Death of Death

Some church members in Corinth were denying the future bodily resurrection of the righteous. Paul responded by stressing the necessity for resurrection, and he appealed to the past resurrection of Jesus as the precedent for the coming raising of believers from the dead. The followers of the Nazarene will be resurrected bodily when he “arrives” at the end of the age, and that event will signal the termination of death - death will be no more.

But Paul also reveals something new. Believers who are alive on the day when Jesus “arrives” from heaven will be transformed and RECEIVE IMMORTAL BODIES. The bodily resurrection will mean nothing less than the end of death AND the arrival of the New Creation.

HIS PRECEDENT


In advancing his argument, Paul presents the sequence of events that will precede the parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus. He begins with a rhetorical 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 the Apostle’s perspective, the issue is the absolute necessity for bodily resurrection and all his arguments support that proposition. And the basis of his conclusion is the PAST RESURRECTION OF JESUS.

If there is no future resurrection, then “not even Christ has been raised,” and if that is the case, then the Gospel message is null and void. Thus, the future resurrection of believers is based on the past resurrection of Jesus and is pivotal to the faith and hope of the church.

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

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

HIS ARRIVAL


Elsewhere in his letters, Paul uses the Greek noun parousia for the “coming” or “arrival” of Jesus. For example, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he links the resurrection of dead believers to that very day - (1 Thessalonians 4:12-15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8).

Thus, his “arrival” will mean “the end” of the present age, the subjugation of all his enemies, and the termination of Death. And Death is the “last enemy” that must be destroyed. Only then will Jesus deliver the "kingdom to God” to his Father, and after that, God will be “all in all” forevermore - (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

The purpose of his words in 1 Corinthians is not to present all the details and chronological markers related to the return of Jesus. Specific subjects are introduced to support his main argument for the bodily resurrection of believers.

Christ was raised as the “first fruit” of them who “sleep.” Logically, therefore, dead believers who “sleep” will participate in the same kind of resurrection that he did, though only at the proper time. And in the conclusion of his argument, Paul returns to the resurrection and the end of death:

  • (1 Corinthians 15:51-58) - “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… During the last trumpet, for it shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Thus, the end of death coincides with his “arrival” and the resurrection of the dead. That day will mark the final and complete overthrow of all God’s enemies and the consummation of His rule. After that, there will be no more enemies to conquer; and therefore, DEATH WILL BE NO MORE.

But the bodily resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of dead corpses. Instead, our mortal bodies will be TRANSFORMED INTO ANOTHER KIND OF BODY.

The resurrection will produce bodies geared for life in the Spirit and ones that no longer are subject to disease, decay, or death. The irrefutable evidence for this is the glorified body of Jesus. And this means that life in the future age will be AN EMBODIED EXISTENCE, not life in a disembodied state - (1 Corinthians 15:35-50).

The “mystery” revealed by Paul is that disciples of Jesus who are alive when he returns will be physically transformed. The church’s hope rests on the belief in the future resurrection and life in the New Creation, and in that new reality, death will cease forevermore.


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