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One Corinthians Fifteen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

gospel. This passage (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) is often considered the defining verse of the gospel of Christ, by which men alone can be saved, receiving it, believing it, and standing on it. Significantly, of the 105 times where this word (Greek euaggelion) or its correlative words appear in the New Testament as presently organized, this occurrence is the middle one (52 before, 52 after).

1 Corinthians 15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

according to the scriptures. Although the central focus of the gospel is certainly on the death and resurrection of Christ for our sins and salvation, the phrase “according to the Scriptures” is interjected twice in this passage, indicating that the other 104 Scriptures on the “gospel” are also important. The first occurrence of the word is in Matthew 4:23 (“the gospel of the kingdom”), looking forward to the coming kingdom, when Christ shall be acknowledged as King of kings. The last occurrence is in Revelation 14:6-7, where it is called “the everlasting gospel,” calling on men to worship Him as Creator of all things. Thus “the gospel” embraces the person and work of Christ in its entirety, from creation to consummation, eternity to eternity. Its foundation is the Creation; its consummation is His eternal kingdom; its centrality and power is His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection. To reject or neglect any component of this is to leave us with “another gospel: Which is not another,” but one which “would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7). Only the true gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).

1 Corinthians 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

buried. The bodily burial of Christ is included as a part of the gospel, or “good news” concerning Christ, no doubt in order to emphasize that His resurrection was a bodily resurrection. Note Romans 10:9.

1 Corinthians 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

1 Corinthians 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

five hundred brethren. The remarkable parade of eye-witnesses of the resurrected Christ, most of whom were still living when Paul wrote and could have denied the story if it were not true, is part of the overwhelming body of evidence (“many infallible proofs”—Acts 1:3) that makes this greatest event in history since the creation probably the most certain fact of history. Jesus Christ has, indeed, conquered death itself, thereby demonstrating that He was the Creator of life and the only possible Savior from sin and death.

1 Corinthians 15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

1 Corinthians 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

yet not I. This striking phrase “yet not I” occurs just two other times, in 1 Corinthians 7:10 and Galatians 2:20. In all three occasions, Paul—arguably the greatest Christian of all—instead of boasting, reminded his readers that anything He had accomplished was altogether by the grace of God.

1 Corinthians 15:11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

faith is also vain. There is no true Christian faith without the resurrection, and thus no hope of forgiveness, or salvation, or eternal life. We are still lost in sins (1 Corinthians 15:17), and we shall never see our departed loved ones again (1 Corinthians 15:18). Having seen the hopelessness of this life, if that is all there is, more clearly than others, we are the “most miserable” of all men (1 Corinthians 15:19). But Christ has defeated death, our sins are forgiven, those asleep in Christ are awaiting us, and we also shall be resurrected to eternal life, so therefore, of all men, we are most blessed.

1 Corinthians 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

1 Corinthians 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

now is Christ risen. For a summary of the compelling evidences of the bodily resurrection of Christ, see Appendix 16.

1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

by man came death. There was, therefore, no death before man. See Romans 5:12. This one verse (as well as the coherent teaching of all Scripture) disproves the false teaching that there were long ages before man, as supposedly identified by the fossil remains of organisms living in those ages. The fossil record, containing the remains of billions of now-dead animals and man-like creatures, cannot be the record of long ages of evolution. It is rather the record of one age of cataclysmic death, at the time of the great Flood, when “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6) and “all that was in the dry land, died” (Genesis 7:22). Not only is this the explicit teaching of Scripture, it is also implicitly taught by the fact that nowhere in the Bible is there the slightest hint of the death of sentient life, either human or animal, before Adam's sin brought God's curse of decay and death on man's dominion, “the whole creation” (Romans 8:20-22). It is further supported by geological evidence everywhere in the crust of the earth.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

in Adam all die. Adam was certainly a real individual man, just as real as Jesus Christ. Since he was the first man, all of us were implicitly “in Adam,” and therefore we have all (except Christ) inherited his sin-nature.

1 Corinthians 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

1 Corinthians 15:25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

under his feet. This ultimate triumph, coming after His seeming defeat on the cross, was implied in the promise of Genesis 3:15, and amplified in the Psalms (Psalms 2:2, 9; 8:2, 6; 22:1-18, 28; 118:22; and others, most explicitly in Psalm 110:1-2).

1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

The last enemy. The last enemy to be destroyed will be the first enemy who rebelled against God in the beginning and who has been deceiving the world with his lies ever since. Satan, who now has “the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14) will finally be incarcerated forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

1 Corinthians 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

1 Corinthians 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

baptized for the dead. This is the only reference in the Bible to anyone being “baptized for the dead,” and has obviously become a very controversial verse, with many suggested interpretations. It could not mean that a dead unbeliever could somehow be saved by proxy baptism, for baptism does not save even living believers. It could not even save unbaptized believers, for they were already saved by grace through faith alone, whether or not they were baptized (Ephesians 2:8-9; Luke 23:43). This vicarious baptism for the dead could not have saved anyone, yet Paul seems to have mentioned it with approval, or at least not with disapproval, merely pointing out that it was meaningless if there were no future resurrection of the dead. But this might imply that he thought it was meaningful in light of the certain future resurrection. Since neither he nor any other New Testament writer mentions this practice anywhere else, and since it is not practiced today (except by certain cults), it remains somewhat enigmatic as to purpose and value, and no expositor should be dogmatic. The difficulty probably has to do with the precise intent of the preposition huper, here translated “for.” This word can be translated in various ways, depending on context. The context here is dealing with the future resurrection, and immersion in water beautifully symbolizes death and resurrection, both that of Christ and of the believer being baptized (see on Romans 6:3-5). There would certainly be no point in submitting to the inconvenience of immersion if the events it symbolized were non-existent. It merely would increase one's jeopardy of persecution and earlier death (1 Corinthians 15:30), all to no avail if there were no resurrection. A possible translation, therefore, could be “baptism with respect [only] to the dead.” That is, such baptism might depict one's future death, but not his future resurrection, if there were no such thing. It would only be a baptism for the dead, not one showing both death and resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

1 Corinthians 15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.

fought with beasts. This is quoted from Isaiah 22:13. With respect to Paul's encounter with beasts at Ephesus, there is no mention of this either in the book of Acts or in Paul's list of his travails in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. Possibly he was referring to the mob acting like beasts at the uproar in Ephesus (Acts 19:28-34).

1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

evil communications. This might be paraphrased as a warning that false doctrine inevitably leads to wicked behavior. Denying a future accounting to God (implicit in denying the resurrection) leads to the philosophy of fatalistic eating, drinking and merry-making. Denying creation in favor of animalistic evolution leads to animalistic conduct, and so on.

1 Corinthians 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

1 Corinthians 15:35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

1 Corinthians 15:36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

1 Corinthians 15:37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain\:

1 Corinthians 15:38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

his own body. This statement is both a refutation of evolution and a confirmation of the Genesis revelation that each kind of plant was only to reproduce “after his kind” (Genesis 1:11-12). God has designed each kind and has implanted a unique genetic code in each DNA molecule that controls the reproduction process, and assures that each kind will reproduce after no other kind. See also James 3:12.

1 Corinthians 15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

another of birds. Not only the plants but also the animals reproduce after their own kind. There is not continuity of all forms of animal and human life; as evolutionary theory supposes. This revelation is firmly supported by the distinct genetic gaps between different kinds of animals, and by the ubiquitous gaps between those same kinds in the fossil record.

1 Corinthians 15:40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

terrestrial is another. This strong distinction between the earth, the planets, the moon and the sun is also firmly verified by modern astronomical discoveries. The chemical and physical structures of the earth and the other planets, as well as the moon, are vastly different from each other, and the same is true of all their many satellites. It seems completely impossible that they could all have evolved out of the same dust cloud about five billion years ago, as evolutionists contend.

1 Corinthians 15:41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

one star differeth from another. Here is still another modern scientific confirmation of Biblical revelation. All stars look alike to the naked eye; even seen through a telescope, they seem to be just points of light. However, analysis of their light spectra reveals that each of them is uniquely different from all others. Each has its own distinctive ratio of apparent brightness to temperature, so each is different “in glory” from all others.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

incorruption. The Greek word translated “incorruption” is aphtharsia. It is translated “immortality” in 2 Timothy 1:10. Another word, athanasia, is rendered as “immortality” in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54. The new bodies which believers will receive at the resurrection will thus be both “without corruption” and “without death.” Note that these both apply to the spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44). Both pagans and New Agers believe in the “immortality of the soul,” either in an eternally disembodied state or in reincarnation in another body. The Scriptures, however, clearly teach the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:42, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

1 Corinthians 15:43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

sown in dishonour. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-45, death and resurrection are compared to seed-sowing and harvest. When a seed is planted in the ground, it is as though it had died and was being buried. For a long time after its death, the seed cannot be seen, but finally it rises again as a beautiful sheaf of grain. Jesus made the same analogy: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24; note also Mark 4:26-29). The human body, because of sin and the curse, eventually dies and is buried, but one day (like the planted seed) it will appear again. The same basic body, now immortal and glorified, its only real inhabitant, its eternal created spirit has been born again in Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

raised a spiritual body. The spiritual body rising from the dead will no longer be under bondage to gravitational and electromagnetic forces, as at present, but only to spiritual forces of which we now have no real knowledge. We do know, however, that our spiritual bodies will be like that of the resurrected body of Christ (Philippians 3:20-21; xTerm 3:2), able to move through solid walls (John 20:26), and move with tremendous speed between earth and God's throne in heaven (John 20:17-19).

1 Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

it is written. Paul here quotes Genesis 2:7, again confirming the historicity of the special creation of Adam and, therefore, of the Genesis record of creation as a whole.

first man Adam. This is a clear affirmation that Adam was, indeed, the first man, thus refuting the various quasi-evolutionary theories involving pre-Adamite men.”

the last Adam. The “last Adam,” of course, was the Lord Jesus. As in Romans 5:12-19, the divinely inspired apostle showed Adam to be a contrasting type of Christ. Both were true men, yet their bodies were formed directly by God without genetic inheritance from human parents. Adam was the first man made a living soul, the federal head of the human race; the Lord Jesus was the first begotten from the dead, the captain of our salvation, the first man made a life-giving spirit. Adam brought sin and death into the world; Christ brought everlasting righteousness and eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.

the second man. Jesus Christ was certainly not “the second man” in the natural sense—that would be Cain! Neither was he the second man born supernaturally; there were Isaac and Samuel and John the Baptist, for example. The phrase obviously is comparing Him with Adam as “the first man,” but Adam was not born at all—he was formed directly by God (Genesis 2:7). In fact, that is the key. The body of Jesus was also directly formed by God, in Mary's womb (see note on Genesis 2:7; note on Jeremiah 31:22; note on Romans 1:3; note on Galatians 4:4 and note on Hebrews 10:5), and this was the second and last man of whom this was true.

1 Corinthians 15:48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

1 Corinthians 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

image of the heavenly. One of the greatest promises of God is that those who believe in Christ will one day “be conformed to the image” of the Son of God. See note on Romans 8:29; note on Philippians 3:21; note on xTerm 3:2.

1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

a mystery. This “mystery,” not revealed in previous ages, assures us that Christ's second coming will be initiated by simultaneous resurrection and glorification of the dead in Christ and glorification of the bodies of those still living at the time. Note that all will be raised! There is no basis for the so-called “partial rapture” theory. This same mystery had been unveiled previously to the Thessalonian believers (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), but his epistle to that church did not include the more detailed specifications for the spiritual body as described here. That body would be immortal (that is, no longer subject to death) and incorruptible (that is, no longer subject even to decay, pain, disease, or other physical effects of the curse). Paul would soon point out essentially this same truth to the churches at Philippi (Philippians 3:20-21) and Colosse (Colossians 3:4). In none of these is there any instruction to look first for the Antichrist, or the great tribulation, or for anything except Christ Himself!

1 Corinthians 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

In a moment. “Moment” is the Greek atomos, believed at that time to be the very smallest particle of matter. The coming of Christ is to be very sudden, and without advance notice, so that we should be “abiding in Him” at all times. See xTerm 2:28; Hebrews 9:28; 2 Timothy 4:8.

the last trump. Paul is not referring to the last of the seven trumpets in the Apocalypse (Revelation 8:2; 11:15), for the book of Revelation had not yet been written and Paul obviously intended for the Corinthians to understand what he meant. The sounding of an angelic trumpet at the resurrection day had also been mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Trumpets were traditionally associated with calls to action (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14:8; Judges 7:20), and this particular trumpet sounded in heaven will call all saints, living and dead, to ascend into heaven to meet the returning Christ. It is, therefore, “the last trump” of this present age of the church.

1 Corinthians 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

put on incorruption. At present, the whole creation is in “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21), and this certainly includes our mortal bodies. Scientifically, this condition is known as the law of increasing entropy, theologically as the curse on the ground (Genesis 3:17) because of sin. This law will be set aside as far as our present bodies are concerned, at this first phase of Christ's second coming, then finally repealed in entirety at the final phase (Revelation 22:3).

1 Corinthians 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

saying that is written. See Isaiah 25:8, supplemented by Hosea 13:14. In 1 Corinthians 15:55, “death” and “grave” are the same Greek word, thanatos.

1 Corinthians 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:58 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.

not in vain. No matter how great the temptation to compromise, do not yield! No matter how demanding and difficult may be the work to which God has called us, do not quit! There will be a day of resting and reward, but not yet! Note Hebrews 4:9, 11; 6:10.