Jesus Christ: The First Fruits – 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

April 8, 2007

Jesus Christ: The First Fruits

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Introduction

The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! That is the proper greeting for this
day in celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I realize that
today is commonly known as Easter Sunday and most people will greet you with
"happy Easter." I also realize that today is a day filled with many various
traditions passed down over many generations that celebrate the coming of
Spring. There will be a lot of traditional meals served with special dishes.
Some will celebrate by wearing some new clothes. Many people, including
professing Christians, will talk about the Easter Bunny and have Easter baskets
filled with various candies and perhaps an Easter egg hunt later on. Some will
even get chicks or young rabbits to include in the celebration.

Speaking of the Easter Bunny, I am reminded of a story I received this week
that I heard some time ago but it was slightly modified in view of the season.
It seems there was a man driving down a country road that came upon the Easter
bunny who happened to be in the middle of the road just as he came around a
curve. Though he tried to avoid him, the man ran over the Easter bunny. The
basket went flying with all his colorful eggs scattered all over the place. The
man immediately pulled over and went to see about the welfare of the famous
rabbit, but it was too late. He had killed the Easter bunny. The man became
distraught over what he had done. He was the sentimental type to begin with and
was grieved that he had killed anything, but how much worse that he had now
ruined Easter for countless children who would not get their Easter presents. He
just stood by the side of road sobbing.

About that time a woman coming from the other direction saw him and pulled
over to see what was going on. The man explained what had happened and then
pointed out the dead Easter bunny now laying by the side of the road. The woman
then told him to calm down and that it would be alright for she knew just what
to do. She went over to her car and found something in her trunk. She then went
to the dead rabbit and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the bunny.
Then a surprising thing happened. The Easter bunny got up and waved his paw at
them. He then gathered up his eggs and then went hopping down the road for about
50 yard, turned around and waved at them again. He hopped another 50 yards,
turned around and waved at them again. The bunny continued to do the same thing
until he was no longer in sight.

The man was astounded and asked her what she had done. She then held the can
out so he could read the label. "Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds
permanent wave."

What does all that have to do with today? I guess if you believe hair spray
can resurrect a dead rabbit you are free to believe in the Easter Bunny. I don’t
care to be a cultural humbug, but there is a serious problem with the Easter
bunny and many of the traditions that have arisen over the centuries that are
observed today. There is nothing wrong if people want to celebrate the coming of
Spring in some manner, but that should not in anyway obscure the actual reason
we celebrate today. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! My first challenge to
you then today is to caution you to be careful about the traditions you practice
lest they obscure for you, and more importantly confuse your children, about
what today is about.

The Lord is risen!

Context

Turn to 1 Corinthians 15. This morning I want to emphasize the hope that has
been given to us because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. As your turning
there, remember that Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is a book of
corrections. There were many problems in this early church for many were proud
and selfish, they were ignorant of many things, and they were led astray be
false teachers. In chapter 15 Paul is correcting them concerning a false
teaching that had been brought to them that there was no resurrection of the
dead. Paul corrects them by reminding them of the gospel message, then
demonstrates the necessity of the resurrection and then explains the order of
the resurrection and its mystery of the transformation of our mortal bodies into
immortal ones.

The Gospel Message

1Cor 15:1 (NASB) Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I
preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which
also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless
you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I
also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and
that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the
Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that
He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain
until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all
the apostles; 8 and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to
me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an
apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am
what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more
than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then [it
was] I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

There are those that use this passage as the definition of the gospel message
and therefore all that needs to be presented when witnessing to someone.
However, while this is the essence of the gospel, it is not the whole message
that we should proclaim to others in the effort to persuade them to become
Christians. I say that for two reasons.

First, I must take what Paul is saying here in its proper context. In this
passage Paul is speaking to those who have already professed faith in Jesus
Christ in order to remind them of key truths related to the resurrection of the
dead which is Paul’s subject in this chapter. Verse 12 tells us clearly that
someone had been teaching them that there is no resurrection of the dead and
Paul is correcting them. This passage is not meant to be a full explanation of
the gospel.

Second, if I am to understand the whole gospel message that Paul proclaimed I
need to go to the book of Romans for that is the purpose of that book. That book
includes not only the facts presented here in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus died
for sinners, was buried and raised from the dead, but it also includes the facts
that every man is sinful, under God’s wrath and in need of forgiveness, that
Jesus is propitiation for sin that brings redemption and that the sinner is
justified as a gift of God’s grace by the means of faith in Christ apart from
the works of the law. Romans also contains the ramifications of being justified
by faith including having peace with God, having the old self crucified and
being raised to newness of life in Christ so that your are no longer a slave to
sin but instead slaves of righteousness resulting in sanctification. You are no
longer under condemnation because of being in Christ Jesus with the Holy Spirit
indwelling you with a confidence assurance that nothing can separate you from
God’s love and that His work in you will be completely accomplished concluding
in glorification. If those facts are new to you or you do not understand them,
then plan on staying after today’s service and talking with myself or one of our
church leaders so that we can fully explain the good news of Jesus Christ to you
lest you remain under God’s just condemnation.

Now Paul’s point here in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is that Jesus Christ died for
sin, was buried and was raised from the dead on the third day, a fact attested
to by many eye witness which he names, including himself. The resurrection of
Jesus Christ is a fact that meets the legal and historical tests for truth for
it is attested to by many diverse and credible witnesses and backed up by the
fact that this truth radically changed lives of those same witnesses.

The Necessity of the Resurrection

In verses 12-19 Paul explains the necessity of the resurrection to those who
might think it to be a point of little importance.

12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do
some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is
no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ
has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15
Moreover we are even found [to be] false witnesses of God, because we witnessed
against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead
are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been
raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are
still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have
perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men
most to be pitied.

This section is a simple logical argument that is self-explanatory. If Jesus
Christ has not been raised from the dead, then there is no resurrection, there
is no hope and those that have placed their trust in Him are the most to be
pitied of all people. What is more tragic than a false hope and especially one
that concerns the very purpose of your life and your destiny after you die? But
the hope of the Christian is not false, as Paul points out in the next section.

Our Hope in the Resurrection

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those
who are asleep. 21 For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the
resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall
be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that
those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then [comes] the end, when He delivers
up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all
authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under
His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For He has put
all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put
in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in
subjection to Him. 28 And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son
Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that
God may be all in all.

Paul goes on throughout the rest of the chapter to explain the mystery of the
resurrection and the nature of the resurrection body, and I will point out some
of what he says about those things, but for the rest of our time this morning I
want us to concentrate on verses 20-28 and the hope we have in the future
because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.


The Reality of Resurrection (vs. 20)

Verse 20 is simply a statement of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead. Paul has already proven that to be true by citing the many
eyewitnesses of that fact. Paul also points our here that Jesus is the "first
fruits of those who are asleep,"
a euphemism for those who have died. "First
fruits" is a double reference indicating not only that Jesus was the first to be
resurrected of many who will be resurrected in the future, but it is also a
reference to the Old Testament requirement that the first of any harvested crops
were to be brought to the Lord as an offering. Jesus was in fact that offering.

The reality of Jesus’ resurrection means that there will be a future reality
of resurrection for those who have died. Now it is important to point out here
that there were others that were resurrected before Jesus in the sense that they
were restored to life after they had died. Old Testament examples include the
son of the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:22), the son of the Shunammite (2
Kings 4:20-37); and the man cast into the grave of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21). New
Testament examples include the funeral procession Jesus stopped and then brought
the dead man back to life (Luke 7:12-15), the daughter of the synagogue official
(Luke 8:49-56), Lazarus (John 11:39-44). The difference between their
resurrections and that of Jesus is that they were restored to life but they did
not receive glorified bodies. They were still mortal and died again. Jesus was
raised with an immortal and imperishable body that had new and different
characteristics.


The Need & Hope of Resurrection (vs. 21-22)

In verses 21 & 22 Paul explains both the need and hope of resurrection.
Adam’s sin affected all his descendants so that we too are all sinners under
God’s just condemnation which includes death, both physical and spiritual. Apart
from Jesus Christ we are spiritually separated from God which is spiritual death
and apart from His return each of us will have our souls separated from our
physical bodies which is physical death. Without a resurrection we will remain
in that condition.

Our hope of resurrection is found in Jesus Christ who paid the sin penalty
for us. His promise is regeneration by the Holy Spirit to all that believe in
Him so that we are born again to a living hope and given the right to be called
the children of God. We are no longer separated from Him and are restored to
spiritual life. We are also given the promise of a future physical resurrection
in which our souls will be joined to an immortal and imperishable body which
Paul explains in verses 50-57. Physical death will have been conquered.


The Order of Resurrection (vs. 23)

In verse 23 Paul states the order of the resurrections and it is important to
note that there is more than one. He again points out that Jesus is the first
fruits. He precedes all that will happen in the future. Paul then points out
that there will a resurrection of "those who are Christ’s at His coming." The
resurrection Paul is speaking about here in 1 Corinthians 15 is limited to those
that belong to Jesus, and by that he is referring to those who are followers of
Jesus, His disciples, true believers, genuine Christians. These are those who
have been born again and adopted into God’s family. As Jesus pointed out in
Matthew 7:21, it will not be everyone who says to Him, "Lord, lord," but those
who do the will of God the Father.

Paul describes this resurrection at His "coming" (parousia
/ parousia in both passages) in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. "For this we
say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the
coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the
Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the]
archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words
." This event is commonly
referred to as the "rapture" based on the Latin translation of "caught up" (arpazw
/ harpazô) in verse 17. The nature of this change is described in the
remaining verses of 1 Corinthians 15. It includes the fact that our transformed
bodies will be imperishable, spiritual and immortal in nature, but raised in
glory and power bearing the image of the heavenly (vs. 42-54). It will occur so
that we can inherit the kingdom of God and will happen in the twinkling of an
eye (vs. 5). Death is swallowed up in victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (vs.
54-57).

However, this is not the only resurrection. Revelation 20 describes at least
three more. The first two of them will be the same as described here in 1
Corinthians 15. One will occur at the end of 70th week described in
Daniel 9 and will include those martyred during that time period (Revelation
20:4). They "will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for
a thousand years (vs. 6).
The second of these resurrections will occur at
the end of the millennial reign of Jesus (Revelation 20:5). The second death has
no power over any of these (vs. 6).

The third resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20, and the final resurrection
of all time, will also occur after the millennial reign, but after Satan’s
release and his final rebellion is crushed by God when He sends fire down from
heaven to devour them. All the damned are then resurrected to stand before God’s
great white throne and be judged according to their deeds which will condemn
them. They are then thrown into the lake of fire along with death and Hades to
join the devil, the false prophet and the beast who had already been cast there.
That is the second death.

Is it any wonder that Scriptures says that those who are resurrected prior to
the great white throne judgement are blessed? Are you ready for Christ’s coming?
If you do not belong to Him, then you are not. You need to be and you can be
today if you will turn from your sin and self-righteousness to believe in and
follow the Savior.












The Future Kingdom (vs. 24-28)










In verses 24-28 Paul looks forward to give a brief snapshot of the
culmination of the ages.

The Future Culmination (vs. 24)

Paul says in verse 24 that at some time after the resurrection spoken about
in verse 23 Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father after He has
abolished all rule and all authority and power. Paul explains more about Jesus
doing that in verse 23-28.

The Reign of the Son (vs. 25-27)

There are those that deny that Jesus will reign physically on earth. There
are even more that deny that He will do so on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
Those that deny those truths must either neglect, negate or renounce the many
promises God made to the nation of Israel about a future restoration and the
covenant God made with David in 2 Samuel 7 that the throne of one of his
decedents would be established forever. Among the many Scriptures in which God
promises a future restoration of Israel are Isaiah 65 & 66; Jeremiah 31:27-37
and 32:36-44; Ezekiel 36-48; Joel 3:9-21; Amos 9; Micah 4 & 5; Zephaniah 3:8-20;
and Zechariah 12-14.

Paul says specifically in verse 25 that Jesus will reign until He has put all
His enemies under His feet and adds in verse 26 that the last enemy to be
vanquished will be death. Revelation 20 says that will occur after the great
white throne judgement which is after those who were part of the first
resurrection will have reigned with Christ for a thousand years and Satan’s
final rebellion is defeated. It will be at that point that Jesus will have
subjected all things to Himself. The only exception will be God the Father who
is the one that caused all other things to be subjected to Jesus (Philippians
2:9-11). This will then allow Jesus to fulfill what Paul says in verse 28.

The Final Subjection (vs. 28)

"And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will
be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in
all.
"

This is the final culmination of the ages when the God Man Jesus who is the
second Adam has fulfilled all that was originally designed for man and will then
turn over the reign of the kingdom back to Father that the triune God will again
be "all in all." That is the rule of God over His creation through a mediator
will be replaced by direct rule since the need and purpose of a mediator will
have been completely fulfilled.

What then is the hope that we celebrate this day? It is not the coming of
Spring, though we rejoice in that. We celebrate the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus Christ and the guarantee it brings of all of God’s promises. There is the
personal aspect of His promise to those of us who belong to Jesus of own future
resurrection and being changed in the twinkling of an eye into a being that is
imperishable, immortal, spiritual and holy before God. But even beyond that
there are all the promises concerning Jesus’ future reign, His vanquishing of
all His enemies including death and the culmination of it all in a direct
relationship with God without mediation needed for we will have been finally
conformed to the image of His son and therefore holy to be able to be in His
very presence. The curse and all its remnants will be gone. I am looking forward
to that! Are you?

The Lord is Risen!

 

Sermon Study
Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you
hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children -
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the
Scripture references made. 2) Count how many times the word "resurrection" is
used. Talk with your parents about what it means that Jesus was resurrected and
what promises He has given to you based on His resurrection.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What "Easter" traditions did you grow up with. What are your current
practices? Do they accent or obscure the celebration of the resurrection of the
Lord Jesus Christ? Should you change any of them? What is the context of 1
Corinthians 15? What is Paul’s purpose in verses 1-11? What aspects of the
gospel message does he leave out of those verses? Why is the resurrection of
Jesus Christ so important to Christians? Compare your answer to Paul’s reasons
in verses 12-19. How do we know for sure that Jesus Christ did rise from the
dead? What evidence does Paul give? What is different about Jesus’ resurrection
from those that occurred earlier? Why is there a need for a resurrection? What
is the hope of the resurrection? What does it mean that Jesus is the "first
fruits of those who are asleep"
(vs. 20)? When will the first resurrection
of the righteous occur? At what other times will there be a resurrection of the
righteous? When will the unrighteous dead be raised? What will happen to them?
Why? What is the evidence in 1 Corinthians 15 that there will be a future
kingdom in which Jesus reigns on earth? What other evidence is there for this in
the rest of the Bible? What will happen after Jesus places all of His enemies
under His feet? Are you ready for Jesus’ return? Why or why not? How will you
get ready?

Sermon Notes – April 8, 2007

Christ, The First Fruits – 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

 


Introduction


Context - 1 Corinthians 15

The Gospel Message1 Corinthians 15:1-11

 

The Necessity of the Resurrection - 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

 

Our Hope in the Resurrection1 Corinthians 15:20-28

 



The Reality of Resurrection (vs. 20)

 


The Need & Hope of Resurrection (vs. 21-22)

 


The Order of Resurrection (vs. 23)

The Future Kingdom (vs. 24-28)

The Future Culmination (vs. 24)

The Reign of the Son (vs. 25-27)

The Final Subjection (vs. 28)

 



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