1 Corinthians 15:23-52
New American Bible (Revised Edition)
23 but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;(A) 24 then comes the end,[a] when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.(B) 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.(C) 26 [b]The last enemy(D) to be destroyed is death, 27 [c]for “he subjected everything under his feet.”(E) But when it says that everything has been subjected, it is clear that it excludes the one who subjected everything to him. 28 When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will [also] be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.(F)
Practical Arguments.[d] 29 Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead?[e] If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?
30 [f]Moreover, why are we endangering ourselves all the time?(G) 31 Every day I face death; I swear it by the pride in you [brothers] that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord.(H) 32 If at Ephesus I fought with beasts, so to speak, what benefit was it to me? If the dead are not raised:
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”(I)
33 Do not be led astray:
“Bad company corrupts good morals.”
34 Become sober as you ought and stop sinning. For some have no knowledge of God; I say this to your shame.(J)
C. The Manner of the Resurrection[g]
35 [h]But someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?”
The Resurrection Body. 36 [i]You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.(K) 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; 38 (L)but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. 39 [j]Not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for human beings, another kind of flesh for animals, another kind of flesh for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. 41 The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness.
42 [k]So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. 43 It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.(M) 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.
45 So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam,[l] became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.(N) 46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven. 48 As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image[m] of the heavenly one.(O)
The Resurrection Event. 50 [n]This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption[o] inherit incorruption.(P) 51 [p]Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,(Q) 52 in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.(R)Read full chapter
- 15:24–28 Paul’s perspective expands to cosmic dimensions, as he describes the climax of history, the end. His viewpoint is still christological, as in 1 Cor 15:20–23. 1 Cor 15:24, 28 describe Christ’s final relations to his enemies and his Father in language that is both royal and military; 1 Cor 15:25–28 insert a proof from scripture (Ps 110:1; 8:6) into this description. But the viewpoint is also theological, for God is the ultimate agent and end, and likewise soteriological, for we are the beneficiaries of all the action.
- 15:26 The last enemy…is death: a parenthesis that specifies the final fulfillment of the two Old Testament texts just referred to, Ps 110:1 and Ps 8:7. Death is not just one cosmic power among many, but the ultimate effect of sin in the universe (cf. 1 Cor 15:56; Rom 5:12). Christ defeats death where it prevails, in our bodies. The destruction of the last enemy is concretely the “coming to life” (1 Cor 15:22) of “those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:23).
- 15:27b–28 The one who subjected everything to him: the Father is the ultimate agent in the drama, and the final end of the process, to whom the Son and everything else is ordered (24, 28). That God may be all in all: his reign is a dynamic exercise of creative power, an outpouring of life and energy through the universe, with no further resistance. This is the supremely positive meaning of “subjection”: that God may fully be God.
- 15:29–34 Paul concludes his treatment of logical inconsistencies with a listing of miscellaneous Christian practices that would be meaningless if the resurrection were not a fact.
- 15:29 Baptized for the dead: this practice is not further explained here, nor is it necessarily mentioned with approval, but Paul cites it as something in their experience that attests in one more way to belief in the resurrection.
- 15:30–34 A life of sacrifice, such as Paul describes in 1 Cor 4:9–13 and 2 Corinthians, would be pointless without the prospect of resurrection; a life of pleasure, such as that expressed in the Epicurean slogan of 1 Cor 15:32, would be far more consistent. I fought with beasts: since Paul does not elsewhere mention a combat with beasts at Ephesus, he may be speaking figuratively about struggles with adversaries.
- 15:35–58 Paul imagines two objections that the Corinthians could raise: one concerning the manner of the resurrection (how?), the other pertaining to the qualities of the risen body (what kind?). These questions probably lie behind their denial of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:12), and seem to reflect the presumption that no kind of body other than the one we now possess would be possible. Paul deals with these objections in inverse order, in 1 Cor 15:36–49 and 1 Cor 15:50–58. His argument is fundamentally theological and its appeal is to the understanding.
- 15:35–49 Paul approaches the question of the nature of the risen body (what kind of body?) by means of two analogies: the seed (1 Cor 15:36–44) and the first man, Adam (1 Cor 15:45–49).
- 15:36–38 The analogy of the seed: there is a change of attributes from seed to plant; the old life-form must be lost for the new to emerge. By speaking about the seed as a body that dies and comes to life, Paul keeps the point of the analogy before the reader’s mind.
- 15:39–41 The expression “its own body” (1 Cor 15:38) leads to a development on the marvelous diversity evident in bodily life.
- 15:42–44 The principles of qualitative difference before and after death (1 Cor 15:36–38) and of diversity on different levels of creation (1 Cor 15:39–41) are now applied to the human body. Before: a body animated by a lower, natural life-principle (psychē) and endowed with the properties of natural existence (corruptibility, lack of glory, weakness). After: a body animated by a higher life-principle (pneuma; cf. 1 Cor 15:45) and endowed with other qualities (incorruptibility, glory, power, spirituality), which are properties of God himself.
- 15:45 The analogy of the first man, Adam, is introduced by a citation from Gn 2:7. Paul alters the text slightly, adding the adjective first, and translating the Hebrew ’ādām twice, so as to give it its value both as a common noun (man) and as a proper name (Adam). 1 Cor 15:45b then specifies similarities and differences between the two Adams. The last Adam, Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:21–22) has become a…spirit (pneuma), a life-principle transcendent with respect to the natural soul (psychē) of the first Adam (on the terminology here, cf. note on 1 Cor 3:1). Further, he is not just alive, but life-giving, a source of life for others.
- 15:49 We shall also bear the image: although it has less manuscript support, this reading better fits the context’s emphasis on futurity and the transforming action of God; on future transformation as conformity to the image of the Son, cf. Rom 8:29; Phil 3:21. The majority reading, “let us bear the image,” suggests that the image of the heavenly man is already present and exhorts us to conform to it.
- 15:50–57 These verses, an answer to the first question of 1 Cor 15:35, explain theologically how the change of properties from one image to another will take place: God has the power to transform, and he will exercise it.
- 15:50–53 Flesh and blood…corruption: living persons and the corpses of the dead, respectively. In both cases, the gulf between creatures and God is too wide to be bridged unless God himself transforms us.
- 15:51–52 A mystery: the last moment in God’s plan is disclosed; cf. notes on 1 Cor 2:1, 7–10a. The final trumpet and the awakening of the dead are stock details of the apocalyptic scenario. We shall not all fall asleep: Paul expected that some of his contemporaries might still be alive at Christ’s return; after the death of Paul and his whole generation, copyists altered this statement in various ways. We will all be changed: the statement extends to all Christians, for Paul is not directly speaking about anyone else. Whether they have died before the end or happen still to be alive, all must be transformed.