D. Conclusion in reference to those who survive at the advent. Final exhortations
51Behold, I shew [tell,
] you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [We all shall not sleep,
ðἀíôåò ïὺ êïéìçè
.], but we shall all be changed. 152In a moment [an atom,
̣], in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible 54must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So [But,
], when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,3 then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is [was,
] swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave [death, 56
], where is thy victory?4 [But,
] The sting of death is sin; and the strength 57of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory4 through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know [knowing,
] that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1Co_15:51. He now proceeds to reveal to them something of the process of the resurrection. And what he has to say is introduced in a manner solemn, and calculated to awaken attention.—Behold,—The word points to an object presented for inward contemplation, and at the same time extraordinary, q. d, ‘behold, look my words full in the face—they contain a truth which we are slow to recognize, but which is true notwithstanding.’ The thing to be announced he calls—a mystery—not simply something hitherto unknown to the reader, but something ascertained only through a divine revelation, or the illumination of the Spirit (1Co_4:1; 1Co_13:2).—tell I unto you:—This mystery was, that those who are alive at the coming of the Lord will experience a change that shall fit them for participating in the kingdom of God, just as those would who arose from the dead; hence, that that which was said in 1Co_15:49 was applicable also to them. The same truth is set forth in 1Th_5:1-17, save that the idea of a change, which, in the latter text, is only presupposed, is, in our passage, definitely brought to view. In both places he gives his readers to understand that the disclosure made rested upon revelation (1Th_4:15, “by the word of the Lord”).—The received text of our passage has, from the earliest time, created difficulty. It seems to assert that the Apostle expected, not death, but a sudden change both for himself and for all his cotemporaries—a thing not reconcilable with actual events. Hence,
has been put after
, connecting it with the following verb; [so Stanley, who renders: “we shall all sleep, but we shall not all be changed”] (besides, some put
, which is, perhaps, only a trace of the original position of
); but this reading would be unsuitable by reason of the more exactly defining statement of time, immediately following in 1Co_15:52, which could only be joined to a positive clause. [It would hardly do to say, ‘ we shall not all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,’ etc. It was perhaps with a view of obviating this difficulty that the reading
, we shall arise, [found in D., and adopted by the vulgate], was introduced; but which even in this way betrays its non-authenticity, and, besides, is less sustained. In the case of the received text,
ðÜíôåò ìὲí ïὐ êïéìçèçóüìåèá
ðÜíôåò äὲ ἀëëá÷çóüìåèá
,—there still arises, however, the objection, that the apostle could not assert concerning himself and all his readers, or all Christians of his time that they would not “sleep,” but would rather all “be changed,” [as is implied here by the position of the negative
, which bears directly upon the verb, and not upon the adjective
all—making it mean, ‘all of us shall not sleep’]. Hence, a trajection of the negative is here assumed,
̓, standing for
, and the clause taken to be equivalent, to
ïὐ ðÜíôåò êïéìçè
., meaning not all of us shall sleep;’ and
is interpreted in a broader sense, as including the idea of rising from the dead, which is opposed by the stricter signification of the term, and by the more exact intimation given in 1Co_15:52, where it is said that the dead also shall rise. Nor yet can the above-mentioned trajection of the negative be justified on the ground of giving the word
, all, a more emphatic position, or from Num_23:13; Jos_11:13 or Sir_17:30 (where it does not occur); and, besides, the assumption of a various range of meaning for
in such close succession has something arbitrary in it. The same is true also of the expedient of putting
. not sleep, in a parenthesis, q. d., ‘ we all (shall, indeed, not die, but yet) all shall be changed. [So Hodge, who, as above, broadens the scope of the verb rendered ‘changed,’ so as to denote not simply the transformation of the living, but also the reinvestiture of the dead, thus making it apply to all Christians generally. Stanley is singularly confused here, following Lachmann in his text, and rendering “we shall all sleep; but we shall not all be changed;’ yet, in his note, giving a decided preference for the Rec. Text, and rendering it, “We shall, all of us, not die, but be changed.” In the latter he follows Meyer and Winer (Gr. Gram. Pt. 3 § 61, 4 f.) who insist that the only translation consistent with Greek is as Kling gives it in his version—We shall all not sleep, but we shall be changed,—The intention of the apostle is to answer a question, which would naturally occur to some in view of the declaration that “flesh and blood could not inherit the kingdom of God.” If this were so, it might be asked, what would become of the living? While the dead would rise with new bodies, what would become of them who were expecting to survive till the advent. These are the parties whom he now has solely in his eye, and since the great crisis was supposed to be near at hand, he speaks here in the first person, and says ‘ we.’]. The difficulty in regard to
, all, is relieved by the supposition that he had in mind the sum total of the survivors (among whom, he also reckoned himself), to whom alone the whole context relates. But that the words
should stand in connection with the same emphatically repeated word
, all, when they appear to relate to the contrast between ‘not sleeping’ and ‘being changed,’ is entirely in accordance with Greek usage (comp. Passow upon the words 1:176, b, above). They had better remain untranslated.—By ‘being changed’ he indicates the immediate transition from the earthly into the heavenly body, without the intervening process of death and the resurrection. This is to take place—In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,—Both these expressions indicate the same thing, and set forth, in a most striking manner, the instantaneousness of the transition, excluding the possibility of death coming in between,
, an indivisible point of time. In this change a prevenient qualification, a preparation for this glorification, by the operation of the Spirit of Christ, is indeed not excluded; it is only asserted that this glorification would take place suddenly.—A second particular relating to the time of this change, is expressed by the words—at the last trump:—
ἐí ôῇ ἐó÷
; is used as expressive of the time in which the last trumpet sounds, as in 1Th_4:16, where it is said of the Lord that He will descend from Heaven
ἐí óáëðéããé èåïῦ
; “in the trumpet of God;” whereupon the dead will rise. [For this use of
, see Jelf. Gr. Gram. § 622, 2. fin.]. The word
is used to denote the trumpet blast accompanying the Theophanies, and resounding over the whole region of their manifestation, arousing and shaking all things there (comp. Exo_19:16; Isa_27:13; Zec_9:14). The last trumpet refers to that great Theophany, or Christophany, by which all the revelations of God in this dispensation will be brought to their close. That this will coincide with the seventh trumpet (Rev_11:15), is, by no means, improbable; because, there also John is speaking of the end of the world-power, and the coming in of the kingdom of God and of Christ—an event with which that here mentioned must synchronize. From this, however, we are not to conclude that Paul had in mind the seven trumpets of the Apocalypse, of which he supposed this to be the last; “for it is hardly proper to ascribe the peculiarity of John’s vision to the apostle Paul, as though the doctrine of the latter were moulded by the former.” Burger.—But in no case are we to suppose any allusion here to the seven trumpets, according to which the Rabbis were wont to exhibit the seven stages of the resurrection—the last announcing the instant when the dead were to stand upon their feet—since the apostle furnishes not the remotest hint of the kind. Moreover, to interpret the trumpet sound of those commotions and revolutions which were to introduce and accompany the judgment; or, as Olshausen does, of a powerful all-shaking operation of the Spirit; or, of an all-agitating
, command, or
, nod, of God (Theoph.); or indefinitely of some sign that the judgment is to be held, is arbitrary. The trumpet blast, elsewhere spoken of as the signal for battle, (comp. 1Co_14:7), or for assembling, or for judgment, here comes as the signal for the great act of the all-victorious king, who will call his people out from among the quick and the dead into the glory of His heavenly life, and so shall gather them about himself. But Neander says: “We shall not be able to take the statement of the trumpet literally. It denotes the call to the last act of Divine omnipotence.”—for the trumpet shall sound,—
is impersonal, it shall sound, like
, it rains, and the like. It is unnecessary to suppose any definite subject here, whether God, or Christ (comp. “the trump of God,” 1Th_4:16; and “the Lord God shall blow the trumpet,” Zec_9:14), or an angel (comp. Rev_8:2).—The events following upon the sound of the trumpet are introduced by
; first, the resurrection of the dead according to 1Th_4:16, “the dead in Christ shall rise first” (comp. above 1Co_15:23), and that, too, in a state of incorruption (comp. 1Co_15:42).—and the dead shall be raised incorruptible;—then, the change of the living, which, as is shown from what follows, is also a transition into a state of incorruption. [This is in exact accordance with 1Th_4:15. “Those who are alive when Christ comes shall not prevent,” i. e., take the precedence of, “them which are asleep”]. But to take the term “we” as a sort of generalization, by which he did not intend literally to denote himself and his cotemporaries, but only those living at the time of the Advent, and who belonged to an entirely different period, and so, as equivalent to ‘we Christians,’ i. e., those who shall then be alive [as Hodge and others], is entirely arbitrary. It is unquestionable that the apostle, although opposed to all fanciful expectations and designations of time (2 Thes. 11), regarded the second Advent as near, and hoped to survive to it; nor does what is said in 1Co_6:14, at all conflict with this (see above).—The event thus predicted is confirmed by a reference to the necessity of this change, pointing back to 1Co_15:50.—For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.—The epithets “corruptible” and “mortal” relate to the human body in its present state; but they are not to be distinguished, as though the former applied to the dead and the latter to the living (Bengel); for that which he designates as a mystery and has just made known, and that whereupon, therefore, the emphasis lies, is, that “we shall be changed.” Hence, he is speaking mainly of the living. To “put on” (
) a figure borrowed from clothing (comp. 1Co_15:49; 2Co_5:3, “not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon”). The maintenance of a personal identity, with a change in the quality of the vesture, is here unmistakably implied; according to de Wette, the figure is one of an inward purification (Luke 26:49; Rom_13:14; Eph_4:24; Col_3:10); according to Osiander of adornment and manifestation of the change—both doubtful. The aorist infinitive indicates the instantaneousness of the process. The repetition of the verb gives emphasis, and preserves the symmetry of the sentence.
1Co_15:54-57. He here announces in a solemn manner, enhanced by the literal repetition of what he has just said, that this event will consummate the victory over the last enemy, and in it will be fulfilled the prophecy which predicts the cessation of all death at that time. [“The argument closes in a burst of almost poetical fervor, (as in the corresponding passage, Rom_8:31).” Stanley].—And when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,—[“a repetition in a triumphant spirit, of the description of the glorious change.” Alford].—then shall come to pass—
here expresses the thought elsewhere conveyed by
.—the saying that is written,—The declaration is found in Isa_25:8, in a passage announcing the final consummation of God’s kingdom, and is cited, not according to the LXX., but according to the original Hebrew, except that
, he will destroy death, is turned into the passive “is swallowed up;” and
is translated as elsewhere in several passages in the LXX., e. g., Amo_1:11; Amo_8:8,
, into victory; while it properly means entirely, altogether (comp. Hupfeld on Psa_13:2), which also suits the passage in Isa. (others: “altogether”)—Death is swallowed up into victory.—
the same idea that is expressed in
(1Co_15:26). “It is a remarkable expression, denoting the swallowing up of the all-swallower.” (Vitringa).—
can here be interpreted neither as equivalent to ‘forever,’ nor yet to ‘entirely;’ nor can we take it as an adverb, ‘victoriously’ (Flacius); but it indicates the result of being swallowed up—“into victory,” i. e., so that victory is gained, and the enemy is overcome. To this the following triumphal song is well appended. An argument may be urged against Osiander’s local interpretation of
, (by which victory is personified and represented as a ravenous beast, as though the expression meant ‘swallowed up in the jaws of victory’), from the want of the article, as also from to
of 1Co_15:55. Inasmuch as in this whole context death must mean physical death, the doctrine of the restoration of all things, as suggested by Olshausen, has here no support.—The reference to the prophecy fulfilled at the resurrection culminates in a triumphal song, in uttering which, the Apostle seems transported in spirit to the moment of that grand consummation.—Where,—
, 1Co_1:20; Rom_3:27.—thy sting,—By
we are not to understand a goad, which death may be supposed to use in tilling his field, since without sin he could have no power over us [Billr. and Scholt.]; nor yet as something which calls out the power of death over us, awakes its slumbering might to tyrannize over us (Olsh.); but death is here figured as a venomous beast, armed with a poisonous, deadly sting—a scorpion, for example, [or a serpent like a viper in allusion to Genesis 3, and Numbers , 21]—O Death!—In this direct address the personification of death comes out more forcibly than in 1Co_15:54.—Where thy victory, O Death?—In this clause the Rec. Text has
, Hades, the kingdom of the dead, instead of
repeated. By “victory,” in this case, we would understand the detention in Hades of those who had departed to it; and this would be destroyed if Hades were compelled to give up the dead in a resurrection. But the reading
is perhaps a correction made in accordance with the LXX version of Hos_13:14. This passage undoubtedly floated before the mind of the Apostle, and apparently in the form in which it appears in the LXX in so far as we translate the passage, “From the power of Sheol will I ransom them; from death will I deliver them,” thus: “O death, I will be thy plagues; O Grave, I will be thy destruction.” But
[translated I in our version] may be also=
, as in Hos_13:10, [where it occurs in the sense of
, where,] (comp. Fürst, Handwörterbuch, s. v.,
1Co_1:30). But instead of
thy plagues (plural of
=the mille viæ leti, the thousand ways of death), others appear to have read
thy sting, (Fürst, s. v.,
may be translated thy overthrow, viz., that which thou workest; in which case it is=
ôὸ íῖêïò óïõ
, thy victory, (comp. Schmieder on Hos_13:14). This prophecy opens for us a bright view into the last glorious epoch, like as Isa_25:8; and the thought mounts from the state of not dying, implied in the loss of death’s sting, to that of resurrection from the dead (Meyer Ed. 3). If we now unite this passage in Isa. to the citation from Hosea, which is not inadmissible, then we have here a combination of texts as in Rom_11:8, and eleswhere. [Hodge says the Apostle does not quote Hosea, but expresses an analogous idea in analogous terms].—To this triumphal song there is appended, first, a short explanation respecting the sting of death, which serves to confirm the statement that death is swallowed up (1Co_15:56). “It affords,” says Meyer, “a firm doctrinal basis for the certainty of victory over death, furnished in the Gospel system.”—The sting of death is sin;—The parallel here between
. might seem to indicate the propriety of taking the former in the sense above given, viz., that of a goad, implying that that which set death in motion, and rendered it active, is sin. But there is no necessity for this; and the connection with 1Co_15:55, where “sting” being parallel with “victory,” cannot denote that by which death is goaded, does not allow of it. The meaning is, rather, that death, like a scorpion, has a sting, a fatal power imparted to it by means of sin (comp. 1Co 6:23; 1Co_5:12). But in relation to sin he adds—and the strength of Sin is the law.—This has been understood, either of the sin-awakening, and the sin-strengthening power of the law in the sense of Rom_7:7 if.; or of its condemning power (2Co_3:6 ff.; chap. 9); or both ideas have here been combined (Osiander). The first interpretation is the correct one. As death has no sting, no fatal power, when sin is done away, and therefore is destroyed, as death; so sin has no power, is become weak and nullified, when the law is removed. The law is indeed the revelation of the Divine will in the form of a command or prohibition, which both presupposes, and calls out the opposition of man against God. So long as this stands in authority, sin, and accordingly death, has power. And here the question arises, Does the Apostle intend to infer from the nullification of the power of death at that period, that then sin and the law are done away? Or does he presuppose this as a matter evident of itself, and from it draw a conclusion in support of the destruction of death, and for the resurrection? Or does he mean to indicate that sin and the law stand in the way of this consummation? The following verse most readily connects itself with the last supposition; since here God is praised as the one who, through Jesus Christ, ensures a victory over every thing which obstructs the grand consummation; or, more exactly, the victory over death, of which mention has been before made; since in communion with Him we are delivered from the law, and, together with this, from the power of sin, and hence also from death (Rom_8:1). Thus is this complete victory exhibited to us in connection with the redemption secured by Christ, which is nothing less than a deliverance from law and sin; and the whole is referred back to God, the Author of our redemption, with ascriptions of thanksgiving.—But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.—The present participle
, he giving us, may be taken as a vivid representation of the future in the form of the present, showing the absolute certainty of the thing; or it may denote the simple fact considered by itself apart from all idea of time; or, finally, it may represent God to us as the One who continually gives us the victory by taking away the condemnation of the law, and so destroying the power of sin in a life of faith, which is nothing less than a fellowship with Christ, who is the end of the law, and the destroyer of sin’s power. [“This He is: 1. Because He has fulfilled the demands of the law. It has no power to condemn those who are clothed in His righteousness. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom_8:1). Christ, by His death, hath “destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb_2:14-15). That is, in virtue of the death of Christ, by which the demands of justice are satisfied, Satan, the great executioner of divine justice, has no longer the right or power to detain. If, therefore, it be the law which gives sin its reality and strength, and if sin gives death its sting, He who satisfies the law destroys the strength of sin, and consequently the sting of death. It is thus that Christ deprives death of all its power to injure His people. It is for them disarmed and rendered as harmless as an infant. 2. But Christ not only gives us this victory through His justifying righteousness, but also by His almighty power, He new creates the soul after the image of God; and, what is here principally intended, He repairs all the evils which death had inflicted. He rescues our bodies from the grave, and fashions them like unto His glorious body, even by that “power whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” (Php_3:21). Hodge].
1Co_15:58. He concludes with an earnest exhortation to stedfastness and to advancement in Christian activity. And this which he introduces with an endearing epithet—My beloved brethren,—he joins first to a thankful allusion to the God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ; and thus the whole exposition comes at last to its close. This is evident also from the corroborative clause.—wherefore—since God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.—be ye stedfast unmovable,—suffer not yourselves to be shaken from the foundation of your faith and hope by any person or thing. “
, stedfast,—‘do not turn yourselves from the faith of resurrection;’
, unmovable,—‘be not led away by others.’ Bengel.—To this still another quality is annexed.—always abounding in the work of the Lord,—This is not to be taken as subordinating what precedes, as Meyer, who interprets: “so that ye distinguish yourselves in furthering the work of the Lord by your stedfastness in the Christian faith and life;” but it is still another feature of good conduct resulting from the conviction spoken of in 1Co_15:57, viz., excelling in activity for the cause of Christ. By
we are not to understand, either Christ’s work in a preëminent sense, i.e., the church (as the Romanists); nor yet a divine and blessed life (de Wette); but the work which Christ Himself undertook in obedience to the Father’s commission, and which He has commanded His followers to carry forward. In this are comprised both the proclamation and spread of the Gospel and the furtherance of the common weal by the reformation of individuals and of society. “It is something in which every Christian should coöperate through word and work in his own sphere.” Burger. To such activity he encourages them by a general assurance of success.—knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.—By
he means an activity full of effort, involving burdens and self-denials for the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom. All this were vain and fruitless if our salvation were not to be consummated in triumph, if no victory over death and no resurrection were to be hoped for. But since this hope is sure, we know that our efforts will not fail of their goal,—that the glorious end will be reached at last which will compensate us for all our toil. The phrase “in the Lord” belongs, not to the subject (Meyer), but to the predicate, or rather to the whole clause. The profitableness of our labor is established in Christ. In fellowship with Him is its objects surely attained.
[Obs. 1. In order to appreciate the force of the Apostle’s reasoning throughout this whole chapter, it will be necessary to connect it with that general scheme of historical development in which his great argument moves. In speaking of the “other world,” or “the world to come,” it is common to understand by these expressions some mysterious realm existing outside of, or apart from the material world into which we are introduced by death, and where departed spirits are supposed to be now living. Not unfrequently are these terms used interchangeably with “eternity.” On such an interpretation, it is not easy to see why the Apostle should make a future happy existence so contingent upon the resurrection; or, indeed, what necessity there is for a new body, if in our disembodied state we are so completely introduced into fellowship with Christ, and the glories of heaven. Nor can we discover a reason why the resurrection should not take place with every individual immediately after death, according to the theory of Bush and the Swedenborgians. To keep the soul, that would “not be unclothed but clothed upon,” waiting for centuries before it can assume its new vesture, seems almost like an arbritrary and needless appointment. But the difficulty here presented is all removed when we come to reflect that the term translated “world” (
) is not a designation of space, denoting any particular realm in which people live, but of time. It properly means an age—a distinct cycle of years through which certain great transactions similar in kind are carried on to their consummation, and which is to be followed by another of a different kind. Now it is through a series of these ages, or aeons, that Paul considers the work of the world’s redemption to be progressively carried on, all separated by certain great crises. The “present age” is that period which dating from the Fall is to last until the second coming of Christ. At this point the “future age” will begin to date, and this will be the age of redemption completed—the age of the Messiah’s Kingdom and Glory. And the expression for ‘eternity’ is generally in the plural—‘ages’, or ‘ages upon ages,’ to signify the ceaseless procession of time, under which conception eternity was ordinarily represented.
From this exposition will be seen the impropriety of speaking of souls at death passing at once into “the other” or “future world” or age. That future world or age has not yet come in; and no one can be said to enter it until Christ appears to set up His Kingdom. It is then only that the earth will be in readiness for the reception of the risen saints. And inasmuch as the glory which they are waiting for is to be found here, it will be seen why a resurrection is necessary,—why they want a body at all, and a glorified body, since it is in this as their organ that they will be fitted to dwell in a glorified earth and enjoy the felicity of that age. According to Paul’s theory, man is not to be separated from this lower creation of which he forms a part and of which he is the lord. The world was viewed by him as one complete whole, termed in Romans 8 “the creature” (
) which as it had been involved in the curse of the Fall was also to be restored in its completeness as the theatre of the Redeemer’s glory. But the time of its restoration could not occur, until all the redeemed of earth were brought in and the number of the elect completed. It is then that the Redeemer will appear to set up His Kingdom and around Him the whole church will be glorified together, none “preventing,” i.e., anticipating the other in the fruition of future glory.
On such a scheme we discover a foundation for the Apostle’s argument which identifies a blessed immortality, with the fact of a future resurrection, and seemingly ignores the possibility of an existence in some purely spiritual state, such as Pagan philosophy dreams of. The process of redemption underlying this scheme of history has been well represented by Fairbairn (Hermeneutical Manual, p. 367) under four successive stages and developments indicated by four fundamental gospel terms. “We see it beginning in the region of the inner man—in the awakening of a sense of guilt and danger, with earnest strivings after amendment (
, repentance); then, through the operation of the grace of God, it discovers itself in a regenerated frame of spirit, the possession of an essentially new spiritual condition (
, regeneration) this once found, proceeds by continual advances, and fresh efforts to higher and higher degrees of spiritual renovation (
, renewing), while according to the gracious plan and wise disposal of God, the internal links itself to the external, the renovation of soul paves the way for the purification of nature, until, the work of grace being finished, and the number of the elect completed, the bodies also of the saints shall be transformed, and the whole material creation shall become a fit habitation for redeemed and glorified saints (
, restoration). What a large and divine-like grasp in this regenerative scheme! How unlike the littleness and superficiality of man! How clearly be-speaking the profound insight and far-reaching wisdom of God! And this not merely in its ultimate results, but in the method also and order of its procedure! In beginning with the inner man, and laying the chief stress on a regenerated heart, it takes possession of the fountain head of evil, and rectifies that which most of all requires the operation of renewing agency. As in the moral sphere, the evil had its commencement, so in the same sphere are the roots planted of all the renovation, that is to develop itself in the history of the Kingdom. And the spiritual work once properly accomplished, all that remains to be done shall follow in due time; Satan shall be finally cast out; and on the
ruins of his usurped dominion, the glories of the new creation shall shine forth in their eternal lustre.”
For a list of works on this whole subject of the nature and destiny of the soul, the reader may consult the appendix to the History of the Doctrine of a Future Life, by Alger, where nearly five thousand works on this engrossing theme are enumerated and described by Ezra Abbot. Among the best of the moderns are Delitzsch, Psychologie, 2. Ed.; Bleek, Seelenlehre; Heard, on the Tripartite nature of man. Consult also articles in Bib. Sacra, 17:303; 13 p. 159].
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
The risen saint’s retrospect and triumph. From the heights of a salvation completed the spirit looks back, in thought, on the dangers and difficulties through which it is to pass, and then, in contrast, to the deliverance provided for it in its several essential particulars; and such a review awakens it anew to the praise of God’s grace which through the power of Christ removed all obstacles, and gave it that victory in which it is to obtain the fulfilment of all the divine promises. But from this also there springs the earnest determination to remain stedfast in the maintenance of the grace conferred, and constantly to excel in furthering the great word of salvation in the joyful confidence that every sincere effort will result in securing at last a perfect communion with Christ who in His own person has overcome all obstacles and invites His followers to share in His victory.
The attainment of our salvation proceeds through three inseparably connected stages—the doing away: 1. of the law; 2. of sin; 3. of death. The law is done away (so far as it calls out and intensifies an opposition to God), through the revelation of the perfect love of God, who sent His only-begotten Son, the holy and righteous One, to take upon himself and endure the curse of the law, or to become sin and a curse for us, and so to redeem us from curse and from judgment, and to secure our justification. Thus, sin is forgiven; we are accepted in the beloved; and a loving child-like communion is established which involves a participation in the divine glory. Through the manifestation of this love, the law is changed from being a summary of stringent exactions and prohibitions enforced by fearful threatenings, into a proclamation of the will of a Father now reconciled to us in Christ, and who is thus recognized as meaning kindness in every requirement, who forbids nothing but what is injurious, enjoins nothing but what is necessary and beneficial, obliges us to suffer nothing but what is subservient to our best good, and disciplines us because He loves us.—By this means, also, the power of sin is broken, and instead thereof a disposition to love awakened, which grows ever stronger and stronger, masters more and more perfectly all opposing tendencies and impulses, and brings the whole life with all its organs and powers more resolutely and undividedly, more willingly and joyfully, into the service of God’s holy love, and thus promotes the sanctification of the whole man.—By this same means also death is robbed of its sting. For believers who pursue after holiness, death appears no longer as an extinction of life causing pain and fear, and making us dreary and desolate; but as an entrance into the rest of Christ, which leads to a glorious renewal of life (comp. Joh_8:51; Joh_11:25 ff.; Rom_6:8 ff; Rom_8:11; Rom_8:38 ff.), in which our perfect victory over death, and, together with this, the consummation of our redemption, is made gloriously manifest.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1Co_15:51. Hed.: Who then will fear the last great day! To become whole at once, is this a plague? In an instant mortal will be swallowed up of life.—At the resurrection men will have indeed new, yet not other bodies; their own, only changed.
1Co_15:53. What after all is beauty of body, and the finest garments; all must molder;—the resurrection will, for the first time, clothe us in beautiful and lasting array.
1Co_15:54 f. There are three it is finished: 1. at the creation,—for then all was very good; 2. at the redemption—achieved through the blood of Christ; and that was better; 3. at our sanctification and the eternal joy and glory which follow thereupon; which is the best of all. Then our mouth will be full of laughter and our tongue full of praise.—Death lies prostrate, and has now no more power. Life leaps aloft and exclaims: ‘Thus subdued, where, O Death, art thou now? and where that sting wherewith thou didst give men their deadly wound?’—Believers are now delivered from all dying.’ Wondrous triumph!
1Co_15:57. Through His perfect obedience and atoning work Christ has rendered satisfaction for our sins, and conquered death. Of this fact His victorious resurrection is a witness. This victory becomes ours through faith, and gives us the power to overcome sin and death likewise. This will be made manifest when Christ has raised our bodies to glory.—No one can confidently expect this victory but he who can say, ‘my faith also has overcome the world both within and without me’ (1Jn_5:4 f.).—What can be more comforting to a Christian than that there should be granted him such a victory over physical death through Christ—that from being the punishment of sin it should become to him a blessing, a happy exit from all misery, and a joyful entrance into glory, and so, a triumph?
1Co_15:58. So long as we do not seek to become steadfast in Christianity, to be well grounded in faith, upon the Rock Christ, and to be immoveable against all the storms of temptation, so long will all labor in the practice of Christianity be, for the most part, useless. Indeed, not so much as earnest labor, as idleness and sleepy existence.
Berlenb. Bibel:—If we do not put on Jesus Christ and the new man from day to day, then the corruptible and the new incorruptible humanity of the glorified Saviour will not be so speedily fused together. He who would share in this much wished for change must have his heart changed here.—The art of transformation God alone understands. What happens now is only preparatory. Hence, no one must regard such divine operations and purifications as a burden.
1Co_15:54. The victory of Christ will then first be fulfilled in us when the corruptible shall have put on incorruption (regeneration in a complete sense Mat_19:28). This victory has already taken place; but it must be fulfilled in all for whom it has been achieved separately and actually, both in this world and in the next. It will be actually begun in each one, when, in his soul, sin and its wages, death, have been subdued in victory over sin, through Christ’s new resurrection power, and, on the other hand, an innocent divine life has been begotten in us.
1Co_15:55. A consolation which is now concealed from our eyes, in order that we may walk by faith. Death must be disarmed of its means of hurt if we can appropriate this language.
1Co_15:56. This he introduces after his song of triumph in order that we may not jubilate after too wild a sort. If the sting of death is to be entirely renounced, sin itself must be once for all entirely annihilated.—The power of sin shows itself in the torments of conscience and in its urging men against their will and better resolutions to do what they know to be wrong. This power, especially that of accusation and condemnation, which every penitent experiences at his conversion is given to sin by the law, when it shows to him what he has merited from God, in all his thoughts, and words, and deeds. And although now such a person earnestly resolve to deliver himself from sin and begin to guard himself against his old habits, and to strive against his evil inclinations, he will nevertheless not often succeed. The law of sin in the members strives against the spirit, so that we do not that which we gladly would.
1Co_15:57. God gives us victory, one after the other. If we at any time have already overcome any lust, this happened not from any power of nature, but of grace which has been secured through our Lord Jesus Christ. He who has this grace strong in him may boast in the Lord and in the power of His might.—What boots it, though we daily console ourselves with all these sayings respecting Christ’s victory, and are yet not daily obedient to him?—Our enemies are not overcome for us in any such way that they need not also be overcome in us through the power of Christ.
1Co_15:58. Firm and immoveable shall we become, if we earnestly hold to the centre.—Striving, watching, praying, the work of faith and the labor of love—this is what will preserve God to us. Let us only be found diligent therein.—The work is ours in respect to its exercises; it is not ours in respect to its origin.
1Co_15:51 ff. Every divine truth furnishes its own contribution to faith, partly, in preparing the heart for it; partly, in actually awakening it; partly, in promoting its growth; partly, in furthering its activity and fruitfulness; and partly, in leading it on to its glorious end.
1Co_15:54 ff. God’s work cannot remain unfinished. The patient waiting of believers, and the sighing of God’s creatures will not remain unheard. But for this, we must give God time.—The power of hope brought to light we have to enjoy in the extremities of death; but the song of victory: O, Death, where is thy sting? will chiefly be sung amid the joys of the resurrection. There is no encouragement in the scriptures for a haughty contempt of death. Even in the New Testament, all comfort in reference to it, is derived from communion with Christ, and from that fellowship in love, in which death can effect no break nor separation.
1Co_15:56. Faith bows itself beneath the judgment of God; seizes the shield of the hope of salvation; and every where shows that it has more to do with God, and His honor, and the sanctification of His name and the fulfilment of His work, and that it is enough for us that with all this, God has intimately in woven our salvation also. The sting, by which Death can do us the most hurt, is sin, or the sentence, that death through sin has come into this world, and is now its wages. And the law on its awakening in the conscience, first shows this enemy in its full strength. Do not, however, try to avoid it on this account. He who shrinks from entering into the pain and anguish occasioned by the law, will be deficient in consolation and joyful thanksgiving to God. To become free from the fear of death at a bound, would to many a one seem right; but the victory given us through Christ, has its stages. We are called out of sin into grace, die unto the law in its power, come into subjection to Christ Jesus and the rule of His Spirit, learn thereby how there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and also what is revealed to our hope even for this mortal body. Therefore (1Co_15:58), he who has so learned to know sin and grace, death and life, and discovers in himself the germ of eternal life through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, can stand fast against all inward fickleness, be immovable against external temptations, and avoid all weariness, and instead, rather abound more and more in the work of the Lord, faith in whom is the spring of every thing else.
1Co_15:54 f. The Christian experiences indeed the natural dread of death, but not its inward terrors. Through Christ he becomes stronger than nature. Death has for him no more terror, because it brings to him no destruction of being, no judgment, no pain and punishment. Such a song of triumph no wisdom of this world can strike up. Only the fact of redemption tunes us to such peans.
1Co_15:56. That which makes death so fearful is the consciousness of sin, and the fear of damnation. But sin is terrible on account of the holy law of God. This law shows us at once its guilt and its curse.
1Co_15:57. With this song of praise the Christian celebrates the victory over these great enemies, Death, Sin and Satan. These enemies Christ has already overcome, and celebrated His triumph in the unseen world (Col_2:15). Without his aid, no one could overcome these mighty enemies. This victory is not our merit, but a grace given us by God through Christ. The atonement, and the hope of eternal life are closely connected. Everything which Christ has is ours, and this should be our daily medicine.
1Co_15:58. The work of our Lord is, a. what works in us; b. what we bring to pass in His strength. No pure, humble work is ever in vain. The Lord’s work succeeds, and he does not suffer his followers’ work to fail.
W. F. Besser:
1Co_15:55. For him whom hell no more frights with its torments there is a victory over hell also at the last day, when Christ will be revealed as the Man who has the keys of death and of hell. Whence now have we the right, and derive we the courage to sing such a song of triumph as we feel welling up even in this our mortal body? It stands not in our power to avoid the sting of death; but what is impossible with us has been made possible by God in Christ.
1Co_15:58. In order to become stedfast through faith in the hope of the Gospel, and to stand immovable in the citadel of Apostolic doctrine we should seek the aid of the Holy Ghost. But in the Christian life there is no firm endurance without constant watchfulness. If we would abound in the work of the Lord, we must allow the work of His great love to operate in us, and stand in faithful co-operation with that love, in order that every one according to his gift and office, may devote himself to the edification of the Church, with the word of truth and with the labor of love (1Co_12:14). He who works in the Lord, and directs his eye to the day of harvest say’s with Paul: “I die daily,” and quiets his heart in patience, being joyful in hope.
Gerock:—Faith’s song of triumph at the grave of the risen: “O, Death, where is thy sting?” Thy sting whereby thou, a. robbest me me of my dearest (1Co_15:52); b. and threatenest my own body (1Co_15:51); c. and frightenest my poor soul (1Co_15:56); d. and destroyest the work of my hands (1Co_15:58).
Luther:—“Thanks be unto God,” etc. This may we also sing, and so keep perpetual Easter, that we may extol and praise God for such a victory, which was not achieved through us, nor won in fight (for it is too high and great), but has been graciously given to us of God—who pitieth our sorrows out of which none could help us, and sent unto us His son, and let Him undertake the conflict. Sin, Death and Hell has He overcome, and given unto us the victory, so that we may say: ‘It is our victory,’ so that we may accept it with earnestness, and not give God the lie, neither be found ungrateful for it, but maintain it with firm faith in our hearts, and strengthen ourselves therein, and always sing of this victory in Christ, and go on, joyful therein until we see Him also in our own body. To this, may God help us through His own dear Son, and to Him be all glory and praise forever and ever. Amen!”
1Co_15:51. The Commemoration of the faithful departed.—Newton: 1Co_15:51. The general resurrection. I. The mystery. 1. Beyond the reach of fallen man to discover without a revelation from God. 2. Still unintelligible without a further revelation through the influence of the Spirit. II. What to be expected—universal changes. III. Suddenness of event—in a moment. IV. The grand preceding signal—the trumpet sound. Improvement. 1. A joyful day to believe 2. In view of it what manner of men ought we to be.
1Co_15:54. Death swallowed up in victory. How predicable of Christians. I. They were once dead in law—but forgiven. II. Once dead in sin—but quickened. III. Once under the tyranny of Satan—but made conquerors over him. IV. Once subject to woes and sufferings—but sorrow and sighing are turned to joy and gladness. V. Once reaped the bitter fruits of sin—but grace triumphs over every evil.—1Co_15:55-57.—Triumph over death and the grave. I. Death armed with a powerful sting. 1. What the sting Isaiah 2. How sharpened by the law. II. Death disarmed by the death of Christ. III. The doxology—emphatic in every word. 1. Thanks to God—His work. 2. Who giveth us the victory—a victory indeed. 3. Through Jesus Christ. This song best sung when the whole redeemed are collected together.—Howe:
1Co_15:54. The Christian’s triumph over death. I. The explication of its rational import. 1. The import—God’s general determination to put a perpetual end to death. a. Death as here spoken of supposes a certain limited subject, viz.: such as are Christ’s. b. It extends to the whole of that subject—the inner and the outward man. c. Presupposes a war. d. Where this war ends not in victory on the one side, it ends in victory on the other. 2. The reasonableness of the import. a. God’s glory requires it. b. The felicity of the redeemed requires it. II. The use of the doctrine. 1. If asserted to be believed. 2. Full of comfort; a. in reference to departed friends; b. in reference to our own death. III. A monition to us since spoken only of some and not of all. IV. This doctrine should cause us to abstain from rash censures of providence that God lets death reign over so great a part of His creation for so long a time. John Logan:—1Co_15:55-57. The Christian’s victory over death. Christ sets us free: I. From the doubts and fears that are apt to perplex the mind from the uncertainty in which a future state is involved. II. From the apprehensions of wrath proceeding from the consciousness of sin. III. From the fears that arise in the mind upon the awful transition from this world to the next. Spurgeon:—1Co_15:56-57. Thoughts on the last battle. I. The sting of death—Sin. 1. Because it brought death into the world. 2. Because it is that which shall make death most terrible. 3. If sin in the retrospect be the sting of death, what must sin in the prospect be? II. The strength of sin—the Law. 1. In this respect that the law being spiritual it is quite impossible for us to be without sin. 2. It will not abate one tittle of its stern demands. 3. For every transgression it will exact a punishment. III. The victory of faith. 1. Christ has taken away the strength of sin in that He has removed the law. 2. In that, He has completely satisfied it by His perfect obedience. 3. By having brought life and immortality to light through the resurrection.
1Co_15:51.—The Rec. is satisfactorily authenticated, [
ðÜíôåò ìÝí ïὐ êïéìèçóüìåèá
ðÜíôåò äὲ ἀëëáãçóüìåèá
]. The origin of the other readings is easily explained from the apparent difficulty of this. Lachmann [and Stanley] have
ïὐ ðÜíôåò äὲ ἀëëáã
. Others have
ðÜíôåò ìὲí ἀíáóôçóüìåèá
ïὐ ðÜíôåò äὲ ἀëëáã
has in its favor A. C. (2d. hand), D. (2d and 3d hand), E. F. G. K. L. Sinait., Vulg., later Syr., Copt., and a few eccles. writers, hut against it B. C. (1st hand), D. (1st hand), the Syr. (Pesch.), Aeth., and Orig. Jerome testifies that in his day all the Latins had omnes quidem resurgemus, but that the Greeks were divided between omnes dormiemus, and non omnes dormiemus. Augustine also mentions that both Greeks and Latins were divided about it. It was very likely to have originated in an attempted conformity with the subsequent
. For placing the
., so that it may qualify that word, and not after, with the comma before it, so that it may quality
., we have B. D. (2d and 3d hand), E. K. L., almost all the cursives, with the Goth., Syr., (both), Copt., Aeth., Arab. versions, and many of the best Greek and Latin writers. Among the other MSS. there is an almost inextricable confusion, suggesting that they are not reliable. They appear to have sprung from the idea that otherwise Paul would assert (contrary to fact) that he, and those to whom he wrote, were not to die. See all the readings discussed elaborately in Reiche and Tischendorf.—C. P. W.]
, but the evidence for that reading is not quite convincing. [It is sustained by A. D. E. F. G., 2 cursives, Orig. (one ms.), Chrys. (one ms.), Damasc., Theophyl. (marg.); but B. C. K. L. M., Sinait., several copies of the Latin, Vulg. (resurgunt), Orig. (5 times). Dialog., Chrys. (one ms.), C