The Final Triumph
In the final triumph of the Risen Christ as taught in chapter fifteen of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, we learn that complete conformity to Christ is the consummation of the Christian’s calling. God has made Christ to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). Wisdom is conformity to His mind, righteousness to His claims, sanctification to His will, and redemption to His image. Redemption is here viewed in its final and full stage (Rom. 8:23; Phil. 3.21). These four great truths form the subject matter of this first epistle to the Corinthians. Chapters 1-4 deal with wisdom, chapters 5-7 with righteousness, chapters 8-14 with sanctification, and chapters 15-16 with redemption.
The great doctrine of the resurrection in chapter 15 revolves around the mention made of four “last” things, the last witness (v. 8), the last enemy (v. 26), the last Adam (v. 45), and the last trumpet (v. 52).
Let us now consider the fourfold division of this chapter.
The Fact Of The Resurrection (Vv. 1-11)
Linked with the proof of the resurrection is the last witness. The Lord is risen, such is the unanimous witness of the Scriptures (Vv. 3-4), and the testimony of living and chosen men (Vv. 5-11).
The founders of the great religions of earth are dead, and sepulchres enclose their dust to this present day, but yonder garden tomb near dark Golgotha’s brow is empty; even the grave clothes have long since disappeared. He Who was conceived in the virgin’s womb, and slept in the virgin tomb now fills the throne above.
Christianity stands or falls on whether or not the resurrection of Christ is fact or fable. Like seven flashing facets the resurrection proclaims: 1. The declaration of His sonship (Rom. 1:4). 2. The seal of an accomplished redemption (Heb. 10:12, 13, and 20). 3. The vindication of His holy claims (1 Tim. 3:16). 4. The witness of His mighty victory (Acts 2:24). 5. The cause of our justification (Rom. 4:25). 6. The pledge of the saints’ resurrection (1 Cor. 15:21-22). 7. The prelude to the judgment of the world (Acts 17:31).
The Power Of The Resurrection (Vv. 12-28)
Linked with this is the last enemy. If Christ be not raised the gospel loses its glory, and the claims of Christianity fall to the ground, and gloom and despair fill the heart. If the Lord Jesus did not arise, there are only four ultimate conclusions: 1. The work of Christ has no value (Vv. 13-14). 2. The message of the gospel has no meaning (Vv. 15). 3. The faith of the Christian has no object (V. 17). 4. The hope of the believer has no future (Vv. 18-19).
“But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that slept,” (V. 20). Gloom and despair disappear, and horizons of bliss and glory open up before the soul’s vision. The glory of the gospel is that it proclaims the Risen Christ, the Saviour Who has triumphed, and Who by virtue of His work and exalted station will put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Such is the pledge of our resurrection. We shall share with Him eternal joy in scenes where sin and death never will raise their ugly spectres again.
Referring again to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus as the pledge of the resurrection of all His saints, we now notice three things which are stated clearly regarding His own resurrection: It is first in time (Acts. 26:23), first in rank (Col. 1:18), and first in pattern (1 Cor. 15:23). The glorified body of the saint is to be conformed unto His own body of glory.
The Glory Of The Resurrection (Vv, 29 -1 49)
Linked with this we have the last Adam. This section is the answer to the questions, “How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” (V. 35). God is a God of variety (Vv. 39-41), and this is seen in this declaration of the resurrection (V. 42). That which is sown in the death of the body, produces seed from which the new body will come after its likeness (Vv. 37-38). What a body! It is finally saved from all the old traits and infirmities that marked the old body.
We are now given a sevenfold contrast between that which is sown and that which is raised (Vv. 42-50). 1. Corruption gives place to incorruption; 2. dishonour to glory; 3. weakness to power; 4. the natural to the spiritual; 5. the infirm body, related to the first Adam, to the perfect body related to the second Adam; 6. the image of the earthy to the image of the heavenly; and, finally, the mortal to the immortal.
Who can bring about such a change ? Flesh and blood cannot compass the revelation of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:16-17), and neither can they attain to the incorruptible inheritance of the saints (V. 50). The last Adam, the Lord from heaven, alone can accomplish this. He is the quickening Spirit. He quickened us in salvation (Eph. 2:1), He quickens us through His Word unto sanctification (Psa. 110:40), and He will quicken us in resurrection unto full glorification (Rom. 8:11). “Saved by grace alone!” What familiar words to the Christian’s ear, but never will they be more heartily sung than when he stands on the golden strand and reviews life’s chequered way. It was grace that justified (Rom. 3:24), that sanctified (Tit. 2:11-12), that satisfied (2 Cor. 12:9), and it is grace that will finally glorify (1 Pet. 1:13). Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
The Triumph Of The Resurrection (Vv. 50-58)
Linked with this is the last trumpet. Soon the Church militant will be the Church at rest. The promise of her Lord then will be fulfilled, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Down the road of time the great organizations of men are passing, only to be broken at the gates of hell. Those gates prevail over all of them, for beyond those gates there is no recognition of any former glory. The Church redeemed by the blood of the Lamb survives the shock of death, and rises by the power of her victorious Lord to glory and companionship with Him forever.
Let us consider the seven enemies before which the first Adam fell, and over which the last Adam (and we in Him) triumphed: sin, death, the grave, corruption , mortality, dishonour, and weakness (Vv. 51-55). Listen to the song of the victorious Church in heaven, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin… but thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The final outcome of the struggle between light and darkness, affords every encouragement to the children of God, for of the issues there is absolutely no doubt. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (V. 58). Remember, your cause is the cause of truth; your Captain is the Lion of the tribe of Judah; your armour is impervious; all that you need in the field of battle is abundantly supplied (Psa. 23:5) ; your victory is certain, and your reward is sure.