Last Enemy, Death

The arrival of Jesus at the end of the age will mean resurrection and the termination of the last enemy, death

Cemetery Sun - Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash
Certain men in Corinth denied the future bodily resurrection. In his response, Paul stressed the necessity for the raising of the dead by appealing to the 
past resurrection of Jesus as the precedent for the future resurrection of believers who will be raised when he “arrives” in glory. And that final event will signal the termination of death – The death of Death. - [Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash].

But he also revealed something new. Believers who remain alive on that day will be transformed and receive immortal bodies. The bodily resurrection means nothing less than the end of death AND the arrival of the New Creation.

Paul presented the sequence of events that will precede his ‘parousia’ or “arrival.” But he began by posing the question - “If Christ is proclaimed that he has been raised from among the dead, how say some of you there is no resurrection of the dead?” – (1 Corinthians 15:12).

From his perspective, the issue is the absolute necessity for bodily resurrection and all his arguments support that proposition. And the foundation of his conclusion is the past bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

If there is no future resurrection, then “not even Christ has been raised.” And if that is true, then the gospel message is null and void. Thus, the future collective resurrection of believers is based on the past resurrection of Jesus and pivotal for the faith of the church.

Then he argued further - “All will be made alive, but each in his own rank” or “order.” Jesus was the “first fruit.” That is, he rose first, and the rest will follow “at his arrival,” and that will constitute “the end when he delivers up the kingdom to God and brings to nothing all rule, authority, and power.”

Thus, the rising of the dead began with Jesus, the “firstborn of the dead,” and the process will be completed at his “arrival” in glory - (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Elsewhere, Paul uses the Greek noun parousia for the “arrival” of Jesus. For example, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he linked the resurrection of dead believers to that very day - “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” - (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:12-15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8).

Thus, his “arrival” will terminate the present age that is dominated by sin and death. He will subjugate all his enemies and cause death to cease. And the latter is the “last enemy” that must be destroyed. Only then will Jesus deliver the "kingdom to God.” Thereafter, God will be “all in all” - (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

Paul’s purpose was not to present all the details and chronological markers related to the return of Jesus. He employed specific subjects in support of his argument for the bodily resurrection of believers.

Cemetary sunrise - Photo by Madeleine Maguire on Unsplash
Photo by Madeleine Maguire on Unsplash

Christ was raised as the “first fruit
” of those who “sleep.” Logically, therefore, dead believers who “sleep” will participate in the same kind of resurrection that he did. And at the conclusion of his argument, Paul returned to the resurrection and the cessation of death - “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… During the last trumpet, for it shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” - (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).

Thus, the termination of death coincides with the “arrival” of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. That day will mark the final overthrow of all God’s enemies and the consummation of His rule. After that, there will be no enemies left to conquer, and Death will be no more.

However, bodily resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of corpses. Instead, our mortal bodies will be transformed into another kind of body. Resurrection produces bodies geared for life in the Spirit, ones that are not subject to decay and death. The irrefutable evidence for this is the glorified body of Jesus. And all this means that life in the future age will be an embodied existence, and not a disembodied state - (1 Corinthians 15:35-50).

The “mystery” revealed by Paul is that Christians who are alive when Jesus returns will be physically transformed. Our hope rests on the belief in the future resurrection and life in the New Creation, where death will be no more.



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