1 Corinthians 15:20
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
I. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AS AN HISTORIC FACT. If Socrates died of the fatal hemlock in an Athenian prison; if Caesar died upon the Roman senate-floor, stricken down by the daggers of assassins; then Christ, our Redeemer, not only died on Golgotha, but on the third day rose again, leading captivity captive. This miracle of the resurrection, as Neander has remarked, is not of the class designed for the conviction of unbelievers. It was rather, in the first instance, for such as already believed in Christ, and now needed only that their faith should be sealed and confirmed.
II. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST IN ITS RELATION TO PREVIOUS ECONOMIES. There were two of these economics, and under each of them a miracle bearing some resemblance to the resurrection of Christ. Under the first, or patriarchal economy, there was the miracle of Enoch's translation. Under the second, or Jewish economy, there was the miracle of Elijah's being taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire. Precisely what befel these men, it is impossible to say. But so much at least is certain, that these translations were not resurrections: for the men did not die. The fact proclaimed, and the doctrine illustrated by their departure, was simply the continued existence of the soul in a higher realm; in a word, the immortality of the soul, and not the resurrection of the body. So, also, of the resurrections which occurred under the Jewish economy. Elijah, it is true, restored again to life the widow's son at Zarephath; Elisha, the son of the Shunemite; and even Elisha's bones quickened the corpse which touched them. But these persons, thus recalled to life, all died again. Like the translations already spoken of, they attested rather the presence of a soul in man, destined to survive the striking of its tent of flesh. They attested the reality of a world of spirits, not so far removed but that those who had passed behind its curtain might be summoned back. That the body, reduced to ashes, should rise again, never more to be subject to decay, had only been proclaimed, not proved. The resurrection of Christ was, therefore, a new phenomenon. He was literally "the first-fruits of them that slept"; rising as none had ever risen before.
III. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST IN ITS RELATION TO OURSELVES.
(R. D. Hitchcock, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.