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24 July 2019

Coming of Jesus in Corinth

SYNOPSIS:  The return of Jesus constitutes the “Day of the Lord” at the end of the age when the dead are raised, the judgment occurs, his kingdom is consummated, and Death ceases to occur.

Jesus arrives with his Holy Ones
The coming of Jesus is not a major topic in the first and second letter of Paul to the church in the city of Corinth. In them, he mentions it only in passing, with the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians being the one exception.

But in the process of addressing several problems in this congregation, Paul touches on several aspects of the future return of Jesus. This includes its connections to the “day of the Lord” from the Hebrew scriptures, the end of the age, the consummation of God’s kingdom, the resurrection of believers, and the cessation of Death.

The Day of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • (1 Corinthians 1:4-9) - “I give thanks unto my God at all times concerning you, by reason of the favour of God given unto you in Christ Jesus — That in everything, ye have been enriched in him — in all discourse and in all knowledge; Even as the witness of the Christ hath been confirmed in you, So that ye come short in no gift of favour — ardently awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus ChristWho will also confirm you unto the end, unaccusable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ: Faithful is God, through whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The preceding is a thanksgiving section in which Paul thanks God for His grace to the Corinthians for enriching them in all discourse, knowledge and gifts.  The future coming of Christ is not the subject. However, he inserts a reference to it to give the Corinthian believers a proper perspective on the value and use of spiritual gifts, especially in consideration of the impending arrival of Jesus from heaven.

Rather than overvalue spiritual gifts, the Corinthians need to remember that they still await the much fuller and final glories that will be dispensed when Jesus arrives. Believers ardently await that “revelation” of Jesus. “Revelation” translates the Greek noun apokalupsis, meaning, “revelation, disclosure, unveiling” (Compare - 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Luke 17:30, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 4:13).

The Apostle encourages the congregation, for God will “confirm” them “until the end,” that is, the end of the existing age. Its consummation will take place when the Son of Man comes. “Until” means that God will continue to confirm the Corinthians right up to the last moment.  This infers that some Christians will be alive when the “end” comes (Matthew 24:3-6, 24:14, 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Peter 4:7).

God will confirm believers “unimpeachable” on that day.  This translates a legal term that signifies a person against whom legal charges can no longer be leveled (anegklĂ©tos -Strong’s #410); hence, “unimpeachable, guiltless, irreproachable, blameless.”  On that day, no one can bring charges against Christians in God’s court. This will not be due to their righteousness, but because God has “confirmed” them.
The “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the same as the “day of the Lord” in the Old Testament, the day on which God delivers his children, judges His enemies, and brings the existing age to its conclusion. By adding “Jesus Christ” to the phrase, Paul centers this ancient hope on Jesus (Amos 5:18-20, Joel 2:31, Philippians 1:6, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10).

Until the Lord Comes

(1 Corinthians 4:3-5) - “With me, however, it counteth for the very smallest thing that by you I should be examined, or by a human day. Nay! I am not even examining myself, For of nothing to myself am I conscious: nevertheless, not hereby am I declared righteous, but he that doth examine me is the Lord.  So, then, not before the fitting time be judging anything — until the Lord shall come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and, then, the praise shall come to each one from God.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

In this next passage, Paul deals with inappropriate attitudes among the congregants at Corinth.  Some members were rejecting his teachings and authority.  His response begins by employing the image of household servants or stewards. As a “steward,” he has been entrusted with the “mysteries” of God.

Jesus welcomes his saints - clipart.christiansunite.com
The Apostle is a servant of Christ and, therefore, belongs to the Corinthians, yet he is accountable only to the Master of the household and not to them. Therefore, their opinion of him is of little consequence. Only the evaluation of the Master matters, and that will be made evident when the Lord returns. Therefore, Christians are not to judge anyone before the proper time, that is, “When the Lord comes.” Only at that time will Jesus “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”

A few verses earlier, Paul spoke of a coming day of evaluation when each Christian’s work will be examined to see whether it is built on a proper foundation. Again, that will occur when Jesus comes on the “day of the Lord.” Note the reference to “the day” in the following passage:
  • (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) - “Each one’s work shall be made manifest; for the day will make it plain, because by fire is it to be revealed — and each one’s work of what sort it is, the fire itself will prove: — If anyone’s work shall abide which he built, a reward shall he receive — If anyone’s work shall be burnt up, he shall suffer loss, but shall himself be saved — though, thus, as through fire.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The Day of the Lord
  • (1 Corinthians 5:4-5) - “In the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, To deliver such a one as this unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh — that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
Paul must deal with a shameful development that could bring the church into disrepute. A male member was having sexual relations with his stepmother. While fornication was quite common in that pagan society, to have sexual relations with one’s stepmother was beyond the pale, even for the most promiscuous pagans. Rather than boast of their spiritually, the Corinthians needed to “mourn” that such a one was in their midst.

Paul exhorted the church to expel this man from the Christian community so that his “spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” The “destruction of the flesh” would become part of the remedial process.  By this term, he meant the destruction of what is carnal in the man as he was buffeted by the satanic forces operating outside the believing community. The results hoped for would be his repentance and, therefore, his salvation on the day of the Lord. Note well how, once again, Paul associates the “day of the Lord” with judgment, even the judgment of believers.

What this scenario indicates is that final salvation is only realized on the “day of the Lord,” an idea found elsewhere in the New Testament. The “day of the Lord” Paul has in view is the same day he already referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 when Jesus “comes” and brings this age to its inevitable “end.”

Until He Comes
  • (1 Corinthians 11:24-26) - “And giving thanks, brake it and said — This is my body, which is for you — this do ye in remembrance of me; In the same manner, the cup also, after they had taken supper, saying — This cup is the new covenant in my blood, this do ye as often soever as ye may be drinking it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye may be eating this loaf, and the cup may be drinking, The death of the Lord do ye announce until he comes.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
This verse is part of Paul’s discussion on proper behavior for participation in the Lord’s Supper.  “He comes” translates the Greek verb erchomai with the basic meaning “come.” The same verb is used in several places in the New Testament for the return of Jesus (e.g., 1 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 24:30, John 14:3, Acts 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 2:10, Rev. 1:1).
In his explanation of the communion celebration, Paul combines the commemoration of Christ’s death with the promise of his return. By eating the bread and drinking the cup of wine, the church proclaims the death of Jesus “until he comes.” This links the two events – both are essential to biblical Christianity.

At His Coming
  • (1 Corinthians 15:22-28) “For, just as in the Adam all die, so, also, in the Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own rank: — A firstfruit, Christ, after that they who are the Christ’s in his presence, Afterwards, the end — whensoever he delivereth up the kingdom unto his God and Father, whensoever he shall bring to nought all rule and all authority and power; For he must needs reign until he shall put all his enemies under his feet: As a last enemy, death is to be destroyed; For — He put all things in subjection under his feet. But whensoever it shall be said — all things are in subjection! — it is evident that it means — Except him who did put into subjection unto him the all things — But whensoever have been put into subjection unto him the all things, then the Son himself also shall be put in subjection unto him who put in subjection unto him the all things — that God may be all things in all.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Paul now responds to church members who were denying there would be a future bodily resurrection (“Now, 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?”). The main subject of Chapter 15 is the future and collective resurrection of believers. He argues for the future Resurrection on the past resurrection of Jesus.  If there is no future resurrection, then “not even Christ has been raised, and if Christ has not been raised void is our proclamation, void also our faith.”

His Resurrection
As his argument progresses, Paul lays out the general order of events in the Resurrection.  It began in the past with the resurrection of Jesus and awaits consummation in the future. Jesus is “a first-fruit of those who have fallen asleep.” That is, Jesus was the first participant in a larger process; his past resurrection is inextricably linked to the future resurrection of believers.

Since death came into existence through a man, Adam, so “through a man,” Christ, comes the raising of the dead. Just as “in Adam, all die,” likewise, in Christ shall all be made alive. His followers are waiting to be raised at his coming or Parousia (1 Thessalonians 1: 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8).

Paul provides a clear key for when the resurrection will occur. First, he correlates it with the “coming” or parousia of Jesus. Second, by specifying that this “coming” means nothing less than “the end” of the age and the cessation of death. Then “God will be in all.”  This will occur after Jesus “delivers up the kingdom to his God and Father, whenever he brings to nothing all rule and all authority and power,” and the “last enemy,” death, is destroyed.

The purpose is not to describe the coming of Jesus in detail but to further substantiate his argument for the future resurrection. Paul will return to the future cessation of death in verses 51-58 (“we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet; for it shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”).

Boasting on the Day of our Lord Jesus

(2 Corinthians 1:13-14) - “For no other things are we writing unto you than what ye are either reading or even acknowledging — I hope, moreover, that throughout ye will acknowledge, According as ye have also acknowledged us in part — that your theme of boasting we are, even indeed as ye also shall be ours in the day of our Lord Jesus.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

Paul has referred to the “day of our Lord Jesus” in his first letter to the Corinthians, the day on which all believers appear before the judgment seat of Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). On that day, Paul expects that the faith of the Corinthians will be his “boast,” and vice versa. That is, the mutual evidence of the faithfulness of both Paul and the Corinthians, and the grounds for their joint vindication before Christ’s tribunal. Paul expressed a similar sentiment to the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20).

Paul refers frequently to the “day of the Lord Jesus” where the Old Testament spoke of the “day of the Lord”, a coming day of deliverance for the people of God but, also, a day of condemnation and destruction for His enemies (1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5, Philippians 1:6, 1:10, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1).

Summary

While the coming of Jesus is not a major topic in either Corinthian letter, certain points of Paul’s conception of that event are presented:
  1. There will be only one future coming of Jesus.
  2. The coming of Jesus is synonymous with the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” or the “day of the Lord.”
  3.  The coming of Christ means a time of examination and judgment of the righteous.
  4. Paul uses key terms interchangeably, including “coming,” “revelation,” and “arrival” or parousia.
  5. Christ’s coming occurs after he has subjugated all God’s enemies at the end of the age.
  6. It results in the bodily resurrection of the dead and the cessation of death.
In the Corinthian letters, Paul never mentions or hints at a future removal of Christians from the earth or their transportation to a realm outside of the Creation. Jesus “comes” to the earth where both dead and living Christians are physically transformed and receive immortal bodies perfectly fitted for life in the New Creation.


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