Prelude to First Corinthians 15
I am Jessie Mills, Ph.D.
Child & Adult Clinical Psychology - Mills

Prelude to First Corinthians 15


I. The Prelude of 1 Corinthians 15

A. It may seem out of place to use the word “prelude” in a study of the resurrection.  But, anyone who watches a regular TV series knows what it means.  Immediately after the lastest program in the series is over, it gives us a preview or prelude of what the next show int he series will be about.  Afterwards, in the ads between other programs we are given a partial view into the next show in that series.  But we do not get the full picture until we see the next show.   

B. So it is with chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians.  Each time someone writes or teaches on the subject of resurrection in this chapter, we only get a prelude.  We will not get the full picture until we are willing to accept God’s word as it is written, and study it carefully and exhaustively for ourselves.


II. 1 Cor. 15:3-6, Paul gives his own prelude to chapter 15.

A. There was a reason why Paul gave his argument in favor of Christ’s resurrection.  First, if Christ had truly been raised, and that had been accepted as true by the Corinthians, then it would be easier to prove that the rest of the dead would also be raised out of Hades.  Therefore, Paul mentions more than five hundred witnesses to prove that Christ was raised out of the dead ones in Hades.

There was at this time the teaching of Plato, which many of the sects used to destroy Christianity.  In a combined effort they gained such strength that Christianity was almost destroyed.

Hebrew law says a fact was confirmed by two or three witnesses.  Paul says there were over five hundred witnesses at one time.  Now Paul appeals to those whom he had taught and who had believed.

B. First, there was the denial of any resurrection by the Sadducees and by the Greeks.  Then came some false teachers who had fallen away from the truth, namely Hymenaeus and Philetus, who taught that the resurrection had already occurred, and that those left alive had missed it. 2 Tim. 2:17,18

Although their teaching about the implications of this for the living was not correct, the fact that they taught a past resurrection suggests (if not proves) that there had already been a resurrection of some kind which they used as a basis for their assertion. 

C. Paul is both smart and humble, using to his own advantage the arguments of those who were causing trouble in the churches.  Then Paul comes with the big question:  Since Christ has been preached that He has been raised, “How do some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?”  If Christ was raised, what would prevent the dead from being raised?

Did not Christ say that He came to fulfill prophecy?  No doubt He would also say, especially since there were Jews at Corinth, do you not remember what Hosea foretold in Hosea 6:2?

D. Because of the Jews, I see here an important issue.  Not that I am superior to any one else, but the issue is so clear that even a child could see that Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1-24 speaks of the Old Testament resurrection.  Verse 24 is evidence of this fact.

It is God’s people, God’s Kingdom being delivered up to Him by His Son Christ.  There should be no misunderstanding of this simple fact.  For this reason, Paul uses the five hundred witnesses of verse 5. They were Jews.  The gospel had not reached the Gentiles when the five hundred saw Christ.  Beyond any doubt this usage proves a resurrection of the Old Testament Saints.  It therefore has nothing to do with resurrection of New Testament Saints, except for the fact that they too will transit to God.


III. What resurrection did Hymenaeus and Philetus teach was over?

A. Without being critical of any writer or teacher, but simply using common sense, we need to explore all the possibilities.  There is no reason why both of these men could not have been in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s resurrection, when “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,” came out of the tombs after His resurrection, and “entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matt. 27:52,53)

Therefore; they could have been witnesses to the first resurrection.  They could have been set aside for this event, in the same way that Paul was set apart from his mothers womb, and knew it not until after his conversion.  Gal. 1:15.

Now to the main point of this discussion.  Who were those people who were raised at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection? (Matt. 27:52,53)  Are they the same folks which Hosea said would come alive? 

It is the firstfruit purchased from among men in which we are interested.  Rev. 14:1-5, informs us that there were 144,000 which had been [past tense] purchased from among men as firstfruits unto God and the Lamb.

Indeed this was a very special group of men only.  No women, no children, these were virgins; they had never been married, never fathered children, never had any relationship with women.  They are blameless.

B. Yet there remains another question.  How do we know that those who came out of the graves in Matt. 27:52,53, went into Heaven to be with God, and how did they get there?  I really want to be as simple as possible, without sounding as if I am educated above my intelligence, but with a firm belief in God’s word, and faith to believe only what what the Old Testament confirms.  Eph. 4:8-10, shows that saints were taken to heaven when Christ ascended to the Father.  See also Heb. 2:14,15.  They were delivered by Christ who in Heb. 2:14, destroyed the power of Satan.  Only after the power of Satan was destroyed could these saints be delivered up to the Father.  See also 1 Cor. 15:24.

C. I am sure that I have already put poison in the pot!  But let’s think about the men who first began to teach the truth of the gospel.  First they were imprisoned for teaching the word of God, and not the opinions of men, yet they replied.  “We will serve God.”  Then on another occasion the Jewish teacher Gamaliel stood before the council and spoke on behalf of these men.  Others in times past had gathered followers; they all came to naught.  If these men are from God you cannot overthrow them.  My point is clear, for some two thousand years men have taught hundreds of different ideas in regards to 1 Cor. 15. Those who have not followed the advice of 2 Pet. 1:20,21, have come to naught, their ideas have not been fulfilled.  Scripturally there was the early resurrection foretold by Hosea and Matthew.  If this be fulfilled, where does it leave 1 Cor. 15:24?  See Lk. 21:20,22

D. Yet another question arises.  Can the time frame for the first resurrection of 1 Cor. 15:12-24, and Christ receiving all power in Heaven and on earth be separated?  Christ delivered the saints when He ascended to the Father, Christ received glorification after resurrection, and at the same time received all power.  Matt. 28:18, 1 Pet. 3:22.

1 Cor. 15:25-28 makes it clear that God would reign until He had abolished death, that is spiritual death, God accomplished this task.  Heb. 2:14, 2 Tim. 1:10. These passages support the evidence of the first resurrection after the resurrection of Christ and therefore the two events cannot be separated.


IV. Do the problems of difference in regards to 1 Cor. 15 vary in this age from the differences of the first century?

A. If Paul came back to earth and could gather all the writers and teachers together who have written or taught in regards to 1 Cor. 15, he probably would say to us, as he said to the Corinthians, “you fools!” 1 Cor. 15:36.  Why would Paul make such statement?  People quibble over their pet ideas, teaching and writing great volumes, but in the end God has His own way.  Following are a few points which divide men, and destroy the faith of many in every age.

B. Body resurrection.  Do you not know that 1 Cor. 15:35ff deals with the mode of resurrection regarding Christians, and that these passages do not confirm the mere physical body is raised, but rather a spirit is resurrected into a body, one that is distinctly different than the original body, one that awaits the Christian in heaven. 2 Cor. 5:1.

C. When we speak of body we should know that we are speaking of outer form.  For in the sense of 1 Cor. 15:35ff, it denotes form.

D. 1 Cor. 15:50, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” but the spiritual can, therefore the Christians being raised is different from that of Christ, for only Christ’s body could be glorified, for only His body did not suffer decay because of the effects of sin. 1 Cor. 15:21,22.  Therefore, since Christ’s body was to undergo no decay, and since our bodies are not like Christ’s, our bodies are subject to decay, and so the Spirit is set free and given a new body, formed in Heaven, for Heaven. 2 Cor 5:1.

E. Then there remains the “seed” problem which when carried too far produces a collective resurrection out of Israel.  Such limits the resurrection to Israel. 1 Cor. 15:38 speaks of seeds, the phrase “seeds” does not describe a nation ready for resurrection, rather it describes the form, or body that God will give the believer.  Such description is seen in 1 Cor. 15:40-42. There is a difference in sun, moon and stars, just as there is a difference in each spiritual body that God gives. 1 Cor. 15:38. I should not go beyond what scripture teaches to try to prove my opinion.

F. In Heaven we shall know as we have been known.  On earth each body is different in some way, if only by finger prints.  Heaven is more glorious:  so God gives each seed, or Spirit a body distinguished from another, else it would be like a group of robots in Heaven.  We would not know God, nor Christ even.  Luke 16:19:31, confirms this fact, the Spirits recognized each other:  they could see, feel, hear and talk.  I cannot conceive that Luke would mislead us in such an important issue.  Do you?

G. Now please allow me the time to present my last thought on the “seed.”  Problem, Notice carefully verses 35-38 Paul communicates to the people in a language they can understand, as he refers to “seed.”  Regarding “seeds,” look at verse 36, “You fool!  That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”  Most of the known world at this time knew something about planting seed.  Verse 37, “That which you sow, that which you plant, that grain, that kernel of corn Paul says you do not plant the body which is to be rather a grain of corn, or wheat, or something else.  Paul phrased his statement in such way that the Corinthians would not misunderstand his application, and later misuse the statement to teach a collective resurrection of Old Testament Saints!  For nothing is farther from the truth.  Follow me please, “a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else, now look at the grain.  Each good grain has a spirit of life so small within the grain that the human eye cannot see it.  When planted, the spirit of life comes in contact in the earth with the same chemical constituents which earthly man must possess in order to maintain life.  The elements are:  oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine, fluorine, silicon, sodium, potassium, lithium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, iodine.  When the grain makes contact with the ground, the spirit of life within the grain is germinated and comes to life, the body of the grain and the shell decays and returns to earth.  “That which you plant does not come up.”  In short the grain planted does not come up, it is the Spirit in the grain that comes forth and produces after its kind.  Green grain that is not mature will not come up if planted.  It must go through a cycle and die, but the Spirit remains in the grain until it can be germinated. Verse 37. “Seed” and “seeds” is plural, therefore it cannot mean nothing more than plant seed representing God’s system of resurrection.  Notice Paul did not limit “seed” to one particular kind.  Paul represents the form.  Verse 38. God gives it a body as He wishes.

H. The plant kingdom is so closely related to man that Paul uses the plant, and its grain represent the form of resurrected man.  The plants that God created as food for man must contain the same 17 chemical constituents that is found in man.  The animal does not possess these chemicals.  The biological body dies, the Spirit comes alive and seeks a new Spiritual body. 2 Cor. 5:1,2. All bodies are not alike, else we would be nothing more than robots looking like the space creature we see on television.  God did not promise the righteous two bodies, only one, 2 Cor 5:1, therefore there is no authority for the seed to produce twin bodies.  There remains then no good reason to expect the Spirit of man to return to earth and posses our present body, a body God condemned to dust.  Gen, 3:19, Eccl. 12:7, Eccl. 3:20; Job 34:14,15. The scriptural passages above proves beyond question two thing’s which God accomplishes with man.


1. At conception between man and woman, no conception can live and grow until God has breathed the breath of life into it.  The seed of woman must be fertilized with the constituents of the male.  Paul speaks of “seed” or “seeds” of any plant, whether wheat or something else.  In regard to any seed, the grain is planted, but its seed body is not what comes up.  When the seed germinates, the Spirit of life within sprouts and takes on a new life form, producing after its kind, while the outer body of the seed decays and returns to dust.

2. Secondly, at biological death the Spirit which God breathed into that conception leaves the earthly body and God receives it instantly and gives to it a Spiritual body. (2 Cor. 5:1) Remember Stephen in Acts 7:59, when he was being stoned, he said, “Lord Jesus receive my Spirit.”  In Phil. 1:23, Paul made the statement, “But I am hard pressed from both directions, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (verse 24), “yet to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”  In this I cannot help but see that Paul is using natural seeds in simulating the form of resurrection, and he intended no other issue to arise from his teaching.  To bring forth any other issue is to go beyond what Paul teaches.


V. What is the Connection Between Christian Baptism and Resurrection?

A. Perhaps this question will close the prelude for this chapter.  For many years, namely 65, I have heard preachers and teachers relate to their flock, just how the physical body shall take on new life at the “Second Coming” of Christ.  That the physical shall be glorified, and changed as was the body of Christ!  This mistaken view was hatched long ago from 1 John 3:2, “We shall be like Him.”

On the issue of what takes place at the “Second Coming of Christ,” we need, I think, to know when the “second coming of Christ” was, or will be, especially since the New Testament mentions only once the idea of a “second coming,” in Heb. 9:28.  He would “appear a second time” to those who eagerly awaited Him for salvation.  In Acts 2:38ff, the Jewish people received salvation on the day of Pentecost, however, there were the Gentiles who eagerly awaited salvation through the blood of Christ.  In Acts 9:5ff, Christ appears to Paul who was chosen to go to the Gentiles.  In Acts 10:3ff, the angel of God appears to Cornelius, a Gentile.  2 Thes. 1:4ff, Jesus promises to the church relief, help, safety, or salvation at His coming.  Heb. 9:28, there is but one “Second Coming.”  In which of these three events did Christ appear the second time?  Heb. 10:37, “for yet in a very little while He who is coming will come, and will not delay.”  If Paul wrote Hebrews, he did so just prior to his death, three to four years before the war between Rome and Israel.  It was the close of this war when all things written must be fulfilled, Luke 21:20-22.  Therefore, the “second coming” was something that was about to occur shortly after the book of Hebrews was written. 

On the first day of the week when Christ arose, the tomb was empty after His resurrection because He was the Son of God, divine and faultless.  We forget that Christ, possessed immortality before His death.  Indeed, as the eternal and divine Son of God, He possessed immortality before His virgin birth into this world.  He was born immortal already, because He is the divine Son of God.  The virgin birth and the statements about Christ existing before His incarnation presuppose that He was both human and divine from the moment of His conception and birth.  He is the only human who could ever claim to have the power to lay His life down and pick it back up again, since God is the only one who has that kind of power.  Therefore, his flesh was not subject to decay, nor could His soul be held captive in Hades.

B. Those who claim that our physical body has to be resurrected just like Christ’s body was, fail to realize that our bodies are different than Christ’s, and are therefore treated differently than Christ’s body was.  Because we are sinful, our bodies are corrupted and cannot inherit incorruption. (1 Cor. 15:50)  We have to get a new body that is like Christ’s. (1 Cor. 15:38)  By demanding that we get our old mortal bodies back, those who assert this are in net effect saying that our bodies are sinless and immortal just like Christ’s.  That is patently untrue.  Our bodies are not like that of Christ’s, since our bodies are subject to decay.  Our bodies have been corrupted by sin and are therefore destined to return to dust.  Jesus is the only one who was ever promised that His flesh would not suffer decay, and that His soul would not be abandoned to Hades.  Death could not hold Him.  Everyone else is told that their bodies will return to dust, and their souls go to Hades to await redemption.  God is the one who delivers them from Hades and gives them a new body with which to dwell in Heaven. (1 Cor. 15:38)  Therefore, we cannot get our old bodies back, but must get new immortal bodies that are like Christ’s. 

C. So then it is not the physical body that shall inherit immortality, but rather the soul inherits its new spiritual body at the moment of physical death. The new body is reserved in heaven for us until death. 2 Cor. 5:1  In short our spirit shall be set free at biological death and that spirit will receive a new body reserved for us by God in heaven. 1 Cor. 15:38.

D. We come now to baptism and its connection to the resurrection of believers.  What does baptism do for the believer?  As Christ began His High Priestly ministry at His baptism, so we too begin our new life as God’s children when we are buried in the grave of water where we are united with Christ.  The old man of sin is crucified with Him, Rom. 6:6, and we are raised to newness of life.  Because we have died to sin, we are freed from sin.  Being free from sin puts us in union with Christ, so that in baptism we “put on” immortality.  If this is not the case then we are not free from sin.  Verse 9, Christ will never die again.  Verse 10, He died to sin once, which means He died to pay the penalty for sin once for all.  Verse 11, we also are dead to sin.  Yet being after the fashion of Adam, we can sin.  Christ could not sin since He was not a created being like Adam, but rather was God in the flesh.  And so, we can put on immortality at baptism, but not our immortal body.  When we die biologically, God gives us our new immortal body form and then proceed to be with the Father eternally. 

If this be true, then Christ could not have been raised from the dead without already being immortal.  Even during His ministry Jesus said that He had the power to lay down His life and the power to pick it back up again.  So He already had immortality.  Therefore, his flesh was not subject to decay, neither was His soul able to be abandoned in Hades.  The believer is united with Christ in baptism, so that what Christ has (immortality), the believer also receives because he is in union with Christ.  The believer cannot be a fit subject for heaven without first receiving immortality in the inner man.  He does this at baptism.  If this was not the case, baptism would have no power to save.  Baptism does not save the outer man, but rather the inner man. 


The Rest of the Story

In 1 Cor 15:12-24, Paul defends the Old Testament Resurrection.  Verse 24 closes out this part of his defense, when God’s saints are delivered up.   Verse 25 begins a new issue under the Christian age, namely Christ receiving all power and all things subject to Him, except God Himself.  Then Paul gives the people the example of how that the righteous is sown perishable and raised imperishable.  What can this mean except baptism?  The word perishable denotes his condition when he goes into the grave of water where he is united with Christ, where the Spirit of God changes the perishable to imperishable.  What is the difference between imperishable and immortality?  After the death of Christ who died to bring life, the arrangement of all things have changed. 2 Cor. 5:14-17, Rev. 21:5.  Why not accept that change?


• 1 Cor. 6:19, Where does this change take place, if not in the water?

• What are the consequences of 1 John 3:6,9?

• How do we explain Biblically 1 John 1:7?


If so then we should be able to see that 1 Cor. 15:25-58, has reference to the covenant of Christ although 51-54, seems to have the over tones of the old covenant, Paul uses this to confirm verse 46, “so death is swallowed up in victory,” verse 54.  Death was not banished until the death of Christ, as 2 Tim. 1:10, Heb. 1:14, 1 Pet. 1:14, Phil 1:21, and Rom 2:7 confirm.  Remember Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Tim. 1:10.

So the Greek, athanasia “deathlessness” (negative of thanatos “death”) is rendered “immortality” in 1 Cor. 15:53,54.  Freedom from death.”  Vine’s, page 249.

Perhaps John 8:51 would to some degree explain “death” and “immortality.”  “The wages of sin is death,” Rom. 6:23. “Free from the law of sin and death,” Rom. 8:2.  “We have passed out of death into life.” 1 John 3:14. Hosea 13:14.  “I will redeem them from death.  O death where are your thorns.  O Sheol where is your sting.”  This is said of the repentant.


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© Copyright 2015 by Jessie Mills. All Rights Reserved by the author, Jessie E. Mills, Jr. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior express written permission of the publisher, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or other publications. Such quotations must be used with proper reference to their context and give appropriate credit to their authorship.