere of Adam to place us into the sphere of Christ. While we are all alike included in each category, different ranks are to be found in the resurrection. Further, some will be abolished as enemies before the kingdom is delivered up to the Father.
Two Greek words are employed in connection with resurrection that must be kept distinct, otherwise gross error will result. The words are anastasis and its cognate words exanastasis and anistemi, and egeiro and its cognate egersis. Anastasis is derived from the verb anistemi, a compound of words meaning ‘up’ and ‘stand’. While anistemi is used of resurrection, as in Matthew 20:19 (in the Received Text) ‘the third day He shall rise again’, its primary meaning is seen in such passages as Acts 1:15 ‘Peter stood up in the midst’. Anastasis occurs forty-two times, and is never used of any other event or movement than the literal resurrection of the dead, except in Luke 2:34. Of these occurrences there are sixteen in the Gospels, eleven in the Acts, and eleven in Paul’s epistles. This latter set we will give in concordant form:
Rom. 1:4 By the resurrection from the dead
Rom. 6:5 In the likeness of His resurrection
1 Cor. 15:12 There is no resurrection of the dead
1 Cor. 15:13 If there be no resurrection of the dead
1 Cor. 15:21, So also the resurrection of the dead
1 Cor. 15:42
Phil. 3:10 The power of His resurrection
2 Tim. 2:18 The resurrection is past already
Heb. 6:2 Of the resurrection of the dead
Heb. 11:35 Their dead raised to life again
Heb. 11:35 Might obtain a better resurrection.
It is important to note that anastasis does not occur in Ephesians. Yet someone may interpose, Does not Ephesians 2:6 say ‘He hath raised us up together’? The answer is, that if anastasis had been used in this passage, every member of the One Body would be literally raised from the dead and be no longer here in the flesh and on the earth. The word employed is sunegeiro, and another important feature of this subject is that we never read the word sunanastasis anywhere. Egeiro occurs over one hundred and thirty times. While we cannot entirely dispense with the word ‘raise’ when translating egeiro, we should ever keep before the mind two distinct figures of speech. Anistemi means ‘to stand up’, egeiro means ‘to wake up’, and so the two words ‘raise’ and ‘rouse’ present a fairly true picture. Egeiro is used of awaking in Matthew 8:25; Romans 13:11 and Ephesians 5:14.
Matt. 8:24-25 ‘He was asleep, and His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him’.
Rom. 13:11 ‘Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep’.
By this we must not assume that egeiro is not used of literal resurrection -- it is, over and over again, but the fact remains that whereas egeiro is used together with sun, when speaking of the identification of the believer with the Lord, anistemi is never so used. Resurrection is conceived of in two stages. Death is likened to sleep, and normally a person first awakes and then arises, so the believer has already been awakened and is preparing for the literal arising in that day. The fact that the word gregoreo ‘watch’ (Mark 14:37; 1 Thess. 5:6) is a derivative of egeiro, but emphasizes the need to distinguish between ‘rousing’ and ‘raising’. Anastasis refers to the dead in resurrection, egeiro to the waking and stirring of the soul beforehand. The renewing of the mind has commenced (Eph. 4:23; 2 Cor. 4:16).
The ‘out-resurrection’ exanastasis (Phil. 3:11) has been discussed in the article entitled The Prize, which should be considered here. There remains one other passage to be examined, a passage concerning which great care is needed. It is the passage in 2 Timothy 2:15-23, where Paul speaks of some who say that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some. This grievous error is being taught throughout Christiondom today even by some who previously taught the truth.
In this epistle the apostle is concerned rather with the outcome of teaching than giving doctrinal teaching himself. In his earlier epistles Paul had laid a good foundation of truth, but in this epistle he is concerned about godliness, and the practical outworking of doctrine. In the context of 2 Timothy 2:15 we have a number of figures: a canker (2 Tim 2:17); a foundation (2 Tim 2:19); a seal (2 Tim 2:19); a great house (2 Tim 2:20); and vessels (2 Tim 2:20). The structure of the section before us, is as follows:
B 2 Tim 2:16. Exhortation. Shun. Increase ungodliness.
C d 2 Tim 2:17-18. Teachers and doctrine. A canker. error
e 2 Tim 2:19-. God’s Foundation Sure.
e 2 Tim 2:19. God’s Foundation Seal. and
d 2 Tim 2:20-21. Teachers and doctrine.
Great house and vessels. truth
B 2 Tim 2:22-23.Exhortation Flee. Avoid. Gender strifes.The teaching which Timothy was instructed to ‘shun’ is likened to a ‘canker’, and is revealed to be a distortion of the doctrine of the resurrection. Any teaching that could be thus described, and which touched so vital a doctrine, must be the concern of all who love the Word, who have any responsibility with regard to the preaching and teaching of that Word, and who desire above all things to be ‘approved unto God’. The word ‘canker’ is the Greek gaggraina (pronounced gangraina). This word is found in our language as gangrene, which is defined as:
‘A necrosis of part of the body, extending over some considerable area in a visible mass’.
Hippocrates, who was born 460 b.c., speaks of gangrene with definition and evident observation, and Luke the physician would not be ignorant of the character of this dreadful affliction. The apostle puts his finger upon the most awful characteristic of gangrene saying ‘It eats’. This is the word that gives us ‘pasture’ in John 10:9. It is evident that the apostle views with extreme alarm the specific doctrine he is about to expose, and in the interest of truth he even goes so far as to put into black and white the actual names of those who taught this error, Hymenaeus and Philetus. These two names will be found in correspondence with two others, Jannes and Jambres, the magicians at the court of Pharaoh in the days of Moses, when the structure of 2 Timothy as a whole is consulted. This comparison but intensifies the seriousness of the subject. A doctrine that ‘eats like a gangrene’ and is in any sense allied with such characters as Jannes and Jambres, must be evil, however it be presented and in whatever connection it may stand. What is this baneful doctrine that merits such censure from the apostle?
‘Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some’ (2 Tim. 2:18).
‘The resurrection’. Omitting the epistle to the Hebrews and confining ourselves to the epistles of Paul to the churches or to individuals, we observe that this word anastasis, occurs eight times in Paul’s writings, as follows:
A Rom. 1:4. The resurrection from the dead.
B Rom. 6:5. In the likeness of His resurrection.
C 1 Cor. 15:12-13. a There is no resurrection of the dead?
If there be no resurrection of the dead.
1 Cor. 15:21, 1 Cor. 15:42. b Also the resurrection of the dead.
So also is the resurrection of the dead.
B Phil. 3:10. The Power of His resurrection.
A 2 Tim. 2:18. The resurrection is past already.
The doctrine of the resurrection seems to have been attacked or distorted from earliest times. Keeping within the bounds of the New Testament we find that the Sadducees ‘say that there is no resurrection’ (Matt. 22:23); that the Athenian philosophers ‘when they heard of the resurrection of the dead ... mocked’ (Acts 17:32); and the questions that are dealt with in 1 Corinthians 15, reveal how much speculation there was in the Church itself regarding the great subject. The apostle says that Hymenaeus and Philetus had ‘erred’ regarding the doctrine of the resurrection. The word used by the apostle to indicate the character of this error is astocheoand is found only in the epistles to Timothy:
‘From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling’ (1 Tim. 1:6).
‘Which some professing have erred concerning the faith’ (1 Tim. 6:21).
The background of these three occurrences of astocheo is similar. Timothy is exhorted to charge them that they teach ‘no other doctrine’ (1 Tim. 1:3), and warns against ‘fables and endless genealogies’ which militate against ‘a dispensation of God’ (1 Tim. 1:4 revised text). Those in view in 1 Timothy 1 ‘swerved’ from the doctrine of pure grace to the desire to become teachers of the law, making it very evident that they had entirely missed the peculiar character of the truth as taught by Paul. The sixth chapter strikes a similar note. There are those who ‘teach otherwise’, who know nothing, but dote about questions and strifes of words. In particular these teachers having been taken up with ‘the oppositions of science’ (1 Tim. 6:20), the ‘antitheses of gnosis’ (the speculation that in after years developed into gnosticism), had erred concerning the faith. A similar context is found when examining 2 Timothy 2:18. There, in contrast with exercising the principle of ‘Right Division’, these erring teachers were becoming entangled with ‘profane and vain babblings’. It does not say that these men denied, either the resurrection of Christ, or the resurrection of the believer; they taught that ‘the resurrection is past already’. Now, if this be affirmed of the Lord Jesus Christ it is but stating a blessed fact.
‘Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept’ (1 Cor. 15:20).
The evil doctrine therefore, condemned as a ‘gangrene’ by the apostle, can refer only to the believer. The erroneous teaching was that the resurrection of the believer was past already. If this were confined to the spiritual entry by faith into the glorious relationship which every member of the Church has with its risen Head, it would be stating truth. When Christ was raised from the dead, the members of His Body were potentially raised too.
‘And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:6).
It would be no gangrenous doctrine that insisted upon the glorious teaching of Ephesians 2:6. There is therefore but one aspect of the subject left, and that is the personal, individual resurrection of the believer himself, not ‘by faith’, not spiritually and potentially ‘in Christ Jesus’, but literally. The apostle had expressed his desire ‘to depart’ and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), he had revealed how intense was his desire to attain unto ‘the out-resurrection out from the dead’ (Phil. 3:11). This had been taken up in a wrong sense by some, whose minds had already become disposed to such an idea; by the incipient gnostic teaching already afoot; and they taught that for the believer ‘the resurrection had taken place already’. Now Philippians 3:20-21 is sufficient to correct this false teaching. The same chapter that speaks of the ‘out-resurrection’ and the same epistle that tells us of Paul’s desire to depart and to be with Christ, says:
‘Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change this body of our humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory’ (Phil. 3:20-21).
There is no possible room here for a resurrection that has taken place already. ‘This body’ cannot be spiritualized away, and while Philippians 3:21 stands written, any doctrine that approximates to ‘sudden death, sudden glory’ for any child of God -- even for one who had ‘attained’ to the heights of Philippians 3:10-11, is precluded. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Not until Christ Who is ‘our life’ is manifested, can that life become active in His redeemed people. There are quite a number of the Lord’s people who believe the truth of the Mystery and who have been led to rejoice in its distinctive calling, who have nevertheless embraced the doctrine that at death the believer passes straight into the presence of the Lord. For them the resurrection is past already, for they teach that the fact that Christ their Head having been raised from the dead, covers literally every member of His Body, so that they need not await the literal resurrection of the dead as others do.
The fact that the apostle in his last epistle so uncompromisingly condemns such a doctrine, should cause any who have entertained such an idea to reconsider, or as the same chapter says ‘repent unto the acknowledging of the truth’. These false teachers did not say that the resurrection of Christ Himself was past already, for that is a glorious truth. They taught that the resurrection of the believing member of the Body of Christ had taken place already, and instead of such teaching being the glorious crown upon the whole of the apostle’s doctrine, it is likened to a gangrene, it overturns the faith, while its teachers are said to have ‘erred’, ‘swerved’ or ‘missed their way’, and are placed in structural correspondence with the emissaries of the devil, Jannes and Jambres of days gone by. We have therefore no option in the matter. However we may respect our brethren, and may regard their contribution to the ministry, there is nothing left for us, if we would remain obedient and approved unto God, but sadly yet certainly, to ‘shun’ their teaching.
Paul, in view of his martyrdom, would most certainly have given some personal word here if he had looked forward to passing from his prison to the presence of his Lord. What he does say points in quite another direction, for he looks forward to ‘that day’ in common with all those that love ‘His appearing’ (2 Tim. 4:8).