1 Corinthians

15:50-58

9. The Resurrection, 15:1-58

vii] Victory through Jesus Christ

Argument

Paul concludes his argument for a bodily resurrection of the dead, assuring his readers of the coming triumph. Stating clearly that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, Paul goes on to describe the resurrection of the dead; believers will awake from sleep at the sound of the trumpet and put on immortality. Having supported his claim of victory over death in Christ from scripture, Paul goes on to encourage his readers to live and work as those who have a sure hope in the resurrection.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 15:1-11.

 

ii] Structure: In 15:35 Paul posed a question with respect to the resurrection, namely, "what kind of body?" Paul wants to counter the idea that the resurrection of the dead involved the resuscitation of a dead body - a resurrection of dead meat! Paul continues, in v50-58, to explain about the transformation of the dead at the resurrection. On that day we will rise with a transformed body enabling us to enter the kingdom of heaven, v50, 53. Paul goes on to explain in detail: Both the living and dead will be transformed, v51-52; The transformation will occur at the return of Christ, v52; It will entail the final defeat of death, v54-55; The victory is already displayed in our lives in that through Christ we are victorious over sin, v56-57; This being so, we are encouraged to press forward in the Christian life - we should strive to be what we will be, v58.

 

iii] Interpretation - the resurrection, sin and the law: In what sense has Christ's resurrection overcome the enemy which brings death, namely sin and that which empowers it, the law?

"The sting of death is sin." The deadly sting which brought death upon us was sin. Christ's victory over death shows he is also victor over sin in the "now". Sin was put to death on the cross, and it is put to death in our lives in our dying with Christ. In Christ, no longer are we guilty - sin can no longer condemn us. In Christ, no longer are we a slave to sin - sin's power is broken through the renewing work of the indwelling Christ.

"The power of sin is the law." The law Paul refers to here is God's law, with particular reference to the Torah. God's law is good, but sin makes that which is good an evil for us. The law has the following consequences for the sinful person:

a) It makes sin observable as sin.

b) It defines us as a rebel and thus secures our condemnation.

c) It prods us to rebel, making sin more sinful.

d) It leads into the sin of pride through the minimization of the law, in the belief that we are actually keeping the law.

The law serves is a life-style guide for the righteous child of God, who in the power of the risen Christ is slowly changed into the transformed and glorious person they are already in Christ.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 15:50

The ultimate victory, v50-58: i] A fleshly being, either living or dead, cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, v50. In v35 Paul asked with what kind of body the dead are raised on the day of resurrection. He has explained that there is difference, but continuity between the old and new, and that there is transformation of the old into the new. This transformation is possible through union with Christ, and it is through this means, and this means alone, that the perishable is able to inherit the imperishable.

touto de fhmi "I tell you this" - Probably serving as an introduction to what we would call a new paragraph, the next step in logical thought. Yet, there are some who see the verse as transitional, others as a conclusion to the previous passage, so "I mean."

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement expressing what Paul "declares" to the brothers and sisters.

sarz kai ai|ma "flesh and blood" - Nominative subject of the negated verb "is able." A Semitic expression for a living human being. Humans are unable to enter the spiritual domain.

klhronomhsai (klhronomew) aor. inf. "[cannot] inherit" - [are not able] to inherit, come into possession of, acquire. The infinitive is complementary completing the sense of the negated verb, "are not able."

qeou (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of God" - The kingdom of God is both God's domain and his dominion so the genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive / verbal, subjective, or possibly ablative / source. Paul is making a simple point: a "terrestrial body cannot simply relocate from this world to the heavenly realm", Garland.

oude "nor" - A living person cannot enter the kingdom of God, nor can a dead person, a cadaver, a corpse.

 
v51

ii] The kingdom opens its doors to the transformed elect, both sleeping (deceased) and alive, on the day when the Son of Man sends his angels with a loud trumpet call, to raise them incorruptible, and gather them into glory, v51-53, cf. Matt.24:31.

uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [I say] to you. Dative of indirect object.

musthrion (on) "a mystery" - A mystery is a secret now revealed, a truth once hidden but now divinely revealed.

ou koimhqhsomeqa (koimaw) fut. pas. "we will not [all] sleep" - At the resurrection, not all believers will be deceased; "not all of us will be deceased, some of us will be alive at the day of resurrection, but all of us, deceased and living, will be transformed." Paul is not necessarily including himself among those who will be alive. He may be in either group. The verb "to sleep" is often used by Paul for deceased believers - they are asleep, soon to wake in the day of resurrection. It is comforting to describe a deceased believer as asleep in the arms of Jesus.

de "but" - but, and. One might expect alla to introduce a counterpoint which virtually eliminates the initial statement; "we may not all be deceased when Christ returns, BUT we will all be changed / transformed."

panteV adj. "all" - "All" believers, not "all" humanity.

 
v52

en "in" - Temporal use of the preposition here along with the other two uses in this verse; "in / at".

atomw/ (oV) dat. "a flash" - an atom. Temporal; a minute moment of time.

ofqalmou (oV) gen. "[the twinkling] of an eye" - [the blink] of an eye. The genitive may be taken as adjectival, idiomatic / agency, or verbal, subjective. The transformation of resurrected believers will be accomplished in a moment of time; "in the flicker of an eyelid", Cassirer.

th/ ... salpiggi (x iggoV) "the [last] trumpet" - An Old Testament image of the sounding of a trumpet before the day of judgment, an image taken up in the New Testament, cf. Matt.24:31, 1Thess.4:16,

gar "for" - More emphatic than causal; "And it will sound forth", Cassirer.

kai "-" - and [the dead will rise imperishable]. Coordinative; "And the dead will rise to a life free from corruption", "never to die again", Barclay.

egerqhsontai (egeirw) fut. pas. "will be raised" - Divine passive; God does the raising.

hJmeiV pro. "we" - Emphatic by use.

allaghsomeqa (alassw) fut. pas. "will be changed" - "Transformed"; again a divine / theological passive.

 
v53

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why it is necessary to be "changed", because that which is mortal must be changed into the immortal to enter the kingdom of God.

endusasqai (enduw) aor. mid. / pas. inf. "[must] clothe itself" - to put on [this perishable is necessary]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb "is necessary." Probably passive, "be clothed", ie., a divine / theological passive - God does the clothing; "must be clothed by God." "Such is God's kindness that we will be neither found naked in death nor left standing in the old rags of this existence, but clothed with a pristine new body covering the old", Barnett. Paul certainly uses the word "clothe", so "covering", although he has made it clear that the old is transformed into the new. A word like "clothe" is only descriptive.

kai "and" - Serving here to connect two parallel infinitival clauses.

 
v54

iii] In the transformation of a believer in Christ there is victory over death, v54-57. Paul first alludes to Isaiah 25:8; "God will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces." He then challenges death by alluding to Hosea 13:14; "O death, where is your victory?" Christ has vanquished death; He has dealt with sin in his own death as a perfect sacrifice for sin, and this completed in his own obedience of that which empowered sin, namely, the Law. Those in Christ are free from the curse of sin and the condemnation of the Law and so dia, "through", Christ are victorious over death.

de "-" - but, and. Transitional connective, indicating a step in Paul's argument.

o{tan + subj. "when" - whenever [..... put on]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, although translated as if definite.

to afarton adj. "the perishable" - The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to put on"; "the perishable nature"; "when this nature which is subject to decay is clothed with the life that will never decay", Barclay.

to qnhton adj. "the mortal" - The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to put on"; "the mortal nature"; "and when this nature which is subject to death is clothed with the life that can never die", Barclay.

tote adv. "then" - Adverb of time, here resuming the opening temporal clause.

oJ gegrammenoV (grafw) perf. pas. part. "[the saying] that is written" - [the word] having been written. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "word" = "what is written in scripture", Cassirer.

genhsetai (ginomai) fut. "will come true" - will become. "Will be realized", Moffatt.

katepoqh (katapinw) aor. pas. "[death] has been swallowed up" - Divine / theological passive again.

eiV nikoV "in victory" - into victory. This prepositional phrase is adverbial, Semitic idiom, meaning something like "successfully completed / victorious"; Victory has come", Cassirer / "the victory is complete", Barclay.

 
v55

Hosea 13:14 in the Hebrew text reads "O death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction?" In the Septuagint / LXX the text reads "O death, where is your penalty? O Hades, where is your sting?" Paul obviously uses the LXX where the end of death is celebrated, but replaces "penalty" with "victory" from Isaiah 25:8.

pou "where" - Interrogative particle.

sou gen. pro. "your" - Possessive / verbal, subjective; emphatic by position.

to kentron (on) "sting" - sting, goad. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. The word is used of the sting of an animal or insect, a goad to control an animal, an instrument of torture, or metaphorically of some form of suppressive power. The last sense is probably what Paul has in mind; "for where now O death is your power to hurt us", Phillips.

 
v56

There are no verbs in this verse and the string of nouns are definite; "the sting of the death the sin, and the power of the sin the law." In explaining "the sting" as "sin", Paul refers to the link between the power of sin and the law. This is a powerful theological concept which Paul may well have explained in detail to the Corinthians, but only alludes to here. In his letters to the Galatians and the Romans, Paul develops this link in full, cf., Rom.5:12-14, 7:7-13. Paul argues that the Law serves to bring about an awareness of sinfulness, even make sin more sinful, thus exposing the need for divine grace. The Law cannot promote righteousness, rather it does the opposite. His argument was particularly directed toward nomist believers / the members of the circumcision party / the judaizers who saw in the Law the means of promoting righteousness in the Christian life / suppressing sin and thus advancing sanctification. For Paul, righteousness / holiness is found in Christ through faith, and the fruit of such faith is a Christ-like life (albeit imperfect until the body be deposited in the ground) lived apart from the Law.

de "-" - but, and. Transitional connective; here the step in the argument is the exposition of the text in v55.

tou qanatou (oV) gen. "[the sting] of death" - The definite article indicating the principle of death rather than just death itself. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, "death's sting is sin", or idiomatic / of agent, "the sting which is inflicted by death"; "it is sin which gives death its sting", Cassirer.

hJ aJmartia (a) "is sin" - Predicate nominative. "Sin arms the power of death with its poison of self-contradiction: it ends in the dust and ashes of disappointment and nothingness", Thiselton.

thV aJmartiaV (a) gen. "[the power] of sin" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of product.

oJ nomoV (oV) "is the law" - Primarily the Mosaic Law, but rightly extending to the totality of God's ethical and religious instructions summarized by the command to love God and neighbor.

 
v57

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.

tw/ ... qew/ (oV) dat. "[thanks be] to God" - [grace, favor / gratitude] to God. The assumed verb may be something like a hortatory subjunctive, or an optative prayer-wish, "may gratitude be offered to God", either producing a dative of indirect object / direction. The "thanks, gratitude" is followed by the reason for the "gratitude, namely, "because he gives us the victory over death".

tw/ didonti (didwmi) dat. pres. part. "he gives" - the one giving. The participle may be taken as a substantive, dative in apposition tw/ qew/, "God", or adjectival, attributive, "who gives us the victory", ESV.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - to us. Dative of indirect object.

dia + gen. "through" - through [the Lord of us Jesus Christ]. Expressing instrumental / agency.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - of us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV, or of subordination, "the Lord over us."

 
v58

v] Exhortation, v58. "They must not be moved from their firm foundation of the faith by the folly of the doubters among them", Barnett. The Corinthians have a firm grounding in the truth of the resurrection, w{ste, "therefore" they need to be "stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel", Col.1:23. They know well enough that their faith and their work of gathering the lost and building up the people of God "is not in vain."

w{ste "therefore" - Here inferential, as NIV.

mou gen. pro. "my" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

adelfoi (oV) "brothers / brothers and sisters" - brothers. Predicate adjective.

ginesqe (ginomai) pres. imp. "stand [firm]" - become [steadfast]. Probably used instead of the verb to-be, eimi, "be steadfast", but possibly in the sense of "prove yourself to be"; "Show yourselves to be steadfast, immovable in your resolved", Cassirer. Not used in the durative sense "continue to be." Presumably in the sense of their faith, particularly as it relates to the resurrection, namely that Christ was raised the first-fruits of the dead and that a person who puts their faith in Christ is alive in him and will rise from the grave in the day of resurrection.

ametakinhtoi adj. "let nothing move you" - unmovable, immovable, unshakable. Predicate adjective standing in apposition to edraioi, "steadfast". "Don't be shifted from the rock of your faith."

perisseuonteV (perisseuw) pres. part. "[always] give yourselves fully" - [always] abounding, being rich in, excelling . Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb ginesqe, "become", so similarly an imperative, as NIV. The word is used in relation to "whatever contributes to building up the church", Garland.

en+ dat. "to [the work]" - in [the work]. Either reference / respect, or local, spacial; the preposition is possibly being used instead of eiV, "to, toward", as NIV, "devoted toward", possibly = "for"; "always work for the Lord", Barclay.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of the Lord" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, it is "the Lord's work", it belongs to him, or attributive / idiomatic, "the work which the Lord is working in you." Paul uses this phrase to describe "the evangelical ministry in which both Paul and Timothy are engaged", cf. Phil.3:30, Fitzmyer.

eidoteV (oida) perf. part. "because you know" - knowing. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, expressing cause / ground, as NIV; because we know that the Lord's work is not vacuous.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what we know.

en + dat. "in [the Lord]" - The prepositional phrase is likely to be adverbial, reference / respect; "your labor, in respect to your relationship with the Lord, is not in vain."

 

1 Corinthians Introduction

Exposition

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