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Resurrection of the Dead

1 Corinthians 15:21–22 (ESV) … “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

15:21. Paul next explained in what sense Christ was raised as the firstfruits of all who would be raised, arguing for a symmetry in God’s dealings with the human race (see also Rom. 5:12–19). In the first place, the record of Genesis makes it plain that death came through a man. Adam’s sin was more than a personal transgression; it brought guilt and the divine judgment of death on all humanity. Since it was through Adam that death came, it should not be surprising that the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. In many passages Paul pointed out that God considered Christ’s experience on earth much more than one person’s experience. What happened to him in his death and resurrection happens to all who believe in him.

15:22. Restating his previous explanation, Paul once again relied on the symmetry between Adam and Christ: In Adam all die … in Christ all will be made alive. Paul drew a parallel between Adam and Christ (as in Adam … so in Christ), but we must be careful not to misunderstand this comparison. From the rest of Paul’s writings, we must conclude that the similarity between Adam and Christ is not numerical but functional. That is to say, Paul did not suggest that the number of people who receive salvation equals the number of people who suffer death. In other passages Paul made it very plain that he did not believe in universal salvation (Rom. 2:5–12; Eph. 5:6; 2 Thess. 1:6–10).

Paul’s main concern in this passage was to show that Christ’s resurrection was more than his own resurrection. It foretold the general resurrection of all believers. Paul did this by pointing to the theological beliefs that he and the Corinthians shared. They believed that Adam’s personal life had affected everyone joined to him. In the same way, Paul argued, Christ’s personal life affected everyone joined to him, everyone in Christ.[1]

[1] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 263–264). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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