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26 August 2019

The Order of Final Events

Sunset over Beach - Photo by Rachel Cook on
The Apostle Paul outlines a sequence of events to occur at the “coming” or parousia of Jesus in his first letter to the church at Corinth. Parousia or “arrival” is one of several Greek terms applied by Paul for the coming of Jesus, always in the singular. Regardless of which term used, he always spoke of one “coming,” “revelation,” or “appearance” of Jesus, not two or more (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
The resurrection of the righteous, final judgment and the New Creation are all linked in the future coming of Christ in the New Testament, along with other related events (Romans 8:19-28, 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 5:23, 2 Peter 3:3-12, Revelation 20:10-11).
In this letter, Paul does not set out to provide a detailed roadmap of future events but, instead, to present arguments that prove the necessity of bodily resurrection. Apparently, some members of the church denied the reality of resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12).
These doubters were members of the same group that overvalued their “spirituality.” Some of them also rejected belief in the bodily resurrection, probably from the influence of one concept or another of disembodied existence after death common to that Greco-Roman culture.
Paul bases the future resurrection of believers 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…to no purpose is our faith, we are yet in our sins.” The resurrection of believers is linked, inextricably, with the raising of Jesus from the grave.
In the process of presenting his arguments, Paul lists key events that will coincide with the “arrival” of Jesus from heaven. These include the collective resurrection of dead believers, the arrival of “the end,” the consummation of God’s kingdom, the final overthrow of all hostile powers, the cessation of death, and the complete implementation of God’s reign.
The Apostle explains what kind of body saints are to inherit when the resurrection occurs (“How are the dead raised and with what manner of body do they come?”); it will be raised “in incorruption, glory and power,” and be dominated by the Spirit. The future body will be immortal and no longer subject to death and decay, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” 
Paul brings his arguments to a conclusion by demonstrating the necessity for the transformation of the human body to inherit everlasting life. Both living and dead saints must be transformed into bodies that are dominated by the “spirit,” incorruptible and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:49-57).
Though not explicitly stated, the change from mortal to immortal bodies implies an act of new creation. Paul reiterates that the resurrection occurs at the parousia or “arrival” of Jesus, an event that also terminates the jurisdiction of Death. This scenario leads to several conclusions:
1.    Bodily resurrection coincides with the “coming” Jesus.
2.   Christ’s “coming” is at “the end” of this age.
3.  Jesus subdues all hostile powers before his arrival, which means he reigns during the present age.
4.  The parousia results in the cessation of death and the receipt of immortality, which means nothing less than the new creation (Romans 8:19-23).
5.   Christians will be alive on the earth when Jesus arrives.
6.  Resurrection life is an embodied existence, though experienced in a body of a different nature than the present one.
7. The resurrection is a collective event; all believers are resurrected at the “coming” of Jesus.
The events that Paul connects to the “coming” of Jesus are problematic to some interpretive schools.  For example, the final victory over death, the consummation of Christ’s reign, and the new creation leave no room for another interim period after Christ’s return, one in which sin and death occur. Likewise, the overthrow of all hostile powers prior to his return does not allow for any future rebellion by Satan.
In short, this passage is difficult to reconcile with interpretations that predict an interim period of a thousand years after the arrival of Jesus but before the New Creation.

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