20 “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
Paul now turns from negative (15:11-19) to positive consequences of the resurrection (15:20-28) – the assurance of the resurrection of the body of believers from the dead.
But now Christ is risen from the dead,
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a fact. He is risen indeed!
and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Passover was on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar. Jews offered a sacrifice of firstfruits the Sunday after the Sabbath (Saturday) following Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Le 23:10-11). The priest would bring a sheaf of grain and wave it before the Lord. These “firstfruits” represent the harvest to follow and the first installment of the harvest to come. It was like a guarantee or first payment on what was to come. This day Jesus arose. Jesus was the “firstfruits” at the time of His resurrection. The full harvest of the corps of believers was to follow.
The Jews presented a grain offering to God on Pentecost 50 days later, also called “firstfruits” (Le 23:15-17). Thus, the first firstfruits of the Passover was the first of the corps offered later. Jesus is the “firstfruits,” and the harvest is yet to come. Paul compared these two firstfruits to Jesus’ resurrection and the resurrection of believers. If God raised Jesus, He will also raise the saints after Him.
“Those who have fallen asleep” are believers who had died at some point in the past. Christ’s resurrection became the firstfruits to rise from the dead of those who had already died from the Corinthian point of view. Jesus was the first human being resurrected. Jesus resuscitated Lazarus from the dead, but Jesus did not raise him into a resurrection body. Lazarus returned from the dead to the same life, only to die again. Jesus rose never to die again.
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
The two representative men in the Bible are Adam and Jesus. Adam represented the death of man because of his sin, and Jesus represented the salvation of man’s physical body by His resurrection; He makes believers alive for all eternity (Ro 5:12-19). Jesus was the firstfruits of those who would later rise from the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
The resurrection of the believer will be physical, not a spiritual resurrection. Just as certainly as Adam died, so those in Christ will have resurrection life. Note the word “all.” “All” in one case is the “all” in another case. Everyone dies without exception in Adam (He 9:27), but everyone who believes in Jesus will rise bodily from the dead without exception.
Resurrection is from physical death to immortality.
Jesus was the first person to rise from the dead into a resurrection body. Others were resuscitated only to die again, such as the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus. They rose from physical death only to die again. Resurrection is from physical death to immortality – never to die again.
Ac 26:22-23, 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
Re 1:18, I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.