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26 August 2019

The Order of Final Events

Night Comes
The Apostle Paul outlines a sequence of events to occur at the “coming” or parousia of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
Parousia (“coming, arrival”) is one of several Greek terms used by Paul for the future coming of Jesus, and always in the singular. Regardless of which term he used, the Apostle always spoke of one future “coming,” “revelation,” or “appearance” of Jesus, not two (or more).
The resurrection of the righteous dead, the final judgment, and the New Creation are linked to the parousia in the New Testament, among other events (e.g., Romans 8:19-28, 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 5:23; 2 Peter 3:3-12, Revelation 20:10-11).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul did not set out to provide a detailed roadmap of future events but to present arguments to prove the necessity of bodily resurrection. Apparently, some members of the church denied the reality of resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12). This was probably the same group that overvalued their own “spirituality” and, possibly, some of them rejected belief in the bodily resurrection in favor of one concept or another about disembodied existence after death.
Paul bases the future resurrection on the past raising of Jesus from the dead.  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 inextricably linked with that of Jesus.
Paul does list key events that coincide with the “coming” or Parousia of Jesus. They include the collective resurrection of 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 in the resurrection (“How are the dead raised and with what manner of body do they come?”).  The resurrection body will be raised “in incorruption, glory and power.”  It will be dominated by the Spirit and differ accordingly from the “natural body.”  It will be immortal, no longer subject to death and decay, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” 
He brings his arguments to a conclusion by demonstrating the necessity for the transformation of the human body to enter everlasting life. Both living and dead saints must be transformed into bodies that are dominated by the “spirit,” incorruptible and immortal (verses 51-54). Though not explicitly stated, the change from mortal to immortal implies a new creation. Paul reiterates that the Resurrection occurs at the parousia of Jesus, which will also mean the cessation of Death. This scenario leads to several conclusions, including:
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; i.e., he reigns beforehand.
4.    The parousia means the cessation of death and the transformation of mortality into immortality. This means the new creation (Romans 8:19-23).
5.    Christians will be alive on the earth when Jesus comes.
6.    Resurrection life is an embodied existence, though one of a different nature.
7.    The resurrection is a collective event; all believers are resurrected at the “coming” of Jesus.
The events to which 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 (implied) new creation leave no room for an interim period after Christ’s return during which sin and death sill occur, however rare. Likewise, the overthrow of all hostile powers at the parousia does not allow for any future rebellion by Satan. In short, this passage is difficult to reconcile with Pre-millennial interpretations.

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