I Corinthians 15:20–26
In the order of the resurrections given in I Corinthians 15:20–26 I do not seem to see a clear reference to our resurrection that will take place at the Lord’s coming for us at the end of this present dispensation of God’s grace. Am I just not seeing it? Or if Paul does not make reference to it, why not?
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
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.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:20–26)
What Paul sets forth in I Corinthians 15:20–26 about the order of the resurrection of the dead can indeed be puzzling if we expect him to include the issue of the Lord’s coming for us and our rapture/resurrection at the end of this present dispensation. For as you say, there does not seem to a clear reference to it.
And even if we think that it might be included in verse 23 where Paul says “afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming,” then this would only seem to confuse things. For if Paul is including our rapture/resurrection in verse 23, then he is putting the Lord’s coming for us and our resurrection at the same time as that of redeemed Israel’s resurrection when the Lord comes to establish His kingdom at the end of the final installment in Israel’s program. For it is clear that there is only one ‘coming of Christ’ spoken about by Paul in verse 23. And it is evident from what he says that it has to be His coming to establish His kingdom on the earth.
But we need not be puzzled or confused by the order of the resurrections in I Corinthians 15:20–26. For the fact of the matter is that Paul has no need to make reference to the Lord’s coming for us and our rapture/resurrection in this particular passage. This is because it does not belong with what he is describing.
For what Paul is saying in verses 20–26 only pertains to what God has prophesied about the resurrection of the dead. Or in other words, Paul is only referring to what God has said about overcoming death by resurrection in connection with how He has prophesied that He would destroy death through Christ’s ministry of fulfilling the Davidic Covenant.
So then even though Paul is dealing with the subject of the resurrection of the dead in I Corinthians 15; and even though the truth of the resurrection of the dead and the receiving of a changed body in connection with it is something that we are going to partake of when the Lord comes for us at the end of this present dispensation; because of what Paul is specifically dealing with in verses 20–26 he has no reason to refer to or include the issue of our rapture/resurrection in these verses.
Now the reason that what Paul says in verses 20–26 only pertains to and only includes what God has prophesied about the resurrection of the dead is because what Paul is doing in these verses is proving from the prophesied doctrine of the Christ that the resurrection of the dead has to take place.
Keep in mind that from verse 1 all the way to verse 34 Paul is proving the validity of, and the reality of, and the necessity of, the resurrection of the dead. And he is doing this in view of the fact that it was being flatly denied, as well as being ridiculed as preposterous.
Wherefore as Paul sets forth his various proofs that God will raise the dead, his main proof is in verses 20–26. For the destruction of death by the resurrection of the dead is something that God has promised all along. And as such it is an integral part of the ‘doctrine of the Christ.’
Moreover in connection with fulfilling the prophesied mandates of the Davidic Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ not only must raise the dead in accordance with those mandates, but He will also resurrect the dead in perfect accordance with the timing of those mandates. And this is what Paul sets forth and teaches in verses 20–26.
But as we know the Lord’s coming for us at the end of this present dispensation and our rapture/resurrection at that time is not part of the prophesied order of the resurrections of the dead. Therefore Paul does not mention it or include it in what he sets forth in verses 20–26.
Instead since the Lord’s coming for us and our rapture/resurrection is part of “the revelation of the mystery of Christ,” Paul deals with it separately later on in verses 50 and following, and only after he has first undeniably proven from the prophetic Scriptures that the resurrection of the dead is both true and necessary.
Therefore we should not expect to find the Lord’s coming for us and our rapture/resurrection at the end of the this present dispensation in what Paul says in verses 20–26. For by necessity Paul must deliberately exclude it from the listing of the prophesied order of the resurrections of the dead.
– K.R. Blades