Summary: The destiny of Christians is bound together with the destiny of Christ. The Resurrection of Jesus foretells that death is not the end of man, but that life persists through death & emerges from it. But not only does it foretell it is also the source of ou
[RESURRECTION REALITIES SERIES]
I CORINTHIANS 15: 20-28
THE RISE AND FALL OF DEATH
[Revelations 20: 6-14/ Ps 110, 8]
This passage begins with the triumphant ringing out of the great fact which changes all the darkness of an earthly life without a heavenly hope into a blaze of light. Christ is risen from the dead! Because He is risen, the Christian also will rise from the dead. The Christian lives between two resurrections. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of themselves, of the redeemed.
The destiny of Christians is bound together with the destiny of Christ. The Resurrection of Jesus is a prophecy foretelling that death is not the end of man, but that life persists through death and emerges from it, like a buried river flashing forth again into the light of day. But not only does it foretell our resurrection, it is the source or cause of the Christian’s resurrection as well.
Many aircraft display a screen for passengers. This map traces the point of lift off, where the flight presently is, and destination of the flight. Verses 20–28 display where history has come from, where it is going, and who is in control. This history, however, is not about the rise and fall of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, British or other empires. Rather, it is a short history about the Rise and Fall of Death.
I. THE FIRST BORNS, 20-23.
II. THE LAST ENEMY, 24-26.
III. THE ETERNAL SOVEREIGN, 27-29.
Paul had been conveying the dismal consequence of life with out the resurrection of Christ. With a swift revulsion of feeling, he turns away from that dreary thought of the preceding verses, and he breaks into a burst of triumph in verse 20. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
But now turns us around from suppositions to things as they actually are. Speculation gives way to confirmation. Christ indeed has been raised from the dead! Christ being raised from the dead made Him the first fruits of all who will be raised. [first fruits: initial yield or produce, inaugural result, original production; return, outcome, effect, archetype, pattern, prototype, forerunner, model]
Before Israelites harvested their crops they were to bring the first of the crop, called the first fruits, to the priests as an offering to the Lord. [When the priest waved the sheaf of the first fruits before the Lord it was a sign that the harvest was God’s (Lev. 23:9-14).] The full crop could not be harvested until the first fruits were offered. [That is the point of Paul’s figure here. Christ’s own resurrection was the first fruits of the resurrection "harvest" of the believing dead. In His death and resurrection Christ made an offering of Himself to the Father on our behalf.] [When the priest waved the sheaf of the first fruits before the Lord it was a sign that the harvest was God’s (Lev. 23:9-14).]
The first fruits not only preceded the harvest, they were a first installment of the harvest. The fact that Christ was the first fruits indicates that the rest of the harvest is to follow. Christ’s resurrection is the first part of the larger resurrection of God’s redeemed.
[The rest of the harvest of the resurrection of the dead has been put on temporary hold to allow opportunity for more and more people to be ‘reaped’ for the Kingdom.]
In this passage, and in this whole chapter, Paul is not addressing the question of the judgment of all people at the general resurrection (2 Cor. 4:14; 5:10). Paul is ignoring the future of the unbeliever and concentrating on those who are ‘in Christ’. [Scripture speaks of that resurrection of the righteous (Rev. 20:6; 1 Thess. 4:13–18; 2 Cor. 5:1–5; Luke 14:14; John 5:29), calling it the first resurrection. The second is the resurrection of the unrighteous (John 5:29).]
Since Christ’s Resurrection assures us of the future waking, it changes death into ‘sleep’ and that sleep does not mean unconsciousness any more than natural sleep does, but only rest from toil, and cessation of interaction with this world. Here it refers to the righteous dead, whose spirits have gone to be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; cf. Phil. 1:23) but whose remains are in the grave, awaiting recomposition and resurrection. [MacArthur, 417 Our spirit and soul are alive, only our body is asleep (2 Cor. 5: 8).]
In these verses (20–22) Paul contrasts Christ with Adam. Verse 21 continues to explain how the resurrection of Christ affects believers. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
Through Adam, the first man, Death entered history. The ‘seed’ of every man and woman to be born in history was present in Adam, so that all people owe their life and their physical descent to that man. Because of his sin, Adam’s ‘seed’ was infected with the fatal virus called ‘Death’ so that all people must die.