15:20-28

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.”  Hallelujah! Hallelujah!  That objective fact changes everything.  Objective, in part, because no one expected Jesus to rise from the dead nor were wanting it.  Some in Judaism, the Sadducees, even denied it was possible for any dead to rise.  Most of Israel awaited a Messiah who wouldn’t die and would rule from Jerusalem.  So to say Jesus’ resurrection was a surprise is a gross understatement.  But yet, there He was.  Risen from the dead.  The first-fruits of those who had fallen asleep; that is, the basis of all to come who would rise to everlasting life (there were resurrections prior such as Lazarus and those immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion but these would die again).  Christ’s resurrection changes all of Paul’s prior conditional “if”.  Because it is true Jesus rose, no one can rightly say He didn’t.  Gospel preaching is useful and the basis of saving faith.  The Apostles are not liars but testify to the truth.  Sins are forgiven.  Those who died in Christ are not lost but saved.  Our hope is not only in this life but also in the life to come.  All because Christ has been raised from the dead.  The last major point, already alluded to, is that death is undone.

Paul juxtaposes Jesus with Adam as he had also in Romans 5:12-21.  It is an important distinction for us to understand.  Original sin that affected all of creation came by the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The punishment of that sin: death (Genesis 2:16, 17).  Life also comes from a man, a New Man, a Perfect Man, An Obedient Man, Jesus, who is God made man (John 1:14).   Humanity would be saved, as it were, from the inside out.  Thus with sin forgiven (that is, gone), there is no reason for the sentence of death.  But resurrection is the key.  That is why we don’t experience the new life fully now as we are still in the “old flesh”, that of Adam.  To fully partake of the new life we must join with the New Man, the resurrected Jesus.  We do so now by grace through faith spiritually in our baptism (Romans 6:3-5) but this will be realized materially, too, upon our rising from the dead.  Jesus’ own resurrection as the first-fruits of human resurrection is the guarantee that ours will follow at the second coming of Christ.

Another important truth is given here but like all really important truths, it is prone to misunderstanding.  It regards the timetable of this transfer from the old to the new.  Paul uses OT language and ideology to convey NT truths.  Kingdom, reign, put his enemies under his feet (Ps. 8:6).  We think of King David here, not King Jesus.  I don’t mean to say that such talk is foreign to the NT, only that it opens the way to an OT fulfillment meaning earthly dominion when Christ’s is heavenly.  It is a Kingdom of grace, not power in conventional understanding.  Some try to squeeze a literal 1,000 year earthly reign (Rev. 20) of Christ here when it doesn’t fit.  He has already beat down the forces of hell and conquered death in His death and resurrection.  But as people still die awaiting the resurrection, we say that Christ is still in the process of subduing these enemies even as those who oppose the Church and her mission.  Things aren’t perfect yet, we mean.  But they will be.  At the return of Jesus, the time of grace will end, the dead will rise, creation will be renewed, the Obedient Son (not subordinate) will hand it over to His Father.  God and His creation will be one again.  A new heavens and earth.  Mission accomplished.

For Our Further Discussion:

  1. How can we enjoy the present life though full of the effects of sin and death ever present until we transfer into the life where sin and death are no more? (see John 16:33; Romans 8:18)
  2. Should this be more of the Church’s message to today’s generation that lives for the moment?
  3. Does Adam get a bad rap in the Bible?  Deserved or not, I mean, how would we have done?