From:  A Torah Commentary on First  Corinthians 15                    Return to Home

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2012

 

 

 

 

[Page 15]

 

 

 

Chapter 1:

Development of Chapter Themes

 

 

 

 

            The foundation of the good news that Paul taught (15:1) was that Jesus had lived, died, and been resurrected from the dead—which carried with it the implicit claim that His authority was established and vindicated by escaping even physical death itself.  This “resurrection” was not a symbolic or figurative one, as seen by the fact that the risen Jesus had been seen by a wide variety of witnesses under widely different circumstances (15:5-11).  (Furthermore, the Gospels tell us they had even touched His wounds and injuries.) 

When Paul labors to prove the Christian’s future resurrection by introducing the physical one of Jesus, his readers would surely have taken what was promised them to be parallel in nature and not via some symbolic act or event:  it would involve the body, the body removed from the grave and restored to life, in a body identifiable by those who had know him or her—as Jesus’ had been.

            Survival of death is not challenged by the Corinthian dissenters.  The survival of the soul is not questioned.  That they could handle well enough.  Where they had difficulty was whether it was going to be a soul embodied in a body of some kind.  If there is to be a resurrection of anything one would expect it to be the body:  “it is the body that dies, not the soul”[1] (unless one believes in the annihilation of the wicked doctrine). 

When there were “resurrections” in Jesus’ ministry it was like that of Lazarus—a physically dead body brought to life.  Similarly those who were raised at the time of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:52).  It was within such a framework of historical precedent that the Corinthians naturally interpreted the nature of the resurrection Paul is defending. 

We use “nature of the resurrection” only in an accommodative sense.  There is not the slightest hint that they disagreed that if there was going to be a resurrection it involved a restoration to human physicality.  It was not a matter of “defining” resurrection; it was an issue of whether it was going to happen at all.  Hence the relevance of Jesus’ own triumph over death to prove that it could be done.     

            It destroyed the philosophical assumption against it by shredding it with a real world event that was supposedly impossible (15:12).  Paul labors at length paralleling Jesus’ physical resurrection with that believers should expect.  Indeed, with the latter event comes the ending of the phenomena of death itself (15:21-28). 

Hence the resurrection will not be parallel to the theory of reincarnation:  that [Page 16]   scenario has no resurrection in the first place (except, perhaps, in a “symbolic” sense) but has man living time after time after time, each life ending with death.  As Paul explains, in the resurrection, no one ever has to go through the dying experience ever again.

            Denying there is a bodily resurrection, argues Paul, means that we have no reason to exercise prudence and self-control in our lives.  (The alternatives he sees are clearly either bodily resurrection or ceasing to exist; there is no third option of continuing to exist without an individual resurrection.  Otherwise, his argument is fatally undermined).  Furthermore, if there is nothing to look forward to but the grave, then it makes sense to eat and drink and do whatever one wishes.  But once one realizes that there is something beyond individual death, then the need to avoid being entangled with depraving influences makes a convincing argument (15:34).

(No, Paul does not deny the existence of the soul, but that is irrelevant to the argument he is framing.  Indeed it is hard to avoid that conclusion that, in Paul’s mind, the idea of permanently existing in soul form only and without the “frame” of the body to ultimately be restored to, is one he considered impossible.  How does one make sense of his argument otherwise?)  

            It is natural to ask (15:35)—either out of curiosity or to challenge the doctrine of resurrection itself—what is that body going to be like?  In many ways that is an inherently unanswerable question.  How do you explain the undying to a life form in which death is now inherent?  How do you explain nuclear physics to a cave man?  The most you can do is use analogy, parallelism, and similarities to attempt to convey the broad idea of what is under discussion.

            Doing this, Paul begins by stressing that all life forms have a different appearance and nature depending upon what stage of their existence they are in.  A seed has one appearance, but when it has sprung up as wheat, for example, it looks totally different.  Yet the two are different stages of the same life form’s existence.  “There is continuity, there is predictability” that one stage will lead to the next.[2]  “. . . Wheat seed produces only the wheat plant, rye seed only the rye plant, etc.”[3]  In a similar manner the human seed is of such a nature to uniquely make possible its transformation into the glorious new form destined for eternity.

            There is both continuity and remarkable change:  a seed grows into corn; an acorn into an oak tree; a caterpillar into a butterfly.  Each requires what came first to make possible what comes next.  Hence an unbreakable linkage even when the outward appearance has been transformed into something remarkably different.[4]  “To compromise either continuity or radical transformation would be a mistake.”[5]  It’s not a matter of either/or but either/and.

            In nature, the transformations are built into the initial life form.  With humans, resurrection is not an inherent property; what God has done is to make the body in such a way that He can transform it when the time comes.  In both cases, though, the form, appearance, and nature is altered according to the stage it is going through.     

            Likewise various life forms have a distinctly different outward appearance, purpose, and function in the here and now in comparison with each other.  Paul points to the difference in “flesh” between fish and animals and human.  The flesh feels differently in each case.  As to the first two in that list, they even taste different—you’ll never confuse a fish sandwich with a hamburger at the restaurant.[6]  We accept these outward [Page 17]    differences as part of objective reality.  Even the glory of the heavenly constellations also vary from sun to moon to stars even though they aren’t living entities.

            Hence there can be no inherent object to the bodily resurrection in the fact that the body will be different.  We accept the reality of “bodily” differences in the here and now and it will be present in the future world as well.

            To the extent that one can describe the eternal body to a creature confined within dying flesh, Paul argues that the new one will be “spiritual” like those in heaven (15:42-49).  Note that it is not the resurrection that is “spiritual” but the body that replaces the one we had on earth.  For those still alive at the return of Christ, the transformation will occur to all simultaneously (15:50-52).  That transformation will be accompanied by the abolition of death itself (15:53-58).

Hence so long as physical death exists, the resurrection Paul speaks of has not occurred; no matter how many times Jesus has returned in earthly judgment on human nations for their defiance of His will--this coming has something far different in mind.  At its core it is the final preparation and transformation of His people for an eternal, heavenly existence.        

 

 

 

 

A Detailed Examination of Theme Development  

 

 

 

 

 

The foundation of the gospel was the resurrection

of Jesus from the dead (15:1-15:4)

 

 

            ATP text:  1Moreover, I would remind you, comrades, of the contents of the gospel, which I preached to you, which you accepted and on which you have taken your stand.  2By this Good News you are saved, if you hold firmly to it-- unless your faith was just empty pretense.  3For I delivered to you as of pivotal importance what I also was taught, that Christ died to remove our sins in accordance with the predictions of the scriptures, 4that He was buried, that He was raised to life again on the third day in accordance with the scriptural teaching,”

            Development of the argument:  Some of the questions that most interest us about the resurrection Paul does not deal with at all—matters such as what chronological age will we have and what kind of intellects (the same or altered)?  Based on analogy with the original Genesis creation--where the prototype couple were brought into existence with age upon them and in full perfect health--one would expect the same with the resurrection.[7]  Beyond that there seems nothing Paul could have worked with from [Page 18]   the Biblical tradition.  (In Jesus’ own case, His body still carried the bodily wounds of the cross.)

Yet such questions had no place in Paul’s polemic for if a person does not believe in a bodily resurrection to begin with, such issues would not arise at all.  It would have answered the human curiosity of some and, doubtless, become the basis for objections by yet others, but it would not have advanced the pivotal truth they needed to grasp:  “bodily existence” would continue in the resurrection.   

            Paul does not deny that there is a miracle involved in the event.  The “natural” thing is to die.  If there is to be a resurrection, by its very nature, it will have to be miraculous.[8]  Hence Paul must answer the question:  Is it reasonable to believe this?  He argues that it is just as reasonable to believe it as to believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ which he had preached and which they had claimed to believe.  One does not absolutely prove the other, but it certainly removes any a priori objection against the very notion of a personal resurrection.[9] 

            This is one of Paul’s two assumptions underlying the discussion.  The other one is implicit and is never directly stated, but which is also essential for the validity of his argument:  “Paul must assume the existence of some continuing personal entity which passes through the event and state of death to the event and state of resurrection.”[10]  Commonly this is called the “soul” or “spirit.”  (No resurrection carrying the implication of ceasing to exist could well be the point, in part, of verse 18:  “Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished”—not merely remain unforgiven, but no longer in existence.)

            His purpose is to explain what will happen to those believers who die before Christ returns:  Will they stay in the grave and, if not, what will happen to them?  (This contains a recognition that argues strongly that one must carefully hedge the common speculation that Paul was convinced that the Parousia was in the short term; otherwise the situation would not occur to enough individuals to make it a pressing concern or, quite possibly, even to mention.)

            To make his argument in favor of a bodily resurrection for all believers, he begins with a fundamental principle of his apostolic preaching:  Jesus did not remain in the grave; His body was reinvigorated and restored to temporal life.  The implication is clearly, He rose to never die again.[11]  (If he rose like Lazarus only to face death again, what redemptive value would the resurrection have?) 

It may be that their denial of the bodily resurrection of Christians in general had led some of the Corinthians to fully repudiate their original acceptance of the similar resurrection of Christ.  To the extent they were still willing to concede the physical restoration of Jesus—if they challenged it at all—their denial that such would happen to believers as well would have forced them toward making that of Jesus a one time, unique event not to be shared in by any one else.[12]  Alternatively, they may have begun to “interpret” away the “literalness” of the physical renewal of the Christian dead in some type of mystical or philosophical fashion—perhaps not so much explicitly rejecting it as removing it from discussion by substitution of a new vocabulary of assumptions and definitions when dealing with it.  If so, Paul’s words are a carillon call to them to remember the fundamentals of what they originally believed—and what the words they had used really meant--and the implications it was intended to carry for themselves.[13]

[Page 19]           Hence he speaks in terms of “reminding” them of what the gospel taught on this matter (15:1).  Its not likely they had literally forgotten it; more likely, in disputations over the existence of the resurrection, they had let slide from their memories the crucial importance of Jesus’ own experience:  If God could do it for his one Son, He could also do it for His adopted sons—bring them back from physical death and provide them, similarly, a body meeting their new needs. 

But in the heat of newly arising issues the “old” truths can easily be overlooked or their significance missed, which is what appears to have been happening in Corinth.  (If it had been an on-going issue, one would have anticipated Paul dealing with it when first among them; this argues that the disagreement had arisen only at a later date.) 

 It wasn’t as an act standing alone, that caused what happened to Jesus to be pivotal.  The gospel which they had accepted and claimed to continue to accept (15:1) also proclaimed that it made possible their salvation (15:2) since Jesus “died for our sins” in fulfillment of the teaching of the ancient “Scriptures” (15:3).  He was buried and “rose” from the dead, again as “the Scriptures” had foretold would occur (15:4). 

This represented a dramatically new interpretative approach to the Hebrew scriptures:  the surviving ancient Jewish interpretations regularly speak of the coming Messiah but do not embrace the idea of one who dies.[14]   Paul’s recognition of this difficulty can be seen in his describing the dying Christ as a stumbling block (1:23) 

            He warns them that they must continue to accept that resurrection belief lest they have believed “in vain (ATP:  your faith was just empty pretense)” (15:2).  This could be taken in several senses: that (1) it was “in vain” if they’ve given up what they once believed; (2) it was “in vain” if what they believed was based on error and was untrue, i.e., a useless and empty belief; (3) it was “in vain” because it was only the verbal appearance of acceptance while, deep down, they still found the idea of Jesus’ resurrection uncomfortable or unacceptable. 

The last yields a rendering along the line of “unless your faith was just empty pretense.”  Most translations proceed along the line of Paul warning of the danger that they will abandon their existing belief.  If one assumes just a shade of sarcasm underlying Paul’s indignation, the ATP’s selection of the alternative approach will make a great deal of sense.  In light of the length at which he makes his argument it is hard to avoid seeing in his words just such an element of annoyance, disdain, indignation—call it whatever one will.

 

 

 

 

The reality of this resurrection was repeatedly

verified by eyewitnesses of varying numbers

and in differing locations (15:5-15:11)

 

 

            ATP text:  5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve apostles.  6After that He appeared to more than five hundred comrades at one time, most of whom remain alive today, though some have fallen asleep in death.  7After that He appeared to James, [Page 20]   then to all the apostles.  8Then last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, He appeared also to me.  9For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle at all, because I inflicted so much brutal adversity on the assembly of God.  10But by the divine favor of God I have become what I am, and this grace toward me was not without effect:  I labored even harder than all of them.  Yet it is not I who should be given the credit, but the favor of God that is working with me.  11Whether then it was I or they, so we all preach and this is what you came to believe.”

            Development of the argument:  Hence the idea of a dying and resurrected Messiah did not merely rest upon an exegesis of selected Torah and prophetic texts (15:3-4), it was confirmed by those who saw Him under diverse and widely different circumstances.  This does not claim to be a complete list:  Immediately springing to mind are “that the Roman soldiers witnessed Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 18:11); that Mary was the first [believer] to see Jesus (John 20:16-18), a group of [believing] women saw Jesus (Matthew 28:8-10), and that the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus also saw Him before He appeared to the twelve (Luke 24:13-16ff).”[15]  Likewise some people saw the risen Jesus at least twice:  we read of “the twelve” in 15:5 and later “all the apostles” in 15:7.[16] 

            The various witnesses saw him alone, in groups, and upon one occasion as many as five hundred individuals shared in the experience (15:5-7).  In Biblical apologetics this is utilized to rule out a subjectively emotionally generated self-deception of His closest followers, the apostles in particular.   Likely a similar motive was, at least in part, in Paul’s mind when he composed his words.

            If one wishes to call the appearance before 500 an argument from quantity,[17] we might label the remainder an argument from “quality.”  If 500 were unlikely to mistake a man they knew at least reasonably well, those who had traveled with him for many months were even less likely to confuse the real Jesus with a look alike or to tolerate a deception concerning a man they revered so much.

            The last person to see Jesus was Paul himself (15:8).  Throughout his listing of appearances, there is the ever present “then”—explicit or implied.  They were a series, one after another.  “Then last of all,” it was Paul.  He was the last and final person to see Jesus; no one else was to be blessed with the kind of appearance and intermingling with the Lord that these men had enjoyed.[18]  

He felt unworthy of that encounter which had made him an apostle because of guilt over the persecution he had inflicted upon the church (15:9).  God had forgiven him but in a real sense “Paul never forgave himself;” unfortunately, perhaps, “the forgiveness of sin does not obliterate the remembrance of it.”[19]  Especially when one comes to realize, like Paul, how gratuitous and unjustified had been his behavior.  (On the other hand, what greater goad to avoid such actions in the future?) 

An immense amount of literature has been produced attempting to establish that Paul, somehow, had a pre-existing guilt from an even earlier date—a chronic on-going, presumably life-time condition--that resulted in his mind producing a self-generated “vision” of the “resurrected” Jesus.  Embracing that vision became the way out of his guilt.  That he felt profoundly guilty after conversion for his persecutionary actions is well established; that he felt it while he was doing it is purely conjectural.  That his sense of moral/spiritual inadequacy could have produced the sight of a living Jesus assumes that Judaism was falling far short of his spiritual needs.  At least as far as the New

[Page 21]   Testament records it, it appears that it was because of his absolute confidence that nothing additional was needed--and as a burning affirmation of his faith in the Judaic system--that he undertook the severe actions against the Christian dissident movement.  He did it not to assuage guilt but to prove his steadfast loyalty to the truth he loved and which, he was convinced, the Christians were undermining. 

Hence the available evidence only permits us to say that when his blindness of mind hit the stone wall of reality--Jesus standing before Him--that the guilt then appeared.  He was stripped bare of the assumption that he had been promoting Truth and unwillingly forced to the recognition that he had innocent blood on his hands.  How else could any honest man react but with profound guilt—and still feel it years later?       

Whatever we describe the phenomena he observed on the Damascus road, it compelled a total reversal of what he had previously held dear.  It presented not only the opportunity to begin again, but one that he zealously embraced.  So much so that in the current text he emphasizes that God’s grace had not been bestowed in vain but he labored even “more abundantly (ATP:  harder)” than the others had (15:10). 

They remembered their obedience; he remembered his defiance.  Once humbled, he felt obligated to work even harder than they.  Be that as it may, whether it was Paul who was doing the preaching or the other apostles, they all taught the message of Jesus’ resurrection (5:11).

 

 

 

 

Jesus was the test case that answered the

question of whether a resurrection was possible

at all (15:12-15:20)

 

 

            ATP text:  12Now if Christ is preached by all of us as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there will be no resurrection of the dead?  13But if the resurrection of the dead is inherently impossible, then not even Christ has been raised; 14if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is worthless and your faith is worthless as well.  15In addition we are guilty of misrepresenting what God has done, because we testified about God that He raised Christ--whom He could not have raised if it is true that the dead are not brought back to life at all.  16This must be because if the dead are never raised, then it was impossible for Christ to have been raised either.  17Furthermore if Christ has not been raised, your faith is of no value and you still carry your sins.  18In that case those who have died while in Christ have been lost.  19If it is only during this life that we have hope in Christ, we are of all people the most pitiful.  20But the reality is that Christ has been raised from the dead, and is the first proof of what will happen to all those who have fallen asleep in death.”

            Development of the argument:  The key to understanding the relationship of this section to what Paul had just written is to emphasize the closing words of the previous one:  “Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (15:11).  [Page 22]   He is working out the consequences in the related—but separate—issue of whether they, too, will be resurrected.[20]

            One of the most eccentric interpretations of scripture I have ever come across is that of Covenant Eschatologists who contend that the controversy in chapter 15 is not over the resurrection of believers in general, but whether it would occur to those who were raised, lived, and died obedient to the Torah.  In other words, they were actually disputing the status of “faithful Jews of the Old Covenant,” insists Max King.[21] 

            There is no hint that this subject is under consideration in our text.  What is done to get around this considerable difficulty, is to take the fact that in some places at least, there were disputes about the role of Israel and the Jews in God’s working out of human salvation.  Romans 9-11 is given special emphasis as evidence. 

            Where in 1 Corinthians do we have the slightest hint of a controversy relating to such matters, one that might have a spill over into the issue of resurrection?  Remember that there is a profound difference between “might” and “probably.”  First we have to give convincing evidence that there was a “Jewish issue” of any nature in Corinth.  Then we have to find evidence or a chain of solid reasoning why--whatever was the specific controversy--that it would become wrapped into the matter of resurrection as well. 

Think of the book of Galatians:  There we have an abundance of evidence of a “Judaizing” problem but we have no evidence that it “spilled over” into any questions about believer resurrection.  If 1 Corinthians 15 were in Galatians, at least one might have something to conjecture from—conjecture, not prove.  Even there, however, it was not a matter of those who had in the past lived and died under the Old Testament, but, rather, binding that law on Gentiles in their contemporary world.  Hence you could easily have a dispute about something related to Judaism without any reason to assume it involved resurrection beliefs.      

            Since Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 are from the Old Testament, faithful Jews were being promised the resurrection.  FTP advocates adopt those texts and apply it to the church.  Are they seriously going to argue that the faithful Jews the prophecies were written to were going to be considered as excluded from the resurrectionary blessing that they—not Gentiles or Christians in the original setting—were promised? 

There is room there for both (as we will see when we discuss that text), but is there room there for the exclusion of those the epistle was originally written to?  On what basis would first century Christians have thought so?  In short, how could the deduction possibly have arisen and become a matter of controversy?     

            But laying all that aside, let us ask what does the text of 1 Corinthians tell us about Jews?  Paul refers to how he went out of his way to assure, by his example, that He took Judaism seriously (1 Corinthians 9:20) and cites, at length, examples that could be learned from Jewish history (chapter 10).  This certainly does not sound like there were profound tensions over the place of Jews past or current.[22]  We would not expect citations in that manner if there were.     

            Furthermore, Robert B. Strimple rightly observes, “Note well that when the apostle speaks of the Jews in chapter 9, or of our forefathers who were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea in chapter 10—or when he speaks of the Israelites in Romans 9-11—he refers to them in clear, straightforward, unmistakable terms.”[23]  Why would we expect anything different, if concerns about their resurrection was the “real” denial being made in 1 Corinthians 15?  In light of the complete absence of evidence [Page 23]   otherwise, we have no choice but to work from the assumption that the denial of the resurrection was of all believers and not just part.

The fact that the resurrection they admitted was a physical one argues strongly that the one they were denying was also physical.  To shift from physicality to a different type of “resurrection” would be to make the proof from Jesus’ precedent totally irrelevant.  Furthermore if they knew as a fact from Paul’s personal teaching that theirs was to be non-physical in nature, it would have been a natural deduction to assume that the precedent for their resurrection—that of Jesus—was similarly non-physical. 

At the most, that approach would mean that Christ took on a physical appearance/shell for very limited times and then disposed of it after each usage since His real resurrected essence was non-tangible.  Since even this would break the parallelism of Christ and Christians, the assumption of visionary appearances to His disciples would likely have been far more appealing.  This way they would be rid of the disconcerting physicality that “can’t” be there in the case of human resurrection.  Rid of it totally.

On this point Totally Fulfilled Eschatology creates an inexorable pressure to repudiate any physicality of Jesus’ as well.  They don’t as of yet—but the inherent contradictory tensions between defining “resurrection” in such diametrically different directions creates vast pressure in order to fully develop the internal consistency of their beliefs.  And the desire for consistency is what got them from the “near” passages in the gospels and Revelation to reinterpreting the definition of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 in the first place.

            Verse 20 provides good evidence that raises the high probability of an individual, personal, bodily resurrection even higher.  Wayne Jackson notes that[24] 

 

in verse 20, the text states the Lord ‘hath been raised from the dead’ (literally, ‘out of the dead ones’).  To what sort of resurrection does that refer?  Obviously, Christ’s bodily resurrection. . . .  Note verse 20:  Jesus is the ‘firstfruits of them that are asleep.  Again, in verse 23:  ‘Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at His coming.’  These are plural, personal pronouns; they denote individual people, not an impersonal institution, e.g., the Christian system.

 

If Christ was the “firstfruits” of those physically raised in bodily form from the dead, then the internal logic of the verse must be that the rest of the “crop” (i.e., believing Christians in general) will undergo a resurrection of the same nature. 

Since the Corinthians conceded the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, Paul is puzzled by the apparently tempting belief among them that the dead are not resurrected (5:12).  We must be careful to not over-inflate their numbers, however.  The reference to “some” deniers argues that he is speaking of far from a majority.  On the other hand, it must have been at least a sufficiently large number that it could not be overlooked or that their individual congregational/societal importance meant that they would have a disproportionate influence on the group.[25] 

            The denial of their own bodily resurrection was not an abstract issue, Paul argues; it had the most profound logical repercussions:  “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen” (15:13).  They are, if you will, the two sides of the same “resurrection coin.”[26]  So far as Paul is concerned, “A denial of human resurrection must involve a denial of Christ’s resurrection.”[27]  (At least if individuals are consistent.)  You [Page 24]   can’t separate the two; they are “superglued” together.  But they’ve already granted the key, pivotal assumption:  the possibility and reality of bodily resurrection of One person, but refuse to work out what is, in Paul’s eyes, the inevitable logic of such:  their own personal resurrection as well.

There is at least one way they could have justified the denial that Christians would be resurrected with the confidence that it had no impact upon what they thought of Jesus’ own conquest of death.  They could well have argued that that was a special and unique case.  By wording his argument as he does in verse 13, Paul seems clearly arguing that this won’t work.  The two are permanently interlocked; the Lord’s foreshadows our own, while if ours does not occur how can we, consistently, have any real confidence in His?  How can you dismiss one without dismissing the other?[28]  

            Consistently applying their absolutist denial premise that resurrection does not occur, there was no way He could have been.[29]  He is holding their feet to the rhetorical fire with a vengeance to make it “burn through” their refusal to see the grim reality:  if they apply their logic of disbelief to Christ as they do to their own fleshly destiny, the result is spiritually fatal:  The preaching they had accepted was stripped “empty” of validity and substance as was their “faith” that had been built upon that preaching (15:14).  The quality of his teaching skill was not affected in the least, but without the contents being true as well, it was all an exercise in uselessness.[30]  (Today we would, perhaps, describe it as “all bluster and no substance.”)  Deliverance and liberation from sin were still beyond their reach.[31] 

This did not affect the words of Paul alone.  Since the apostles had repeatedly attested that they had seen the risen Christ, then the apostles and others who spoke and eaten with Him were far beyond being merely “wrong” or men who “got their facts wrong by accident.”[32]  Their very ongoing emphasis that it had happened made them liars or deluded, “false witnesses” to an event that never occurred (15:15).  (Remember that  “false witness” is a legal term, i.e., before any court of law they would all have been guilty of perjury—if what they had said had not really happened.)[33]  Any temptation to embrace such a deception scenario had to be undercut by the recognition that these men had traveled far and wide and endured both hard times and outright injustice.[34]  All that to peddle a knowing delusion?  Even the cynics among the Corinthians would have had to recoil.

            But if their faith in the resurrection of Jesus is futile, then those Christians who have died have perished (15:18).  “Perish” as in John 3:16 where that is the alternative to having “everlasting life.”[35]  Yet it can well mean far more than that since “perished” would also fit to a “t” ceasing to exist.  The wording is certainly broad enough to cover both!  And since Paul wishes to stress their utter hopelessness, it is more a question of finding a reason not to include it rather than whether to. 

But if there is no hope for us beyond death, then of all the human race we are “the most pitiable” (15:19).  Why do we honor any restraints and reign in our desires when there is nothing either good or bad beyond the current world?  Unbelievers who think along such lines will take full advantage of everything that comes their way and not be restrained by the blessings of a resurrected life.  “False hope” does not reign them in.[36]  We are “the most pitiable” because we neither believe in a resurrection nor take advantage of the fact that this life is all there is.  Assuming, of course, there is no resurrection.

[Page 25]         But the reality is that Christ has been raised from the dead, the first to be raised to die no more—but only the first to undergo the same transformation we will (15:20).  In this section, the Totally Fulfilled Eschatological view runs into a buzz saw just as did the Corinthian deniers.  Paul’s whole argument is based upon the fundamental premise that a physical resurrection has occurred in Jesus and that that refutes their denial of personal resurrection.  If there is any validity to the apostolic argument, then the Corinthians must have been denying their own physical resurrection; no other kind of “resurrection” could have been disproved by the physical resurrection of the Nazarene than one of the same temporal nature. 

 

           

 

 

 

Our personal resurrection does not stand

alone—with it comes the ending

of death itself (15:21-15:28)

 

 

            ATP text:  21For just as by a man came death, by a Man also has come the resurrection of the dead:  22For as through Adam all die, so also through Christ all will be made alive.  23But each must occur in the proper order: Christ as the first example, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.  24Then comes the end, when He returns the kingdom to God the Father after removing every opposing rule and authority and power.  25For He must reign until He has subjugated all His enemies under His control.  26The last opponent that will be conquered is death.  27"For God has put all things in subjection under his conquering feet."  But when it says, "all things are put in subjection under Him," it is clear that the exception to this subjection is the One who brought it all about.  28When all things are brought under His power, then the Son Himself also will be subject to the One who brought that about, so that God will rule completely over all.”

            Development of the argument:  In a sense Paul has dealt with a number of “doctrinal” issues in this book (sexual morality, supernatural gifts, etc.).  Yet we have a tendency to apply the expression to “abstract” formulations and theories rather than to matters of practice in the here and now.  Hence, in that sense, chapter 15 raises about the only “doctrinal” issue in the epistle:  the popular denial of the resurrection of the individual Christian believer.  Why it should have arisen in Corinth and what were the philosophical or theoretical rationale(s) behind it, Paul does not bother to describe.  He is simply out to present the opposing case.

            Any or all the various theoretical possibilities may have been present (see difficult texts section below), varying from individual Christian to Christian.  What he aims to deal with is not the speculative reason for a denial of personal resurrection, but why the doctrine should be permanently rejected in favor of personal restoration to bodily existence.  Paul argues that it is only right that by Man the resurrection was demonstrated since by man the death that ends temporal life was itself introduced into the world (15:21).[37] 

[Page 26]          Although we have rendered 15:22 in the ATP as “through Adam all die, so also through Christ all will be made alive” in order to stress the instrumentality of death and revival, a more literal rendering would be “in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (this or with minor differences:  NKJV, NASB, RSV, Rotherham, BBE, Holman, ISV, Darby, Young). 

Although “in Christ” can be used, contextually, in several senses (faith in Christ, for example) here it seems clearly code language—as in so many other places—for being God’s people, Christians:  “You are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:10)’ “you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28); “we, being many, are one body in Christ” (Romans 12:5).

That this group should have “life” both now and in the future—spiritual now; physical in the context of discussion in 1 Corinthians 15—is quite natural in light of how that category of people is described:  “Redemption . . . is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11); “in Christ Jesus” is where one finds “the love of God” (Romans 8:39); “in Christ Jesus” is where the “blood of Christ” has brought to God those who once “far off” (Ephesians 2:13); everyone who is “in Christ” is “sanctified” and called to be a “saint” (= set apart to God’s service) (1 Corinthians 1:2). 

(Having “the love of God” and being “sanctified” had already been accomplished for the Corinthians.  Hence there is no reason to assume that the “redemption” in Romans 6:11 or “the blood of Christ” bringing them to God in Ephesians 2:13  had to wait till decades later to be accomplished for them—though TFE doesn’t make it a full reality until then.)

If to be “in Christ” is to be a believer, then to be “in Adam” would be to be in the unregenerated part of the human race.  Not necessarily “evil” in the sense of being outrageously immoral or depraved, but with a different set of priorities and interests, among which serving God as the center of one’s existence definitely does not appear.  Being in that category one has no hope for forgiveness of sin (spiritual salvation) nor any reason to hope for bodily resurrection (physical redemption, if you will).  Indeed, the logically consistent individual would fervently hope against the latter for then one would need a defensible reason for having ignored the One who makes both possible.

All who transgress God’s will, Paul reminds us, will “die,” but through Jesus even physical death can be overcome and one “be made alive” in the body once again (15:22).  We have here an argument from the “fittingness”[38] or appropriateness that a resurrection should occur.

            As to the “chronology,” the resurrection of Jesus was merely the “firstfruits” of the general resurrection of His people (15:23).  Others had risen to die again while “Christ rose to die no more.  He rose to live in the power of an endless life.  He rose with a glorified body.”[39]  In short, He arose with an endless future and a greater and more wonderful body—just as believers are promised in this chapter.  To have Jesus, an individual, resurrected physically and the Christians not to have such a resurrection (as in TFE) would be to shift the meaning of the term.  By citing the evidence of a physical resurrection as “firstfruits” of what the Corinthians were to anticipate, what more evidence could Paul provide that he was not speaking of “resurrection” in some kind of symbolic rather than literal sense?   Some kind of group rather than individual application?

It happening to Jesus was a proof, if you will, that it could be done.

[Page 27]

Aside:

A One Time Event or a Continuous Resurrection? 

 

Some full preterists go from their normal support of one resurrection day—though misapplying both its nature and date to the first century—to what might well be called continuous resurrection.   Their own preference is “immortal body at death,” a concept to which, at least some of them, will actually apply the word “resurrection” as well.[40]  (Note “some,” rather than all.)  In this approach, Max King’s contention is invoked that 15:35ff does not refer to what was fully accomplished in 70 A.D.; rather it describes the result of that all out victory, the opportunity of all Christians to obtain their eternal body at death.[41] 

We see obvious difficulties here:

To begin with, if that is a “prophesied” event—and it surely is, if actually contained in 1 Corinthians and concerning the then future—what happens to the assertion, “All prophecy was fulfilled by/in 70 A.D.?”

After persistently insisting that “nearness” language must apply to the parousia, the judgment, the resurrection etc. and that it all came in 70 A.D., it is hard to see how one can then reverse course and proclaim, “But everyone who came later is still going to get the same blessings.”  Especially if you apply the term resurrection to it.  If you do, how can you possibly insist that the resurrection was a one time event, finished and over with while, so to speak, the New Testament was virtually still wet on its pages from recent composition?

Even if one does not perpetuate resurrection language in regard to “continuous resurrection,” there remain serious difficulties here.  For example, there is still a profound reversal in reasoning:  The resurrection was a collectivity event and “if you don’t understand that you haven’t understood Paul right,” now turns into something that happens to each and every one of us as individuals.  One at a time; not as a group.  Even millenniums afterwards, at that.  How can you possibly justify the two contradictory approaches?

As an outsider, it looks like a strategy to save the possibility of our sharing in those blessings because the Covenant Eschatologist doesn’t want to give them up for our generation.  He/she is unwilling to be “man” enough to accept the consequence of their doctrine:  that redemption and resurrection were a blessing promised to those who lived before or were alive at 70 A.D. and not those of us born later.  If it were the case, there would be prophecies still to be fulfilled and there simply aren’t any.  We are told.       

1 Corinthians 15:23 is vital to establishing their approach, “Each one in his own order. . . .”  Paul tells us what that order is, however, “But each one in his own order:  (1)  Christ the firstfruits, (2) afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming.  Those at the top of the list are actually only one person; then, second, everyone who is Christ’s faithful “follower at His coming.”  There is no mention of anyone “after His coming” and, without at least that much, the argument doesn’t even have a fig leaf to hide its fundamental difficulty. 

Yet this text becomes transferred into a never-ending list—literally, since this physical world is never intended to end, they tell us.  First was Jesus; second in order are all the Old Testament era saints brought out of Hades.  (Strange, Paul doesn’t think it an [Page 28]   important enough fact to mention.)  Then comes 70 A.D. where the remainder of the dead are resurrected.  (Note that one is already beyond one “resurrection” to two distinct ones of human beings.)  Then comes those vital words “in his own order.”  As John Noe writes, “From then on, it’s repeated over and over again in the lives of individual believers who are born, saved, die, and experience resurrection at different times.  Again, it’s ‘each in his or her own turn/order.’ ”[42]    

This flies in the face of Paul’s own two-fold categorization, imposing on it a three-fold one for the up to 70 A.D. period alone, and billions of additional ones through the remainder of earth time.  It is a process never intended to end for the earth will never cease.  Yet the bulk of readers will read the text and find it impossible to see anything other than a one-point-in-time event for all believers—even if the FTP approach were conceded to be justified and that point was in the Jewish War of the 60s.

In another of those creative improvisations that so drive non-Full Preterists up the walls in frustration, we are confidently assured that the closing words don’t really mean “at His coming.”  To be properly rendered, the text must be “after His coming.”[43] 

In a highly technical sense one might even accept the substitution:  He descends and we then ascend with Him.  He has His parousia (coming) and we join Him in His leaving.  In other words, the most that would be changed in a normal non-FTP reading of the text would be—well, actually nothing.  The event would look the same and appear the same.  Hence, even if the new wording were to be granted, nothing more than this modest alteration would be required—it would still happen to all at the same time.  There would be nothing in it to require a never-ending process!

If the text was written to justify our “resurrection” (or functional equivalent), when did those who died between the Cross and 70 A.D. get their resurrection?  Only those who perish “after” the resurrection are mentioned in the supposedly “corrected” text.  In a traditional end of earth time scenario, this kind of problem does not exist for it happens all at one time.  Indeed, whenever we place the resurrection event, Paul lumps the participants as all being blessed in this way as if at the same time.

However there is really no adequate ground for altering the translation to “after” in the first place, so even that thin reed is removed from their speculation.  A look at the varied translations demonstrates this:   

“At His coming:”  BBE, ESV, Darby, Holman, NASB, NKJV, RSV, WEB

“When He comes:  ISV, NIV

“At the time of His coming:”  TEV

“At His return:  Weymouth
            “When He returns:”  CEV

When one is desperately in need of a backup text—from somewhere—either Rotherham or Young’s Literal are often the last resort.  Yes, both can do a good job but they, more often, seem guilty of making the text obscurer by a methodology that allows “literalism” to gut communication.  They read—note the phrase “in His presence” having no obvious relationship to anything and making the text far less understandable-- 

Rotherham:  “But, each, in his own rank:--A firstfruit, Christ, after that, they who are the Christ's, in his presence.”

Young:  “And each in his proper order, a first-fruit Christ, afterwards those who are the Christ's, in his presence.”

Even here, there is no comfort:  “they/those who are the Christ’s” do indeed come [Page 29]   “after that/afterwards,” but they are presented as if a group of individuals to whom the event all occur at the same time.  The “continuous” part of “continuous resurrection” is clearly absent. 

Furthermore, the reference point of “afterwards” is explicitly and clearly identified--as after Christ; not after a first group of believers.  However, we define “resurrection,” it is—inherently—after that of Christ occurred.

 

 

The “Thought Flow” Continued

 

At the time of Paul (like today) much of the human race refused to accept His claim of sovereignty over the earth.  That would ultimately end.  He would reign till He subjected “all rule and all authority and power” to Himself (15:24). 

Indeed, all His enemies would eventually be subjected (15:25).  The traditional and more literalistic rendering “under his feet” was originally intended as literally true.  You subjected a city or a region or a country and its surviving ranking leader(s) would bow and the conqueror would put his foot literally on their head or neck.  “It implied that full power, authority and rule had been assumed by the conqueror over the conquered, and that the conquered would remain henceforth in complete submission to their conqueror.”[44]  There was a deliberate element of humiliation in this, assuring that no one could doubt that the triumph was full and complete. 

(A terrible problem for TFP here:  does any person who reads the newspaper, listens to television news, hears radio news, believe that Jesus has yet done this?  Our thoroughly messed up world of corruption and bloodshed is what comes from a triumphant Christ?  To make the scenario work you have to radically disconnect Paul’s words from real world experience and make the words take on special non-material meanings that simply do not naturally flow out of the language.

(That is the road to anything and everything you wish for then language can literally mean anything you desire as you substitute your interpretive gloss for what is actually said.  Doing it not because, without it, the text makes little sense, but because as is it makes all too much sense but in a direction contrary to your preference.)

(A second aside:  At least the Covenant Eschatology variant of TFP makes the “last enemy” of “death” refer to spiritual death.  When the power of spiritual death, i.e., sin is removed.  In conventional interpretation that occurred through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.  In Covenant Eschatology the blood was shed then but was not actually “offered” in the heavenly tabernacle until 70 A.D.  Physical death is never to disappear. 

(Many would not recognize sin if it kicked them in the head like a mule—I once met a young man that happened to—but everyone recognizes physical death as the enemy, even when it comes as “blessed relief” to pain and suffering.  That great enemy is never to be reined in and crushed but to rule triumphant for eternity in spite of the power of God and His Anointed One.  Certainly doesn’t sound, to most folks, as consistent with the Pauline image of crushing all enemies.)    

However one treats such speculations, the ultimate and “last enemy (ATP:  opponent)” to be forced into submission—Paul assures us--will be death itself (15:26). Paul had described death under the peaceful euphemism of “sleep” (15:18).  It is a quite [Page 30]   natural one.  In a peaceful death, a person looked like they were sleeping.  Hence Jesus’ use of the term of a young girl when everyone knew full well she was dead (Matthew 9:24).  The local graves at the time of Jesus’ own resurrection were (in an unknown number) opened and “the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:52). 

The use of the term by Paul is likely intended “to mean that death is no more permanent nor potent than a sleep in the hands of a God who raises people from the dead.  It is something a believer will rise up from very much alive and renewed.”[45]

From the believer’s standpoint, the resurrection is as if one were coming out of sleep; from Christ’s standpoint it is the penultimate expression of His power and our resurrection is His humiliation of mankind’s never ending foe.  There are a million ways to die but you end up in the same state by all of them—dead.  Except for a very few pictured as taken to heaven by God, none have ever escaped it.  But Jesus not only rolls death back by the resurrection, he annihilates its ability to ever destroy again.

            No wonder Jesus is described as having “all things” under His control!  Jesus’ authority is barely limited:  Only God who gave Him that authority is exempt (15:27).  When Jesus Himself triumphs over all things, then He will again subject Himself to the Father (15:28).  In other words, the purposes and intents of the two are so in line that the kingship of one can be folded into the other without bitterness or rancor or resentment.  The purposes of Christ’s reign will have been completed and He will be ready to hand over that power back to the One who had made it possible.

            The subjection it should be noted is a voluntary one—just as Jesus’ willingness to come to earth (Philippians 2:3-8).[46]  Both occur as part of His Father’s plan to salvage the human race from sin and excess.  And it is clearly described as a dramatic change in Jesus’ power status:  “For he must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25). 

            Strangely, some consider that this will in no way interfere with His Kingly status, prerogatives, and powers.  The pioneer of contemporary TFE thought, Max King, sums it up in this concise sentence, “The word ‘till’ does not denote cessation of reign, but rather points to a time and an event that will be the zenith of his reign.”[47]  In one sense it is the zenith of Christ’s power—the last enemy of death has been destroyed!  All has been accomplished that needs to be accomplished by Him.  The job is over.  But that also means, it is the time to hand the kingdom to God (15:24) and to be “subject” to Him once again, having fully accomplished His assignment.   

So the claim is at least partially true but has nothing to do with the point being made in the verse.  “Till” implies something different--cessation not triumph.  That is the subject matter of the verse.  It is made possible by the triumph over death but the triumph is not the point being made, but the yielding of the Kingship.

When we tell a teenager that they can be out “till” 11 PM, we don’t really expect them wandering in a year later.  Likewise if Jesus was to rule “till” His foes were all defeated, the return of the kingdom would not be something indefinitely or permanently delayed.  The fact that the triumph has completely fulfilled the final goal of His reign—the elimination of death—is why He can return powers to His Father.  All has been done that needed to be done.  Triumph and joyful subordination accompany each other.    

            TFP had to resort to such redefinition of normal language if it hoped to make the kingdom’s law remain in effect after the 70 A.D. “second coming.”  Our text shows that [Page 31]   the “second coming” it has under discussion—supposedly also in A.D. 70 according to TFP—has the ultimate triumph of Jesus, which marks  the ending of His rule.  To avoid this contradiction the definition of “till” had to be altered.

Furthermore the redefinition of everyday language is required to preserve the Lord’s Supper for today for 1 Corinthians 11:26 informed these same people, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”  There’s no room there for partaking of it afterwards.  When you have to put unnatural meanings on normal sounding language, that is a profound indication of fundamental weakness and not merely an ignorable “loose end” in one’s speculations.

            At that point of returning the kingdom to His Father, “then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him” (15:28).  The Son’s power relationship is changed; it is no longer the same as when He Himself ruled as King over His kingdom. 

Christ’s kingdom will be eternal in that it will never end, but its leadership will be handed back to the One who gave it to Jesus in the first place—to be ruled by the Father forever, to continue as God’s eternal kingdom.[48]  Jesus’ role in it is left undefined by scripture.  With Himself as loyalist subject to Jehovah, as His subordinate ruler, as day to day de facto “hands on” authority figure?  We don’t know.

We do know that there is a time limit on His own “exclusive” rule (the “till” in 15:25) and the fact that in some meaningful sense Jesus will “be subject” once again to His Father (15:28).  That requires surrendering both the prerogatives of rulership and being the Kingdom’s supreme authority.  The kingship, in short, will be yielded back to the original and ultimately permanent King of the universe.     

Or did the Father intend to vacate the throne permanently?  That is the alternative TFP seems to unintentionally require.  For if the transfer is not referred to here, then upon what text does one conclude that it will ever occur?  And if such a text can be found, then there is such a thing as “unfulfilled prophecy,” which we are told is not the case.  (For additional discussion see 15:28 under in the “Problem Texts” section.)

 

  

 

 

 

Argument for the resurrection from the

practice of contemporary Christians

(15:29-15:34)

 

 

            ATP text:  29Otherwise, what do people mean who are immersed for the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why are people buried in water for them?  30Why also am I running the risk of danger every hour?  31I affirm to you comrades—as surely as I have pride in you for being followers of Christ Jesus our Lord—I die every day!  32What do I get out of it from a human perspective, if I fought with “wild beasts” at Ephesus?  If the dead are not raised, "Let us overly indulge in food and drink, for tomorrow we die."  33Do not be deceived: "Evil associations ruin good moral character."  34It is time to become [Page 32]    clear minded and stop your sinning.  I speak this to your shame:  Some of you have no true knowledge of God on this subject.”

            Development of the argument:  Paul argues that there is an illogic inherent in their contending there is no resurrection.  If there is none, why were they “baptized for the dead” (15:29)?  Why do the apostles stand in danger on an on-going basis (15:30) when they did not have anything at stake beyond this fleeting life?[49]  Paul himself felt like he “die[d] daily,” so intense were the dangers (15:31).  He had “fought with beasts” at Ephesus but what value was it if there was no resurrection (15:32)? 

We see here a barely hidden indication of just how pressured Paul sometimes felt.  A pressure not based upon paranoia or exaggeration but because, in the right place or the right time, the world can be an extremely dangerous place.  A nineteenth century scholar quotes Sophocles’ Electra on a very similar theme, “I have no rest by night, nor moment of repose to enfold me; but Time, ever standing over me, was as a jailer who conducted me to death.”[50]  Yet what moral virtue can steadfastness under duress demonstrate if the next life one so anticipates is mere myth? 

The denial of a resurrection degenerates lifestyle in the here and now.  If there is no resurrection then the adage is true, “Let us eat, and drink (ATP:  overly indulge in food and drink), for tomorrow we die” (15:32).  “Paul uses the quotation,” Anthony C. Thistleton rightly observes, “to press home the utter futility of a life founded only by the five senses of the bio-physical self with no perception of what lies ahead, beyond the grave.”[51]  Or because one denies there is anything beyond the grave.

The moral inhibitions are easily removed when such temporal binders are worn; for the totally consistent (fortunately most are not!), anything goes that is enjoyable or self-advantageous.  Without an external source to guide and limit our choices, we will naturally imitate those people we count as our close friends and associates.  Likewise if we are not firmly linked to the belief in answerability after we die.  (And, as we saw earlier, Paul apparently saw no logical way for a Christian to believe in any personal survival of death if that “part” were not to be ultimately reunited with an individual body.)

Mortals often need little excuse to be self-centered or do wrong and what inhibitions exist are easily “bled away” by their unconcern.    If they can not envision a “tomorrow” (after death), what sense of responsibility are they likely to have in regard to morality and restraint in the “today?”[52]  And what excess will they—in their ignorance—encourage us toward?  In one sense what they are saying is “nonsense,”[53] but Paul astutely recognizes that it is highly enticing nonsense.  Hence if they follow a path of evil, as their close (and admiring?) associates, eventually we usually will as well (15:33). 

Without the responsibility imposed by an acknowledgment of the resurrection, where are the inhibitions to come from to tell us not to engage in excess?  Don’t make the mistake of others, Paul urges.  “Awake” to a life of “righteousness” and avoid a life of chronic sin (15:34).  But the very need to remind them of something so fundamental embarrasses Paul, “I speak this to your shame” (15:34).

 

 

 

 

[Page 33]

A resurrected body requires a dramatically

changed body as well (15:35-15:38)

 

 

            ATP text:  35But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised to life?  With what kind of body do they return?"  36The questions of a foolish person!  The seed you plant does not come to life unless it “dies” first 37and that which you sow is never the full-grown body of what will eventually be.  It is now merely a seed--perhaps of wheat or of something else.  38Then God gives it a body as He has selected and to each kind of seed its own appropriate fully-grown form.”

            Development of the argument:  An anonymous “someone will say” (15:35) is introduced as making the objections that Paul presumably has had relayed to him.  Names omitted, as if they were never supplied him.  Perhaps they weren’t.  Be that as it may, there was a value in treating the opponent not as a specific person, but as a hypothetical one, so to speak.  As J. Paul Sampley notes,[54]

 

By personifying the inquisitor, Paul allows the Corinthians to make some identification with the questioner and with the issues, but at the same time it gives him some liberty to be abrasive with the fictive inquisitor without the Corinthians necessarily viewing it as so direct an attack upon them.  So they can identify with the questions, but when Paul attacks the interlocutor they can distance themselves from the heat of the attack.

 

            In short it is a useful tool by which to keep the dispute centered on the issues involved and not the personalities.  Interestingly, even though Paul begins the book with a lengthy denunciation of local factionalism, in none of the issues discussed—not even that of the resurrection—does he brand the problems as being promoted by one particular faction or another, though the odds clearly are that in at least some cases they were.  Again the “depersonifying” of the dispute so he can deal with the issues and not seem to be engaging in what the late 20th century came to call “the politics of personal destruction.”

The challenge that is being brandied about to Paul’s teaching is a quite natural one:  If the body is resurrected, how will it happen and what kind of body will one have (15:35)?  The apostle regards the questions as “foolish” (15:36a), but he proceeds to answer them nonetheless. 

We tend to run together these two queries, transforming them into a double assertion of the same issue.  Geerhardus Vos argues that we really have two independent questions, however:  First an attack on the very possibility of resurrection:   “How?”  Then an attack on the grounds of the inconceivability of what kind of body such a person would have.[55] 

            If we take this approach, the issue of possibility is addressed in verses 36-37: Observation will show that earthly crops are transformed when the seed gives birth to wheat or other grain.  This is a superficially impossible action:  a seed become a plant?  They are so unlike!  How could it possibly happen?  Yet God has arranged nature to routinely perform this seeming “miracle.”  In short, don’t argue it can’t be done because [Page 34]   something that is seemingly equally “impossible” happens in your garden or farm every year.

In the grain seed, we know today, that the transformation capacity is built into the seed by God.  In contrast, with the human being, it is God’s directly acting power that makes possible the transformation of the mortal into the immortal.  The first God “programmed” that way; the second God intervenes to make happen.[56]  But in both cases it happens; only the means of doing so shifts.

            Yet this edges us into the (potentially separate) second issue:  the seed example vindicates that God can change matter--even in “logically” unexpected manners.  Likewise God will transform us into the form it pleases Him (15:38).  In fact, it has to be changed.  The body we currently have was only designed for the conditions of this earth; the body we will be changed into will be one fitted for the conditions of the next life.[57] 

Yet in the transformation, there is a continuation of the pre-existing individual from this life into the resurrection.  I say “I am Roland Worth” even though few if any of the cells in my body at age sixty-eight are those that were there at birth.  I am still “me” even though little—if any--of me is (in strict logic and fact) identical.[58]  If we can come to terms with this odd mixture or continuation and difference in the current life, then it should be easier to understand how it could also be true in the renewal of “bodily” existence in the resurrection.   

The underlying logic of Paul’s seed example is that what might be regarded as even ugly or unappealing, can be transformed after “burial” in the earth into something far more obviously beautiful, useful, and pleasing.  It “dies” in the sense that what had been there (the “seed”) no longer exists, it has perished.  But in another sense it has conspicuously not ceased to exist because it takes on a new and different external form--with different appearance, attributes, and usefulness not found in the original form. 

Such will also occur in the resurrection.  If you will, our “qualitative” nature will similarly break forth from minimal to maximal when God alters us.  All the potential that was there—held back, unable to be utilized, perhaps even capacities we were little or totally unaware of—but which were incompatible with a fleshly body subject to dying, will become accessible.  That is one possibility.[59]  Another is that the enhancements will be added in the transformation at the time of the bodily resurrection.  Unless one believes that we remain unaltered except in regard to having physical death removed, some such enrichment(s) seems inevitable.  For the purposes of our discussion—and Paul’s--it doesn’t matter which approach you take. 

What Paul is not going to let his reader loose sight of, however, is the center issue of vindicating the resurrection.  Having begun the transition from “how is it possible,” to “what kind of body,” the next section elaborates on that matter in detail.

 

 

 

[Page 35]

 

There is nothing unnatural in the idea of our

earthly and eternal bodies being different

for more than one type of earthly and

celestial bodies are seen every day (15:39-15:41)

 

 

            ATP text:  39All flesh is not the same kind, but there is one flesh for humans, and another flesh for animals, while birds have another, and fish yet another type.  40There are celestial bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the celestial is different from the beauty of the earthly.  41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; and even the stars differ from each other in splendor.”

            Development of the argument:  There is no uniformity of flesh from one species to another (15:39):  he hammers out example after example to show that it is not an isolated phenomena.  Why then would it be so odd if the body chosen for us after the resurrection would lack the “physicality” of the kind that we see in the current world?  This does not mean that it won’t be tangible—touchable—presumably with its own inner organs of functioning, just that it will be thoroughly unlikely how we today define “physicality.”

Note that Paul uses the word “flesh” as a description of what earth located bodies have (15:39).[60]  Hence when he speaks of resurrection of the body it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he means a resurrection body of flesh—whether that flesh is identical or different from what we currently have.  That is basically irrelevant because it is but momentary till the grand transformation that is to then occur to change us into our eternal form (15:51).  When he gets to heavenly objects (15:40), of course, he shifts from speaking of “flesh” to “bodies” since the heavenly things obviously don’t have flesh.[61] 

(It has been argued that Paul never utilizes the phrase “resurrection of the flesh,” only “resurrection of the dead.”  Yet doesn’t he here clearly imply it?  And how would the human body be resurrected unless in the flesh—skinless?)

If earthly phenomena is not sufficient to prove that God can have more than one option to choose from, then look at the skies!  There is no uniformity of heavenly bodies (15:40)—the sun generates its own light while the moon merely reflects light.[62]  But both are awesome to the eyes; glorious but not having exactly the same “glory” (15:41).  Variety in heaven and variety on earth.  And if God chooses, in the resurrection, to introduce a new form of physical body who are we to gainsay it?  

            Some interpreters are convinced that Paul shared the view of some ancient Greeks and apocalyptic writers that the heavenly bodies are living entities.[63]  2 Baruch 51:3-10 is cited for it refers to those entering “the undying world” and that they will be “equal to the stars.”  They have the choice of what form to be in:  they “will be changed into any shape which they wished, from beauty to loveliness, and from light to the splendor of the glory.”[64]  But this is not quite the same thing as to claim that they have sentience / self-awareness when so altered or that they will then be, in any realistic sense, “living” entities.

Furthermore Paul’s argument is that they will take a human form, “the image of the heavenly Man” (15:48, 49).  Their splendor may be star like but their appearance / form is pictured as far more restrained, as being in human style.[65]

            Others opt for angelic beings as the subject:  “It is more likely that he thought of modes of existence that were fitted for life in heaven, and the only such beings of which he was aware were angels.”[66]  This would certainly fit if the spiritual heavens rather than [Page 36]   the physical ones are under consideration.  Unfortunately the clear reference to moon, sun, and stars (15:41) argues that the temporal world is the frame of reference, i.e., he is providing a word picture of the superiority, the greater glory, of post-earthly life based on what we can see in the physical world around us.  An argument from analogy and parallels.           

 

 

 

 

 

The resurrected body will be vastly better

than the current one (15:42-15:49)

 

 

            ATP text:  42So also is the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown is subject to decay, what is raised cannot decay.  43It is sown without honor while it is raised in splendor.  It is planted while weak, but is raised with power.  44It is buried a physical body, it is raised a spiritual one.  Just as there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.  45Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living person"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  46Note that it is not the spiritual body which is first but the physical, and afterward the spiritual.  47The first man came from the earth, a man of dust; the second man came from heaven.  48As the first man was earthly, so all those who come afterwards have similar bodies; likewise the body of the one from  heaven matches all others in heaven.  49Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man made from dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.[67]

            Development of the argument:  In light of the visible differences in earthly and heavenly “bodies,” it is not surprising that the body we will have will be vastly different in that day:  The existing one is characterized by “corruption,” “dishonor,” “weakness,” and “natural[ness].”  In contrast, the resurrected body will be marked by “incorruption,” “glory,” “power,” and being “spiritual” (15:42-44).  The line of reasoning is that in the present time-space continuum our eyes look at the celestial phenomena and perceive different degrees of beauty and impressiveness.  If such profound “differences are possible within the present cosmos, they are all the more likely between the present and the future eschatological realities.”[68] 

According to Paul, it should be stressed, we do not become disembodied spirits:[69] we retain a “body” but not one of flesh and blood but one that has been altered in such a manner that we can obtain our intended maximum potential.  Since such is beyond all human experience, all he can do is present a vague verbal picture.  A “literal” description would have made as little sense to them (or us) as a mathematical formula explaining how a nuclear explosion is produced.

Paul was hardly likely to have been unaware of the fact that at some point even bones disintegrate into the earth.  So “what,” then, does God raise?  Paul makes the parallel of Christ with Adam and perhaps that is highly relevant in this context.  From the “dust” of the earth He could create (Genesis 2:7) and from it He can recreate, restore—use whatever language you prefer—and the person will be the same person in the same body.  If you believe He had the power to do it the first time, there is no illogic in saying [Page 37]   He can do it a second time.  Argue semantics about whether it is the “same” and you engage in idle debate:  if it looks the same, acts the same, has the same soul embodied—the person is the same by all meaningful criteria.  Yet having put us back in a physical body, changes will still need to be made to then adapt it for life in a very different cosmos.  Resurrection is but the first step.

The earthly body corrupts/decays, while the changed one never does (15:42).  It died in “dishonor”—we died while sinners[70] or, more likely, the idea is the “dishonor” we feel at our weakness and how it is manifested in the ultimate weakness of death.  We are raised in “glory” (15:43) for the triumph over death carries with it an inherent pride and honor and glory.  Our death demonstrated our “weakness” and we are raised in “power” (15:43)—either because it is inherently power that triumphs over weakness or because our new bodies will have the abiding “power” to resist death again.  What had been while on earth reflected the “natural” state of humans; in contrast, the resurrected and changed body is a “spiritual body” adapted to that new life we will begin (15:44).

The vastness of the transformation depicted by Paul carries with it ideas he does not even bother to mention but which seem inescapably present in the language he has used:  aging disappears with its pain and discomforts.  So does disease and the array of illnesses that inevitably plague us on this earth.[71]  The body has been fundamentally transformed and its enemies crushed.  Otherwise death still lurks and awaits the opportunity to strike again.  

            Just as the first Adam was made a living fleshly being, the “last Adam” (Jesus) was “a life-giving spirit” (15:45).  Note that Paul does not choose to emphasize that Jesus is spirit, but on what He is able to do in that form:  He is “a life-giving spirit.”  He makes it possible for us to have abiding life.  A foreshadowing of Paul’s description is found in Jesus’ self-description in John 5:26:  “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” 

Charles Hodge is surely right when he contends that this was made possible, while on earth, “by the union of the divine with the human in the constitution of His person,”[72] i.e., the unique combination of natural and supernatural.  When His permanent transformation into a greater than human body occurred (since human flesh has no place in heaven), He retained that ability—since Paul’s words surely imply the continuance of that ability at the then present hour.[73]

            The original Adam came from the dust of the earth; the last Adam from heaven (15:47).  (Yet another reason for the pre-fleshly and post-fleshly/heaven nature of His to be described as a “spirit” form.)  The fleshly person imitates that earthly Adam, the resurrected person imitates the last Adam and “bear[s] the image of the heavenly” (15:48-49).  The best commentary on verse 49 are the words of Philippians 3:21, which speaks of how Christ “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”  (Compare the reference in 15:45 to Jesus’ role as “a life-giving spirit.”)  In short, He has the power to do it and He will do it—the mechanics and the results we can leave in His highly competent hands.  Whatever “physical nature” the next life has, and that Jesus has, we will share in it. 

To base any theory of the nature of the “resurrection” on anything but the personal departure from that grave in which we may have been reduced to the level of mere “dust” (not even bones) is to anticipate something never promised.  The living, you [Page 38]   may have noticed, are conspicuously not counted as part of the resurrected because they stand in no need of it.  The term is not applied to them in this chapter at all.

Only the physically dead are promised resurrection and any attempt to make “the resurrection” include both groups is transparently incorrect.  Hence if TFP be valid and the “resurrection” occurred in 70 A.D., then the term has to be redefined in such a way as to cover only that part of the church, not the living members.  The triumph of Christianity rhetoric simply won’t do the job since any “triumph” would, to human eyes, be manifested solely among the unresurrected living.

Furthermore, two things happened to the dead—resurrection and transformation; for the living only the latter (15:51-52).  Hence the theory would, seemingly, have to have two distinct events / phenomena occur that involved both groups of Christians, only one of which involved just the living--if “all prophecy” was actually fulfilled by this point. 

(One could insist that only one event actually occurs—the transformation.  But since the dead were previously not alive it’s hard to see how we can avoid saying they are “brought back to life” first, which is where the living Christians already begin at.  Hence two events for the dead.)     

 

Aside:  The consequences of Jesus being “last Adam.”  Note that Paul in his parallelism in 15:45 does not actually label Jesus as the “second” Adam (though, chonologically, it does fit—cf. “the second Man” in 15:47) but as something even more dramatic and important, as the “last” Adam.[74]  This testifies to His uniqueness.  They are the bookends of the human race.  Jesus became “a new starting-point of humanity.”[75]  The “beginner of a new humanity,” if you will.[76]

Jesus repeatedly described Himself as “the Son of Man,” clearly with the overtone of being uniquely so.  It is certainly not that big a step from claiming that uniqueness to being the second/last/new Adam.  Hence it is possible that Paul was building upon a well worn concept from Jesus’ ministry and carrying out its potential implications to its fullest.[77]  

One took a perfect world and ruined it for himself and his children; the other took an imperfect world and offered its people the open door to permanent reconciliation with God.  One gave in to temptation and ruined his physical and spiritual life and set a self-destructive pattern for all who came afterwards; the other endured insults, lies, a show trial, and judicial murder in order to bring renewed spiritual life and, in the resurrection, a new “physical” one as well.  

             Adam was, if you will, the first homo physical and Jesus the first homo eternal.  Being from heaven where death is described, Biblically, as not existing, Jesus was uniquely both spiritual and eternal in a sense that the first Adam, even though blessed with unending human life (until he sinned) could never be.[78]  Even so  Adam made possible physical life for all who came afterwards; Jesus made possible eternal spiritual life for all who came after Him.  Both were the originators of a “species,” so to speak.  Not to mention representative of all mankind in their failures (Adam) or in their cultivation of Divine approval (Jesus).

            This concept of Jesus as the beginner of a new kind of humanity is alluded to in other texts.  Being “in Christ” makes one “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Note the implicit contrast with the original creation, i.e., of Adam.  Indeed it is this newness that is [Page 39]   the decisive value that changes everything:  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). 

This new kind of human being is defined by character:  “You put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).  Note the new creation motif (“put on the new man”) and the allusion to what had been the first creation’s original character (“righteousness and holiness”).  This kind of person is explicitly labeled as “new” and the change is produced by being “renewed in knowledge” to fit “the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10), with yet another allusion to the original Adamic creation.

In such references we see a departure from the first Adamic scenario.  In that case it was done solely by God; in creating the new kind of mankind, we ourselves play a role as well.  We had no role in determining whether we were part of the species created for the Garden of Eden; we become part of the new species of humanity by our voluntary allegiance to Jesus.  But even that will not do it alone; the ultimate change is made possible by the Divine transformation that Paul pictures as occurring at the end.

            Since the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria taught a doctrine of two Adams, some scholars have suggested that Paul’s concept is at least loosely built on that source, perhaps even through some Gnostic or other intermediary source.[79]  Paul was not one to turn his back on a good idea so there is no appealing reason to suggest that the apostle would have rejected building an argument based on a form of Philo’s reasoning.

            On the other hand, Paul’s doctrine of two Adams is clearly very different from that of Philo and these differences may even easier be taken as a repudiation of the Alexandrian philosopher than an embracal[80]—assuming there is even anything more that a coincidental use of the two Adams concept in the first place.  As J. A. Schep observes,[81]

 

Philo’s heavenly man is not the second Adam, as is the case with Paul, but the first.  The Adam of Genesis 1:27 and 2:7 is Philo’s second Adam.  In Philo’s conception the first or heavenly Adam is the divinely created Idea, of whom the Adam of clay is but a poor picture; in Paul’s parallel the heavenly Adam follows after the earthly in time.  In Philo’s conception the spiritual (the Idea) is first and is followed by the natural; Paul says that the natural is first and then the spiritual (verse 46).        

 

 

 

 

 

 

The resurrected body will not only be one without

earthly style flesh and blood but the change

will be accomplished for one and all

instantaneously (15:50-15:52)

           


            ATP text:  50I tell you this, spiritual comrades:  Flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God, nor does that which decays inherit the imperishable.  51Behold!  I [Page 40]   tell you one of God’s hitherto kept secrets:  We will not all die, but we will all be altered--52in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised free forever from the power of death, and we shall be changed into a new form.”

            Development of the argument:  What Paul is alluding to throughout the discussion of the resurrection body is now made explicit:  though it will be a body, it won’t be a fleshly one like that which we now have.  Indeed, it is an impossibility since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (15:50).  “Flesh and blood” simply means the normal everyday human being. 

Paul uses the language for this purpose in Galatians 1:16, “To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.”  Similarly in Hebrews 2:14 we find that Jesus became like this in order to become like us, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same. . . .”  It is used to contrast human versus nonhuman powers as well in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

(To define this usage as our earthly “human nature,” seems pushing the expression beyond its intent.[82]  The emphasis is not on our “nature” but on “us,” as distinct, temporal human beings, what we are now.)          

Interestingly the freshly resurrected Jesus describes Himself to Thomas as if having already undergone the Pauline promised transformation of the body, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.  Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39).  The physically resurrected Jesus conspicuously describes himself as “flesh and bones” not the “flesh and blood” that does not enter heaven.[83]  There had been a change in the core nature of the body.  

            Whether there is the functional equivalent of “blood” in eternity has not been revealed though it is hard to imagine a living organism without something that carried out a similar function.  But the basis of survival will no longer be that blood.  Drew Worthen is probably right when he suggests,[84]

 

Remember what the Lord said to the Israelites and why He would not allow them to eat the blood of animals?  He said, the life of the flesh is in the blood. And for all creatures this holds true as their lives are sustained by the blood. But in the case of our resurrected Christ the life of the flesh was not dependent upon the blood. The life of His new body was dependent upon the direct power of God.  It will be this way for us as well.

 

Because of the fundamental reality that a flesh and blood nature can not enter heaven, both the resurrected and the living must “all be changed” to fit their new living environment (15:51).[85]  The “all,” of course must mean every single person in that class, i.e., faithful Christians in particular.  Note that, contrary to TFP, it is an individual change—“all be changed” and not “the church will be changed” or some similar collective reference.  (The attentive reader will notice this individual framework repeatedly throughout chapter 15.)

[Page 41]           Although Paul tells us what we are changed into in this chapter, this is not the only place where he touches on the matter.  In Philippians 3, Paul discusses the point when Jesus returns from heaven (3:20) and how He “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (3:21). 

(This is also a devastating text for TFE:  It is nigh impossible to imagine Christians in late 70 A.D. looking at their bodies and thinking it reflected “His glorious body.”  To say it was the church that was resurrected in that year, well then the church had to be of the same substance of Jesus’ body and that could hardly be done without the members being transformed could it?  To make the scenario work, the church “body” has to be “disembodied” for anything you see wouldn’t have measured up to that level of perfection.  It has to become a virtual mystical entity existing separate and apart from the individuals who constitute it.)

  Paul calls the promised transformation of believers “a mystery” (15:51; ATP:  “one of God’s hitherto kept secrets”).  In English usage we equate “mystery” with “mysterious.”  In its Biblical usage it refers to something we could not discover without it being revealed by God.[86]  Yes, we might speculate about it; do it enough times you might even get it right (like in predicting the end of the physical universe!).  But even if you guessed the right thing, you could never know for sure until God confirmed it.  Paul says, He has spoken; He has confirmed what will happen.

            Note that Paul contrasts what we know now with what we knew in the past.  The degree to which the Old Testament speaks of a resurrection—such as in Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, which Paul himself appeals to—it still does not speculate as to what bodily nature God’s people would have.  (Even if we argue that “original intent” in these texts refers to “national resurrection,” the question would still arise when the texts are applied to the physical resurrection as Paul does.)  Reading such scriptures, we would naturally conclude we’d have a body since it could partake of a feast (Isaiah 25:6); a physicality would automatically have to go with that.  Since it would involve an escape from physical death (Hosea) we’d assume the old body would be restored or replaced with a “duplicate.” 

But to what extent would those deductions be true?  Here Paul is indicating that far more would be required to complete God’s resurrectionary experience—the very nature of our bodies would be changed as well.  Furthermore, also unlike the OT, Paul reveals that those still living who are God’s people will undergo a similar miraculous transformation of their body.[87]  Information no one could have been sure of (even guessed?) on the basis of such Old Testament passages. 

The change will happen at the time of the resurrection and will be as fast as a “twinkling of an eye” (15:52).  “Hence the Lord’s coming is presented as a wonder that will take place in a split second.  The transformation is not a development, but a sudden change.”[88]  Whatever complexities are involved it will still happen so fast that, from the standpoint of human consciousness, it edges right up to being instantaneous; one second we are in the old body, while in the next in the new one.

 

 

[Page 42]

 

 

This transformation will include an abolishment

of death itself (15:53-15:58)

 

 

            ATP text:  53For our physical decaying nature must put on an imperishable nature, and our mortal dying nature must clothe itself with a body that will live forever.  54When the perishable puts on what cannot perish, and the mortal is dressed in immortality, then will come to pass the scriptural saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up by victory.”  55“O death, where is your triumph?  O death, where is your stinging pain?"  56The sting of death is caused by sin, and sin derives its power from the Divine Law.  57But thanks be to God, who accomplishes the triumph for us through our Lord Jesus Christ.  58Therefore, my beloved comrades, stand firm, immovable, always being persistent in the work of the Lord:  and you know that your labor is not without effect in the Lord.”

            Development of the argument:  Our old body—the one that ultimately goes into the grave--is described as “corruptible” and, ultimately, “mortal” (15:53).  “Corruptible” means it decays, deteriorates, runs down, parts slow down and stop working.  We get gray hair or lose it.[89]  When things get severe enough we prove our “mortal[ity]” by dying.  From the day we are born we are on an inevitable collision course with death.  We may postpone it, but we’ll never stop it. 

In contrast, after the resurrection, the new body will be immortal and incorruptible (15:53-54).  The twice repeated emphasis in these two verses is that of “putting on” something different and new to us:  “incorruption” and “immortality.”  Christian F. King rightly observes this is “a figured borrowed from clothing” changes (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:3); one set is taken off and another put on.  “The maintenance of a personal identity, with a change in the quality of the vesture, is here unmistakably implied. . . .”[90]  We remain whoever we were; our outward appearance and accoutrements, so to speak, are what is altered.  Inside it is still “us”—the very same person.

In regard to weight reduction, we often speak of “the new me.”  Here we are changed even more dramatically.  This involves the ultimate triumph over both death (15:55) and sin (15:56)[91] and is made possible through Christ (15:57).  If believers are “steadfast” and “immovable” in their faith and if they are “always abounding in (ATP:  always being persistent in) the work of the Lord,” they know they have nothing to worry about:  “your labor is not in vain (ATP:  without effect)” (15:58).  All the hurts, anguish, and pain will be recompensed beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  We will die, but we will not remain that way.   

            Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, conceded that even he had met his match when it came to death, “And finally there is the painful riddle of death, for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably ever will be.”[92]  Paul would have been profoundly amused.  To use a gambling analogy, in the “poker game with death,” it is the believer not death who holds the triumphant, winning hand. 

            On the other hand, there are the unbelievers.  The faithful Christian can rest in death knowing that it is not the end.  The unbeliever can only wish it were.

Joseph Benson rightly points out that the emphasis on the triumph over death as the ultimate “victory” shows that only God’s people are under consideration, the

[Page 43]   resurrection of the unjust and unconcerned being of no concern to Paul in this passage.  “For it cannot be said of the wicked, who are to suffer the second death, that death is swallowed up in any sense with respect to them, or that God hath given them the victory over it by the resurrection.”[93]  They had their opportunity and they, sadly, did not take advantage of it.

 

 

 

 

Notes

 



[1] Hamilton Smith, The First Epistle to the Corinthians.  At:  http://www.biblecentre. org/commentaries/hs_50_1_corinthians_1to9.htm.  [November 2010.]

 

[2] Steve Zeisler, “Physical Fitness Forever:  1 Corinthians 15:29-49,” 3 (1988).  At:  http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/7057/4080.pdf.  [November 2010.]

 

[3] Edward H. Donze, “1 Corinthians,” in A Commentary on the New Testament  ([N.p.]:  Catholic Biblical Association, 1942), 478.  Though the conclusion that follows the quote is my own comment, it seems inevitable if one accepts this initial premise.

 

[4] For the examples of cocoons and acorns and further remarks on the paradox of continuity and vast change see Anthony C. Thiselton, The Hermeneutics of Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 562.

 

[5] Ibid.

 

[6] Ray C. Stedman, “The New Body:  What Is It Like?:  1 Corinthians 15:35-49,” 3.  (1979).  At:  http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/4923/3606.pdf.  (1979).  [November 2010.] 

 

[7] Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection (Nashville, Tennessee:  Word Publishing, 2000), 133.

[8] Michael Perry, The Resurrection of Man:  Christian Teaching on Life after Death (London:  Mowbrays, 1975), 75.

 

[9] Wilfred L. Knox, St. Paul and the Church of Jerusalem (Cambridge:  At the University Press, 1925), 317.

         

[10] Margaret E. Thrall, “Paul’s Understanding of Continuity between the Present Life and the Life of the Resurrection,” in Resurrection in the New Testament, edited by Reimund Bieringer, Veronica Koperski, and B. Lataire (Leuven, Belgium:  Leuven University Press, 2002), 283.

 

[Page 44]    [11] William Milligan, The Resurrection from the Dead:  An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15 (Edinburgh:  T. & T. Clark, 1894), 10.

 

[12] Fernand Pratt, The Theology of Saint Paul, translated from the French by John L. Stoddard, Volume 1 of a 2 volume in 1 edition (London:  Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, Ltd., 1957), 132.

 

[13] Jan Lambrecht, Pauline Studies:  Collected Essays (Leuven, Belgium:  Leuven University Press, 1994), 123-124.

 

[14] Leander E. Keck, Paul and His Letters, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, in the Proclamation Commentaries series (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1988), 36.

 

[15] Syd Cleveland, Bible Commentary on 1 Corinthians (2005).  At:  http://www.christiancommunitychurch.us/clevelandcommentary/NT_1%20Corinthians.html.  [November 2010.] 

 

[16] This seems far preferable to the approach of Robert G. Bratcher, A Translator’s Guide to Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, in the Helps for Translators Series (New York:  United Bible Societies, 1982), 143, who believes some kind of distinction is intended—but what could it possibly be?

 

[17] Max Goins, “Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ:  1 Corinthians 15:1-11,” 4 (1998).  At:  http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/6471/4535.pdf.  [November 2010.]

 

[18] Milligan, 12-13.

 

[19] Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York:  Robert Carter & Brothers, 1878), 317.

 

[20] J. Paul Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume 10, edited by Leander E. Keck et al. (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1996), 979.  For a discussion of whether this was an absolute denial of the resurrection, a denial of the timing/date of the resurrection, a denial that it was future (versus already accomplished), or a result of a speculative theory of human nature, see the discussion in Joel Delobel, “The Corinthians’ (Un-)Belief in the Resurrection,” in  Resurrection in the New Testament, edited by Reimund Bieringer, Veronica Koperski, and B. Lataire (Leuven, Belgium:  Leuven University Press, 2002), 343-355.

 

[21] Max King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ (1987), 390, as quoted by Robert B. Strimple, “Hyper-Preterism on the Resurrection of the Flesh,” in When Shall These Things Be?  A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism, edited by Keith A. Mathison (Phillipsburg, New Jersey:  P&R Publishing, 2004), 302.  

 

[22] Strimple, 303.

 

[Page 45]    [23] Ibid., 303.

 

[24] Wayne Jackson, The A.D. 70 Theory:  A Review of the Max King Doctrine,  Second Edition (Stockton, California:  Christian Courier Publications, 2005), 74.

 

[25] Ben Witherington III, Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World:  A Comparative Study of New Testament Eschatology (Downers Grove, Illinois:  InterVarsity Press, 1992), 189.

 

[26] Cf. Bratcher, Translator’s Guide, 146.

 

[27] W. C. G. Proctor, “1 Corinthians,” in The New Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company:  1953; 1960 reprint), 987.  

 

[28] William J. Dumbrell, The Search for Order:  Biblical Eschatology in Focus (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Baker Books, 1994), 285, develops the interlocking—“pointing both directions”—argument.

 

[29] Thomas C. Edmonds, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Second Edition.  London:  Hodder and Stoughton, MDCCCLXXXV), 402.

 

[30] Cf. Milligan, 25.

 

[31] Ibid., 25.

 

[32] Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Corinthians (2010 edition), 171.  At:  http:// www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf.  [November 2010.]

 

[33] Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians, in the Sacra Pagina series (Collegeville, Minnesota:  Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press, 1999), 544, and T. Teignmouth Shore, “The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” in A Bible Commentary for English Readers, edited by Charles J. Ellicott (New York:  E. P. Dutton & Company, [n.d.]), 347.

 

[34] Milligan, 29.

[35] M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary (Louisville, Kentucky:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 543.

 

[36] John A. Bengel, Gnomon of the New Testament, Volume 2 (Philadelphia:  Perkinpine & Higgins, 1864), 254.

 

[37] For five possible interpretations of “in Adam” see Fred D. Howard, 1 Corinthians:  Guidelines for God’s People (Nashville, Tennessee:  Convention Press, 1983), 126.

   

[38] John J. Kilgallen, First Corinthians:  An Introduction and Study Guide (Mahwah, New [Page 46]    Jersey:  Paulist Press, 1987), 134, runs this section of the argument from verses 20-28. 

 

[39] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary:  New Testament (Nashville, Tennessee:  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 622.

 

[40] Cf. the discussion in Strimple, 305-306.

 

[41] Strimple, 307-309, discusses the difficulty found in those advocates who slip from “allows to happen for all time” language to “once for all time” rhetoric.  There is an inherent severe tension between those two approaches that outsiders easily label a contradiction.  

 

[42] John Noe, Shattering the “Left Behind” Delusion, 18, as quoted by Strimple, 342.

 

[43] For a criticism of the approach, see Strimple, 341-342.

 

[44] Gordon Lyons, Expository Notes on 1 Corinthians, 191.  At:  http://www.1-word.com/commentary/1%20Corinthians.pdf.  [November 2010.] 

 

[45] Witherington III, World, 95.

 

[46] W. Larry Richards notes that most translations utilize the passive voice in translating the words, leaving the matter either ambiguous or ambiguous with the Father the apparent initiator of the change in status.  He effectively argues that it should be rendered explicitly as the Son initiating the alteration.  Example of the latter:  “the Son will put Himself under God’s authority” (God’s Word).  See W. Larry Richards, “[The Greek] in 1 Corinthians 15:28b,” Andrews University Seminary Studies (Autumn 2000, Vol. 38, No. 2):  203-206.  At:  http://www.auss. info/auss_publication_file.php?pub_id=991&journal=1&type=pdf.  [December 2010.] 

 

[47] As quoted by Bill Reeves, “The Preterist View Heresy (VI),” Truth Magazine (February 8, 1973).  As reprinted in A Study of the 70 A.D. Doctrine:  Realized Eschatology, edited by Mike Willis (Bowling Green, Kentucky:  Guardian of Truth Publications, 2006), 88.

 

[48] Ibid.

 

[49] David Guzik, Study Guide for 1 Corinthians.  At:  http://www.blueletterbible. org/commentaries/comm_author.cfm?AuthorID=2.  [November 2010.]

 

[50] As quoted by Martvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume III (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1890), 277.

 

[Page 47]    [51] Anthony C. Thiselton, First Corinthians:  A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 276.

 

[52] J. Davis Hoke, “Fuzzy Thinking:  1 Corinthians 15:29-34” (2004).  At:  http:// www.jdavidhoke.com/sermons/1cor38.html.  [November 2010.]

 

[53] Greville P. Lewis, Study Notes on the New Testament (London:  Epworth Press, [n.d.]), 288.

 

[54] Sampley, “First Letter,” 986.

[55] Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (1930; reprinted, Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Baker Book House, 1979), 178.

 

[56] D. E. H. Whiteley, The Theology of St. Paul (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:  Fortress Press, 1964), 251.

 

[57] Hoke, J. Davis.  “Our Resurrection Bodies:  1 Corinthians 15:25-49” (2004).  At:  http://www.jdavidhoke.com/sermons/1cor39.html.  [November 2010.]  Making the same argument also is J. A. Schep, The Nature of the Resurrection Body:  A Study of the Biblical Data (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), 190-191.

 

[58] Hanegraaff, 70.

[59] The apparent point of Peter Lampe, “Paul’s Concept of a Spiritual Body,” in Resurrection:  Theological and Scientific Assessments, edited by Ted Peters, Robert J. Russell, and Michael Welker (Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publishg Company, 2002), 107-108.

 

[60] Bratcher, Translator’s Guide, 153:  “Paul could easily have said ‘body’ here if he had meant it,” rebuking those translations that make the unjustified substitution.

 

[61] Schep, 196.

 

[62] Max Goins, “Our Resurrection Bodies:  1 Corinthians 15:35-49,” 2 (1999).  At:  http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/6481/4538.pdf.  [November 2010.]

 

[63] Joseph Plevnik, What Are They Saying about Paul and the End Time (Mahwah, New Jersey:  Paulist Press, 2009), 57.

 

[64] As quoted by Ibid.

 

[Page 48]    [65] Oddly Plevnik, 58, refers to 15:48 in particular even though this admission seems to pull the rug from beneath the theorists who “are probably right in saying that Paul thinks that these celestial bodies are living beings. . . .”

 

[66] Fred Fisher, Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Waco, Texas:  Word Books, Publisher, 1975), 253.

 

[67] “We will bear the image of the heavenly Man” is actually the reading of a minority of Greek manuscripts; many translations footnote (but no English version adopts), the far more heavily documented reading, “let us also bear the image of the heavenly.”  For an interesting discussion of the evidence pro and con and for the observation that though the transformation is future, we need to change in the here and now--removing any character faults--so we will be prepared for that physical change.  See Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Carol Stream, Illinois:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), 524.

 

[68] Lampe, 108.   

[69] Hanegraaff, 71-72.  

[70] Hoke, “Resurrection Bodies.”

 

[71] Gordon Lyons, 199.

 

[72] Hodge, 351.

 

[73] Commentators have disputed about at exactly what point Jesus gained this ability / right /power:  see Fred Fisher, 257.  The fact that He claimed the power to be such during His earthly ministry pins it down close enough for our purposes.

 

[74] Leslie M. Grant, Comments on First Corinthians (2007).  At:  http://www. biblecentre.org/commentaries/lmg_50_1_corinthians.htm [November 2010, February 2011], and Stedman, “New Body?,” 5. 

 

[75] J. J. Lias, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, in the Cambridge Bible for the Schools and Colleges series (Cambridge:  At the University Press, 1891), 158.

 

[76] David Somerville, St. Paul’s Conception of Christ:  or, The Doctrine of the Second Adam (London:  T. & T. Clark, 1897), 230; cf. the description of Christians as a “new humanity” (61).  Cf.  Bratcher, Translator’s Guide, 148.

 

[77] Somerville, 230, quotes an otherwise unidentified scholar by the name of Gess as writing, “Can one more happily [= appropriately?] interpret Christ’s thought of Himself as the Son of Man than is done by Paul in the contrast he draws between the First and Second Adam?”

 

[Page 49]    [78] Arthur C. Custance, The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, Volume 5 of The Doorway Papers (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1976)  argues from a different approach, that Jesus restored humanity to what it had been in Adam:  In the centuries since the historical Adam, there had been “the birth of untold millions, who were, in the strictest sense, not truly ‘human,’ since they were not as Adam at first had been.  Adam’s humanness lay in his perfection in both body and spirit, not simply in spirit” (153-154).  Although thought-provoking and containing more than a little element of truth, it is hard to see how the second/last Adam can be seen as reintroducing bodily perfect to the human species.    

 

[79] On the weakness of a Gnostic style tie-in, see Schep, 173.

 

[80] Ibid., 172.

 

[81] Ibid.

 

[82] Whiteley, 252.  He immediately goes from the reference “to human nature as such” to the comment, “with an emphasis upon its frailty”—which almost brings it back to the simple reference to our physicality that we suggested.

 

[83] Drew Worthen, 1 Corinthians Commentary, part of the Double Edged Sword website.  At:  http://www.doubleedgedsword.org/layout/inside.php?pgID=210.  [November 2010, February 2011.]

 

[84] Ibid. 

 

[85] For an interesting analysis of the four varying endings for this verse in Greek see Comfort, 524-525.  He notes that the variant “we all will not be changed,” if adopted, could (implicitly) argue that only the Christian will be changed and not the unbeliever. 

 

[86] Proctor, 988, and Steve Zeisler, “Imperishable, Immortal, Victorious:  1 Corinthians 15:50-58,” 2.    (1988).  At:  http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/7060/ 4081.pdf.  [November 2010.]

 

[87] William MacDonald, 626.

 

[88] Plevnik, 63.

 

[89] Steve Zeisler, “Imperishable, Immortal, Victorious,” 3.

 

[90] Christian F. King, Lange’s Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, translated by Daniel W. Poor (New York:  Charles Scribner & Company, 1868), 347.

 

[Page 50]   [91] For an in-depth analysis of the scenario that 15:56 is a later interpolation into the text of the chapter, see Peter J. Tomson, “ ‘Death, Where Is Why Victory?’  Paul’s Theology in the Twinkling of an Eye,” in  Resurrection in the New Testament, edited by Reimund Bieringer, Veronica Koperski, and B. Lataire (Leuven, Belgium:  Leuven University Press, 2002), 360-365.

 

[92] As quoted by Guzik, Study Guide.    

 

[93] Joseph Benson, The New Testament . . . with Critical Explanatory and Practical Notes, Volume 5 (New York:  Carlton & Phillips, 1856), 299.