BRIEF NOTES FROM DAVID GREEN AND MIKE SULLIVAN ON THE RESURRECTION OF 1 CORINTHIANS 15

Someone asked David Green and he responded on his pretcosmos list the follwing:

“. . . and what is your view on the bodily resurrection and your interpretation of 1Cor. 15:50f.?” 

[David Green]
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Cor. 15:16-18).

The short version:

For if the dead rise not, then (vs. 16) . . . they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (vs. 18).

Note the distinction.  The Christians who had died (those “which are fallen asleep in Christ“) in verse 18 were not part of “the dead” in verse 16.  Paul was saying that if “the dead” are not being raised, then Christians who have died won’t be raised either.  “The dead” weren’t Christians; they were those out from among whom Christ had been raised (1 Cor. 15:12).  “The dead” (who were going to be made alive in Christ), therefore, were the pre-Christian saints.

When Paul said that if “the dead” (the Old Testament faithful) are not being raised then Christ was not raised, he was implying that part of the purpose of Christ’s resurrection was to raise the dead.  The purpose of Christ’s resurrection was not merely to give life to the church (Christians); it was also to give life to the pre-Christian saints (“the dead,” “all Israel“).  His resurrection was for the purpose of raising ALL of God’s people, living and dead, Jew and Gentile, Old Testament and New Testament.  It was to save the historic kingdom by abolishing Adamic Sin-Death in it through the gospel, under the authority of God His Father.

But some at Corinth were denying that “the dead” would be made alive with the church.  They accepted the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:13-17), and they expected the resurrection of all believers, living and dead (1 Cor. 15:18-19); but they denied the resurrection of “the dead.”  When they protested that “the dead” could not possibly be raised because they had no “body” with which to be raised (1 Cor. 15:35), we know they were not saying that it’s impossible that “physical bodies” could be brought back to life –because they already believed in the historic, physical resurrection of Christ.  Physical resurrection was not unfeasible or impossible to them, so they had no reason to object to the concept.  What they said was impossible was that the pre-Christian saints would be made alive in Christ.  That was an impossibility to them, because they believed the Old Testament saints were not part of the Body of ChristThe resurrection-of-the-dead deniers thought the church alone was the resurrection Body.

Paul corrected their error by telling them that the church was not the resurrection “body that will be,” but that it was, at present, the corruptible seed-body that had been buried/sown with Christ, and that was dying with Christ (to sin) through the power of the indwelling, Sin-killing Spirit, and that was taking part in the process of cosmos-transformation (AD 30-70), i.e., the changing all of God’s historic people from their corruptible mode of Sin-Death to the incorruptible mode of gospel-life in Christ in the new covenant world (1 Cor. 15:36-37).  Without that eschatological world-changing dying and rising process, i.e., without the church’s putting off of the old man (the corruptible body) and putting on of the new Man (the incorruptible body) on behalf of “the dead,” the church and all the saints who ever lived would remain in the pre-Christ, sub-divine, Mosaic, Adamic mode of “flesh and blood” (old covenant righteousness), and they would never inherit the kingdom of heaven.

The church’s Spirit-empowered, eschatological work of dying to the old world and rising to the new was not merely for the benefit of the church itself.   The church’s labors were resulting in the salvation of the entire universe of God’s people.  That was the Father’s gospel-purpose in raising His Son out from among the dead.   Thus Paul’s closing exhortation:  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

 

[Mike Sullivan]

 

Dave mentions that the resurrection in view was already in process. 

Note that death was in the process of BEING destroyed (present passive indicative)

As a last enemy, death is being abolished, for all things He put in subjection under His feet.[1]

 

“It is difficult to do justice to the present passive καταργεῖται in translation. As it stands, the Greek states, The last enemy is being annihilated, (namely) death (v. 26). It is arguable that Paul uses the present to denote the process of annihilation already set in motion by Christ’s (past) death and resurrection.[2]

 


[1] Wuest, K. S. (1997). The New Testament : An expanded translation (1 Co 15:20–28). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

[2] Thiselton, A. C. (2000). The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A commentary on the Greek text (1234). Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

 

Although it is rare that a translation or commentator will point this issue out here in 15:26, they are all virtually silent when the present tense is being used in the following verses: 

“But God is giving it a body” (v.32).
“…it is being sown…” (v. 38).
“…it is being raised in glory…” (43).
“…it is being raised in power…” (v. 43)
“…It is being sown a natural body, it is being raised a spiritual body…” (v. 43).

The reason being — is that “death” here is usually interpreted primarily as biological death being eventually overcome at a future second coming with God giving all believers a physical/spiritual glorified new body.  So how can it be said that death (biological death) was already in the process of BEING annihilated?  But when “the (spiritual) death” that came through Adam is given its proper focus, then the present tense makes more sense. 

And since most think that the giving of a “body” and it being “sown” a natural body being raised in glory and power is allegedly addressing a biologically transformed (spiritual/physical) individual body at the end of time at Christ’s parousia, the present tense seems impossible.  After all, corpses haven’t been partially coming out of the literal graves for 2000 years and counting. But when the corporate body of Christ (dead and alive) is in view, it begins to make sense.     

 Dave also mentions the issue with the Corinthian resurrection deniers and Paul’s apologetic being the UNITY of the body (the OT dead and those “in Christ”).  Because futurists have a false view on the timing and nature of fulfillment concerning the second coming and resurrection, this  particular issue has been missed by the commentators.   

The book of Hebrews mentions that the New Covenant resurrection was a “better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35) along with all of the other contrasts between the OC types and shadows versus the “better” spiritual NC realities and substance in Christ. 

There is an emphasis on the OT dead and the living not being complete without each other — “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39-40). 

Those who would partake in the resurrection, would inherit New Creation.  Hebrews mentions the New Creation was “about to be” or “soon” to be inherited – “For we have no permanent city here, but we are longing for the city which is soon to be ours” (Heb. 13:14WEY). 

Although the same problem is not mentioned in the book of Hebrews (ie. the issue of the resurrection of the dead deniers in the 1 Corinthians), it is interesting that some Jews had an exclusive mentality when it came to the resurrection regarding those being in the land or not in the land at the time of Messiah – when He would come and ushered in the resurrection and inheritance of the New WorldSo a similar kind of problem in the thinking of the resurrection of the dead deniers is not far fetched

“Some Rabbis took the extreme view that only they who were interred there would share in the future life.  ‘Those who die outside the land of Israel will not live again; as it is said, “I will set delight in the land of the living (Ezek. 26:20)—those who die in the land of My delight will live again, but they who do not die there will not.’”[1]

 

Apparently some in Corinth did not understand that those who had died prior to this time (the OT dead of Israel–allegedly those outside of Christ/the heavenly land) — were in the process of being raised and inheriting the New World TOGETHER with them.  

For a more detailed exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15, purchase our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?


[1] A. Cohen, Everyman’s TALMUD, (NY, E.P. Dutton & Co., INC., 1949), 362. 

 

 
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