In explaining the future resurrection, Paul lists the key events that will precede or coincide with the arrival of Jesus – 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
In his first letter to Corinth, Paul outlined the events that will occur at the “arrival” or ‘parousia’ of Jesus, one of several Greek terms applied by Paul to his “coming.” Regardless of which term he used, he always spoke of one “coming,” “revelation,” or “appearance” of Jesus at the end of the age.
In the New Testament, the resurrection of the righteous, the final judgment, and the New Creation are all linked to the return of Christ, and so also in First Corinthians – (Romans 8:18-23, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 2 Peter 3:3-12).
- (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) – “But now has Christ been raised from among the dead, a first-fruit of them who have fallen asleep; for since, indeed, through a man came death, through a man also comes the raising of the dead. For, just as in Adam all die, so also, in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own rank: Christ, a first-fruit, after that, they who are the Christ’s at his arrival. Afterward, the end, whensoever he delivers up the kingdom to his God and Father, whensoever he shall bring to nothing all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he shall put all his enemies under his feet: As a last enemy, death is to be destroyed; For He put all things in subjection under his feet. But whensoever it shall be said, all things are in subjection, it is evident that it means, except him who did put into subjection to him all things. But whensoever have been put into subjection to him all things, then the Son himself also shall be put in subjection to him who put in subjection unto him all things, that God may be all things in all.”
Paul did not provide a detailed roadmap of future events and chronologies. Instead, he presented arguments intended to demonstrate the necessity for the bodily resurrection. Apparently, some believers at Corinth were denying the reality or necessity of the resurrection – (1 Corinthians 15:12).
He anchored the future resurrection of believers in the past resurrection of Jesus. If there is no future resurrection, then “not even Christ has been raised, and if Christ has not been raised…to no purpose is our faith, we are yet in our sins.” The resurrection of believers is linked inextricably to the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
His return in glory will be preceded by the subjugation of “all his enemies.” When he does arrive, the dead will be resurrected, believers still alive will be transformed and receive immortality, “death” will cease, the kingdom of God will be consummated, and the present age will end.
Additionally, Paul explained what kind of body saints will inherit at the resurrection – (“How are the dead raised and with what manner of body do they come?”). It will be raised “incorruptible, in glory and power,” and thereafter, it will be dominated by the Spirit. No longer will the future body be subject to death or decay:
- “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit in-corruption.”
Paul concluded his discussion by demonstrating the necessity for the transformation of the human body before it can inherit everlasting life. The bodies of both living and dead saints must be transformed into bodies dominated by the “spirit,” as well as ones that are incorruptible and immortal:
- (1 Corinthians 15:49-57) – “And even as we have borne the image of the man of earth, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven. And this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom. Neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, a mystery do I declare to you: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet; for it shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and this mortal clothe itself with immortality…”
Thus, according to the Apostle, the resurrection of the righteous occurs at the parousia or “arrival” of Jesus, an event that also will terminate the jurisdiction of death, the “last enemy,” which means there will be no more enemies to defeat after that day. And Paul leaves no doubt that “resurrection” means life in an immortal “body,” and not a disembodied state.
The receipt of the immortal body that is no longer subject to decay and death means the arrival of the “new creation,” for reconstituting dead men and women as immortal beings is an act of new creation. Above all, Paul links all these glorious events to the “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age.