1 Corinthians 15:20
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
I. THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION.
1. This event is indisputable.
(1) Heaven attested it (see Matthew 28:2; Luke 24:2, 4-7).
(2) Earth also bare her testimony (Matthew 28:2; Matthew 27:52, 53).
(3) Enemies who were obliged to acknowledge that the body was no longer in the sepulchre, and could only produce the testimony of sleeping witnesses against it.
2. The agency by which it was effected.
(1) Infidels perceive that the Christian system is signed and sealed by a miracle that requires one of the mightiest displays of omnipotence; they cannot affirm that God has affixed the broad seal of heaven's approbation to a lie. Since, then, it is so manifest that God alone could effect it, they do not presume, like the magicians of Pharaoh, to stretch forth the hand in bold and impious imitation.
(2) We often find it ascribed to God without any distinction of persons (Acts 2:23, 24; Acts 3:13-15). At other times, however, it is referred to the Father (Romans 6:4); at others to the Son (John 2:19, 21); at others to the Spirit (Romans 8:11).
3. Its necessity. It was necessary —
(1) Because Christ had Himself made His resurrection a test of His claims (Matthew 12).
(2) Without it credence must be withheld from the teachings of His apostles (ver. 14).
(3) That He might make efficacious intercession for His people, and secure to them all the blessings of the everlasting covenant (Romans 5:10; Hebrews 7:24, 25). Remember you have not "a dead Saviour," but one who has triumphed over death and all your foes. When Suwarrow, the Russian general, was being borne wounded from the battle-field, his soldiers, discouraged by the disappearance of their beloved commander, fell into confusion and fled; when the hardy veteran perceived it he leapt from his litter, mounted his horse, bleeding as he was, and exclaiming, "My children, I am still alive," rallied them, and led them back to victory! And shall not the discouraged Christian rouse every energy anew, when he hears Jesus, the great Captain of his salvation, exclaim, "I am He that liveth, and was dead, and, behold I am alive for evermore."
II. THE RELATIONSHIP WHICH, BY VIRTUE OF HIS RESURRECTION, IS FORMED BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS PEOPLE — that which exists between the first-fruits and the entire harvest. Christ the first-fruits, His people the plentitude of the ingathering. Hence we learn that the resurrection of Christ is inseparable from that of His people. Christ cannot be complete without His people. He is the "Vine," but where were the perfection of the vine without "the branches"? He is the "Head," but where were the perfection of the head without "the members"? Where shall we find completeness, perfection, beauty, in the "Husband" without the "bride," in the "Foundation" without the superstructure, in the "First-fruits" without the fulness of the ingathering? Notice —
1. That Christ is the "first-fruits" of the Resurrection of His believing people only. It is true that by His power all shall rise again. But it is with believers only that this relationship will be recognised. The term employed is, "them that slept," which evidently refers to the children of God (ver. 18). As He was the "first-fruits of them that slept" on the resurrection morning (Matthew 27:53), so also "them which sleep in Jesus" to the end of time, "will God bring with Him." But ere you can "fall asleep in Jesus," you must live a life of holiness in Jesus. If you go down to the grave with a heart unrenewed, you will rise again, indeed; but it will be "to the resurrection of damnation."
2. The order of the Resurrection. The righteous and the wicked will simultaneously rise from their graves. One common resurrection will precede one common judgment (John 5:28, 29; Matthew 25:31-34, 41-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelaiton 20:12, 13).
3. The nature of the change which will pass on the bodies of the saints. It will be a change from all that is earthly and gross and vile to that which is heavenly and holy and refined (ver. 35, etc.). By what mode this marvellous change shall be effected we know not. It is enough for us to know that our present vile and wasting body shall undergo a great and ennobling change, divesting it of all that is gross and fading, and clothing it in a robe of brilliance and majesty which shall make it "shine as the brightness of the firmament, as the stars for ever and ever."Conclusion: The subject affords ground of consolation —
1. For those who are suffering from bereavement.
2. To those whose lot is sickness and poverty in this vale of tears.
(J. Gaskin, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.