1 Corinthians 15b
1 Corinthians 15:12-15… Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.
In the previous 11 verses Paul made at least five convincing and undeniable arguments for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But it appears that among the Corinthians there were some trouble-makers who denied the reality of the dead rising. This was a common belief among pagans of that day – even among certain Jews like the Sadducees (cf. Matt. 22:23). Not only did the OT speak of a resurrection from the dead (Job 19:26; Dan. 12:2) but Paul had already proven that Christ’s resurrection was certain, thus also proving the general truth of a resurrection. So v. 12 just summarizes the first 11 verses concerning Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and it condemns the trouble-makers who were saying otherwise.
In v. 13 Paul gives the first of four results if in fact Christ had not been resurrected. First, if the pagans of the day were right in believing that there is no resurrection from the dead (i.e. you live, you die, it’s over) then “not even Christ has been raised.” In other words, if it were true that no one comes back to life after they die, then Jesus Christ could not have been raised from the dead either. But since Paul had already proven that he had been raised to life following his death the argument for no resurrection was actually no argument at all.
Second, in v. 14, if Christ has not been raised, then the Christian message (“our preaching”) “is vain” (empty, fruitless, having no effect). The preaching of Christians that the Son of God was crucified on a cross and raised to life after three days would be no less ridiculous than believing that cows can fly. If Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, preaching about its truth would be a worthless endeavor.
Third, in v. 14, if Christ was not raised from the dead, then “your faith also is vain.” The faith of believing such an event like the resurrection would be an empty faith if the object of our faith was in fact still dead. For it is preposterous to believe in something that is not based upon truth. Of course the resurrection was based on truth, so it’s not a blind faith (credulity), it’s a faith founded on fact – the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Fourth, if the dead are not raised to life in a phenomenon known as the resurrection, then those who preach such are liars. Anyone who espouses an event as truth which isn’t really truth is a liar. And if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a lie, then anyone who preaches that it’s true is a liar. He would furthermore have blind faith, an empty and worthless message, and he would also not be raised to life when he himself passes away into the eternal state of death.
Food for Thought
Of course there are many today who don’t believe in a resurrection following their deaths. Atheists and agnostics believe that life on earth is all there is; no God, no sin, no salvation, and no life after death. But the evidence of Christ’s resurrection is wide open for anyone who dares to investigate the event. You see, those who witnessed the event wrote about it, and their lives and their deaths attest to its truth. Everything we believe about the past is based upon eyewitnesses and evidences that give proof. Why treat the resurrection any different? If it’s true then it’s the single most important event in the history of the world. We must preach it.
1 Corinthians 15:16-19… For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
Verses 16-17 restates what Paul said in v. 13, that if dead people don’t come back to life after death then Christ himself has not been raised from the dead. And a dead Christ would be disastrous for those who place their faith in him. A dead Christ would mean that Christians are still in their sins and no better off than unbelieving pagans. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death, and without a Messiah to fulfill his own predictions about himself being handed over for the sins of mankind, and subsequently coming back to life, Christianity dies. It dies because death would be permanent and sin would not be forgiven. God atoned for the sins of the Israelites through blood sacrifices in the OT, but through the death of Jesus Christ He atoned for the sins of all mankind, forgave the sins of those who placed their faith in him, and when Christ was resurrected from the grave three days later Christianity was inaugurated and validated.
Verse 18 introduces another hypothetical problem in the event that Christ did not rise from the dead: “Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” The phrase “fallen asleep” is a euphemism for death, and Paul is basically saying that all the saints gone before, if in fact Christ didn’t rise from the dead, are nothing but fertilizer under the earth’s surface. They perished without hope if Christ was not resurrected. All those wonderful saints listed in Hebrews 11 (Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David, and the prophets) would be nothing more than dry bones lying in the ground if Christ had not been resurrected. Of course this would include not only the saints of the past but of those still living today who have dedicated their lives to serving the God who died in their place and rose again to set them free.
Verse 19 sums up who Christians are without a risen Christ: “men most to be pitied.” For if Jesus Christ is only worthy of hope in our present life on the earth, because he hypothetically didn’t rise from the dead, then those who hope in him for the next life are sad and misguided people indeed – men to be pitied above all others. It would mean that the forgiveness Christians count on in this present life is not only false, but it also means that the hope that Christians also have for their future life with Christ is also false. For if Christ did not rise from the dead then there can be no life after death for believers given that Christ too is not alive in eternity. And anyone who believes such would be as pitiful a person as one believes that there is no God, that evolution created all things, and that life has no real meaning. The Christian faith stands or falls on Christ’s resurrection from the dead. To deny the resurrection is to deny the Christian faith.
Food for Thought
Belief in Christ’s resurrection is really quite simple. The evidence for that resurrection is overwhelming. It’s the evolutionists, atheists, and agnostics who reject “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” that prevents them from believing in the God of miracles and salvation. But for those who accept Christ’s resurrection based upon the facts and upon their faith in God they are blessed greatly. Christ’s resurrection from the dead includes not only a lifetime of forgiveness and a fullness of life on the earth, but it also entails an eternal future in heaven with our Creator and Savior. It includes a resurrection for us following our physical death just like Christ’s. Since he was raised from the dead and sits today at the right hand of the Father making intercession for his children let us rejoice greatly and fall on our faces before him.
1 Corinthians 15:20-22… But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
Beginning in v. 20 Paul leaves behind the ridiculous notion that Christ wasn’t resurrected after his death and burial. The “but now” is emphatic in the Greek text, and he reiterates the truth that Christ “has been raised” – a verb tense in Greek that signifies a past completed action with current and future ramifications. Unlike all other so-called “prophets” (i.e., Buddha, Mohammed, etc.), Christ is not in a tomb to be visited; he’s alive, and he is the “first fruits of those who are asleep.” Before the Jews would harvest their crops they would bring a representative sample of their crops to the priest as an offering to the Lord (Lev. 23:10). The full harvest was not full until the first fruits had been offered. So too was Christ’s own resurrection from the dead. It was the first fruits of the resurrection “harvest” of true believers. Christ’s resurrection from the dead was an offering of himself to God the Father on behalf of all who believe. And he was the first to be raised from the dead among those who are “asleep” – those who have died. Now there were a few people in the Bible whom Jesus raised to new life after their deaths (i.e., the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus), but they died again. Jesus, on the other hand, was the first of all those who were once dead to rise again and live forevermore.
Verses 21-22 speaks of the death for all humans that came about through Adam’s disobedience in Genesis 3 along with the resurrection that Christ brings to all humans on account of his own resurrection. Why do people die? Simply because this is man’s fate from his mother’s womb due to the sin of Adam in his disobedience to God. But in the same way that Adam brought death to the human race, Jesus Christ brought resurrection to them. Verse 22 says that in Adam “all die,” and it uses a present tense verb to signify that death is continuous, something that all humans will experience. But for those who are in Christ they “shall be made alive.” This is a future verb tense, but the passive voice of the verb means that those being made alive is an act performed by another. It isn’t the choice of the believer, rather it’s the choice of God. Even though in Adam “all” die, signifying that every single person who draws a breath, “all” will not be made alive through Christ’s resurrection. The “all” in this instance is reserved for those who have been born again, not every single human who ever lives as in the case of Adam’s sin. As MacArthur has commented, “The ‘alls’ are alike in that they both apply to descendants. Every human being is a descendant of Adam, and therefore the first ‘all’ is universal… Only those who trust in Jesus Christ, however , are his descendants (as illustrated in John 8:44), and the second ‘all’ therefore applies only to the saved. It is only ‘all’ the fellow sons of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ who shall be made alive” (see also Gal. 3:26, 29; 4:7; Eph. 3:6).
Food for Thought
As for Jesus being the “first fruits,” Warren Wiersbe says, “As the Lamb of God, Jesus died on Passover. As the sheaf of first fruits, He arose from the dead three days later on the first day of the week. When the priest waved the sheaf of the first fruits before the Lord, it was a sign that the entire harvest belonged to Him. When Jesus was raised from the dead, it was God’s assurance to us that we shall also be raised one day as part of that future harvest. To believers, death is only ‘sleep.’ The body sleeps, but the soul is at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1–8; Phil. 1:21–23). At the resurrection, the body will be ‘awakened’ and glorified.” What a wonderful identification we have with Christ as we live out our belief in his resurrection from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:23-26… 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, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Now in v. 23 Paul puts the order of resurrection events in place. We don’t know the time of the future events, but we are given their “order.” Christ is “first” in that he is already raised, and “after that those who are Christ’s at his coming” – those who truly believe. The resurrection of those who are believers in Christ will come when Christ appears on the earth at his second coming. It is then that the “end” will come “when [Christ] delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power” (v. 24).
The Bible presents the end-times events in the following order: First, the resurrection of the church – those who have placed their faith in Christ from the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) till the present. Most have already died, but many will be raptured prior to death (1 Thes. 4:16). Second, the resurrection of the believers in the Tribulation – that 7-year time period where God metes out His wrath on the earth and its inhabitants for their rejection of Him. Those believers who die during that time period will be resurrected at the end of the seven years and reign with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20:4). Then there will be the resurrection of the OT saints (Abraham, David, etc.) who will most likely be resurrected simultaneously with the Tribulation saints (Dan. 12:2; Isa. 26:19-20). Third, the resurrection of those believers who die during the Millennial Kingdom (who may very well be resurrected immediately after death and given their transformed eternal body). The final resurrection comes after the 1000-year (Millennial reign) of Christ, but this resurrection is reserved for the unrighteous. Those who rejected God’s truth in ages past will be raised to endure an eternal death in the Lake of Fire, called “the second death” (Rev. 21:8; cf. 2:11).
Verse 24 says the “end” will come following these things. The “end” refers to that which is complete and fulfilled, so this must refer to the time period immediately following the Millennial reign of Christ on the earth. It is then that Jesus will “deliver up the kingdom to the God and Father.” At that time everything will be restored to its original state of perfection the way it was prior to the fall of man in Gen. 3. It is the Son of God who comes to rescue and restore the world to His Father. It is only then that “all rule and authority and power” will be abolished. These terms are often used in scripture to refer to demonic authorities and powers, but they can also refer to the evil human authorities. The point being that all the enemies of God will be forever done away with, never to exist again.
Verses 25-26 speak authoritatively in reference to Christ’s resurrection. His authority is over all, and he is sovereign. Because He is sovereign it is the Triune God alone who “must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” They will all be destroyed, and once all the enemies of God are destroyed, “the last enemy that will be abolished is death.” There will be no more death, for it is the last enemy of mankind brought about through Adam’s sin and done away with through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Food for Thought
The events of the end-times in the Bible are given to God’s people to give them hope. That hope sustains us because it proves that God is in complete control of a world that appears to have gone haywire. No matter what your struggles are, be reminded that God is on His throne.
1 Corinthians 15:27-28… For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.
Verse 27 says, “He (God the Father) has put all things in subjection under His (God the Son) feet.” Christ is given great power in the previous passages, and that power is summarized in v. 27. In vv. 23-26 Christ rose from the dead, comes back to the earth in the end-times, breaks the power of all demonic and human evils that rule the earth, and will reign as king over the earth in the 1000-year Millennial time period as explained in Revelation 20. Jesus will then destroy the final enemy of mankind – death, and then he will hand everything over to the Father who gave him the authority he had. This is a wonderful show of how the members of the Trinity are in subjection to each other even though they are all equal in deity and come together to form the One God who is over all (this is the teaching in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 on wives & husbands. The husband doesn’t outrank the wife anymore than God the Father outranks God the Son. But their subjection to each other parallels that of the relationship between the husband and wife).
Now Paul is careful to clarify all that is in subjection to God the Son. It does not include God the Father, for it was God the Father “who put all things in subjection to Him” (Christ). Paul is quoting from Psalm 8:6 where King David looked out on a beautiful clear night and saw himself as small and insignificant in view of God’s wonderful creation. He observed God’s creation and saw that humans had been put in charge of that creation, hence, “All things are subject to him.” But Paul’s interpretation adds greater insight into who David is speaking of in Psalm 8. Whereas David saw mankind (the “son of man”) as having rule over the works of God’s hands, Paul (and the writer of Hebrews 2:6-8) shows that the one who is being spoken of is actually Jesus Christ THE Son of Man. Of course both translations work well because mankind was originally given rule over God’s creation in Genesis 1:26-28 to have dominion over it and to subdue it. But Jesus Christ is in authority over man, so ultimately mankind is in subjection to him. So, both mankind and the Son of God are referred to in Psalm 8:6 which Paul quotes here. As in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 the order of authority is the Father, Jesus Christ, husbands, then wives.
Verse 28 speaks of the final time period after the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ on the earth when all things will be subjected to him without rebellion that Jesus Christ himself will be “subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him.” Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 28:18 that all authority had been given to him in heaven and on earth, and he said as much in John 5:26-27. He was given the role of a servant from the time he came out of Mary’s womb (the incarnation) until the time he presents the kingdom to God the Father (yet future). This role of a servant was the task given to Jesus by His Father. Now when his work is complete he will assume his former place with the Trinity “that God may be all in all.” The incarnate Jesus is omnipotent now, but after he delivers up his earthly kingdom to God the Father, only then will the triune God reign as God. Jesus as the Messiah is merely a stage of the Son’s eternal being.
Food for Thought
Christ’s resurrection from the dead only began a process that will culminate at the end of time. The Christian life does not begin and end with believing in Jesus. It begins – most certainly at that point, but God’s plan has yet to reach its full conclusion. How sad it is that so many Christians have lost sight of this and live in a pathetic world of self-absorption. The end awaits!
I) The Significance of Christ’s Resurrection (12-19)
A) Theological Consequences of No Resurrection (13-15)
1) Gospel preaching meaningless
2) Faith in Christ worthless
3) All witnesses would be liars
B) Personal Consequences of No Resurrection (16-19)
1) All would still be in sin
2) All deceased believers would have perished
3) Christians most pitiful
II) The Resurrection Diagram (20-28)
A) The Redeemer/First-fruits (20-23a)
1) Death through Adam
2) Life through Christ, the first fruits
B) The Redeemed (23b)
1) The rapture (1 Thes. 4:16)
2) Rez of Trib saints (Rev. 20:4)
3) Rez of OT saints (Dan. 12:2; Is. 26:19-20)
4) Rez of Millennial saints
5) Rez of the unrighteous (Rev. 21:8)
C) The Restoration (24-28)
1) All rule/authority abolished
2) Death abolished
3) Deliverance of kingdom to God
4) God “all in all”