63) The Hope of the Resurrection of the dead

1 Corinthians 15:21-25

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward (Then) they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Verses 20-23 – Christ was the first fruit of the resurrection harvest. His resurrection guaranteed that the rest of the dead would be raised out of Hades. Christ who is the first fruits, or first risen from the dead, ascended to heaven. He was presented to God in the heavenly holy of holies as the first fruits, and so making it possible for the rest of the dead to be raised.

Those who had died had not yet been raised when Paul wrote this letter in AD 57, but they would in their near future be made alive at the Parousia (The Coming of Christ).

The resurrection was not an ongoing process at the time Paul wrote this letter. This future tense “shall be made alive” in verse 22, and the word “afterward” in verse 23 does not justify a time stretch of a resurrection of the dead more than 2000 years after Christ’s resurrection. The use of “shall be made alive” and “afterward” emphasizes a nearness in time of this event somewhat later after Christ’s resurrection. From Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven until His coming in judgment upon Judea and Jerusalem between 67-70 A.D. is a forty-year period. It mirrors the forty-year period of that generation of Israelite’s who wondered in the wilderness and all died leaving the next generation to enter the promised land. The forty-year period, the time of that first century generation who lived between the cross and were still alive at the time of the Parousia, perfectly fits the grammatical structure of these verses. There is clearly a time gap between the resurrection of Christ the first fruits, and the “shall be made alive” resurrection of the dead who would be joined by those who were still alive at the coming of Christ. So, the chronological order presented in Paul’s writing is Christ first. Then soon after, within that generation, at the coming of Christ, those who had died were raised from the dead, joined by the believers and followers of Christ who were alive. They would all meet the Lord in the air to be taken back to heaven. Christ prepared everything for their arrival in their eternal home and came back to get them. So yes, that would not be a resurrection and a rapture in our near future, but they are events that took place in the first century, as Jesus had promised them, and also is a central theme in Paul’s writings.

John 14 King James Version (KJV)
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

1 Thessalonians 4 King James Version (KJV)
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

And so here in verse 17 we again see the use of the same word “then” as in 1 Corinthians 15:23, which is the Greek: épeita and literally means: thereupon, thereafter, then, afterwards. This is clearly not the kind of language that would be used if an undetermined unspecified time in the far future was meant. If I say unto you, “I will see you later” I do not mean, “I might see you someday 50 years from now”. If I meant decades from now you would probably forget about it and not take me seriously. If Christ or His Apostles meant a far distant future many generations from the time they were living in, then the writings of the New Testament littered with the clear urgent sense of immediacy would make absolutely no sense at all. When Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and in verse 17 and used the word “we” it is not a generic universal quantifier for a group of people who would be alive thousands of years later. Paul is clearly including himself in the “we” and the rest of the “we” is the audience he is writing to; i.e. those who were alive then to whom Paul wrote. If we watch the news with regards to the current corona-crisis and the news presenter says: “we are all in this together” it is not referring to generations hundreds of years from now.

Focus back on 1 Corinthians 15:24 “Then the end shall come” is a big emphasis on the end of the Age Paul and his audience were still living in at the time when he wrote this epistle. He was not announcing the end of the planet, but the fast approaching, so often mentioned end of the Old Sinaitic Covenant Age. This covenant with it’s Law of Moses was already fading and was soon to be abolished, but as long as the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem its legal strength had to be upheld, even by God.

Hebrews 9 King James Version (KJV)
8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

The Old Sinai-tic Covenant represented an arranged order of Theocratic governance. It was the world of the ancient Hebrew People. It had the Temple and its sacrificial system and Priesthood at it’s center. The Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy seat inside the tent of meeting (later the Temple in Jerusalem), was the place where atonement was made, and God and man would meet. It was the place where heaven met earth and for the ancient Jewish mind it represented the center of the universe. The Holy of Holies behind the veil provided the image of Heaven where Gods presence would reside in the unapproachable light of the Shekinah Glory. The Holy place represented the Earth, and the outer courts the seas. Due to the complete absence of knowledge about these ancient Hebrew concepts the modern Christian has automatically assumed the terms “heaven and earth” must be a reference to our natural universe. No, it is ancient covenant language, symbolizing the Old Sinai-tic Covenant and it’s Temple.

Matthew 24 King James Version (KJV)
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.  

The Temple with its Old Covenant practice, including the Law of Moses would pass away. The words of Jesus would not ever pass away. Someone might argue that even the Law of Moses was God’s Word given by the pre-incarnate Christ and could therefore conflict with this exegesis. However, this is not disputing that God spoke the law as it was given to Moses on mount Sinai. This is a matter of a change of covenants, which in fact is what the whole New Testament is about. Each type of covenant had its own canon of binding rules usually recorded in writing upon stone tablets and parchments. If the covenants changed the writings and rules were updated or changed. So much of Jesus’ teaching emphasizes the arrival of the Kingdom of God, The Messianic Age, a New Covenant.
Well, there are some that object to this concept by calling it “the replacement theory”.
In my view it is fulfillment theory. Through its many intricate complex elements, the Old Sinai-tic Covenant pointed toward the Christ as its fulfillment. That Old Covenant would pass away, and Jesus’ words relevant to the New and coming Order, would never pass away. When He said this, He impressed upon His audience then, the immediacy of that coming event. Those words He spoke became relevant to the New Covenant.

John 13 King James Version (KJV)
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

The Old Sinai-tic Covenant was exclusively binding between God and the people of Israel. The New Covenant is a Covenant between God the Father and Christ the Son. Christ introduced a change of the covenants. The Old Covenant passed away, the New is here to stay.

In His answer to the disciple’s question, when all these things would come to pass, Jesus in His Olivet-Discourse elaborated in detail what signs would become the clear indicators to show that time was near.

In Matthew 24: 34 Jesus said:
34 Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

It can’t get any clearer than that. It would all happen whilst that generation He was addressing was still alive. Within a 40-year period. Caiaphas who was the High Priest at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion was still alive when the temple was finally destroyed in 70 A.D.  The Greek word Geneo translated as generation can never mean race. Making it say race to try and claim it is referring to the human race, or the Jewish race, and could therefore include people living today, is an injustice to the intelligence of those of us who just want the honest Gospel truth.

Christ’s reign

In 1 Corinthians 15 Verses 21-25 Paul says that Christ had already began reigning to some degree at the time he wrote this letter. Notice he says, “for he must reign until he puts all of his enemies under his feet” (verse 25). What reign is this? This not Christ’s eternal reign yet, or the eternal kingdom, which could only begin at the Parousia (His coming in judgment in 70 A.D.). So what reign is this that Paul is referring to here in 57 A.D.? Christ was already reigning in some sense, and if it’s not his eternal reign, then it must be his Millennial reign as outlined in Revelation 20.

Christians shocked by this statement will laugh this off and commonly reply with; how can you say that the forty-year period from Christ’s ascension until 70 A.D. is the millennial reign of Christ? That would be the shortest 1000 years ever. Yet, on closer study this analysis matches the whole outline of the highly symbolical and pictorial presentation of Revelation 20. More importantly the word millennium as used in Revelation 20 is the Greek word xílioi – and means a thousand.
It is the product of 10 x 10 x 10. It has a figurative meaning of; total inclusiveness, showing no one (nothing) is left out. The number “Ten“ in Scripture can already express the symbolic meaning „completely“. A thousand powerfully stresses the meaning „full and inclusive“ and “totality”. Like the usage of the word fullness also used in scripture, the time of forty years from Christ’s ascension until His return indicates that during this period several things had to be in place and completed first before His Parousia.

Paul implies here that the Millennial reign between his first coming (His birth, life and ministry until death) and his second coming (His Parousia) was already in progress at that time. This was the time when Christ put down all of his enemies, took the Kingdom away from the Jews, gave it back to the Father to whom it belongs, and then sat down with the Father to co-reign with him eternally. Back in the day of the Prophet Samuel, when the Israelite’s rejected God as their King and demanded a King like all the other nations, God allowed them to set up Saul as their King. But soon afterwards God sent Samuel to anoint David as the successor, from whose descendants the Messiah Jesus would arise to take the Kingdom away from the Jews and give it back to God. The day of vengeance was about to dawn upon those Jewish people who insisted to suppress the truth, denying their own Jewish brothers and sisters who were seekers of truth, their promised Messiah. Those evil conspirators had been given the forty-year period (a call to Teshuva – repentance to turn back to God) to repent and turn to their Messianic King but instead rejected Him over their love of power. The persecution of the followers of Christ was soon to return upon their own heads.

1 Thessalonians 2 King James Version (KJV)
15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

2 Thessalonians 1 King James Version (KJV)
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Matthew 21 King James Version (KJV)
43 Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

And once again

1 Corinthians 15 King James Version (KJV)
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

This Kingdom in Matthew 21:43 is really not to be confused with solely an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom, which is also the correct meaning for this word Kingdom – basileía.
Jesus took that right of the apostate Jewish people and gave access to this rule to all who are in Christ now, the true Israel of God, made up of Jews and Gentiles.

The Hope of resurrection

The resurrection of the dead out of Hades was a promise God made throughout Old Testament scripture. It was the hope (confident expectation) of Israel and should now be the Hope of every believer. However, we must look at this event from where we are in time, this side of the cross and the event of the Parousia in the first century. Contrary to popular opinion, the references to the resurrection of the dead is not in some far-off future from where the New Testament writers were stood in time. Daniel prophesied about this resurrection of the dead out of Sheol. He affirmed that the resurrection would be at the time when;

Daniel 12 King James Version (KJV)
2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

and

7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

At the time when Daniel received this vision he was told to seal it up because it was not time yet the time for these events as described in his vision to unfold. He lived about 500 years before Christ. When Christ came to this earth the time of the end of that Old Covenant age was very close, and the Kingdom of God was about to be established on earth. No, not a physical kingdom, but a spiritual Kingdom where Christ would rule as King of kings from the right hand of God the Father and rule all nations according to the New Covenant of Grace and Peace. Time, times and an half, is the exact period of 1260 days or 42 months, which perfectly corresponds with the time when the Roman armies trampled the city of Jerusalem and ultimately destroyed the Temple in between 67-70 A.D and the power of the holy people was scattered. In this way Jesus put all enemies under His feet, except..

One last enemy

1 Corinthians 15 King James Version (KJV)
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

So if that is true when will death be destroyed? If you keep reading in that same chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 it tells you exactly when death was destroyed. Also very interesting is the meaning of the Greek word that was translated as destroyed. I will leave you to look it up here.

1 Corinthians 15 King James Version (KJV)
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 56 says that the strength of sin is the Law. If we look at this word Law as a reference to the Law of Moses then we know that that Old Covenant was abolished in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem.

Yes, people still die physically, but please understand that you will see them again. This is also part of our great hope. It is the physical that dies but not the real person. Just like the outer shell of a seed, the physical body is the outer shell of the real person. It is not your physical body that goes to heaven.

1 Corinthians 15 King James Version (KJV)
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

Our physical body at the time of death will begin it’s decaying process. Yet, the real person slips out of that body.

1 Corinthians 15 King James Version (KJV)
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

and

49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

Having spend many years also studying oriental religions many of those ancient traditions teach that at the point of death the spirit/soul is freed from the restrictions of the physical body. Some of those philosophies call it nirvana as in a place in another realm or state where one is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It sounds great but that is not what the Bible and the Apostle Paul teaches. At the point of death, the spirit/soul leaves the physical body but will not be left naked or unclothed.

2 Corinthians 5 King James Version (KJV)
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

We have the beautiful promise that when we die our physical body turns back to dust, but we will not be left floating as a disembodied spirit/soul in an astral world. We will immediately be clothed upon with our immortal body fit for our eternal state in heaven with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5 King James Version (KJV)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

So here you have it. The resurrection of the dead occurred at the Parousia in that first century as so beautifully promised in the Old Testament and expressed in the accounts of the New Testament.
Since then death was destroyed, Hades or Sheol was emptied and when we die, we go straight to heaven.
Unlike the Jews who looked towards a future a resurrection of the dead to enter the eternal city made by God, we are no longer waiting for a future resurrection from the dead. It happened and is in our past. Like Abraham we can all look forward to our entrance into heaven, a city made by God, our eternal home in His presence.

Hebrews 11 King James Version (KJV)
10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

1 Thessalonians 4 King James Version (KJV)
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.