24 July 2019

The Coming of Jesus in Corinth

Ruins of ancient Greek City

The coming of Jesus is not a major topic in either First or Second Corinthians, Paul mentions it only in passing, with the exception of 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, but he does touch on several aspects of that event in the process.
     The opening paragraph of the letter is a thanksgiving section in which Paul thanks God for His grace to the Corinthians by enriching them in all “discourse,” “knowledge” and “gifts.” The future coming of Christ is not the subject of the paragraph; Paul inserts a reference to it to give the Corinthians’ a proper perspective on the value and use of wisdom and spiritual gifts in light of his impending arrival.(1 Corinthians 1:4-9) - “I give thanks to my God at all times concerning you by reason of the grace of God given to 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 Christ has been confirmed in you so that ye come short in no gift of grace, ardently awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will also confirm you until the end, unimpeachable 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.”
     Rather than overvalue spiritual gifts, the Corinthians need to remember that they still await the much fuller and final glories to be dispensed when Jesus arrives. Believers ardently await the revelation of Jesus, “revelation” translates the noun apokalupsis or “revelation, disclosure, unveiling” (cp. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Luke 17:30; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:13).
Paul then encourages the Corinthians, for God will “confirm” them “until the end,” that is, the end of the existing age or era. Its consummation takes place when the Son of Man comes (Matthew 24:3-6, 24:14, 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Peter 4:7). “Until” means that God will continue to confirm the Corinthians right up to the very last moment. An inference from this is that some Christians will be alive when the “end” arrives.
     God will confirm believers “unimpeachable” on that day. This translates a legal term signifying one against whom legal charges can no longer be leveled (anegklĂ©tos); hence “unimpeachable, guiltless, irreproachable, blameless.” On that day, no one will be able to bring charges against Christians in God’s court. This will not be due to righteousness on their part, but because God “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 (Amos 5:18-20, Joel 2:31, Philippians 1:6, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10). By adding “Jesus Christ” to this phrase, Paul centers this hope on Jesus.
(1 Corinthians 4:5) - “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.”
     Paul now deals with inappropriate attitudes at Corinth. Some members were rejecting Paul’s teachings and authority. His response begins by employing the image of household servants or stewards. As a “steward,” Paul has been entrusted with the “mysteries” of God. Paul is a servant of Christ and therefore belongs to the Corinthians, but he is accountable only to the Master of the household, not to them, therefore, their opinion of Paul is of little consequence.
     Only the Master’s evaluation matters, which will be made evident when he returns. Therefore, Christians are not to judge anyone before the proper time, which is “when the Lord comes,” and then Jesus will “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”
     A few verses previously Paul spoke of a coming day of evaluation when each Christian’s work is to be examined to see whether it is built on a proper foundation. “Each man’s work will be made manifest for the day will make it plain, because is it to be revealed by fire…If anyone’s work shall abide which he built, shall he receive a reward. If anyone’s work shall be burnt up, he shall suffer loss but shall himself, be saved, though thus as through fire” (3:13-15). This will take place when Jesus comes.
(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 to 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. The purpose was 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, Paul meant the destruction of what is carnal in the man as he was buffeted by satanic forces outside the believing community. The hoped-for results would be his repentance and, therefore, his salvation on the day of the Lord.
     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.”
(1 Corinthians 11:26) - “For as often as ye may be eating this loaf and drinking the cup, the death of the Lord do ye announce until he comes.”
     This verse is part of Paul’s discussion on proper behavior for participation in the Lord’s Supper. “Until he comes” translates the Greek verb erchomai with the basic meaning “come.” The same verb is used several other 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).
     Paul brings together in the communion the celebration not only the commemoration of Christ’s death but his future return. By eating the bread and drinking the cup of wine the church proclaims the death of Jesus “until he comes.”
(1 Corinthians 15:22-28) “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive, but each in his own rank. A firstfruit, Christ, after that they who are Christ’s at his coming; afterwards the end, whenever he delivers up the kingdom to his God and Father, whenever he shall bring to nothing 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 whenever it shall be said, ‘all things are in subjection,’ it is evident that it means except him who did put into subjection to him the all things. But whenever have been put into subjection to him the all things, then the Son himself also shall be put in subjection to him who put in subjection to him the all things, that God may be all things in all.”
     Paul is responding to church members who denied 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 the chapter is the resurrection.
Paul argues for the future Resurrection on the basis of Christ’s past resurrection. 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.
     As his argument progresses, Paul lays out the general order of the Resurrection. It began with Jesus and awaits completion in the future. Jesus is a “firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep.” Since death came to be through a man, Adam, so “through a man,” Christ, comes the raising of the dead.
Just as “in the Adam all die,” likewise in Christ shall all be made alive. His followers are waiting to be raised at his coming or Parousia (cp.1 Thessalonians 1: 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8).
     The Apostle provides a clear key for when the resurrection will occur; first, by correlating 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 occurs 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.
     Paul’s purpose is not to describe Christ’s coming in detail but to further substantiated his argument for the future resurrection. Paul will return to the 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”).
(2 Corinthians 1:14) - “According as ye have also acknowledged us in part, that we are your theme of boasting, even indeed as ye also shall be ours in the day of our Lord Jesus.”
     Paul previously referred to the “day of our Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 7-8). This will be the day on which all believers appear before Christ’s judgment seat (1 Corinthians 5:10). Paul expects on that day that the faith of the Corinthians will be his “boast” and vice versa, mutual evidence of the faithfulness of both and grounds for their joint vindication before Christ’s tribunal.
     Paul frequently referred to the day of the Lord Jesus (and variations) where the Old Testament spoke of the “day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5, Philippians 1:6, 1:10, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:2), a coming day of deliverance for God’s people but also condemnation and destruction for His enemies (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
     While the coming of Jesus is not a major topic in either Corinthian letter, certain points of Paul’s understanding 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.
  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.
  6. The coming of Jesus occurs at the end of the age.
  7. The coming of Jesus results in the bodily resurrection of the dead.
  8. The coming of Jesus means the cessation of death.
     In the Corinthians 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 dead and living Christians are physically transformed.

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