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AN EXPOSITION OF FIRST CORINTHIANS 15:12-57

William Kilgore
The passage here under consideration is one of the most important for this day and time. Why? Because an honest reading of its text will dispel three theological myths popular today. Verses 12-23 dispel the notion of an "intermediate state" following death - Paul's words make sense only within the context of conditional immortality (1). Verses 22-23 dispel the notion that Christ's atoning death was just something that made it possible for all to be saved, rather than a saving act itself - Paul's words work with only two belief systems : either "Calvinism" or "universalism." (2) Verses 24-57 dispel the cardinal doctrines of premillennialism - the scenario presented by Paul makes both a literal 1,000 year earthly reign and a "rapture" (as taught by pre-mill.s) impossible. (3) This important text is presented below with cross-references in red; all commentary appears in parenthesis. After the exposition is some elaboration on the three points above.

Now if Christ is preached that He rose from the dead (see verses 4-8), how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead (as in 2 Timothy 2:18)? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen: and if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain (pointless*), and your faith is also vain (pointless*). Yes, and we are also found (as) false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, Whom He did not raise up; if it is that the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not raised, and if Christ is not raised, then your faith is in vain (to no profit); you are still in your sins (see Romans 4:25). Then they also which have fallen asleep in Christ have perished (been destroyed fully). If in this life only we have hope in Christ (because we are DEAD until resurrection), we are of all men (the) most miserable (how so? resurrection not necessary with an immortal soul!). But now Christ is risen from the dead, and (has) become the firstfruits of them that slept (see John 14:19; Acts 26:23; and 1 Peter 1:3). For since by man came death (Romans 5:12), by man also came the resurrection of the dead (NOTE: death and the dead are parallel here. Thus, both are actual, physical death). For as in Adam all (i.e., all in Adam) die, even so (in the same way = by representation) in Christ shall all (i.e., all in Christ) be made alive (the same parallel repeated; made alive = the resurrection of the dead). But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits (to be resurrected from the dead); afterward they that are Christs (will be made alive = resurrected) at His coming (not before! - see Philp. 3:20-21 and 1 Thess. 2:19). Then comes the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom (His reign which began at His resurrection - see Matthew 28:18 and Acts 2:30-33) to God, even the Father (i.e., Christ will continue to reign as Deity - cp. Daniel 7:14 w/ Isaiah 9:6; see also Rev. 22:1-5); when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power (cf. Rev. 11:15). For He must reign (present tense) until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (death is an enemy and will be destroyed last - see Rev. 20:14 and 21:4).

For He (i.e., the Father) has put all things under His (i.e., Jesus) feet (quoted from Psalm 8:6). But when (David) says, all things are put under Him (Jesus), it is manifest (i.e., obvious) that He (i.e., the Father) is excepted, which did put all things under Him (i.e., Jesus). And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him (the Father) that (has) put all things under Him (Jesus), that God may be all in all (Christ continues His reign as Deity - see above). Else what shall they (a different group) do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead (because the dead in that case would be destroyed fully see above)? And why do we stand in jeopardy (in danger or peril - i.e., for their faith) every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus what advantage (is) it (to) me, if the dead do not rise (cp. 2 Cor. 1:9)? (Rather) let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (quoted from Ecc. 2:24 - Pauls point here makes no sense if the souls of dead believers are now in heaven with Christ! - i.e, apart from a bodily resurrection, there is no reward or punishment!). Do not be deceived (i.e., dont misunderstand me): evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some do not have the knowledge of God; I speak this to your shame. But some (person) will say, How are the dead raised up? and, With what body do they come? You fool, that which you sow is not quickened unless it dies (John 12:24): and that which you sow, you sow not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as it has pleased Him, and to every seed his own body (i.e., the body that dies is not the same when raised - Paul goes on to explain ...). All flesh is not the same flesh; for there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It (the body) is sown in corruption (see Genesis 3:19); it (same it = same body) is raised in incorruption (i.e., in a glorified and immortal state like Christ, Who is the firstfruits - see Romans 8:21; Gal. 6:8- but also like Christ, still a material body - see Luke 24:39): It (our mortal body) is sown in dishonour; it (same body) is raised in glory (see Philp. 3:21 and Col. 3:4). It (again, same body) is sown in weakness; it (same body) is raised in power. It (same body) is sown a natural (that is, animate by breath - Genesis 2:7) body (Grk. soma); it (same body) is raised a spiritual (i.e., non-carnal, but still a body) body (same word = Grk. soma). There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul ( = a natural body - cited from Genesis 2:7); the Last Adam (see Romans 5:14) was made a quickening spirit (see John 5:21 and Romans 8:2,10). Howbeit that which is spiritual was not first, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy (i.e., of dust Genesis 3:19; Job 34:15; Psalm 104:29; Ecc. 3:20; 12:7); the Second Man is the Lord from Heaven (see John 3:13 and 31 - Christ is both man and God). As is the earthy (of dust), such are they also that are earthy (of dust - i.e., all those in Adam = everyone - return to dust' = death - see Job 14:1-13); and as is the Heavenly (i.e., that which pertains to heaven - in this case, Christ Himself), such are they also that are heavenly (Philp. 3:20-21). And as (i.e., by inheritance) we have borne the image of the earthy (cp. Genesis 5:3), we shall (future tense) also bear the image of the Heavenly (see Romans 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Philp. 3:21 - this is glorification - Romans 8:17,30). Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood (i.e., the natural body spoken of above - cp. Christs body in Luke 24:39) cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption (NOTE: which is why the

change described above by Paul must happen for salvation to be complete). Behold, I show you a mystery (not to be fully comprehended with our finite minds - see Rev. 10:7): We shall not all sleep (i.e., some will remain alive at the Lords coming - see below), but we shall all be changed (i.e., both the living and the dead believers at Christs coming will be glorified - see Job 14:14; 1 Thess. 4:15-17 - it is the same vile body that is changed per Philp. 3:21). In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (see Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 10:3,7); for the trumpet shall sound (cp. Job 14:15; John 5:25), and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (the same body recreated from the dust- otherwise why a resurrection? - but it will be changed, having spiritual properties like the resurrected Christ). For this corruptible must put on incorruption (i.e., in order to inherit the kingdom), and this mortal (man by nature - not immortal, but mortal) must put on immortality (literally, deathlessness - see 2 Cor. 5:4). So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then (and only then!) shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (cited from Isaiah 25:8 - see also Hebrews 2:14-15 and Rev. 20:14). O death, where is your sting? O grave (Heb. sheol/Grk. hades = the place where all the dead sleep per 1 Sam. 2:6; and Psalm 49:12-15 - further, where Christ Himself slept the sleep of death for three days and nights per Isaiah 53:9-10 and Acts 2:27), where is your victory? (paraphrased from Hosea 13:14) The sting of death is sin (James 1:15); and the strength of sin is the law (Romans 4:15). But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory (over death at our resurrection) through Jesus Christ.
* = Thanks to David Washburn for his correction here on the Greek.

Many grand truths are to be found in the above God-breathed words of the Apostle Paul - how Christ's resurrection is essential to our ultimate salvation, which culminates in our "glorification" (verses 17 and 22); the priority that the resurrection should have in our thinking (verse 19, 3132); that Christ Himself (as our Representative) is the first of a glorified humanity (verses 2022); the mystery of Deity (verse 28); God's absolute sovereignty (verses 28, 38); the necessity of death to the overall plan of redemption (verses 35-37); the mystery of the resurrection body (verses 39-56); and both the humanity and Deity of Christ (verses 28, 47). However, we concern ourselves here with three main points, as referenced in the introduction : (1) If the traditional view of the "immortal soul" is true, then Paul's hypothetical argument in verses 12-23 makes no sense whatsoever. Those who are "dead" are asleep (verse 20) until the resurrection at His coming (verse 23). The key verse in the argument is verse 18. If Christ is not raised, then there is no resurrection for us; if we are not to be resurrected, then those who are dead have "perished." The Greek word used here is apollumi. You can find it in your Strong's Greek Dictionary under #622 - it is a very strong term that signifies utter destruction. Paul's meaning is clear : without the resurrection, we have no existence beyond death. We would have hope "in this life only" if such were the case which, as Paul goes on to say, would be no hope at all (verse 19 - note Paul's own words in verse 32). Paul's point is ridiculous if our "disembodied soul" is "immortal" and lives on after death in an immaterial state - the hypothetical statements made by Paul in these verses would be false. Further, notice in verses 21-22 that "the resurrection of the dead" is the same as being "made alive." Again, "every man in

his own order ... " - we will be with our Lord at His coming, not before (verse 23). Death continues as our enemy until the very end - it is the "last" to be destroyed (verses 54-56) as immortality and incorruption are received at the resurrection (verses 49-54). ^ (2) In verses 22 and 23 we find the Arminian in a quandry. FACT : "in Adam" "all" die. FACT : "in Christ" "all" will be "made alive." The problem here is the word "all," used twice. It becomes even more of a problem when we remember that the first "all" of necessity literally means everyone, as all are sinners by nature "in Adam." Further, the two statements are presented as parallel statements. Still further, the words "will be" are a problem because they convey certainty - in Christ all "will be" made alive. Not "maybe," or "if they believe." The only way out of this for the non-Calvinist is to maintain that everyone will be saved. That is an ancient heresy called universalism, and is contrary to clear passages of Scripture. If Christ represented every individual as Arminianism teaches, then every individual "will be" made alive! The Calvinist (and, I believe, Biblical) answer is this : Christ did not represent every single individual in His atonement, but died for a specific number - called in Scripture "the elect" and "the sheep." Nowhere does Scripture represent Christ's death as an inspecific action that "makes salvation possible." Everywhere Christ's death is represented as actually making atonement in a specific sense. If this idea seems horrific or shocking to you, then please read my article The Bible On Divine Sovereignty. ^ (3) The premillennialist maintains that the "thousand years" of Revelation 20 is literal and takes place on this earth after the Second Coming, but prior to the eternal state. Yet Paul leaves no room for such a "millennium." Verse 23 teaches that the dead are resurrected to be with the Lord "at His coming." Then "they reign a thousand years" ... oh, wait a minute - that's not what it reads! No, in verse 24 we are told : "then comes the end." Further, it is at this time that Christ delivers the Kingdom to the Father (verse 24); Christ's "reign" has already taken place! When? Well, notice that Paul uses the present-tense "reign" in verse 25. Christ has been reigning ever since His resurrection, when He received "all power" (Matt. 28:18) - how does the notion of a "millennium" add to "all power"? Christ reigns now in the true Jerusalem (Heb. 11:10; 12:22; 13:14) on the true "throne of David" (Acts 2:30-31). The true "Israel of God" (Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; 11; 1 Cor. 10:18; Gal. 6:16; Col. 3:11) reigns with Him, "seated in the heavenlies" (Eph. 2:6). His Kingdom is of a spiritual nature (John 3:3-5; Rom. 14:17). What about Revelation 20? Revelation is an apocalyptic series of visions given to John that use signs and symbols (as in the OT prophets) - we are told as much in Rev. 1:1. The present "day of salvation/accepted time" (2 Cor. 6:2) and the apocalyptic "thousand years" of Rev. 20:2-4 are one and the same (cf. 2 Peter 3:8). Note that Revelation 20 never mentions an earthly reign at all. Satan was "bound" (Rev. 20:2-3) at the death and resurrection of Christ (Matt. 12:29; 1 John 3:8), that "the nations" (cf. Gen. 10) might no longer be deceived in regards to the Gospel (Matt. 28:18; John 1:9; Acts 17:30-31; Rev. 20:3). Satan will be "loosed" at the end of this Gospel Age (2 Thes. 2:7; Rev. 20:3) and then Christ will return (Matt. 24:14) to resurrect and judge all men, as Paul details in our passage above. In closing, notice that the events normally associated with "the rapture" take place at His coming and not before (verses 23-24 and 51-52). See my article, Realized Millennialism. ^ last updated 04-28-99