Death of Death

The “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age means the termination of the “Last Enemy” - Death.

Cemetery Sun - Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash
When some church members denied the future resurrection, Paul responded by stressing the necessity for bodily resurrection, appealing to the past resurrection of Jesus as the precedent for the resurrection of believers. The saints will be raised from the dead when he “arrives” in glory, signaling the end of death itself – The “death of Death” - [Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash].

But the Apostle also revealed something new. Believers who are alive on the day when Jesus returns will be transformed and receive immortal bodies. The bodily resurrection means nothing less than the end of death AND the arrival of the New Creation.

In advancing his argument, Paul presented the sequence of events that will precede his ‘parousia’ or “arrival,” beginning with the rhetorical question - “If Christ is proclaimed that he has been raised from among the dead, how say some of you there is no resurrection of the dead?” – (1 Corinthians 15:12).

From the Apostle’s perspective, the issue is the absolute necessity for bodily resurrection and all his arguments support that proposition. And the foundation of his conclusion is the past resurrection of Jesus.

If there is no future resurrection, then “not even Christ has been raised,” and if that is true, then the gospel message is null and void. Thus, the future resurrection of believers is based on the past resurrection of Jesus and pivotal to the faith of the church.

Then he argued that “all will be made alive, but each in his own rank” or “order.” Jesus was the “first-fruit” - He rose first, the rest will follow “at his arrival,” which will constitute “the end when he delivers up the kingdom to God and brings to nothing all rule, authority, and power.” The raising of the dead began with Jesus, the “firstborn of the dead,” and at his “arrival,” the process will be completed - (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Elsewhere in his letters, Paul uses the Greek noun parousia for the “coming” or “arrival” of Jesus. For example, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he linked the resurrection of dead believers to that very day:
  • (1 Thessalonians 4:12-15) – “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” - (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:12-15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2:8).
Thus, his “arrival” means “the end” of the present age, the subjugation of all his enemies, and the cessation of death. And the latter is the “last enemy” that must be destroyed. Only then will Jesus deliver the "kingdom to God,” and thereafter, He will be “all in all” forevermore - (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

The purpose of the passage is not to present all the details and chronological markers related to the return of Jesus. Specific subjects are introduced to support its argument for the bodily resurrection of believers. Christ was raised as the “first-fruit” of those who “sleep.” Logically, therefore, dead believers who “sleep” will participate in the same kind of resurrection that he did, though only at the proper time. And in the conclusion of his argument, Paul returned to the resurrection and the cessation of death:
  • (1 Corinthians 15:51-58) - “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… During the last trumpet, for it shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
Thus, the termination of death coincides with the “arrival” and the resurrection of the dead. His “arrival” will mark the final overthrow of all God’s enemies and the consummation of His rule. After that, there will be no more enemies left to conquer; and therefore, Death will be no more.

Flower Sunrise - Photo by corina ardeleanu on Unsplash
Photo by corina ardeleanu on Unsplash

But the bodily resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of corpses. Instead, our mortal bodies will be 
transformed into another kind of body. Resurrection produces bodies geared for life in the Spirit and ones that no longer are subject to decay and death. The irrefutable evidence for this is the glorified body of Jesus. And this means that life in the future age will be an embodied existence, not a disembodied state - (1 Corinthians 15:35-50).

The “mystery” revealed by Paul to the Corinthians is that Christians who are alive when Jesus returns will be physically transformed. Our hope rests on the belief in the future resurrection and life in the New Creation, where death will be no more.



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