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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
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In our lesson last week Paul addressed those Believers in Corinth who denied the important doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (15:12-13). The Bible doesn’t say how this error entered their assembly or when, but the Bible does say it had obtained a strong foothold in their church. Perhaps a member of the Sadducees spoke to some of the members of this church and after hearing his opinion on the subject they were led to reject this teaching. It’s also likely the Greek philosophy regarding resurrection, which was in vogue at that time prejudiced these people’s minds (Acts 17:32; Ephesians 4:14).
To counter the Corinthian’s doubt and negativity concerning the resurrection of the dead, Paul introduced a condensed argument for the Truth of Christianity; the very foundation of our faith. He begins with the resurrection of Jesus Christ’s Body, which was not a new body but the same one that was in the tomb; the first fruits, of those who are asleep. In doing so, Paul gives this assembly information that is clear, concise, and impossible to contradict, so that their faith may be complete and in expectation that their divisions and rivalry’s would cease (Acts 23:6, 26:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:12).
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 15:21 and we’ll read through verse 24.
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For since by one man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,
In verse 21 Paul communicates the same truths found in Romans 5:12-21. Adam (by a man) is the “federal head” of the human race, so then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men (and women). The second Adam, Jesus Christ (by a man also) brings about the resurrection of the dead to all that believe and come under His Federal Headship (see verses 45, 47-49). Therefore, all of mankind falls into one of two families, those who are of Adam, the unjust, and those who are of Christ Jesus, the just. For Paul writes: God is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
Bear this in mind as we look at Paul’s statement in verses 22-23 once again.
When Paul said, For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (v22-23), he’s referencing the resurrection of the righteous Believers which will occur in stages. It has already commenced with Christ, the first fruits. This event will be followed by God’s Church, beginning with those who have died in Christ Jesus and then those who are still alive, being caught up and away (that is, Raptured) to meet the Lord in the air – this is the imagery of the main harvest spoken of in Leviticus 23 (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Leviticus 23:22).
God has been filling up the Body of Christ, His Church, for 2,000 years. So, when God decides “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in,” i.e. when the last Believer is baptized into the Body of Christ (Romans 11:25), Jesus Christ will come to gather His Church unto Him; this will certainly be the “main harvest” of Believers. The final two resurrections of the righteous will occur at the end of the Tribulation, at the Lord’s Second Coming. These will be the Tribulation martyrs; all those people who are going to be saved during the Tribulation thanks to the efforts of the 144,000 Jewish men from the twelve tribes of Israel. The “gospel of the kingdom” or “believe in Jesus’ name” will be the good news that saves in the last days and these men of God will travel the globe preaching it, under tremendous opposition and pressure (Matthew 25:31-46). A great multitude will be saved, which no one could count (Revelation 7:9) but many of these will be martyred for their faith. Then the Old Testament Believers will be resurrected. These two resurrections symbolize the gleanings and the four corners of the harvest (Revelation 20:4; Daniel 12:1-2).
After God removes His Church from this planet, He will close the door on the Church Age, in so many words, and remove the restrainer or the Holy Spirit from this planet (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The next event on God’s timeline is the Tribulation. The Bible does not say when it will begin, but at that time God will resume His Prophetic Program with the nation of Israel (and not the church). The church is history; the only people left on earth are unbelievers at this point in time. This prophecy was spoken of by Daniel: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to (what) finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in (what) everlasting righteousness, and to seal up (here it comes) the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24 – KJV)
490 years were determined for the nation of Israel but when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was cut off, i.e. crucified, God’s time clock stopped at 483 years, leaving 7 unfulfilled years of prophecy (Daniel 9:26).
Now, some archeologists and chronologists, while digging around in the dirt, have actually found the decree that Daniel mentions here that gave the Jew permission to return to Jerusalem after their Temple had been destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar. That document was dated, March 14, 445 BC. Counting from that date up to the date Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is 483 years exactly. That was prophecy fulfilled – once again, to the letter. But the entire prophecy said 490 years. 483 years were completed up to the Cross, so there’s 7 years of unfulfilled prophecy still remaining, or Daniel’s 70th week.
Believers will not experience one minute of the Tribulation or God’s wrath. If you don’t believe Paul’s gospel, you need to be concerned. It’s going to be a time of imaginable calamity and suffering on a world-wide scale. The Bible says people will seek death during the Tribulation, but it will not come (Revelation 9:6). The book of Daniel gives us the event that will trigger the Tribulation period: “And he (the anti-christ) will make a firm covenant (peace treaty) with the many (the nation of Israel primarily) for one week (7 years)…
Now, how many people and governments have been working on a peace plan between the nation of Israel and its neighbors over the years? I’ve lost count but the USA has been involved in the majority of these. The counterfeit christ will arrive on the scene, bringing all parties to the table, and finalize an agreement guaranteeing peace for Israel; and that’s what the Jews have been asking for peace and safety with their neighbors. He’s going to get the job done! But it’s all a lie! (Ezekiel 38)
Just as the stage-hands prepare the scenery night after night for the shows on Broadway, those with eyes that see and ears that hear understand the world-stage is being prepared for the arrival of the anti-christ. The world is facing problems no man can solve – the world’s problems are only getting bigger, taxing the world’s economies and the world’s governments ability to manage them.
How many nations/governments have barely escaped bankruptcy, borrowing money against that day? The USA itself is 20 Trillion dollars in debt and can barely keep up with the interest payments while keeping all of its social programs and commitments solvent. 50 years ago President Johnson declared war on poverty in America. In that time, American taxpayers have spent over 22 trillion dollars on anti-poverty programs. Look around you. How’s that plan working? Are we any better off today than in 1964? My wife and her friend volunteer in a homeless shelter serving food to those in need and it’s not enough, so I’m asking, “What have we got in exchange for all that money?” (Mark 14:7) By the way, how’s the war of drugs going? I think you know the answer to that question…
How many wars or skirmishes are being fought around this planet right now? Does anyone know? The USA has been battling terrorists since I was in high school and we’re no closer to a solution today than the day it commenced. America still bears the scars of September 11, 2001; the day Islamic Terrorists attacked America and the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 2,996 and injuring more than 6,000 others. Many lives have been lost since then in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, including the streets of America – people killed by Islamic terrorists seeking martyrdom.
The bullets and missiles are flying, people are dying, but I’m not seeing any progress. Having worked my entire adult life at the Veterans Administration, what I have seen is our valiant men and women in uniform returning from the fight permanently injured, mentally or physically, and the fighting continues unabated. Then there are those veterans, men and women, who have chosen suicide as the only solution to their pain; the latest statistics put the number at 26 veterans per day committing suicide, since the VA is incapable or unwilling to assist them. Our president and our elected officials have no answer to any of these problems – they play golf, go on vacation, or take a long break from Washington, D.C. (I believe this is called a recess) instead! Reminds me of the emperor Nero who played his fiddle while Rome burned…
But one day a man will rise up from the area of the old Roman Empire, according to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:26-27), and he will command the attention of the world. He will possess superior knowledge and his speech-making ability will captivate audiences world-wide. But mainly he will express the ability to solve all the world’s problems. The Bible calls him “the man of lawlessness or the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
It bears repeating, The Day of the Lord, the Tribulation, or God’s Wrath, is something no believer of Paul’s gospel will experience. Paul stated quite clearly the Lord will rescue Believers from this dreadful time (1 Thessalonians 5:9). The imminent return of the Lord taught by Paul was not the Lord’s Second Coming as revealed by the prophets. It was a new and previously unknown event, which is was why he called it a “secret.”
There are two reasons for the Rapture:
#1: the salvation of the believer’s body with the resurrection body, i.e. the glorification process (Philippians 3:20-21).
#2: the rescue of all Believers who are alive at the time from the wrath God intends to bring upon mankind and the earth (John 3:36; 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9)
In the following verses Paul explains how the resurrection of Jesus Christ leads to the resolution of all things (24-28).
Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power. He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
Starting at verse 24 with Paul’s statement: Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power, his announcement is in line with Daniel’s interpretation of Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar’s upsetting dream: In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever (Daniel 2:44).
In Ephesians 1:10, Paul reveals God’s purpose in history: …with a view to an administration (dispensation) suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him… Here Paul wrote of the “gathering together” or the “summing up” of all things in Christ – in Him. In 1 Corinthians, he looks forward to the time when all things are resolved in Christ Jesus and He presents it all to God the Father, giving glory to God who authored His eternal plan for the ages.
When He has abolished all rule and authority and power – God has never left His throne in heaven, if I may use that imagery. Another way of putting this is, God is sovereign and always will be, but He has permitted man, Satan, and death a measure of authority and power here on earth. But their assignment is only temporary. The Lord Jesus Christ will take His rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, meaning after the resurrection, God the Father will resolve every matter, according to His will (Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 6:15).
He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet (v25) - Paul is speaking about that period of time at the end of the Jesus Christ’s millennial reign – that glorious 1,000 year age of righteousness on the earth (Revelation 20:1-6). Only Believers will go into God’s 1000 year kingdom on earth, but the Bible teaches us because the earth’s population was decimated by the last 3.5 years of Tribulation, a.k.a. the Great Tribulation years, the people in the Millennium are going to witness a great population explosion (Jeremiah 30: 19-20). By the end of the 1,000 years there will be millions of people born under Christ’s reign and a great many of these will not accept Him as their Savior. During this time period, Satan is bound in a bottomless pit. But the adamic nature in mankind has not been eradicated in mortal mankind, i.e. those who are still being born. Those who are born during the 1,000 year reign of Christ can still refuse to believe on Him for their salvation and a great multitude will. Near the end, Satan will be released from the bottomless pit to tempt mankind once again and there will be a Satan-inspired rebellion (Revelation 20:7-10). Every generation of man is to be tested and this period of time is no exception. We already know the outcome; Jesus Christ will crush this rebellion. The fire of God will come from heaven and devour them thus putting all His enemies under His feet (Revelation 20:8-9).
The last enemy that will be abolished is death – Scripture clearly says death will be present during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:9; Isaiah 65:20). But afterward, death will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. It will truly be the last enemy that will be abolished (Revelation 20:14).
Death is the enemy of all mankind. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that humanity doesn’t view it this way. The majority of mankind doesn’t know God or His Word so they accept death for “what it is;” the end. But Believers know death is but the beginning of something far bigger than what we’ve experienced in this life. It’s actually the beginning of life; God calls this eternity.
Let’s go to verses 27-28.
For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. After the Rapture of the Body of Christ to be with Lord, will come “the end,” or as I’ve already mentioned, the age of God’s Grace gives way to the day of God’s wrath, and then the next event of God’s timetable is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth to judge and reign with His kingdom saints for 1,000 years (v25). (See Hebrews 2:6-8; Revelation 20:1-4) – For He must reign, until He has put all His enemies under His feet (v25).
Thus, all redeemed mankind will finally be the victor over creation instead of its victim.
He will fulfill the LORD God’s original command to “have dominion” over creation and “subdue it,” (Genesis 1: 26-31), rather than being dominated by it. This, of course, is out there in the future, but we rejoice in it now, by faith. For Hebrews 2:8-9 declares: But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him. But we do see Him who was made for little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
When all of God’s enemies have been conquered, death will be the last enemy of God to be destroyed.
…so that God may be all in all - here Paul is saying when the Son delivers all over to the Father, then God will finally be all in all. Paul is coming at this from the perspective that right now God the Father has regained His rightful place, in part, in the heart, soul, and mind of the Believer but not in the unbeliever. This verse is saying the day is coming when God will be All in All – the nearest condition we find for this before “the end,” is during the Millennium, when God’s people (Believers every one) all over the world will dedicate themselves and their all to the glorious King, the Lord Jesus Christ (Zechariah 20:3, 7-9). For God will not be all in all until the last enemy (death) is destroyed.
But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all (v27-28).
Here Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) that the Son will not be superior to the Father someday. When Paul said, the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him this means the relationship of Father to Son will be unchanged for eternity. This is no way implies the Son is inferior to the Father, instead it demonstrates the administrative order of the Godhead. A son is always in submission to his father, even if both are equally well off financially, hold the same title or rank, wielding equal authority. George Bush Jr. will always be the son of George Bush Sr. for example. Thus, God the Father will always be God the Father, and God the Son will always be God the Son, and for all eternity they will continue to relate to each other as Father and Son.
In Revelation 5, the entire universe gathers about the throne to worship the Lamb that was slain, crying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing,” (Revelation 5:12 – KJV). Everyone is invited to worship the Son. But a time is coming, says Paul, when the work of the Son in subduing a lost creation will be finished. When the full results of the atonement of the Cross have been completed and all the harvest of the earth is gathered in, then, according to this account in Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ returns the kingdom to the Father in order that God, The Holy Trinity to be specific, may be everything to everyone, or that God may be all in all.
Let’s move on to verses 29-32 where Paul resumes his logical arguments for the resurrection of the dead Believer’s body at the Rapture.
Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? Why are we also in danger every hour? I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.
Here in this section Paul returns to the principle of the resurrection of the dead in Christ Jesus, which was interrupted at verse 19, presenting this puzzling verse in doing so: Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
I did some research on verse 29 and discovered there are at least thirty different interpretations (or attempts at interpretation) and none of them are in harmony. Albert Barnes, a noted Bible scholar, and a man I respect, had this to say about this passage: “There is perhaps no passage of the N.T. in respect to which there has been a greater variety of interpretations… and the views of expositors now by no means harmonize as to its meaning.”
He then presents a list of different viewpoints taken from Pool’s Synopsis, whittling all these down to two, stating his preference but explaining he is not fully satisfied with any interpretation thus far… which means even Albert Barnes came up empty on this passage.
Instead of offering my opinion, making it 31 interpretations, without the support of Scripture to back it up, I prefer to leave this passage right where we found it and move on to the next verse. There are difficult passages in Scripture, we’ve come up against two of them so far in this letter to the Corinthians, but I rest on the fact that the Bible may not tell us everything we want to know, but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.
Skipping ahead to the next sentence, we have this statement from Paul: Why are we also in danger every hour? Here Paul asks a question about himself and his co-workers. If you know anything about Paul and those who labored for the gospel that saves in this dispensation, then you’re aware no matter where he went preaching it, he suffered for doing so. He said his very life was always in jeopardy, recalling his contest with veritable beasts at Ephesus (v32) – (1 Corinthians 15:32, 16:9).
What does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, In other words Paul is saying, instead of serving God, instead of looking ahead to a future reward, this activity was more than idiotic; and if he died while doing it, what does it profit me? If there was no resurrection from the dead, Paul asks, “Why risk my life every single day, if the dead are not raised? What advantage could there possibly be in this?” Instead of incurring dangers and trials aplenty daily, it would be a better plan to sit down and join with the Epicureans in saying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (v32).
This phrase appears to have been taken from Isaiah 22:13 and was used by those who believed and taught the doctrine of the resurrection, showing that the denial of it opens a “door” to all kinds of debauchery. These are not Paul’s own words folks, they are written tongue in cheek, so to speak, which means he does not approve of such conduct.
These are the words of a philanderer, a person, who lives for today with very little thought of the damage this lifestyle does to one’s body, soul, and spirit; one who does not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
(To be continued)
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