November 26, 2023 | Duane Roberts
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“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.”—1 Corinthians 15:20–24 (NKJV)
As we come to this section of Scripture, it’s important to understand its connection to the bigger context surrounding it. Paul penned this letter to the Corinthian Church because it had spiritually slipped. Things had gotten out of order in so many ways that it takes the apostle several chapters to work through things with them. All of this eventually leads him to set some things straight on another aspect of their faith that appears to have gotten a bit off track . . . their understanding of Christ’s resurrection.
Paul holds his teaching on the resurrection as the last discourse in this letter, and he also devotes more space than normal to it. Why is that? In addition to the Corinthian’s apparent confusion on the subject, Paul also understood how important it was for them to have a clear understanding of their future in Christ if they were to honor Him in their present. So, he not only teaches that Christ is risen from the dead, but he now elaborates on how it effects them.
Jesus was raised from the dead, yes, but this isn’t an event that’s isolated to Him. Paul describes Christ’s resurrection as a sort of “firstfruits.” What’s that supposed to mean? In biblical times, when a field or orchard was harvested, the first of the fruits that were produced were gathered and brought as an offering to God. It was a way of demonstrating gratitude for what the Lord had caused nature to produce, and it was also a declaration of trust that He would provide more in the days and weeks to come. The firstfruits was like a preview of the crop that was to come.
So, when Paul attaches this term to Christ’s resurrection, it’s signaling that it was just the beginning of a greater resurrection to come. A resurrection that will include not only the Corinthian Christians, but all “those who are Christ’s at His coming.” This is pointing ahead to the future event when Christ will return for His Church which will be “caught up” in the air to be with Him. At that time, the physical bodies of all who belong to Christ will be resurrected and reunited with the souls of those who’ve died and entered God’s heavenly presence (2 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).
Everyone who belongs to Christ, all who comprise His body, the Church, will be part of this. All of the lingering effects of death upon us, including the bodies left to perish in the earth, will be overcome just as Christ overcame death. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know this because this is the fixed point of hope that will guide them through the turbulent times in this life. When you can clearly see where you’re going, it has the effect of affirming your footing.
Again, what’s true for the Church of Corinth is true for every other Christian, including us. It’s vital that we comprehend where all this life is heading; that although there will be pain, sorrow, mourning, and even physical death, these things aren’t the end—they won’t have the final say in our story. There’s a hope we can trust in, as sure and certain as the risen Christ, Himself.
Pause: Why was it so important for the Corinthians to have a clear understanding about Christ’s resurrection?
Practice: Consider how the understanding that Christ is the “firstfruits” of those to be resurrected effects your outlook on life.
Pray: Father, I’m so thankful I have a hope as sure and secure as the risen Son, Himself. I have Your word on it that what He has done, I will one day do. Thank you for this precious promise and may it steady me as I walk the sojourner’s journey through this life. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.