PMT 2014-056 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is the second of three articles on our eschatological resurrection as understood in the postmillennial system. For Paul, Christ’s resurrection was a non-negotiable. And it was also the key to our own future resurrection. As I continue the previous study we come now to:
Paul’s First Argument
After insisting that Christ was resurrected from the dead and that this is the foundation of our redemptive hope (vv. 1-19), Paul then powerfully links our resurrection to Christ’s. In other words, his whole point regarding Christ’s resurrection is to lay a foundation for ours. In verse 20 we read: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits (Gk., aparche) of those who are asleep.” This first-fruits imagery carries a load of theological implications regarding our physical resurrection.
First, the temporal significance of “first” requires that Christ’s resurrection is peculiarly the first of its kind. No other consummate-order resurrection occurred previously. Second, in that he is the “first-fruit” he represents the rest, just as the Old Testament offering of the first part of the harvest represented the whole harvest (cp. Rom. 11:16). Christ’s resurrection represents our own. Third, the “first-fruit” also promises more to come. Christ’s was unique for the time, but it spoke of others to follow at “the end” (v. 24). Thus, the resurrection of Christ as the first-fruits is: (1) the first of this order to occur, (2) represents his people’s resurrection, and (3) expects more eschatological resurrections to follow at the end.
“Israel and the New Covenant” (3 CDs)
by Ken Gentry
These messages provide a Reformed analysis of the role of Israel in the New Covenant.
They show that racial Israel will one day turn to Christ as the gospel spreads further in the world and that Israel is no longer a distinctly favored people.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Consequently, the fact of Christ’s resurrection is essential to the believer’s resurrection — and anticipates it. From Adam death arose and all of its processes; so from Christ life arises and its fullest blessings (vv. 21-28). The resurrection of Christ is necessary for the triumph of life over death (vv. 25-26), which will finally and fully be enjoyed only when we ourselves are raised from the dead and the “last enemy” is defeated (v. 26). It is fundamentally important to Paul.
In verses 29-34 Paul presents a relentless and vigorous ad hominem against his Corinthian opponents: He notes he is risking his life for what the Corinthians deny (v. 30-32). He lashes out against their spiritual pride in thinking they have arrived at the fullness of Holy Spirit blessings (v. 33). He warns that their “bad company” on this matter has “corrupted good morals” (v. 33; cp. 1 Cor. 6-7 particularly). They must become “sober” and “stop sinning” in this (v. 34). And all of this in the context of his argument for the resurrection of believers!
Thus, once we determine the nature of Christ’s resurrection, we understand the nature of our own. If Christ was physically raised from the dead, then so shall we, for he is the “first-fruits” of our resurrection. The only way around our physical resurrection is to deny Christ’s physical resurrection.
Paul’s Second Argument
Paul finally arrives at the specific objection toward which he has been driving: “But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?'” (v. 35). Here he is clearly speaking of a physical resurrection in that: (1) His opening question concerns how the “dead” are “raised,” that is, “with what kind of body“? (2) The verb “raised” is attached to “the dead” in verses 1-34, and to their actual “bodies” in verses 35-58. And since he is dealing with their objection regarding a physical resurrection he now emphasizes the “body” (soma) in this portion of his argument (vv. 35, 37, 38, 40, 42, 44). (3) Christ’s resurrection from “the dead” is the key to the whole passage and argument (vv. 12, 13, 15-16), and his was a physical resurrection. In fact, Christ’s resurrection is mentioned in the context of his being “dead,” “buried,” and “raised.” Christ’s body was buried; so his body is what raised.
Contrary to their quasi-gnostic, hyper-spiritual, eschatologically-conditioned claims, Paul establishes the death of the body as the pre-condition for the fullness of the life they presently claim. He illustrates this by the seed that is sown, which must “die” (vv. 36-37) so that it can be raised to eschatological glory. Despite their pride of “having arrived,” the pneumatic Christians cannot “be there” yet. Their bodies haven’t been “sown.”
In verses 38-41 Paul emphasizes two crucial truths in response to their question (v. 35): (1) “God gives it a body just as he wished” (v. 38a). As with Augustine later, all objectors must recognize: “Is he who was able to make you when you did not exist not able to make over what you once were?” (Sermons on Ascension, 264:6). Any objection regarding the difficulty of resurrecting a dead body is more than accounted for by the fact that it is God who effects it.
(2) God gives bodies appropriate to their environment (v. 38b). He gives fish bodies appropriate to water, birds appropriate to flight, and so on (vv. 39-41). And all bodies have a level of “glory” appropriate to their estate (v. 40-41), whether they be “earthly” or “heavenly” (v. 40). The glorious condition of the resurrected body is adapted for victory over the decay element. Though our pre-eschatological condition suffers dishonor and weakness, our future estate will enjoy glory and power (vv. 43-44; cp. Rom. 8:11; 2 Cor. 4:7-12; Phil. 3:21). In fact, it is “the body” itself that will be transformed from being perishable to imperishable (vv. 42, 52-54).
Paul employs shock therapy against these pneumatics: “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44). His point appears to be that not only should they not denigrate the present material order (which they have done, chs. 6-7), but he informs them that they will be resurrected in a “spiritual body” in the eschatological order! And here is where the Hyper-Preterist theological naivete causes them to stumble so badly. Hyper-Preterists believe Paul’s reference to the “spiritual body” speaks of the substance of the body, its compositional makeup. Consequently, they are emboldened to employ this verse for discounting a physical resurrection. Of course, this is as wrong-headed as to say a Coca-Cola bottle is made of Coca-Cola. Note the following evidences supporting the orthodox approach to Paul’s argument (to name but a few):
(1) This “spiritual (pneumatikos) body” is no more immaterial than the “natural (psuchikos) body,” even though both “spirit” (pneuma) and “soul” (psuche) often refer to the immaterial element within the creature. Here Paul uses these (usually spiritual) terms to describe the body, and we know that our present natural (psuchikos) body is material. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 these adjectives distinguish the believer and the unbeliever. Rather than distinguishing their body materials, the terms focus on their driving forces: spiritual (Holy Spirit driven) concerns over against animal appetites
(2) In Paul the semantic domain for pneuma overwhelming means “pertaining to the Holy Spirit” (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:13; 3:1; 12:1; Rom. 1:11; Eph. 1:3; 5:19). That is, governed by the Spirit of God. The adjectives psuchikos and pneumatikos describe, therefore, the essential governing characteristic of each body: the present, unresurrected, fallen body over against the future, resurrected, redeemed body. That is, they speak of the earth-related, animal-appetite-controlled condition of the present order (the totality of man in his earthly estate) over against the eternity-related, Holy Spirit-controlled condition of the resurrected estate (the totality of man in his eternal estate). The glory of the eschatological state entered into by the eschatological resurrection involves the full dominance of the Holy Spirit and all that that entails (including the body’s imperishable condition and its moral control). And contextually, Paul designs his response to confront the prideful Corinthian pneumatics who think they have arrived at full spiritual glory. (Later Paul will note that the natural is first, not the spiritual, showing that the Corinthians must first live out their present lives before attaining the fullness of the Spirit, v. 46).
(To be continued).