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Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) (2): The Bedrock of Christianity

J Griffiths, Port Talbot

The Fact of Resurrection Denied - The Logical Proof (vv.12-34)

This division and the next begin with interrogation and end with exhortation. There are three sub-divisions each demanding resurrection.

Resurrection and the gospel preaching of the apostle - Theology (vv.12-19)

Some, ostensibly in fellowship, were forthright in their denial of a bodily resurrection. Paul's reasoning is clear as he hypothetically grants their premise, then argues his unanswerable case. J N D Anderson, one time Professor of Oriental Laws at the University of London and Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, wholeheartedly concurs in his pamphlet, The Evidence for the Resurrection.

The sceptics argue, "There is no resurrection of the dead", conveniently overlooking the Biblical record that Elijah raised one, Elisha two, and that Christ raised three prior to His own death and resurrection. The number seven is again linked to Christ. Paul's logic is faultless. If there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead, "then is not Christ raised". This has a sevenfold consequence for believers.

"If Christ be not risen" our preaching is vain: powerless (v.14); faith is vain: groundless (v.14); testimony is false: truthless (v.15); "If Christ is not raised", your faith is vain: fruitless (v.17); your sins are unforgiven: helpless (v.17); the believing dead have perished: homeless (v.18). Conclusion: "We are of all men most miserable"– hopeless and hapless (v.19). What a dismal summation! Be thankful for the Bible "Buts": "But now is Christ risen from the dead".

The resurrection and God's plan for the Ages - Eschatology (vv.20-28)

Paul's logic is simple. Without a risen Saviour there can be no reigning sovereign. But, "He must reign"; the history of salvation demands it. Christ must be vindicated in this world. At Calvary He was the rejected king; at Zion He will be the reigning king. The Scriptures foretell such a golden era. God has pledged His character with the words of Psalm 2.6: "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion". God's character would be impugned and the prophetic word trivialised if Christ failed to reign. This portion commences with Eden and concludes with eternity; "much in little". With the premise, "Now is Christ risen from the dead" (v.20), ringing in heart and mind, Paul finds the fulfilment of firstfruits (Ex 23.16,19 etc.) in Christ's resurrection. The sheaf of firstfruits of harvest was brought to the priest and presented to God. This represents Christ in resurrection.

The "first" in firstfruits establishes the precedence of Christ's resurrection in time and the pre-eminence of Christ's resurrection in rank. Paul testifying before King Agrippa states clearly, "That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead" (Acts 26.23). The firstfruits also acted as the pledge of the full harvest to follow. Christ's resurrection is the pledge of our resurrection. Previously, Paul argued: no resurrection of the dead, therefore no resurrection of Christ. Now, he argues: if Christ is risen from the dead, there must be a resurrection of the dead. The firstfruit was not only the pledge of our resurrection but the prototype for it as well.

Paul now takes us from the start of the Hebrew harvest to the start of human history. He contrasts the first and second men in verse 21, then the first and last Adam in verse 22. The first man brought sin and death to the planet. The second man introduces resurrection life to the planet. The first Adam brought universal death. The last Adam brings universal resurrection. (NB The verse states, "in Adam all" not "all in Adam"; and similarly, with Christ.)

There is a military precision to the order of the resurrection; it is sequential. The Saviour first - "Christ the firstfruits"; the saints second - "afterward they that are Christ's at his coming". (NB "are Christ's" not "in Christ".) This embraces the resurrection of the Old Testament saints, church age saints. and tribulation saints, namely all eligible to participate in "the first resurrection". Church-age saints will be party to the rapture. Old Testament and tribulation saints will be resurrected between the end of the tribulation and the beginning of the millennium (Dan 12.1-2).

The sinners unsaved are last - "Then cometh the end" of the process of resurrection. "Then" (eita - after a period of time) cometh the "end" (telos - the final end, the uttermost). Sinners will be raised to stand before the Great White Throne. There is a resurrection to life and a resurrection to damnation (Jn 5.29). The one thousand year interlude between them is only revealed in Revelation 20.5. When the very last person who died has been raised, then death, the last enemy, will have been destroyed conclusively (v.26). Death and hades will have been cast into the Lake of Fire. Universal death through Adam will have been met with universal resurrection through Christ.

Verses 24 and 28 are like bookends. The triune God is seen to take the reins of government as the day of God breaks. Between, we have the mediatorial reign of Christ during the millennium. On either side we have the eternal reign of God while in between we have the earthly reign of Christ (vv.25-27). The case is made: a reigning Sovereign demands a risen Saviour.

To be continued.


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