Summary: What do you hope for? A good job? A good marriage? Financial security? Good health? What makes the top of your list? It is an important question, because what we hope for influences how we live, as we shall see.

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1 Corinthians 15:20-34 What the Resurrection Means for You

10/24/04 D. Marion Clark


What do you hope for? A good job? A good marriage? Financial security? Good health? What makes the top of your list? It is an important question, because what we hope for influences how we live, as we shall see.


But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

You can picture Paul now slamming his fist in his other hand and pacing the floor as he dictates this line. “But in fact…” He doesn’t say, “But in my opinion” or “Let me suggest” or, as liberals like to say, “It is meaningful to me to think that Christ has been raised.” No! Christ has been raised, and that’s a fact!

And what more, he is the first to rise of many others who have died. His resurrection signals a resurrection for all others who have died in him. Paul then explains.

21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Adam is the head of the human race. By living in obedience to God, he was to pass on the blessing of eternal life that God would have bestowed on the human race. Instead, he sinned, and far from passing on the blessing of life, he passed on the curse of death. Thus, in Adam (as descendants of Adam) all die. But Christ, as head of the redeemed race, has restored the blessing of eternal life, so that all who are in Christ through faith shall be resurrected from the dead.

The fates of Adam and Christ represent the fates of their people. Adam died; Christ died, but he rose from the dead. The whole human race must die; but those who are in Christ will rise again. But they do not merely represent our fates. They are responsible for them. By his disobedience, Adam brought death; by his obedience, Christ brought life. Therefore, Christ is not merely the first to be resurrected. It is his resurrection that makes ours possible. Paul goes on to elaborate:

23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Christ’s resurrection comes first; at his second coming, our resurrection will also occur. The theologian I quoted last week presented Paul as teaching that Jesus was but the first of a general resurrection that had already begun. That general resurrection has not begun. It is ready to begin at God’s timing, and the event that will kick start it is Jesus’ second coming. Besides the resurrection of his people, here is what Christ will do:

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

What will Christ do? He will deliver the kingdom over to his Father. Right now, God the Son reigns over God’s kingdom. He is, even now, continuing the work that he began at his resurrection – overcoming “every rule and every authority and power” that exists and works against God’s kingdom. This is his work as our King. He has already struck Satan’s head by his sacrifice and resurrection. Now he continues to direct the advance of his kingdom against the gates of hell – against the spiritual rulers who are Satan’s demons and against whatever power there may be that is part of the curse on mankind and creation. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death itself. Death will die. At that time, when all things have been brought under subjection of Christ, he will turn them and himself over to the Father to be under God the Father’s subjection. Thus, God may be all in all. By him and for him are all things.

These are inspiring words. The ones that follow, however, are perplexing.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

This verse seems to come out of nowhere. It is perplexing for two reasons. First, the theology it implies is contradictory to what the Bible teaches about baptism. For all the debates that Christians have about baptism – who should be baptized, the mode, its ramifications, etc. – there simply is nothing to support the idea of the dead needing or profiting from a living person standing in for them for baptism. Such a concept is not debated among Christians, because no one can come up with supporting Scripture other than this one obscure reference. How many references are needed? Shouldn’t one be enough? This doctrine certainly needs more. If in truth, it is essential for the dead to be baptized by proxy in order to obtain the resurrection of eternal life, it is unexplainable that the Bible would have no other teaching or even implication about it.

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