I Corinthians 15: Part Two
Keep in mind during the time of Jesus, the Roman Empire crucified many people. But only one person arose from the dead to eternal life in a glorified body. And only one person died for the ‘sins of the world.’ As we studied last week the first four verses in which Paul shared the three most important elements of the Gospel on which the Corinthians and us have taken our stand. Paul said of first importance was that Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. His burial was proof of His death and this was the 2nd element of the gospel message. And the 3rd element was Jesus was raised from the dead according to the scriptures.
PROOF: LIVES CHANGED.
The first proof was the salvation of the Corinthians. This is our proof also. That the truth of the gospel is Almighty God devised a plan of salvation whereby He could save mankind from their sins and maintain His Holiness. And in every generation since the first generation of believers, we have the proof of His death, burial and resurrection recorded for us complete with lists of eyewitnesses, and the fact that in each generation there are millions to whom Jesus had made Himself known and reproduced His character and changed our lives is proof to each believer. It is like the hymn says: “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart. “ And so 2000 years later the gospel is what we stand firm upon. When we believed, we received and became the children of God. The Holy Spirit completed this adoption and witnesses to us God is our Father.
Last week we looked also at some key scriptures from the Old Testament which foretold of His death, the manner of his death, the details of his death, burial and resurrection. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is simply the theological explanation of an actual historical event which took place over 2000 years ago. This is why Paul says if Christ be not risen, our faith is in vain, for a dead Savior cannot save anyone. Yet we are gathered today in His name to worship the one and only living Christ who loved us and gave his life for us.
Recorded history has always depended on eye witness proof when it could be provided. It also looked for consistent manuscript evidence which reflected accuracy and then any subsequent archaeology which verified these stories. In this the Bible has given overwhelming proof after proof. So we have proof any historian would tell you is verified. But even more so, today, as they did 2000 years ago, our lives have been changed and Jesus Christ the living Savior has revealed Himself to us. Thomas, who had not been with the group when Jesus appeared, stated he would not believe until he had seen him with his own eyes and placed his finger in the wound of Jesus’ side. When Jesus then appeared to Thomas, Jesus said to Thomas, ‘because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.’ Remember what Jesus said to Mary at the tomb of Lazarus? “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of the Lord?” I have believed, and I have seen the glory of the Lord. Have you?
Now Paul recounts the witnesses who saw the resurrected Lord. You will notice Paul omits the sightings by the women. Luke records the women who went to the empty tomb that morning were met by two angels, whose clothes gleamed like lightning. They asked the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen. Remember how He told you while He was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told these things to the eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the disciples. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. (Luke 24)
Paul then tells us the resurrected Jesus was seen by Peter. He probably mentioned Peter first because Peter was the most well known of the original 12 disciples. He was their leader. Paul then lists the 12 disciples as a whole group. After that the resurrected Lord appeared to more than 500. In history, the surrender of Napoleon at Waterloo is unquestioned. Yet the number of eye witnesses to this event were less than 25. We are not told when these 500 saw Him all at once; some believe it was at His ascension. For surely word had spread of these sightings of the resurrected Lord. Paul then tells us that the Lord Jesus appeared to his brother James. And finally, Paul says he had seen the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus. Paul also said many of these over 500 eye witnesses were alive when Paul wrote this letter. This was probably 25 years after the crucifixion.
Now Paul in his logic says if you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then you must believe in the resurrection of all the dead. God the Son became flesh and dwelt among us. He became a man, truly human in every aspect. Jesus experienced what we all experience, except He was without sin. If there is no resurrection then Christ was not raised and our faith is in vain and there is no gospel, no good news. This is why the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is of first importance, because all we believe hinges on his resurrection.
THE LAST ENEMY, DEATH, IS DESTROYED.
The Sabbath was the 7th day of the week. The Passover was on the fourteenth day of the first month on their religious calendar, which God gave to Moses in Exodus 12 in Egypt. The lamb was slain at twilight of the 14th day. On the 15th day of the same month they were to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord. The Lord Jesus was the Lamb of God who was slain on Passover. He was the first fruits. In the Feasts of the Lord given to Moses by the Lord for the children of Israel, the first fruits were waived by the priests on the first day of the week after the Sabbath, a Sunday, the day the Lord arose from the grave. The waving of the sheath of the first fruits by the priest was a sign the entire harvest belonged to the Lord. (This is recorded in Leviticus 23.)
When Jesus was raised on the first day, on the Feasts of the First Fruit, God was assuring us as believers, we who are believers shall all be raised one day as a part of the future harvest. Paul says Christ has indeed been raised from the dead; the first fruits of those have fallen asleep. This is how the death of believers is described. To believers death is only sleep. The body sleeps but the soul is at home with the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 5, we are told as believers to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. At the resurrection, the body will be “awakened” and glorified. What a glorious day it will be, what a day of rejoicing when we all get to heaven!
Let’s talk for a minute about fruit. For we know this how we glorify God, which is what we were created to do. We glorify Him when we bear fruit. Paul asked a very penetrating question in Romans 6: 21-23: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
THE FIRST ADAM AND THE LAST ADAM
Paul then introduces these truths: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection comes through a man. The first Adam was made from the earth. But the last Adam, Jesus Christ came from heaven. The first Adam disobeyed God, and God had told him as a deterrent what the wages of sin were, death. Death came into the world to all men by the sin of the first Adam. But the last Adam, Jesus Christ, obeyed God and brought righteousness and life. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall be made alive. For each one in his order (turn): Christ, the first fruits, then when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
These verses tell us God has an order, a sequence in the resurrection. When Jesus returns in the air, He will take His church to heaven and at that time raise from the dead all that have trusted Him and have died in faith. Jesus called this the resurrection of life. When Jesus returns to the earth at the end of the 7 year tribulation period we read of in Revelation, it will be in judgment. Then the last or 2nd resurrection will be of the lost. Nobody in the first resurrection will be lost, but nobody in the 2nd resurrection will be saved.
Now Jesus will reign for a thousand years on earth in his millennium kingdom and believers will reign with Him . There will be one final rebellion against God, which Jesus will put down. Death itself will be cast into the eternal lake of fire.
Now there are differences of opinion of the details of this sequence. And saved, Bible-believing Christians have different opinions on how this will occur. What we can agree on is the Resurrected, Ascended Lord Jesus, the first fruits, now in a glorified body is returning one day for His bride. This has not yet occurred, but He has told us what to watch for His return and be prepared. For it can happen in the twinkling of an eye. Which means we must be ready and tell others.
Now God allowed sin to enter into the world and death through the disobedience of one man. Some may think this is not fair that because of one man’s disobedience we were born with a sinful nature. Yet Paul explains the good news this way: “Therefore as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” (Romans 5) Understand at creation God stated for plants, animals and mankind alike, they would reproduce after their own kind. After Adam sinned, he possessed a sinful nature and therefore could only reproduce after his own kind, and we were all born with a sinful nature.
This nature was condemned to death. This is why we had to be born again of the Spirit and thus have a new nature. But the old nature had to be crucified and buried.
THE RESURRECTED BODY
Paul then addresses our natural curiosity which asked: “What kind of body will we have in the resurrection. First Paul addresses the reality of why death must occur. A seed does not come to life unless it dies. Paul also explains what you sow is not what comes up, but something else. Plant a watermelon seed and what comes up is not a giant seed, but a watermelon, completely different from what was planted. “But God gives it a body He has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: men have one kind of flesh, animals, birds, fish have another. There are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies. The body which is raised will be different. Resurrection is not reconstruction.
Paul then lists the differences:
1. Imperishable not perishable.
2. Sown in dishonor, raised in glory.
3. Sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body.
4. Sown in weakness, raised in power.
The first Adam was created from the earth; the last Adam came from heaven. The first Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life -giving Spirit. The natural man came first, the spiritual second. When we were born the first time we were bore the likeness of the natural man, when we were born again, we bore the likeness of the man from heaven, the Lord Jesus.
If you have experienced the planting of a tulip, the tulip bulb was not a very pretty sight was it? It was in ugly. But what came up was completely different and beautiful. So will it be with us, we will have a resurrected body like Jesus. In fact we are told when we see Him, we will be like Him. Paul makes it clear: Flesh and blood will not, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Paul explains, ‘the perishable or corruption does not inherit imperishable or incorruption.’ We will actually receive a body like Jesus’ resurrected body which can live in both heaven and earth.
A MYSTERY: THE RAPTURE
“We will not all sleep…” Remember Paul refers to the death of a Christian as ‘sleep.’ Now Paul says here is a mystery, we will not all sleep, die. But we will all be changed in a twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet when Jesus comes in the air. Something we have come to call the ‘rapture.’ Paul describes the order: the dead in Christ will be raised in imperishable bodies. And we who are alive will be caught up and our bodies will be changed. When this happens, death will be defeated, overcome, as the perishable will put on imperishable and the mortals will put on immortality. Death will be swallowed up in victory. This is why we sing: Victory in Jesus, My Savior forever!
“O, Death where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, He has given us victory through our Lord Jesus. Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of our Lord, because you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain. “
In 2 Corinthians 5: 11 Paul urges us: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” Paul had an opportunity to give his testimony and try to persuade King Agrippa to accept Jesus Christ as Savior in Acts 26. Listen to King Agrippa’s reply to Paul: “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian? Paul replied: “Short time or long- I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become as I am, except for these chains.” Paul was the only man in the crowded room in chains, a prisoner. Yet Paul was the only man in the room who was really free.
THE TWO RESURRECTIONS
The two resurrections can be confusing as to their order. The first resurrection is a resurrection to eternal life. The second resurrection is a resurrection to judgment and torment described as the ‘second death.”
The first resurrection is in a sequence, which appears to have 3 phases. The first resurrection began with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion and burial. The ‘first fruit’ celebration God gave to Moses is a guarantee to all Christians who believe will also be resurrected. This is the first phase and the beginning of the first resurrection. The second phase of the first resurrection will occur at the time of the Rapture. All those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ during the Church Age and have died before Jesus returns will be resurrected at the Rapture. Paul says, ‘the dead in Christ will rise first and then we who are alive will caught up in the air. Jesus will then take us home to heaven where we will enjoy the Lamb’s Wedding Supper. This occurs before the Great Tribulation. Now there are two views of when this will occur: before the Anti-Christ takes control as ruler of one world government at the beginning of the 7 year period described in Revelation. Or the second view is it occurs mid-tribulation at the 3.5 year mark of the reign of the Anti-Christ when the Great Wrath of God begins. The reason for this view is Paul writes in I Thessalonians how we ‘wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.’ So regardless of which time it is – at the beginning or the mid- point, we know we will not have to endure God’s wrath poured out on the earth in the last 3.5 years of the 7 year period known as the Great Tribulation. This phase of the first resurrection will be the resurrection of all who have died during the Church Age before Christ return. The Church Age began on the day of Pentecost and continues to this day 2000 years later.
The final third phase of the first resurrection will be at the end of the Great Tribulation when at Christ’s Second Coming when His feet touch down on the Mount of Olives. Then all who have been martyred during the Great Tribulation will be resurrected at Christ’s return and will rule and reign with Him during the Thousand Year Millennium.
The Second Resurrection, also known as the Second Death will occur at the end of the 1000 year reign. This is the resurrection of all the unbelieving dead of all ages. They will appear before Jesus Christ at the Great White Throne. They will stand before the Throne and be judged and punished according to their works which are recorded in the books. These are those whose names have not been recorded in Lamb’s Book of Life. Only the names of those who have trusted the Lord Jesus are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.