We begin by introducing Christ’s resurrection as making the greatest difference (v. 20). We can make the inference from the two words “But now.” The Spirit-led writer lists four tragic outcomes if Christ is not risen from the dead: (1) Our preaching is vain (v. 14), (2) we are false witnesses (v. 15), (3) we are yet in our sins (v. 17), and (4) all those asleep in Christ have perished (v. 18). The Bible then sums up the argument: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (v. 19).
The change is made possible because of the greatest substitution (vv. 21-22). The Bible then moves the thought back to Adam to see the connection with Jesus Christ. Adam, the first man, stands as a kind of representative for the whole human race. His sin infected all of his descendants even though exactly how is a matter of debate. Some hold that sin is inherited. Others believe his sin is imputed to his descendants. Jesus Christ, in a sense the Second Adam, stands in his humanity as their representative. Jesus in His humanity substituted for sinners.
In His resurrection Jesus headed up history’s greatest army (v. 23). In the reference to Christ’s “the first-fruits” there are two possible allusions. The first is based on Leviticus 23:9-14. Israel was commanded to take a sheaf of the first crop as an offering to God. This offering symbolized giving one’s best to God. But there is a second, derived meaning, the first soldier in a marching company. One Greek lexicon (Thayer’s) lists this option. An example as given in 1 Corinthians 15:16, which refers to Stephanos as the first-fruits of Achaia. The reference apparently is to him as the first of a long line of believers who would follow his example. From that perspective Jesus is the leader of an endlessly long column reaching from history throughout time to eternity. The Bible carefully says, “But every man in his own order,” placing Jesus as the leader of the army of the redeemed. This allusion fits in with the Old Testament depiction of God as the Lord of Hosts, recorded first in 1 Samuel 1:3 and repeated many times thereafter.
The ideas move forward until we anticipate the greatest victory (vv 24-26). The order of the second coming of Christ is too complex to cover briefly. The reference to Christ’s coming in the previous verse surely involves first the rapture as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, the millennial reign, and so forth. The central idea, however, accentuates the supreme authority of the Son in bringing history to its close (v. 24). All enemies will be subdued. The Bible anticipates the climax in this way: The last enemy to be subdued is death. Its demise was won by Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Death’s final overthrow is thereby guaranteed.
We close our present study with a brief analysis of the greatest submission (vv. 26-28). In describing history’s final gasps, the Bible states that the One putting all authority under Christ is Himself exempted. In what sense is the Son subjugated to God the Father? Charles Hodge and others suggest He no longer is the Mediator. All the redeemed have direct access to the Father. In the Book of Revelation twice are we told that God shall wipe away all tears (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). The Bible is emphatic that the Incarnate Lamb of God remains just that. Throughout the Book of Revelation the Lamb is rendered equal glory and honor with the One on the throne. No longer must Jesus say the
Father reserved certain knowledge to Himself (Acts 1:7). The Son now has been reinvested with the glory He had with the Father (John 17:5).
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