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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 15:20-28


The General Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 

So far in this chapter, Paul has been preparing the ground for some strong corrective teaching on the Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead. It is not just the Corinthians who are confused about this doctrine!  Many today have become similarly confused, and much of this confusion surrounding the resurrection has been caused by the Schofield Bible, with its complicated system of multiple resurrections.  In this section Paul teaches us three basic points of doctrine, and a proper understanding of them will help us to see that Schofieldism is anything but Biblical:-

The Prototype of Resurrection!

Christ is seen here as the guarantee of our resurrection!  See:-

  1. A contrasting affirmation. But now is Christ risen from the dead.  Paul has laid out the disastrous consequences of not believing that Christ is risen, BUT NOW!  The verse starts with a great contrasting affirmation of the living Christ!  It is absolutely certain that Jesus has risen from the dead, and because He is risen, we do have hope!  In fact we have:-
  2. A confident assurance! and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  Now the term ‘firstfruits’ was very significant for a Jewish person.  The Passover feast not only reminded the people of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, but it was also a great harvest festival!  It was the time when the barley harvest was beginning, and Leviticus laid down the exact manner in which this particular harvest was to be gathered in!  Some sheaves were to be removed from the field in which the crop was growing, and it was to be brought to the priest.  The priest would then present this sheaf of barley as an offering to the Lord.  It was the great guarantee to the people, that just as the firstfruit had been gathered in, so the rest of the harvest was assured. Leviticus 23:10-11 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. Notice the day when this happened! On the first day of the week, the very day that Jesus rose from the dead, the priests were standing before the Lord waving the sheaf of barley; the firstfruits were gathered in, and that the harvest is now certain!  Jesus rose from the dead on that very day!  He is the firstfruits of them that sleep!  His resurrection is our guarantee for a glorious resurrection!  Col. 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 

Savoy; The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting -for the full redemption of their bodies: and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day: Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.


  1. A capacious atonement!   For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  What capacity for redemption and salvation there is in Jesus!  Now here we must be careful not to misunderstand what Paul is saying.  There are, within the visible church, some who believe in universal atonement.  They are liberal theologians, who believe that Christ’s death on the cross ensures that every single man or woman will be saved, whether or not they have repented and trusted in Christ.  Some of them look to this verse for justification for their views.  They would argue that as Adam’s sin applies to all men, so Christ’s atonement for sin applies to all men.  Now if we take that view, we are doing a terrible violation to the most basic principle of Biblical Interpretation of all, that the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures, for such a liberal viewpoint is not consistent with the teachings of the rest of the Bible.  So, what DID Paul mean?  The key to understanding this verse is found in the word IN!  In this verse we see, in microcosm, the doctrine of FEDERAL HEADSHIP.  Adam is our representative, the head of our race.  Every one of us is IN Adam.  When Adam sinned, we all sinned, and death passed upon us all!  Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.  In contrast to that, those who are IN Christ shall be made alive!  But who is IN Christ?  Not the whole world, not every man that ever lived, certainly not the conscious, wilful Christ rejecter, BUT THE BELIEVER!  He is IN Christ!  Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 

Let us sum up these verses.  Jesus has died, and has risen again!  Believers, who once were guilty partakers of Adam’s sin, and who now have Christ as their head and representative, have had their sins atoned for by Him, and have the assurance of eternal life in Him!


The Protocol of Resurrection!

  1. The PRECISION that is Employed. But every man in his own order There is a proper order to the resurrection.  The Greek word for order used here is ταγματι, which, according to the Englishman’s Greek New Testament, means RANK.  It is a military term, an arrangement of the troops of a company, and it indicates the manner in which the resurrection will take place.  There is no confusion in the resurrection, but rather a military-like precision of events.
  2. The PERSONS who are Elevated! Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.  The Lord Himself arose from the dead, then the dead in Christ, then the judgement of all, when God shall be universally glorified upon His Kingly Throne.  It is that simple!
  3. The PLAINNESS of these Events!  There is no sign here of the complicated sequences of the Schofield Bible. Some Brethren preachers and others would tell us that there is a resurrection of the just dead on the day that Jesus returns for His church.  They call that the ‘rapture of the church,’  Then, they say, there will be a second resurrection, of the so-called ‘tribulation-saints’ some seven years later.  They call that Christ’s ‘revelation.’  Then, they say, one thousand years later, another resurrection, this time the resurrection of judgement.  Oh but it is sensationalist!  It appeals to the more tasteless aspects of human nature, it stimulates the excitement, it provides great fodder for thrilling, dramatic videos and best-selling novelists like Tim LaHaye to ply their trade, but it is not the plainness of the Biblical version of these events!  Contrast all of this with what we have read in this passage!  There is only ONE General Resurrection of the Dead! Paul himself affirms this in Acts 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.   Listen to what our Lord Himself taught His disciples, John 5:25-29  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.  Granted, there will be a resurrection of the saved dead, and a resurrection of the wicked dead, but, in the Bible, (when Schofield’s notes are omitted) both these events occur simultaneously!  There is no INTERVAL OF TIME between these resurrections, as the Dispensationalists would have us think.  Simplicity is the essence of the Lord’s Coming!  Jesus shall come, on a day when we are not expecting such a cataclysmic event, we who are alive shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, the dead shall be raised, the wicked shall be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity!  The believer will be welcomed home, to the great marriage supper of the Lamb, where he shall dwell in indescribable bliss throughout eternity with the Lord.

But what about the FIRST AND SECOND resurrection?  Does the Bible not speak about two resurrections?  Rev. 20:5-6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.  But what is this first resurrection, that confers blessedness and holiness upon the people of God, and who has taken part in it?   Notice how Jesus describes this first resurrection in John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. And John the Apostle wrote in, 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.   When do we pass from death to life?  When we are saved!  Our dead spirits are resurrected!  This is the first resurrection that the believer will experience!

  1. The PARAMETERS that are Exercised!  There is a serious side to the error of Schofield dispensationalism, for it holds out the false opportunity for a second chance of salvation.  After the Lord comes, says Schofield, there is a period when the so-called ‘tribulation saints’ may saved, through the preaching of ‘the Gospel of the Kingdom.’  Leaving aside the misuse of that Biblical term, how many lost sinners have put off salvation because they think that they have a second chance?  When Jesus comes, the dead shall be raised, the righteous dead shall go to be with the Lord, the unjust dead shall be raised to corruption and to perdition, and the probation of man is finished for ever.  The lost are lost forever.

Savoy: At the last day such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed; and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls for ever.  The bodies of the unjust shall by the power of Christ be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit unto honour, and to be made conformable to his own glorious body. 


The Protagonist of Resurrection!

24b-28. Am I right in referring to Our Saviour as the protagonist of Resurrection?  After all, most of us think of Jesus as the Saviour, the suffering servant of God, who came into this world to seek and to save those who are lost!  But I think I am justified in describing Him so!  The word derives from the Greek word ‘αγων the same word that is the root of our word agony.  It rightly speaks of a battle, or a contest, and in these verses we see the risen Lord, marching forth, coming against evil, the first in the battle, the protagonist of righteousness and truth!  In this passage we see:-

  1. The sovereign reign of Christ. when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.  For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The wrongs of this world will finally be put right!  Sin and misery are rampant throughout this world.  Internet pornography, child prostitution, drug addiction, terrorism, crime and extortion are all rampant in society.  They were in Corinth, and they are today.  Many look around them and fear for society, and fear for the future.  For the believer there is a great resurrection day coming!  There is a day coming when Christ shall put all things under His feet! All sin and shame, all lying and deceit, all violence and murder, all crime and injustice will be ended when Christ comes, and puts all His enemies under His feet!
  2. The final defeat of death. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.  The great enemy of man will be stopped forever!  Death will be swallowed up in victory!  Rev. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 
  3. The subjection of the universe. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.  The whole of the universe will be subjected to Christ on the Resurrection Day.  We seem to return here to the subject of true headship.  The Doctrine of Headship decrees that God is the head of all things, that Christ, being made equal with God, did not consider that equality something to be grasped, as Paul states in Philippians 2, but nevertheless became obedient unto death.  So Christ is the Head of man, and man is the head of his home.  That is the divine order, given in the Scriptures.  But mankind is also the head of nature!  Remember that Adam was given the task of subduing and cultivating the earth.  He was to exercise DOMINION over all the earth! Psalm 8:4-8 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.  At Resurrection Day, God’s Created order shall be truly restored!
  4. The ultimate glorification of God! And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.   Now we must not think that this implies some form of ‘subordination’ of Christ.  We believe what the Bible teaches, that the Three Persons of the Trinity are both co-equal and co-eternal.  God gave a great task to His wonderful Son.  His task was to be the protagonist.  To go forth and to conquer sin and death and hell, and present all things, the redeemed universe, to His Father.  On Resurrection Day, Christ shall present not only all the universe, but Himself as well, to God, as the mighty conqueror.

The Resurrection of Christ proclaims loudly that Jesus is the Victor, and the Coming Day of Resurrection gives us a portion and a share in Christ’s victory!  Will you be there?  The Resurrection of the dead will precipitate the Great Judgement Day of the Lord.  Only those who know the Lord as Saviour will be part of His Great Victory!


From → Sermon Notes

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