Jesus’ resurrection is the “firstfruit” of the God’s Redemptive plan to renew, transform, and ultimately resurrect to eternity with Him all who trust in His grace! Paul explains how resurrection is absolutely necessary for salvation. Why are humans eternal beings? Can you explain the concept of first-fruit? This post is number two in exploring the Resurrection covering 1 Corinthians 15:12-33.
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Helpful commentary for this passage
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith. 15In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God. For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead, but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.
16For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men.
Paul logically reasons that if Jesus wasn’t resurrected then he and others were false witnesses. He likewise explains that Christ’s resurrection is key to our sins being forgiven. Jesus obviously served as our atoning sacrifice to make us righteous in Himself before God the Father. However, Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb. He conquered death! Paul explains how Jesus is the First Fruit of Resurrection in the following passage.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23
Bible study page on term first fruit
20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then at His coming, those who belong to Him.
Fallen asleep is a metaphor for death. Consider this important truth: death isn’t the end for the believer or unbeliever. Christ actually will resurrect everyone! The following article explains the two resurrections:
Those redeemed are resurrected to spend eternity with God and those separated by unrepentant natures to eternal separation from God. Every person is an eternal being! Why is this important? We need to understand that our lives here in the flesh are just a short, brief time compared to endless eternity. God created humans in His image with an eternal nature. Adam and Eve rebelled and brought God’s Righteous Judgment upon all people.
Paul explains how Adam represents all humans in separation from God. The fall of humanity of Genesis Chapter Three is the reason for separation and death. Jesus is the New Adam. Jesus lived a sinless life and becomes our High Priest (Hebrews chapters 2-8). Jesus did for us what we are powerless to do: redeem ourselves.
God Victorious, God Ends History
1 Corinthians 15:24-28
24Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For “God has put everything under His feet.” Now when it says that everything has been put under Him, this clearly does not include the One who put everything under Him. 28And when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all.
The phrase “put everything under His feet” refers to total victory. This is an ancient war custom in which the victor would force enemy to submit to total dominance. Ancient empires/leaders would depict themselves as placing feet on the head or neck of those defeated in various statues, inscriptions, etc. Paul is quoting Psalm 8:6.
Tiglath-pileser III (Assyria)stands over an enemy, bas-relief from the Central Palace at Nimrud.
God will have the final victory. History will end! Paul in his writings often describes military and political references that first century readers would be able to picture and understand. The Romans in particular had triumphant “parades” in their cities as well as “triumph arches” to recall military victories. This website has numerous photos and explanations of the history of the Arch of Titus in Rome:
When reading any of Paul’s letters and the New Testament epistles it’s important to understand the culture and society of that specific historical era. There are numerous books and websites that are available. I use a variety of sources–books and commentaries. Here is a good book to start on this journey:
1 Corinthians 15:29-33
29If these things are not so, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30And why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31I face death every day, brothers, as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for human motives, what did I gain? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
33Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good character.”34Sober up as you ought, and stop sinning; for some of you are ignorant of God. I say this to your shame.
Explanation verses 29-33
Paul explains that he and others face death because of the truth of the Resurrection. The “baptism for the dead” in verse 29 raises questions. Three interpretations are available in the following article:
Paul admonishes the believers to be sober and stop sinning. Please consider this in context of what he is teaching. Paul wants the believers to understand and place faith in the resurrection and not allow themselves to be corrupted by those who deny fundamental truths to the Christian faith. Believing in Christ’s Resurrection is fundamental! Sober means to be discerning, alert, prepared to recognize and respond to threats: in this case false teachings. Paul quotes two common sayings (verses 32 &33) to make his points:
1- there is more to life than just eating and drinking–the Resurrection of Jesus and faith are central to enduring trials of faith/persecutions
2- entertaining “bad” company taints character–he warns against associating and being influenced by false teachers/teachings.
What you believe is critical to your faith! Knowing that Jesus will resurrect everyone is a life-changing truth. Every person we encounter is an eternal being who will either spend eternity with God or apart from Him based on his or her response to the Gospel. Death isn’t the end and that can comfort us immensely in times of loss and grief.
How are our lives proclaiming the Gospel? Are we more like Christ or the fallen world around us? Where do we place our faith and hope? Are we eagerly awaiting God’s return and final victory?