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1 Corinthians 15:23-28 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 23 secs

Christ's Resurrection and the Angelic Conflict; 1 Cor. 15:23-28


We have come to a really crucial passage because of what it informs us about God's overall plan in history and how that is working out, especially in relationship to the resurrection. What is fascinating is the way that Paul so quickly, in just a matter of two or three verses, pulls together the significance of the physical bodily resurrection of Christ in terms of its importance and significance for the ultimate resolution of the angelic conflict and human history. What we see in this section of 1 Corinthians 15 is an argument from Paul that God's plan includes a specific order of resurrection which necessarily begins with the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And these resurrections are designed to bring to completion the demonstration of God's own integrity and the angelic conflict.

1 Corinthians 15:23 NASB "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming." That can't be talking about regeneration. We are not made alive or regenerated in our own order, we are made alive physically though in our own order because there are different ranks of resurrection. The question we are going to have to ask is: What does it mean when it says "Christ's at His coming"? Is that talking about the Rapture of the church, or is that talking about the second coming?

There are six stages in the first resurrection.

1)  Jesus Christ the firstfruits. He was raised from the dead and received His resurrection body as a guarantee of our resurrection body in circa AD 33.

2)  The group of church age believers who are resurrected at the Rapture.

3)  The two Tribulation witnesses. They are martyred half-way through the Tribulation, laid out for public inspection for three days, and then are resurrected and taken to heaven.

4)  The Tribulation martyrs. That occurs at the end of the Tribulation. 

5)  The Old Testament saints at the end of the Tribulation.

6)  The Millennial saints. It will be extremely rare for a believer to die physically during the Millennium but when that occurs he will receive his resurrection body, either instantaneously or at the end of the Millennium.

No believers are involved in the second resurrection. That involves unbelievers throughout all of human history and it takes place at the great white throne judgment and they are judged, found wanting, and sentenced to the lake of fire. They are sentenced because they rejected the divine solution, not because of sins. All sins were paid for on the cross. Without having perfect righteousness they cannot have a relationship with God. They tried to make it on their own and the result of that is eternal condemnation. 

1 Corinthians 15:24 NASB "then {comes} the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power." The first word in this verse is the Greek word eita [e)ita], a temporal particle indicating a passage of time between the end of verse 23 and the events of verse 24. It can be a short time or a long time, you have to look at what is being explained in the passage. What we are going to see in v. 24 is that at the end of history Jesus Christ is going to deliver the kingdom to God the Father. When does that take place? It doesn't take place at the second coming. That is when Jesus Christ receives the kingdom, when He inaugurates and establishes the kingdom. So handing the kingdom to God the Father takes place at the end of the Millennium.

What does the word "coming" mean in v. 23? In the Greek this is the word parousia [parousia], a general word for the arrival of someone. Some have tried to force this word to refer to the Rapture. It is not a Rapture word. Twice in all of the New Testament it refers to the Rapture, the rest of the time it refers to the second coming. But it is just a generic term and we must go to the context to determine whether this is the Rapture or the second coming. "Those who are Christ's at His coming" would include all of the saints up to the beginning of the Millennium, which is when Christ first returns at the second coming, but He is here as a result of His second coming throughout the Millennial kingdom and so that picks up those few Millennnial saints who die then. Then after all have been resurrected "then the end." There is no "comes" in the original Greek. This is the end of the Millennial kingdom. So, "then {comes} the end, when He [Jesus Christ] hands over the kingdom to the God and Father," v. 24. Why can He deliver the kingdom now to God the Father? To what do the words "when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power" refer? These are terms that refer to angels and to angelic powers. Jesus Christ is going to abolish that, and the verb there is katargeo [katargew], aorist active subjunctive. The subjunctive is related to the fact that it is potential, it hasn't happened yet, it takes place in the future. Katargeo is the word that we saw over in 1 Corinthians 13:9-11 doing with the abolition of the spiritual gifts. It means to abolish or destroy something, to completely nullify, to bring something to an end. When does that take place? Even though the demons are consigned to the lake of fire, along with the false prophet and Antichrist at the end of the Tribulation, Satan is only bound for a thousand years. He is released at the end of the Millennial kingdom at which time he will lead a revolt among humanity against the rule of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and God will bring down fire from heaven to destroy Satan and the human army that he brings together. This is the final defeat of Satan, at which time he is consigned for all eternity to the lake of fire. So his career doesn't come to an end until the conclusion of the Millennium. So verse 24 marks the end of the time of the kingdom. At this time there is the destruction of the present heavens and earth and Jesus Christ then turns over the kingdom to God the Father.

The fact that these terms "rule, authority and power" are used we need to investigate them. We see them in passages such as Romans 8:38, 39 NASB "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Here we have mention of angels, principalities and powers. These refer to different rankings of angels. We see it again in Ephesians 1:21 talking about the ascension: NASB "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." The first word, rule, is the Greek word arche [a)rxh]. It sometimes means beginning; it has the root concept of first. So it is those who are in ultimate authority. It is an ultimate level, a sort of general staff on the demonic army ranking level. The second category is "authority," exousia [e)cousia]. This would be one rank lower, these are the authorities. Then "powers" which is from the Greek word dunamis [dunamij]. All this describes the rankings of the demons. Why do we say these are demonic? Because Christ has to subject them. He has to bring them into subjection, so it is obviously talking about a group that is in opposition to Him. He is not going to abolish the angels but He is going to defeat and abolish the demonic powers. This happens finally with the defeat of Satan at the end of the Millennial kingdom. It is at that point with the destruction of the heavens and the earth and the final defeat of Satan that death is finally abolished—physical death.

1 Corinthians 15:25 NASB "For [explanation] He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." The first He is God the Father; the second "His" is God the Son." We know that from Psalm 8:6 NASB "You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet." This is almost a prophetic psalm because it is looking to the time when God would bring all of creation back under His authority. It is looking forward to the fact that God will destroy all of His enemies, angelic and human, and have victory in human history. This resolution ultimately comes about when Jesus Christ defeats all of the enemies of God, including death, and then delivers everything over to God.

1 Corinthians 15:26 NASB "The last enemy that will be abolished is death. [27] For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. (Reference to Psalm 8:6) But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He [God the Father] is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him [Jesus Christ]. [28] When all things are subjected to Him [Jesus Christ as a human being], then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him [God the Father], so that God may be all in all [reference to eternity future]." So there is an ultimate return of all things under the authority of God. This is the conclusion and the resolution of the angelic conflict.

Why is all of that important? The key here is to understand the use of the verb used four times in vv. 27, 28, "subjection." It is the Greek verb hupotasso [u(potassw], a military term for being under the authority of a commander. In Isaiah 14 Lucifer expresses his desire: [13] "But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. [14] 'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'" Satan's goal is to rule like God. In the angelic conflict the rebellion of Satan is the claim that the creature can operate successfully independently of God. We know from Matthew 25:41 that apparently God convened a trial to judge Satan and the angels who followed him. The lake of fire was created for the devil and his angels. But they are not there yet. They are not consigned to the lake of fire until the end of the Millennium. Why is it that they are not there yet? Apparently there was some kind of challenge to God's character. How can a loving God consign is creatures to the lake of fire? The question here isn't just how God could punish His creatures in such a horrible way, but how in the world going is God going to judge us in such an extreme way that we will spend eternity in the lake of fire with no way out. To Satan the penalty doesn't seem to fit the crime. He just wanted to be independent of God. Imbedded there is the challenge that the punishment doesn't fit the crime. Along with this is the claim that the creature ought to be able to and can somehow rule creation, live his life and find happiness, success and meaningful fulfilment apart from absolute devotion, obedience and dependence on the creator. So what God does is create man as a test case. What God is going to demonstrate is that the creature can't operate independent of God, that even when the creature does something that is innocuous, perhaps we might call it innocent, but it is done in a way that is independent from God, the unintended consequences are so horrendous and so evil and destructive, that embedded in such a simple act as eating a piece of fruit has resulted in all of the evil, all of the suffering, all of the famines, all of the other catastrophes of history. This is why the lake of fire is eternal, because the crime is so horrendous. Because of the structure of reality, when the creature acts independently of the creator it is like it creates some kind of fissure in reality and the reverberations destroy everything. This sets up human history and why Adam was created to be the ruler over the planet. He had authority over the kingdom but when he sinned he lost that position and Satan became the ruler of the planet.

The strategic victory which has to do with the overall foundational victory was achieved by Jesus Christ on the cross. The conclusion of that strategic victory that begins with His death on the cross where the sin penalty is paid for is concluded when Jesus Christ ascends in His humanity over the angels to sit at the right hand of God the Father and to rule. That finishes the strategic victory. At that point He has defeated the power of Satan and his demons. That consequence now has to be worked out tactically in the life of believers. This is how you and I come in. It is how we live our Christian life. This plays into the outworking of that mission because every time we face suffering and heartache, every time we face adversity and tests, when we apply doctrine that demonstrates that the creature can't have success, happiness, meaningful fulfilment apart from the creator. And we become witnesses and evidence against Satan in the angelic conflict. Furthermore, as we go through those tests we are being trained to rule and reign with Christ in the future Millennial kingdom.  

What is necessary to bring about the conclusion of this strategic victory is the physical bodily resurrection of Christ. It is not just to demonstrate that God approved of what happened at the cross, what Paul is arguing here is that the resurrection of Christ has cosmic reverberations because it allows a human being to go to the right hand of God and exercise authority over all of the angels and to ultimately resolve the whole problem of sin, suffering, and evil, and to bring to destruction all of the enemies that have arrayed themselves against God.