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1Corinthians 15

Setting

This first letter to the Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul.  This chapter is particularly import, as it is a foundational part of scripture and is vital aspect in understanding prophetic events and the Lord's plan for all mankind.  This chapter draws out the fundamental principle for all Christendom, the resurrection.  

Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans, that Jesus Christ was declared the Son of God with power by God's gospel, according to the spirit of holiness and by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:1-4.  The strength of the gospel of Jesus Christ, 1Corinthians 15:3-4, is the Lordís resurrection, 1Corinthians 15:12-20.  The Lord Jesus Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection, which will be explained below.  At His resurrection, there were many others who were resurrected with Him, and who made themselves known to those who knew them before their deaths, Matthew 27:51-53.  Following His resurrection, the Lord appeared to many of those who believed in Him for 40 days.  He did this in order to give proof of His being alive, Acts 1:3-5.

At the end of this 40 day period of time and prior to His ascension, the Lord took His disciples to the Mount of Olives.  There the disciples asked the Lord if He was going to now restore the kingdom to Israel.  The Lord replied to them that it was not for them to know the times or dates set by the Father, but that they were to receive power from the Holy Spirit to spread their witness of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, all of Judea, in Samaria, and throughout the world.  Afterward, the Lord was then taken up and a cloud hid Him from their sight, Acts 1:6-9.   

Immediately after the Lord's ascension, the disciples saw two angels who told the disciples that Jesus will return in the same way as they saw Him depart, in the clouds, Acts 1:10-11.  This promise was given to the church fathers, the apostles whom the Lord had selected, and not to Israel, or any other group of people.  This is what Paul spoke of in many of his epistles as well, (more information on the web page discussing the rapture on this site).  When Christ returns in the clouds to rapture His church, He will return in the clouds and call them up to Him, in stark contrast to when he will return to earth and stand on the Mount of Olives, Zechariah 14:3-5, as the King of kings on a white horse with all His saints to establish His millennial reign over all the earth, Revelation 19:11-21.  As is described in this site, the rapture of the church and the return of the Lord with His saints are separated by at least the seven years of tribulation.  These are two very distinct events, which many in the church tend to confuse as either one event to two events that occur nearly simultaneously.  

Outline of this chapter

Verses

Topic

1-11

12-20

21-28

29-50

51-57

58

The gospel Adam, Christ, and death     Chapter Outline     Top

In 1Corinthians 15:1-11, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthians concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ that he delivered to them, 1Corinthians 15:3-4,  which states that Christ died according to scripture, then He was buried, and He was raised on the 3rd day according to scripture.  The validation of the gospel is demonstrated by Paul through the many witnesses who saw the Lord after His resurrection, 1Corinthians 15:5-8.  Christ was seen by many after His resurrection, Acts 1:3, by Cephas then the 12, 1Corinthians 15:5.  He was then seen by more than 500 people, most of whom were still alive at the writing of this epistle, 1Corinthians 15:6.  He was then seen of James the half-brother of Jesus, then all the apostles, 1Corinthians 15:7, followed by Paul, 1Corinthians 15:8.  The Lord had used these physical demonstrations to prove His resurrection, just as He used the paralytic man, to prove to the teachers of the law that the Lord had authority to forgive sins, which was demonstrated by the healing of the man in their midst, Matthew 9:1-8.  

The resurrection tied to the gospel     Chapter Outline     Top   

Importance of the resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is crucial to the faith of Christians, for if it did not occur, then our faith is in vain.  This is the point that Paul is bringing out in 1Corinthians 15:13 where he wrote that without the resurrection:  

  • Paul's preaching is in vain
  • The Corinthian's faith is in vain
  • Paul would be a false witness
  • The Corinthians are yet in their sins
  • Those who have died, perished

Paul continues, where he states that if our hope in Christ is only in this life, then we are most miserable of all men if Christ did not raise from the dead.

Firstfruits

However, according to 1Corinthians 15:20, Christ did rise from the dead, and is the firstfruits of the dead, or was the first of all who have died and will die, to be resurrected from the dead.  

The concept of the firstfruits is brought out in the Old Testament. From the time the tribes of Israel entered into the land of Canaan, they were to present the first portion of the fruit to the Lord throughout their generations, Numbers 15:18-21.  

Moses also wrote on the firstfruits in the book of Leviticus, providing the details of the feast of the firstfruits on the day after Passover and the Sabbath.  The people of Israel were not to eat any bread, roasted or new grain until after the offering, Leviticus 23:9-14.

In providing the association between the offering of the firstfruits with the resurrections of the Lord, Paul writes that Christ is the firstfruits of those who have passed away, 1Corinthians 15:20, as he rose from the dead the first day after Passover, John 20:1-10.  So, while the priests were waving the firstfruits at the temple, with the curtain torn the day that Christ died on the cross, at that same time Christ presented himself to the Father, John 20:15-17.  It is the believers in Christ who are the firstfruits of all that He created, James 1:16-18.

Adam, Christ, and death     Chapter Outline     Top

Paul now looks at how death entered into the world, how Christ brought life where death prevailed, and how Christ destroyed death (see the reference on the keys of death and Hades, Revelation 1:17-18, Revelation 3).   He writes that death came through one man, Adam, so the resurrection of the dead came through one man, Jesus Christ, 1Corinthians 15:21.  As a result of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are righteous, Romans 5:17-19.  Paul provides the order of events that will occur as a result of the Lord's work, 1Corinthians 15:23-28:

  • Christ is the firstfruit
  • Those who belong to Christ will be resurrected when He comes to rapture the church from this world
  • The end of all rebellion against God will come when the Lord Jesus Christ hands over His kingdom to the Father
    • The end will come after Christ destroys all dominion, power and authority, then establishes His millennial reign over this world
    • Christ reigns until he puts all his enemies under His feet, the last being death, which occurs following the great white throne judgment, Revelation 20:14
    • After all this, the Lord will subject Himself to the Father

To view the order of the resurrection as it relates to the timeline that is being used in this site, reference the timeline for 1Corinthians 15.  That page contains a graphic which decomposes the resurrection down to its various parts which will help clarify this topic.  

Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption     Chapter Outline     Top

In further describing the resurrection, Paul describes the two types of bodies, the natural body we observe in this physical world, and the spiritual body, 1Corinthians 15:44-50.  In this physical life, we all bear the likeness and limitations of our physical body, but after the resurrection, we who believe in Christ will all bear the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, the man from heaven.  This plays off the comparison that Paul made earlier between Adam the natural man and Christ the heavenly man.  The reason for the new body is brought out by Paul where he makes it quite clear that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can the perishable inherit the imperishable.  For all who are in Christ are united with Him in His death through baptism, we are likewise united with Him in His resurrection, Romans 6:3-10.

The mystery of the Resurrection     Chapter Outline     Top

Paul had spent some time providing information on the resurrection, its importance to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the promise to the saints of God that in our resurrection that we would be like the Lord.  So what is the mystery Paul is writing about?  It is not the resurrection itself since Paul spent many verses already on this subject, and it is a subject that many in the Gospels and the Old Testament referred to, such as Martha's witness to the resurrection that would occur in the last days, and her confession in her belief in the words of Jesus that He was the resurrection and the life, John 11:21-27.  

The mystery is the rapture of the church. The Old Testament saints knew of the resurrection, as spoken by Daniel and many other passages, but they were not aware of the rapture. Their promise was to be resurrected in the last days to inherit the land that God had promised to Israel, Daniel 12:1-3.  The promise of the rapture, as stated above, was given to the church. Therefore, the Old Testament promise was the resurrection, but for the church it is the eminent return of Christ to rapture the church, His bride, and translate those yet living, which is the mystery spoken of here.

As Paul already mentioned, flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Paul further reveals the details of this mystery, where we will not all sleep, but be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, 1Corinthians 15:50-57.  There will be a sound of the trumpet when the church is raptured (at the end of the church era, not the 7th trumpet which introduced the bowl judgments, Revelation 11:15-19).  At the rapture, the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable, and then those that are alive will be changed. Those in Christ will all be clothed with the imperishable and with immortality, and death will be swallowed up in victory.  Paul provided more detail concerning this event in 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, where he wrote that the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout of an archangel, and with the trump of God.  Then the dead in Christ will be raised from the dead, followed by those alive in Christ, will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.  This distinction, that the church will hear a shout and a trumpet, is being made because those of the children of Israel who are not reconciled with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 10:1-13 will hear the trumpet only.  Upon hearing the trumpet, they will begin to return to their land, Israel, Isaiah 27:13.  From those in Israel who are left behind,  many will turn to the Lord, and out of that group, many will be sealed by God, and be numbered in the 144,000, Revelation 7:1-8.  Though many Jews have returned to Israel in our modern times, many others still remain in many other locations in the world.  Upon hearing the blowing of the trumpet, which is arguably the same trumpet as the one used for the rapture of the church, they will understand to return to their land.

Abounding the work of the Lord     Chapter Outline     Top

Paul now closes this great epistle and chapter with encouraging words and direction to the saints, 1Corinthians 15:58.  It is short, but extremely important to the Christian today, that we are to:

  • Be steadfast in our work for the Lord
  • Be unmovable in our faith
  • Always abound in the work of the Lord

Paul reminds the church that our labors in the Lord are not in vain.  For the work is for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ as He had commissioned his church, and our works will be rewarded, 1Corinthians 3:10-15.  


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014

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