1 Corinthians Chapter 15, Part 2
by Karl Kemp
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We continue the verse-by-verse study of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 here in Part 2.
I believe it's necessary for us to understand that water baptism is meaningful and effective only if it is accompanied by the following indispensable things: We must hear the gospel and understand it (we must at least understand the basics of the gospel); we must repent and submit to the gospel (and God Himself) in faith; and we must have all the necessary work of the Holy Spirit (like His drawing, convicting, revealing, regenerating, and sanctifying work). Without these things water baptism is nothing more than another dead ritual. Some other verses to consider on water baptism are Matt. 3:1-17; 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:41; 8:36-39; 9:18; 10:47, 48; 19:5; and Eph. 4:5.]] (30) Why are we ["We" includes those like Silas and Timothy who traveled and ministered with Paul.] also in danger every hour? (31) I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. [[I believe the translation of the NIV better communicates what Paul said here: "I die every day [or, I die daily] - I mean that brothers - just as surely as I glory over you [or, boast in you] in Christ Jesus our Lord." Paul's dying daily refers to the many difficult trials he experienced in the course of his Christian life and ministry. See 1 Cor. 15:30, 32; 4:9-13; 9:19-27; 2 Cor. 1:3-11; 4:7-18; and 11:23-12:10. Paul's Christian life and ministry make absolutely no sense, he says, if there's no resurrection.]] (32) If from human motives [I prefer the NIV's "for merely human reasons." In other words, if the gospel isn't true, then Paul didn't really do these things for God, and it's all done in vain.] I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus [[Paul was in Ephesus when be wrote this epistle (cf. 1 Cor. 16:8). We don't know exactly what Paul was referring to here regarding his fighting with wild beasts, nor do we have to know (his readers undoubtedly knew more of the details), but I assume (in agreement with most commentators) he was using figurative language to speak of fierce opposition coming from some men (who were undoubtedly inspired by demons). See 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 1:8-10 (Ephesus was in the Roman province of "Asia," which is mentioned in 2 Cor. 1:8).]], what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE. (33) Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.' (34) Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. [[A primary sin Paul was concerned with was the denial of the resurrection of the body; however, it's probably also true that the same people who were spreading this serious doctrinal error were living in sin and corrupting the morals of those who associated with them. (Bad doctrine often leads to sinful living, and the heresy of denying the resurrection of the body had great potential for excusing, or explaining away, sinfulness, especially sins associated with the body.)
Paul exhorts the church at Corinth to stop listening to those "Christians" who don't know what they're talking about. Some of them may have been born-again Christians, but that's no guarantee they know what they're talking about. Some ministers are self-appointed; they're not from God (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 11:13-15). We must be very careful who we listen to. We must test ministers by what they say (cf. 1 John 4:1-6), and we must test them by the way they live (cf. Matt. 7:15-20). True righteousness comes from God, based on faith in the truth of the gospel.]] (35) But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised? [The apostle doesn't spend much time answering this first question. In 15:36-38 he gives an illustration that helps demonstrate that death, rather than frustrating God's salvation plans, fits right in with His plans. How are the dead raised? By God's plan and power.] And with what kind of body do they come?' [[Throughout much of the rest of this chapter, Paul answers this question to some extent, but he doesn't give us all the answers. For one thing, it's not possible for us to fully understand the glory of the age to come while still living in this age, even though we're born again. Those who rejected the doctrine of the resurrection undoubtedly thought in terms of us having essentially the same physical body after the resurrection (see under 15:2). This viewpoint didn't take into account the transformation/glorification of the resurrected body (of believers); Paul emphasizes this transformation/glorification in the following verses.]] (36) You fool! That which you sow does not come to life [I prefer the translation "is not made alive." This translation better emphasizes the important fact that God makes it alive. The KJV has, "is not quickened."] unless it dies; (37) and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. (38) But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. [As 15:37 shows, the "body" in 15:38 refers to the plant (or a tree, etc.) that God brings forth after the sowing (planting) of the seed. There's quite a difference between the seed and the plant, isn't there? For one thing, this illustration helps demonstrate the difference between the body we have in this life compared with the transformed, glorified resurrection body.] (39) All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts [The NIV has "animals." Under the Greek noun ("ktenos"), the BAGD Greek Lexicon has, "animal, i.e. domesticated animal, pet, pack-animal, animal, used for riding."], and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. [[There are different types of seeds, and there are different types of "flesh." This verse further demonstrates the diversity in God's creation.]] (40) There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. (41) There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. [[Paul has already mentioned that earthly bodies differ from one another (15:39), now be mentions that the same thing is true for heavenly bodies. I assume Paul thinks of the present sun, moon, and stars as representative of "heavenly bodies" (15:40). The same Greek adjective used for heavenly in 15:40 is also used for heavenly in 15:48, 49. It should be pointed out, however, that the glory of the sun, moon, and stars isn't perfect for an illustration. For one thing, the sun, moon, and stars are considered part of the second heaven, not the third heaven, where God dwells [cf. 2 Cor. 12:2]. More significant is the fact that the present heaven and earth, which includes the present sun, moon, and stars, are destined to pass away to make room for God's new heaven and new earth [cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-12; Rev. 20:11; 21:1]. I assume the elements (the matter), including those of which our glorified bodies will consist in the New Jerusalem, will be quite different than the physical elements of this present world (which were created by God), including those of our sun, moon, and stars.
The glory of our present earthly bodies (and especially after the fall of man and the resultant curse on the earth) is very small in comparison with the glory of our glorified, heavenly bodies. When Paul speaks of the glory of the sun, moon, and stars, he is speaking (at least in part) of their radiance, brilliance. (That's a common use of "glory" in the New Testament.) However, when we speak of the glory that awaits us in heaven, we mean much more than radiance, brilliance. Our eternal existence will be glorified, which even includes our reigning with God forever (Rev. 22:5). On our future glory, cf., e.g., John 17:5, 21-24; Rom. 8:18-30; 1 Cor. 2:7-9; 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:17, 18; Eph. 1:18; Phil. 3:20, 21; Col. 1:27; 3:1-4; 2 Thess. 2:14; Heb. 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:7; and 5:1, 4, 10.
The fact that Paul mentioned that "star differs from star in glory" fits the idea that Christians will differ from one another in glory (including differing in authority) in the age to come (cf., e.g., Dan. 12:3; Matt. 13:43; 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17, 19; 1 Cor. 3:8, 12-15; and Rev. 22:12.)]] (42) So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown [Based on the use of "sow" in 15:36, 37, the sowing here undoubtedly refers to burial (like planting a seed).] a perishable body [[The KJV has, "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption." (Some of us will never die, or be buried [cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thess. 4:17].) Since the fall man's body has been perishable. I'll quote part of what C. K. Barrett says under this verse ("First Epistle to the Corinthians" [Harper and. Row, 1968], page 372): "Corruption is an evil power, by which the world is dominated in the old age (Rom. 8:21). It affects not only human life, but the whole of creation. Its dominion will be ended in the age to come, at the beginning of which the resurrection takes place. Thus Paul's point is not simply that we shall have a new body, no longer subject to change and decay, but that the new body will be appropriate to the new age in which God, having reasserted his sovereignty, is all in all (15:28)."]], it is raised an imperishable body; (43) it is sown in dishonor [The dishonor, which derives from sin, includes the perishableness.], it is raised in glory [Compare, for example, Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:27; 3:4. The eternal glory reserved for us (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-9) includes the glorification of the body, but the glory will extend to every aspect of our heavenly existence.]; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power [Compare 1 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 1:19-21; Phil. 3:20, 21. It's clear that the Spirit is directly involved in the resurrection (cf. Rom. 8:11).]; (44) it is sown a natural [[The Greek adjective translated "natural" here is "psuchikos," which was derived from the noun "psuche," which is normally translated "soul" or "life" in the New Testament. Note that psuche (soul) is used in 1 Cor. 15:45. There undoubtedly is a linkage intended between psuchikos in 15:44 and psuche in 15:45, even as there is between spiritual ("pneumatikos") in 15:44 and spirit ("pneuma") in 15:45. The NASB translates psuche as life/lives forty-three times. (It is translated as soul(s) forty-seven times.) Essentially every one of the uses where psuche is translated life/lives has to do with life in this world. This life is to be contrasted with life by the Spirit (which we have as born-again Christians), and much more so it is to be contrasted with the future eternal life in glory, which also derives from the Spirit.
The adjective "pneumatikos," which was derived from "pneuma" (Spirit, spirit), is normally translated "spiritual" in the New Testament. It is typically related to work/influence of the Spirit. For example, it is used of spiritual Christians, that is, those who live by the Spirit, as contrasted with those who are fleshly/worldly. (All Christians are called, enabled, and required, to be spiritual, but it doesn't always happen; we're not automatically spiritual - we must cooperate with the Spirit through faith - we must walk in/by/after the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith [cf. Gal. 5:16].) The adjective is also used of gifts/things of the Spirit.
I'll quote from C. K. Barrett (quoted above, under 15:42) on the meaning of spiritual in this verse: "Spiritual does not describe a higher aspect of man's life [that is, it does not refer to man's spirit]; the noun spirit (pneuma) on which it [spiritual] is based refers to the Spirit of God, and the spiritual body is the new body, animated by the Spirit of God, with which the same man will be clothed and equipped in the age to come, which he reaches (supposing him to die before the parousia [when Christ returns]) by way of resurrection."
The spirit/soul of man exists forever (the words spirit and soul [of man] are typically used interchangeably in the New Testament; see my paper titled, "Some Things We Should Know about the Meaning of the Words 'Spirit' and 'Soul' "), but it is dependent on God (on the Spirit) for spiritual/eternal life. Those who lose/forfeit their souls (cf., e.g., Matt. 16:26) will not cease existing, but they will not participate in eternal life. Born-again Christians have already received the first installment of life/existence in/by the Spirit (cf., e.g., Rom. 8:11, 23). We have been born again by the Spirit, but we "cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5) in the full and final sense until we're born into the fulness of eternal life by the Spirit when Christ returns. (See under 1 Cor. 15:20 on this final [completed] birth.) John 3:6 says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." We will not become "spirit" in the sense this word is used at the end of John 3:6 in the full and final sense until we have experienced this ultimate (completed) birth. (John 3:6 is discussed in the paper I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.) We will not fully leave the flesh behind and be caught up into the glory of what it means to be a son of God until this birth takes place. We will still have a body after this birth, but it will be a spiritual body, a body designed for, and fully caught up into, life in the Spirit, life in God's heavenly kingdom. In Rom. 8:23 we are told that our bodies haven't been redeemed yet; however, they are temples of the Holy Spirit now (1 Cor. 6:19).
The adjective "psuchikos" is used six times in the New Testament. The NASB translates it "natural" five times (1 Cor. 2:14 [The "natural man" is contrasted with the man who is spiritual by the Spirit]; 15:44 [twice]; 15:46; and James 3:15 [The wisdom of God is contrasted with the wisdom of this world, which "is earthly, natural, demonic"]); and "worldly-minded" in Jude 1:19. Being "natural" or "worldly-minded" (for the fallen descendants of Adam) is contrasted with being "spiritual" in/by the Spirit. The primary contrast the New Testament is concerned with is that between man in the flesh/the old man and the Spirit of God (not between the flesh and the spirit). We must be born again by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis by faith (cf. Gal. 5:16). That is the only way we can avoid walking in/by the flesh/old man.
Here in 1 Cor. 15:44 "natural body" is used in the sense of being appropriate for this world/age, where, for one thing, the influence of the Spirit is limited, even for born-again Christians (by comparison with His influence in the age to come); the "natural body" is not appropriate for heaven: "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50). As the word "natural" is used in 15:44 and 15:46, we need not necessarily include any negative ideas (though these verses are loaded with negative ideas because of the fall and sinfulness of man) since Paul uses the word here to cover Adam before the fall. Note, for example, that Adam had a "flesh and blood" body before the fall.]] body, it is raised a spiritual body. [[As the context shows, a "spiritual body" is a body appropriate for heaven. It's clear that Paul isn't speaking of a spirit without a body (cf., e.g., Luke 24:36-46). That viewpoint would be a denial of the resurrection of the body. After death (and before the resurrection) a person can be called a spirit (cf., e.g., Heb. 12:23); they can also be called a soul (cf., e.g., Rev. 6:9; 20:4); these three references deal with persons in heaven, heaven in a preliminary sense, persons waiting to receive resurrection bodies and the full glory of the age to come (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).]] (45) So also it is written, 'The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL [with a flesh and blood body designed for life in this world]." [This quotation from Gen. 2:7 deals with Adam at the time of his creation, before the fall.] The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. [[There is, of course, a gigantic difference between the first Adam and the last Adam, the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is deity, God the Son (e.g., Isa. 9:6, 7; John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:2, 3; Rev. 5:11-14; 21:22, 23; and 22:1-16). For Him to become a "life-giving spirit," however, in the sense the words are used here, also required Him to become a man (though not just a man) through the virgin birth, and for Him to overthrow sin, Satan, and death (spiritual and physical death) through His sinless life, His atoning death, His resurrection, and His ascension. On Christ's "life-giving", see, for example, 1 Cor. 15:20-23; John 5:21, 24-29; and Phil. 3:21. ("Life-giving" here in 15:45 is a participle of the verb used in 15:22, 36. This verb is also used in John 5:21; 6:63; Rom. 4:17; 8:11; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 3:21; 1 Tim. 6:13; and 1 Pet. 3:18. Some of these verses speak of our being made alive, in a preliminary/partial sense, in the new birth.)
There's no conflict between speaking of Jesus raising the dead and speaking of the Spirit raising the dead. (It's also Biblical to speak of the Father raising the dead, e.g., Rom. 8:11.) The Son and the Spirit work together in many areas. The Spirit can even be called the Spirit of Christ (cf. Acts 16:6, 7; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19; and Pet. 1:11) in that the Spirit comes to us through His atoning death, was sent by Him starting at Pentecost, represents Him (and God the Father) on the earth, was sent to exalt Him and draw men to Him, etc.]] (46) However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. [This order was part of God's eternal plan.] (47) The first man is from [or, "of, out of"] the earth, earthy [The NIV has, "was of the dust of the earth." Adam was of the earth even before the fall.]; the second man is from heaven. [The Lord Jesus Christ, being deity, is from heaven (cf., e.g., John 3:13). He also is of heaven in that He is the first man (though He is much more than just a man) to be caught up into the fulness of the eternal life of heaven. As I have mentioned, for us to he caught up into the fulness of eternal life will mean a whole lot more than just receiving glorified bodies.] (48) As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy [Adam and mankind are earthy by creation, as Paul has just said; however, through the fall and all the subsequent sin, the gap between heaven and mankind was greatly widened.]; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. (49) And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. [[What gigantic good news! Before God is done, in Christ Jesus believers will be taken to a place much higher than what Adam had before the fall. What a Savior! What a salvation! "We will be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). (See under 1 Cor. 15:20.) It must be understood, of course, that there will be a gigantic difference between the Lord Jesus Christ and us throughout eternity. He is deity; He is worshipped; etc.]] (50) Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. [[We will have imperishable, glorified bodies that are beyond flesh and blood when we inherit the kingdom of God. (We have already entered the kingdom of God in a preliminary sense [cf., e.g., Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; 17:21; Rom. 14:17; and Col. 1:13].) In Lev. 17:11 we read, "the life of the flesh is in the blood." I suppose we can say that our glorified bodies will not have blood in them, and that life then will be entirely by the Spirit (see under 15:44).]] (51) Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep [The apostle can tell us this "mystery" (which was formerly hidden as part of God's plan of salvation) because it has been revealed to him. "We shall not all sleep" means that some true Christians will still be alive on the earth when Christ returns; they (we?) never will die. See, for example, 1 Thess. 4:17; Matt. 24:31.], but we shall all be changed [[All believers (those still alive and those who will have died before Christ returns) will be changed - we will be caught up into never-ending glory, with glorified bodies. Those who have died will be resurrected into glory; those still living will be transformed to the glorified state. First Thess. 4:16, 17 inform us that the dead will be raised first, just before the believers still living are transformed; we will then be raptured/caught up together in the clouds (of heaven) to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. This sounds exciting, doesn't it? "Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:18).]], (52) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye [The apostle is speaking of the blinking of the eye, the rapid closing and opening of the eyelid).], at the last trumpet [[I believe this "last trumpet" is very important to help us understand the basics of God's end-time scenario. Significantly, this is the same trumpet as the trumpet of Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; and Rev. 11:15. The last reference apparently explains the meaning of "the LAST trumpet" here in 1 Cor. 15:52. (It's quite possible that we understand this last trumpet much better than the apostle Paul did; he died some thirty years before the super-important book of Revelation was given to the apostle John.) There are seven trumpets in the book of Revelation, and the trumpet that sounds in Rev. 11:15 is the seventh and last trumpet. At that time (right in the middle of the seven-year period that is sometimes called Daniel's 70th week) Christ returns, the resurrection/transformation and rapture take place, and His end-time reign (which very much includes judging) begins. We will be reigning with Him from the time we are glorified, even reigning with a rod of iron (Rev. 2:26, 27; 12:5). See my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," starting on page 289, for a detailed discussion of Rev. 11:15-18. In that section I discuss the key reasons why I believe this trumpet will sound right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week.]]; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead [the believers who will have died before Christ returns] will be raised imperishable, and we [those believers still living on the earth when Christ returns] shall be changed. [Verses like this one and 1 Thess. 4:17 show that the apostle thought that it was possible he would live to see the coming of the Lord.] (53) For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (54) But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. [[Compare 1 Cor. 15:26. Isaiah 25:8 says, "[God] will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces...." This prophecy of Isaiah (see Isa. 25:6-8) apparently includes, but also goes far beyond, the resurrection of believers at the return of Christ. Revelation 21:1-22:5 are a very important cross-reference for Isa. 25:6-8. In these verses of Revelation, we see those from the nations who have been permitted to have a place in God's new earth with its new Jerusalem (sometimes called the eternal state) after the millennium. (On the people called the nations [who are distinct from the people of true Israel who will be reigning] entering the millennial kingdom, see Rev. 20:3. On Rev. 20:3, see my paper that covers Revelation chapters 20-22.)
Revelation 21:4 says, "and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death...." (Those things will be true for us believers, the people of God's true Israel, from the time we are glorified, before the millennial kingdom begins.) Both passages (from Isaiah and Revelation) show that many peoples will be saved from the nations - they will have a place in God's eternal kingdom. Revelation 21:27 confirms that all those saved from the nations are saved through Jesus Christ. On Rev. 21:1-22:5 see Note 3, which starts on page 338 of "The Mid-Week Rapture," and see under these verses in the paper that discusses Revelation chapters 20-22. Also, Isaiah chapters 24-27 are discussed verse-by-verse in a paper on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching). I'm not suggesting that Paul was including all these ideas here by "quoting" from Isa. 25:8.]] (55) O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" [See Hos. 13:14. Hebrews 2:14 shows that the overthrow of death also means the overthrow of Satan (and sin), "who [in some ways] had the power of death."] (56) The sting of death is sin [In this word picture, the enemy, death (like a deadly scorpion, which has a sting in its tail [cf. Rev. 9:10]) kills - it kills through sin. When death has lost its sting (and it has already lost its sting for Christians in most senses [cf., e.g., Phil. 1:21, 23; 2 Cor. 5:8]), it is powerless to harm us.], and the power of sin is the law [[The apostle Paul frequently makes the point that the (Mosaic) Law (the old covenant) could not solve the sin problem; it rather intensified the sin problem for those under the Law. For one thing, sinning against God's Law, which even specifies a death penalty for rebellion, clearly makes sin more serious. See Rom. 4:15; 5:13, 20; and 7:7-13. The death of mankind (both spiritual death and physical death) came from Adam's (and Eve's) rebellion against God's very specific commandment (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12). Adam's (and Eve's) sin was all the more serious because he was totally free when he sinned, unlike his offspring who were born into spiritual death (but the death wasn't total/complete; we still have some freedom/capacity to respond to God and His grace, etc.).]]; (57) but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory [Note "victory" in 15:54, 55.] through our Lord Jesus Christ. [Unlike the old covenant established on the Mosaic Law, the new covenant in the Lord Jesus Christ fully solves the sin/Satan/death problem, and it takes us to eternal glory.] (58) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." [On being in vain, compare 1 Cor. 15:2, 14, and 17. Our toil would be in vain if the gospel, including the resurrection, were not true. We're never wasting our time when we're doing the will of God by His grace through faith (everything else is a waste of time, or worse); it will all work for the glory of God and for our good.]
May the will of God be fully accomplished through this article!
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