2013-03-31 Easter: The Hope of Christ’s Resurrection | 1 Corinthians 15:19-28
Resurrection: Our Hope! (Easter)
The event which took place on that first Easter Sunday morning set in motion an inevitable chain of events which will culminate at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Christ’s resurrection represents the essential and definitive starting point leading to the final consummation of God’s redemptive plan in Christ. This is the basis of our Christian hope.
Today we will see that the resurrection of Christ gives believers hope for the future because it assures us that our sins are already forgiven, that we too will be raised from the dead to eternal life, and that the old order of sin and death will be finally defeated and the new order of peace and eternal life will be fully established at Christ’s return.
1 Corinthians 15:19-28. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 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. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 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.”
Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday is about Christian hope. Our hope as believers is based on the death and resurrection of Christ. Because Christ was raised, first we are assured of forgiveness of sins in the present since his resurrection confirmed that his sacrifice was acceptable to God on our behalf. Second, by his bodily resurrection from the dead unto eternal life, we are assured of our own future bodily resurrection unto eternal life when Christ comes again. And third, by Christ’s resurrection we are assured of the restoration of all things to eternal peace and life similar to and even better than that before the fall. What occurred in Adam’s fall will be reversed and restored so that all of God’s enemies and death itself will be defeated, and all things will once again come fully under God’s control.
So the good news for believers today is found in three points: Christ’s resurrection is crucial to Christian hope; Christ’s resurrection guarantees the Christian’s resurrection, and Christ’s resurrection guarantees the death of death and the return of the kingdom to God.
- Christ’s resurrection is crucial to Christian hope.
We are told in verse 19, 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Why is the bodily resurrection of Christ so important to believers? It is because without the knowledge of Christ’s resurrection we have hope only in this life, only as long as we have breath, no more than an unbeliever. But with the knowledge of his resurrection we have hope also for the future beyond our physical death. Verse 19 is the conclusion of Paul’s harguumentt ses 12-19 of this chapter where he refutes what is called the “spiritualistic heresy” found here and in 2 Tim 2:18 which he introduces in verse 12 by, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead?” Some false teachers in Corinth held that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place so there was no need for a future resurrection. They did not deny the resurrection of Christ or of believers in Christ. However, the resurrection to which they referred was understood in a completely spiritual sense. They taught that spiritual perfection, or sinlessness, could be attained in this life – that was resurrection from the dead, or spiritual resurrection. Therefore, they taught, for those whom perfection or spiritual resurrection had already taken place, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” that is, no future bodily resurrection of the dead needs to take place in order for them to reach perfection.
However, as Paul argues in verses 13-19, if Christ has not been raised – bodily – those living believers who trust in Christ’s physical death and resurrection, are in fact “still in their sins” (17), those who have died have gone to hell (18), and all of them are without hope for the future and therefore are to be pitied for their self-deception (19). Why? Because without a bodily resurrection of Christ, believers have no assurance that God has accepted Christ’s sacrifice – his substitutionary atonement – on their behalf, no assurance that they too will experience a bodily resurrection into eternal life, and no assurance that evil and death will defeated and banished from earth forever. Because as we said, his resurrection begins the inevitable sequence of events that will end in the consummation of Christ’s kingdom, the completion of God’s program of restoration from every effect of the fall in and through Christ the God-man, the divine mediator.
Not only is Christ’s resurrection crucial to Christian hope, second,
- Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection. That is, our resurrection unto eternal life like Christ’s.
Christ’s resurrection set in motion the sequence of events that leads inevitably to our resurrection. How do we know that his resurrection guarantees our resurrection, the resurrection of believers? Because his bodily resurrection is a fact; because God raised him from the dead; because Christ is the first-fruits of the harvest of all believers, and because his resurrection is the reversal of Adam’s fall.
We know that Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection
because Christ’s resurrection is a fact. In verse 20 we are told, 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead… We know from elsewhere that it is a fact based on eye-witness testimony. In 1 Co.15:4-8 we are told that he was raised on the third day…and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then to more than five hundred brothers at one time, Then to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all to Paul. And we know from the Gospels that he appeared to Mary and other women at the tomb on Easter morning as well. If it is a myth or a lie, we could not depend on it to guarantee our resurrection. But it is a fact so we can do so.
We know also that Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection
because God (the Father) raised him from the dead. Verse 20 also says, “Christ has been raised from the dead…” Christ did not raise himself, God raised him attesting to the Father’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf meriting eternal life for us. In verses 4 of the same chapter we are told. 1 Co.15:4 that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Likewise, in Acts 4:10-11 we are told, in Peter’s words that the healing of the lame beggar was accomplished “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom God raised from the dead. God’s raising him from the dead attested to his acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary atonement meriting eternal life for us.
We know also that Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection
because his resurrection is said to be the first-fruits of the harvest of all believers in Christ. The first fruits of the harvest tell us that the harvest has already begun. Christ’s resurrection to eternal life is not an isolated incident, but the first of many to come of those who are “in Christ.” Previously in verse 18 Paul refers to believers who have died as “those who have fallen asleep in Christ.” Therefore, we know that Paul is writing to assure believers that Christ’s resurrection guarantees their own future resurrection as well as the resurrection of those believers who have already died. Likewise, Jesus uses the metaphor of the harvest to represent the resurrection of all believers in Matt.13:24-30 when he says, 24 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
We know also that Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection because his is
reversal of Adam’s fall. We are told in verses 21-22, 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. All men are said to be “in Adam” by virtue of our humanity. Therefore, all are bound to the principle of sin and death because of Adam’s sin and its consequences – spiritual death and physical death. However, those who are “in Christ” by faith, because he also shared our humanity, yet lived a perfect life and died in our place, share in his resurrection. “Paul’s point is that death is inevitable because of our sharing in the humanity and sinfulness of the one-man Adam. But believers sharing in the resurrection from the dead through the second man, Christ, who in his resurrection effects that the reversal of the process begun in Adam, is equally inevitable.” (Fee in First Corinthians, NICNT.
- Christ’s resurrection guarantees the death of death and the return of the kingdom to God.
Christ’s resurrection not only set in motion the events that inevitably leads to, or guarantees, our own resurrection. Christ’s resurrection also set in motion the events which leads to and guarantees the defeat of death and the return of the kingdom to God.
These last verses describe what Paul calls the end, but it is not the end of the world per se, rather it is the end of God’s program of the redemption of the world. It is the consummation of the kingdom. It is the final movement in the grand symphony of redemption.
Here we are told 1) the order of the end, and 2) the means and goal of the end. There are many things about the end of God’s program that we do not know, but a few things we can know.
First, the order of the end. We are told when it begins, then the order of its parts. At his coming, Christ first Christ destroys every rule and authority and power except God, then Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
When does what Paul calls “the end” of God’s plan of redemption take place? How do we know the end has arrived? Verse 23, “At his coming” for “those who belong to Christ.” “The end” to which Paul refers begins when Christ returns for his own.
What happens first? They appear in reverse chronological order in verse 24, “when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” If he delivers the kingdom after destroying every rule and authority and power, then the latter comes first – his destruction of all authorities except God. Therefore, the immediate and simultaneous result of the resurrection of believers is the destruction of Christ’s enemies. Just as we are told later in the same chapter in vv. 54-57, When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 57…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The final victory over death occurs simultaneously with the resurrection of those who are in Christ. By raising those from the dead those who were under its power, the power of death is defeated. This he further confirms in the following verses when he alludes to and quotes Psalm 110:1, 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.” Christ has reigned in heaven since his resurrection, and “he must reign until” “he (God) has caused all his enemies, including death to come under subjection to him. Death will be finally destroyed when Christ comes again and all believers are are raised from the dead. There will not be a final struggle when Christ returns. The war was won at the inauguration of his kingdom by means of his own death and resurrection. There have been minor skirmishes that time because the old order – the kingdom of the world – has been allowed to continue along-side the new order – the kingdom of God and his Christ (Rev 11.15). However, at the consummation of his kingdom, Christ will announce his definitive victory by the resurrection of all believers of all time thus demanding the unconditional surrender of his enemies for eternity.
What happens next? Christ hands the kingdom back to God. Verse 24 says, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. Verse 28 likewise says, 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.” So the order of the end is the return of Christ, the simultaneous raising of all believers in Christ and the defeat of all his enemies including death, then Christ returns the kingdom to God.
And what are the means and the goal of the end of God’s redemptive plan?
Christ is the means and God is the source and goal of final redemption. That Christ is the means of the terminus of redemption is why he is called the mediator between God and man. We have seen in verses 23-28 – he comes for his own, he reigns until he destroys every rule and power and authority, and he delivers the kingdom to God.
Finally, God is the both the source and the goal of redemption. God “put all things in subjection to Christ, that God may be all in all.” The Father sent the Son not only to bear the sin of many, not only to rise from the dead, but finally to return for his own in resurrection power that God might subject all things to him. That God is the goal is revealed in verse 28, “that God might be all in all.” What is meant here is that all things might once again, as in eternity past find its fulfillment in God’s rule over the universe, that God will rule in every place in every way in the new kingdom. In him all things will be united. At that time what is written in Isaiah 11 will have come to pass.
Isa.11:1-9 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. 6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
Therefore, we are not a people to be pitied, for our hope is not based on self-deception but on the revelation of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote to Titus, Tit.2:11-14 ” 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.