In I Corinthians 15:23–28, is Paul talking about the resurrection of the body of Christ? If he isn’t, who are the “first fruits”?
Paul is not talking about the resurrection of the body of Christ in I Corinthians 15:23, and it is my understanding that Paul does not make mention of the resurrection of the church the body of Christ when he sets forth the issue of the order of the resurrections in I Corinthians 15:23ff. In this portion of I Corinthians he is showing from the prophesied doctrine of the Christ both the necessity and naturalness of the resurrection of the dead. Hence as he proves the reality of the resurrection of the dead, he is setting forth those things that could be checked out in the Scriptures regarding Christ destroying death and the order of the resurrections by which the destruction takes place. However, both the issue of the formation of the church the body of Christ and the issue of its own particular resurrection/rapture are part of the mystery revelation given to Paul, and as such are not searchable in the doctrine of the Christ. Hence, he doesn’t refer to it in these particular verses, but does so of course later on in verses 50–57.
In view of this, when the prophetic order of the resurrections necessary for destroying death is delineated in verses 23ff, “Christ the first fruits” is referring to Christ Himself, in accordance with the fact that verse 20 previously declared Him to be “the first fruits of them that slept.” And “afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” are those that are Christ’s at His coming at the end of His day when He comes to set up His kingdom on this earth. (Ones like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, etc.) “Then cometh the end,” the final resurrection in the prophetic order of the resurrections, “when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God,” and this is the one John describes in Revelation 20:11–14.
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