1 Corinthians 15:20-23 declares, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
Among the many wonderful benefits of Christ’s resurrection, one timely benefit for us to remember in these days of disease and death is that His resurrection is a sure pledge and guarantee concerning our own resurrection. This passage above reveals to us various truths about this assurance that the risen Christ provides to all His people.
Firstly, it is said concerning Christ who is risen from the dead, that He is “the firstfruits of them that slept” (v. 20, cf. v. 23). Paul’s usage of this agricultural metaphor in the said text was meant to affirm the believers of their own bodily resurrection. Now, before the ancient Israelites began the full harvest of their crops, they were to bring the first crops that farmers had gathered – called the firstfruits – to the priests as an offering to the LORD (Lev 23:10). The significance of the firstfruits was that they not only preceded the harvest, but were also a pledge of the harvest. Thus, the firstfruits served as a foretaste and an assurance of the full harvest to come. When Christ rose from the dead, he became “the firstfruits” of all who die in the Lord concerning their bodily resurrection. By pointing to Jesus’ resurrection as “the firstfruits”, Paul was affirming that like Him, all believers who die will also rise from their graves. The believers’ resurrection will be of the same kind as our Lord’s. That is to say, the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ, the “firstfruits”, also guarantees the believers’ bodily resurrections in the final harvest of their resurrection. Like Jesus, believers will rise with a glorified body. Like Jesus, they will live in their resurrected bodies eternally.
While affirming that believers have the assurance of their own resurrection in Christ’s resurrection, Paul also said that “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (v. 22). Though Adam, the first man, brought death upon this earth through his disobedience, through Jesus who became a man and died, we have the blessed hope of resurrection. Jesus’ humanity was inextricably linked to His resurrection as well as ours. It was because Jesus died, was buried, and was raised as a man, that He could become the firstfruits of all His people who would be raised to glory.
John Calvin wrote, “As … Adam did not die for himself alone, but for us all, it follows, that Christ in like manner, who is the antitype, did not rise for himself alone; for he came, that he might restore everything that had been ruined in Adam.” Redemption involves the rescue and renewal of our souls, as well as our bodies. Our hope for eternity is anchored on our Redeemer’s resurrection. Our hope of a blessed, celestial life begins with His resurrection and consummates, at His coming, with the resurrection of all who died in Christ.
Because Christ’s resurrection is firmly connected to His people’s resurrection, we must not think of Christ’s resurrection in isolation from ours. As we remember that our Lord has arisen from His grave, let us rejoice that His resurrection also promises our own bodily resurrection and our eternal dwelling in heaven with our great Redeemer-King.
Upon our death, our bodies dissolve in the grave and return to dust, but our souls shall be with Christ in heaven. The apostle Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 5:8 – “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” When Jesus returns and calls our bodies out of the graves, our souls will be united with our glorified physical bodies, and we shall be with the Lord forever! 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 affirm this glorious truth: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (cf. Dan. 12:1-2; Rev. 21:1-4).