1 Corinthians 15:20-28
20.) But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21.) For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22.) For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
23.) But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
24.) Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
25.) For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
26.) The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
27.) For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says, “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.
28.) Noe when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
As we further our study of Pail’s first letter to the Corinthians, Paul continues his discussion of the importance of the resurrection. If you will remember from last week, Paul had a scorched earth policy about if there is no resurrection of the dead, there is no salvation, there is no forgiveness, there is no hope whatsoever, for the living or the dead. The Gospel, as he and the other apostles had preached it, would be just one big lie.
In today’s verses, though, Paul reverts back to the major point that he believes he and the church at Corinth share – that point being the faith, hope and trust the Corinthians have that Jesus did rise from the grave. Paul proclaims that Jesus was the FIRST FRUITS. The Greek here literally means the beginning. He hearkens back to the Jewish traditional offerings of the first fruits at the time of harvest. Leviticus 23:10 begins the statute of the Feast of First-Fruits. Each year at the beginning of the harvest the farmers would bring the first sheaf of grain as a wave offering before the LORD. (The Covenant Keeping God, Yahweh). This would be followed by the sacrifice of a lamb of the first year with a grain and oil offering. This offering was a perpetual statute, to be done each year by each farmer at the beginning of each harvest. This offering was an act of trust in the faithfulness of God that there would be a good harvest.
Paul shares with the Corinthians that the resurrection of Jesus was the proof, the earnest money so to speak, for their own resurrection. Jesus had died and been resurrected. The same was true for those who had placed their hope in Him. Jesus’ resurrection was the proof of God’s faithfulness to them. Paul makes a powerful theological statement, “Since by man came death (Paul’s term here meaning eternal spiritual separation from God), by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.” Death began with Adam’s sin. In Christ, all who believe and trust in Him will be quickened back to life.
As we saw in chapter12, order is important to Paul. Here Paul places the order, Christ first and then those who belong to Him at His second coming. Paul begins to get pretty eschatological (dealing with last things, end of things). “Then will come the end.” The Greek here means the completed time. Paul is saying that when Jesus comes back, when we are called up into the air with Him, and when we have received our eternal incorruptible bodies, this will be at the end of time.
To try and understand this, we have to understand parts of two Psalms which Paul quotes – Psalm110 and Psalm 8 – as well as Revelations 20 and 21:4. Revelations 20 tells us that when Jesus comes back, there will be a 1000-year reign, and His saints will reign with Him. This will happen because Satan has been bound and cast into the bottomless pit. Until this time, Jesus has been sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is sitting because His work of salvation, His work of forgiveness, His work of justification is done and complete. Thus. the time of grace and the proclamation of the Gospel is offered to the world. But when Jesus comes back. He begins His second work. This work is not the saving of souls, but the return of all creation to the Father. John says in Rev. 20:6, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God, and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” This brings us back to
I Corinthians 15:24-25, “Then comes the end when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and all power. For He must reign until he has put all enemies under His feet.”
This takes us to the Psalms. First, let us look at Psalm 110, verse 2, “The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion, Rule in the midst of your enemies!” What is the psalmist saying here? The LORD (Yahweh) is sending a ruler whose strength is out of Zion, whose strength is based on His covenant with David (Jesus), who will rule, which in the Hebrew means to overpower, subjugate, violently take dominion over all enemies by being in the middle of them. Which is exactly what is to happen in the 1000-year reign! But wait, it gets better. Verses 5 & 6, “The Adonai is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations. He shall fill the places with dead bodies. He shall execute the heads of many countries.” This brings us right back to I Corinthians 15:24 (literal translation) “when He delivers the realm of the world to God the Father, when He puts an end to the dominion, the authority, and the power of the adversary.” Verse 25 tells us that he must reign until this second work is complete, until all the enemies of the Father are defeated. Some may want to say that this is Psalm 110:1, but it is not. It is not in quotation marks, which means it is not a quote. Paul is simply stating that Christ must reign until this second work is done.
Paul then tells us in verse 26 that when this second work is done, earthly death will be destroyed, and all God’s enemies will be subdued. John confirms this later in Revelations 21:4-5a, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold I make all things new.’”
I Corinthians 15:27 restates in quotes, “He has put all things under His feet.” Here again Paul is not quoting Psalm 110:1. He is quoting Psalm 8:6 which says, “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” This is almost a direct quote, which is unusual for Paul, except he capitalizes the word ‘His’. This means that God the Father has placed all things under the feet of Jesus. Psalm 8:6 does not carry with it the Christology of 110. As a matter of fact, David is marveling at the glory of God’s power and creation. He is in wonder that God has placed humanity in such a high position. Yet Paul’s wonder is not David’s wonder. Paul’s wonder is not about the first creation but about the relationship between the Son, the Father and the believers, and how together they will make all things new…
In verses 27 & 27, Paul wants us to understand is that the Son (translated as the one who has intimate union with the Father), does not claim nor desire the Father’s (translated the one who has begotten you) position. That is, as the Son returns God’s creation to the Father, the Father then places that creation under the feet of the Son. God is still the all in all, because He is not the creation – He is the creator. He is not the begotten – He is the one who does the begetting.
Paul wants the Corinthians to rejoice in the understanding of their status as believers. Because Christ has been resurrected, there is forgiveness and justification. Because there is forgiveness and justification, there is no eternal spiritual separation from God. And even if they fall asleep (Paul does not use death for a believer, he says they have fallen asleep. He does not believe in death for the believer), they will be resurrected at His second coming and share with Him the ending of the old and the eternity of the new.
Paul’s message is the same to us today. Because Christ has been resurrected, death has been destroyed. Because we have believed in Him as OUR Lord and Savior, we can walk in that resurrection power. We can live our lives knowing we are forgiven. We can live our lives knowing that in the Fathers eyes we are justified; and when God looks at us, He does not see our sins or our shortcomings. He sees the finished work of the Son. So, whether Christ’s return to earth is tomorrow or 1000 years from now, He will resurrect us to Himself; and you and I. too. will share with Him the ending of the old and the eternity of the new.
Remember to continue to read and claim Psalm 91 in the first person each day.
Now may the God who makes all things new, the Son whose redemption and resurrection have secured for you your eternal salvation, and the Holy Spirit who leads and teaches and empowers you in this life, keep and sustain you in the power of His love. Amen.