I Corinthians 15:20-23 “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits , afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

Today, we are again honing in on the Fifteenth Chapter of I Corinthians, moving to a close in our study of I Corinthians. Resurrection, of course, is our subject matter, and today most of our time will be spent looking at the order and event of the first resurrection.  Look with me, now. . .

I.          Jesus Christ the Firstfruits (v.20)

            Gordon Clark renders our text this way, “But as a matter of fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Clark goes on to say in summary, “…the resurrection comes in stages. First, Christ’s resurrection negates the death we inherited from Adam.”

So, our point is this: If you believe Paul to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God; if you believe the apostle spoke by the Holy Spirit the passage at hand; if you believe the Bible to be God’s very own word, then you believe Christ’s resurrection to be fact, not fiction! Since He is raised, as Paul asserts with all linguistic clarity and force, then He is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” And what does that phrase mean?

Firstfruits is always singular in the Greek, but always rendered in the plural in the English New Testament (with the exception of Ro. 11:16). It means what is logical. He is the beginning point, yea, He is the firstfruit of the firstfruits, quoting W.E.Vine.  By His resurrection, Jesus Christ is the. . .

            -earliest ripe of the corn crop
            -the first gleanings of a great harvest
            -yield from the start of all produce from the apple orchard
            -the first of His kind in  all that will be henceforth

. . .the terminology is textually familiar and so the latter phrase of the same verse we apply to all those in Christ who have died believing. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” (I Thess 4:13-15).

Now, what we have in the next two verses (22,23) is a forthright explanation of:

II.         How Jesus Christ Became That Firstfruit

            You might say, “Pastor Mark, we know how Jesus became the firstfruit of all resurrection, of all believers from the dead. His resurrection assures theirs, ours, and that is true!”  But specifically, now:
            – (v 21) Death came by Adam. The man, Christ Jesus negated all that by rising from the dead, thus conquering death.
            – (v 22)  In fact, through Adam’s transgression, all die, so likewise, but conversely, through the Messiah all shall live (the implication here is Christ’s obedience in contrast with Adam’s disobedience).

Let’s read together Romans 5:12-2l – “ (12)Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—(13)(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (15) But the free gift is not like the offense. For it by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift of one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. (16) And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. (17) For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the figt of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) (18) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift me to all men, resulting in justification of life. (19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (20) Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, (21) so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

            A couple of notes to remember here:

1.  Jesus is similar to Adam in kind. He was a man, but Jesus is not similar in His essential nature. Jesus knew no sin. He is God. “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.” (I Pe 2:22).
2.  Adam died first spiritually, then physically. Jesus’ resurrection redeems us from both spiritual and physical death. You see, your physical death does not disallow the reality of the effectual work of Christ’s resurrection toward you. Because Jesus lives and the Spirit of God abides in you, the fact is, you have life eternal. Resurrection life! Undying life!

            -you will not die at death!
            -you will yet be raised physically!
            -you will endure forever as an immortal being with physical properties because you are spiritually alive! Christ’s life lives in you!

 I Co 15:45 – “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

 Jn 11:21-27 – Now, Martha said to Jesus, “Lord if  you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You. Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 

Eph 2:1-10;  John 3  

Titus 3:5 – “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

III        When will the rest of the harvest be gathered? (v 23)

            Each in his own regiment or troop is the language here. Christ is first of the firstfruits. Believers are next in order of time and event. Specifically, Jesus’ resurrection is first in rank and order to the rest of the troops. The rest (believers) will come along later with Jesus at the parousia (lit) at His Presence. Presence here is an eschatological event.

So what is the next eschatological event that follows Christ’s resurrection and involves our resurrection in the context of parousia? It has to be I Thess 4:13-18. Okay, what do we have here in time and event? 

-We have parousia – the presence of Christ at His Coming.
-We have corresponding language to I Co. 15:23.
-We have resurrection and that of believing saints who have gone from this world.
What we have here in I Thess 4:13-18 is what was in prospect from I Cor 15:23. The Rapture (harpazo) of the church! In time and order, this is the next aspect of the resurrection harvest.

“First Christ and then His own at parousia” (I Co. 15:23)

1.  Descent of Jesus Christ from heaven into earth’s atmosphere (vv 16,17).
2.  Angels descend with Christ who announce parousia and signal the resurrection of the believing dead (v 16).
3.  The believing dead are first raised (v 16).
4. The living faithful will be translated to the atmospheric heavens (v 17). . . obviously changed physically (how – I Co. 15:51-54).
5.  Parousia occurs. God’s people are united with Him and with each other in great joy and comfort (vv. 17,18).

            We believe this event to be imminent, for nothing in the Bible would prevent this event, save Christ’s own resurrection. Seeing Jesus has been raised, true regenerate souls await the forthcoming resurrection. “First Christ, then, secondly they that belong to Him at His coming!”

Our Admonition:
            -Enrich each other with the prospect!  I Thess 5:11 – “Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
            –“In the text,” says Dr. Clark, “this sent a bittersweet feeling to my soul. Sweet because the hope is intended by God to us. Bitter, because the world will never share in it.”  May our imminent Hope increase our passion for the lost around us.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance II Pe. 3:9). “Therefore beloved ,since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. Count the patience of our Lord as salvation…” (II Pe. 3:14,15a)