An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15 Part 2: Christ the Firstfruits Out From Among The Dead Ones

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An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15  Part 2:

Christ the Firstfruits Out From Among The Dead Ones

By Michael J. Sullivan

We are continuing our study through 1 Corinthians 15 in examining the time frame and nature of the resurrection in this chapter.  In part 1 we made two important observations.  First, in Paul using the modus tollens or reduction ad absurdum form of argumentation we learned that the resurrection of the dead deniers in Corinth were denying a resurrection for “the dead” (OT/OC saints pre-Christ) while at the same time affirming Christ’s resurrection and that those who had died “in Christ” with them – would participate in the resurrection at Christ’s parousia. In other words Paul is using their belief in Christ’s resurrection and a resurrection of those “in Christ” to point out the absurdity of denying a resurrection for “the dead.”  2)  Extreme views such as this one on the resurrection was present within Judaism already – some denied a resurrection for even Moses and other OT godly saints because he or they died and were  buried outside of being “in the land.”  We also noted (while not being as extreme) the Dispensational false teaching and inability to harmonize the OT people of God with the NT Church or Body of Christ.  In part 2, we want to take a look at what is meant by Christ being the “First Fruits” of the resurrection.

1Corinthians 15:20-23

“And now, Christ hath risen out of the dead — the first-fruits of those sleeping he became,…”                            
– Young’s Literal Translation
But now Christ is raised from among [the] dead, first-fruits of those fallen asleep.
– Darby Bible
But, in reality, Christ *has* risen from among the dead, being the first to do so of those who are asleep.
– Weymouth Bible
Those that have “fallen asleep” in (v. 20) are “the dead” the Corinthians were denying a resurrection for and not those that have “fallen asleep in Christ” in (v.18) of whom they did affirm a resurrection for.  Since they affirmed the resurrection of Christ, they needed to be reminded of a particular aspect of it – that is, He was the “first” to be raised out from among these dead ones and is thus the “Firstfruits” of the resurrection not only for those “in Christ,” but also for “the dead.”  The dead ones had hardly perished, since Christ had risen “out” from or “among” them!
Paul is going to now further his argument in inseparably connecting Christ’s resurrection with that of “the dead” by using the first fruit analogy. Christ is not only the Firstfruits of those that have fallen asleep “in Christ,” (something they would affirm), but also of the dead ones (the dead) from which he arose out from among.
There are some implications here of Christ being the “Firstfruits” for the futurist to consider.
First, since Christ was not the first to rise out from the dead ones bodily, He is the “first” in what sense?  He was the first to overcome “the [spiritual] death” or curse that came from Adam (which is developed in the verses which follow).
Secondly, whenever the firstfruits were offered up, they were a pledge or symbol that not only the harvest was guaranteed but that it was already ripe and being cut – thus the full harvest was imminent.  Thus “the end” or harvest time was something that was imminent to the Corinthian Church which Paul has already instructed them on (1 Cor. 10:11).  The analogy of Scripture also teaches us this on a first century harvest.  Paul’s doctrine on the time of the harvest is not different from that of the teaching found in John the Baptist, Jesus,’ or the Apostle John’s.  According to John the Baptist, there was a wrath or punishment that was “soon” to come (cf. Matt. 3:7GNT), the ax was already laid at the trees (Matt. 3:10) and God already had His “winnowing fork” in His hand (Matt. 3:12).  These three verses depict an imminent harvest – salvation for the repentant and judgment for those among Israel that would reject their Messiah.  In (Matthew 13:39-43) Jesus identifies the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 to take place not at the end of the Christian age or the planet earth, but at the end His audiences “this [ie. Old Covenant] age.”  In Revelation we are told that the time of harvest and judgment of the dead had come and that these were events that were “shortly” to take place (Rev. 1:1; 11:15-19; 14:7, 14-20).  Between the writings of reformed Partial Preterists such as Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Peter Leithart and Joel McDurmon, these passages describe a harvest resurrection at the end of Israel’s OC age in AD 70 that was spiritual, covenantal/corporate, and involved souls being raised out from among Abraham’s Bosom into God’s presence.  Unfortunately because of their traditions and creeds, they are unable to follow sound hermeneutics and the analogy of Scripture and see that the same resurrection is in view here in 1 Corinthians 15.
“For seeing that death came through man, through man comes also the resurrection of the dead.  For just as through Adam all die, so also through Christ all will be made alive again.  But this will happen to each in the right order — Christ having been the first to rise, and afterwards Christ’s people rising at His return.” (1 Cor. 15:21-23).
Again, it wasn’t the resurrection of Christ or those “in Christ” that those in Corinth were denying a resurrection for, but rather they were denying the “allness” of God’s people in rejecting a resurrection for “the dead.”  Therefore, Paul needs to deal with the “allness” so to speak of the resurrection and he does so by bringing up the covenant headship of those in Adam and those in Christ.  He first mentions that through Adam ALL die.  That is through Adam’s sin, those among “the dead” and those “In Christ” were still spiritually dead needing the full aspect to the resurrection to occur at Christ’s parousia.  As “the dead” and those “in Christ” shared in “the death” that came through Adam, “ALL” of God’s believing covenant people (“the [OT/OC] dead” and those “in Christ”) would rise together!