Monday, August 23, 2010

The Mediatorial Kingship of Jesus Christ Pt.2 (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

With the two powerful and spiritually exhilerating words "but now," Paul's argument temporarily transitions from arguments for bodily resurrection to two arguments GUARANTEEING FUTURE BODILY RESURRECTION in vv20-28. It is worth noting here, that Paul will continue the line of thought which is dropped in v19, picking it back up in vv.29-32, with two more arguments for the resurrection. This time, the arguments will be practical in nature, and then he will conclude his series of arguments in vv.33-34 with a trenchant critique of the Corinthians and an admonition to ammend their ways.

As stated above, there are two arguments set forth in vv.20-28 which serve to GUARANTEE future bodily resurrection. One argument pertains to the covenant headship of Jesus Christ, and the other pertains to the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ. Though the former is a rich vein of thought, our interest here lies in explaining the relationship of Christ's mediatorial kingship to Paul's guarantee of bodily resurrection, since this relationship is often obscured or overlooked entirely. It seems a significant reason why this relationship of Christ's kingship to the guarantee of bodily resurrection is overlooked is because on the surface of things, it looks like Paul temporarily drops the topic of providing pastoral consolation by unfolding the idea of guarantee, and instead, transitions to the subject of eschatology, specifically, the unfolding of the timeline of certain last days events.

Let's take just a moment to offer a possible explanation for why the relationship between Christ's mediatorial kingship and future bodily resurrection is often obscured or entirely missed altogether. In verse 23 Paul explains that when Jesus comes in glory at the end of the age the dead in Christ will be raised upon his glorious appearance. At this point, in v24, Paul begings to unfold the sequence of eschatological events which culminate in the end of the age and the consumation of the eternal kingdom of God. The beginning of verse 24 says, "then comes the end." If you connect the thought of verse 24 back to v23 you can see that Paul is saying that once Jesus returns, the resurrection will take place and then the end of the age will come. Paul spells out a sort of time line for the end times, albeit truncated and oversimplified since he leaves out a number of other details revealed in other parts of scripture. The two clauses in v24 that immediately follow "then comes the end" further unfold WHEN the end will come. Kingdom consummation will follow fast upon the heels of Jesus handing the kingdom over to the father and after he has abolished all authority and power. Those 5 facts provide a significant amount of clarity concerning the unfolding of the events of the last days: Christ returns in glory, the dead rise, Christ puts down all authority, rule, and power, Christ hands over the kingdom to the Father, and finally the end comes.

However, an important question to consider in reflecting on these 5 rich facts is why does Paul include them here? Are these facts simply given to provide the church information about the events of the last days or are these facts given as as part of Paul's argument guaranteeing the resurrection of believers? In order to answer that question and to appreciate the fact that Paul has not transitioned from one topic to another (from resurrection to eschatology), but rather develops a second, rich, theological argument guaranteeing bodily resurrection, focus must turn to the very first word of v25. Notice the first word in v25, "for." That conjunction marks cause, reason, or explanation. In this case it looks back immediately to the last clause of v24. To help clarify things a bit, we must correct the NASV translation of the last clause and change "when" to "after" since the grammatical construction requires it. That means that this second clause clarifies when the end will come; the "end" is "after" Christ has abolished his enemies, then he will deliver over the kingdom to God the Father. It is clear by the grammatical construction Paul uses that verse 25 not only explains why the end times sequence of events must unfold as Paul explains, but it also signals that Paul is developing a second argument guaranteeing the bodily resurrection. Verse 25 explains why the kingdom cannot be delivered over until AFTER all enemies listed in v24 are destroyed. It is a PROPHETIC NECESSITY that Christ reigns UNTIL he has put all his enemies under his feet. Paul quotes from Psalm 110:1 in v25 in order to ground his argument for the unfolding of the eschatogolical chain events as described in vv23-24.

At this point you might not yet fully see how this represents a second argument guaranteeing the resurrection. After all, it may seem that Paul has only explained why certain end times events must follow the order set forth by Paul in vv23-24. The connection between Christ's kingly rule and bodily resurrection is made more clear by the thought Paul adds in v26 and v27. In v26 Paul adds one more enemy to the list of things that must be destroyed by Christ before he returns, and that enemy is death. The fact that Paul is adding one more enemy to the list of enemies to be destroyed before the end is signaled by his repetition of the verb "destroyed" found in the last clause of v24. By isolating "death" and setting it off on its own, Paul is indicating that there is a climax to Christ's conquest: all authority, rule, and power, and FINALLY-----DEATH! Death is the most powerful kingdom enemy, and the conquest of death is held off until the end that its destruction will mark the punctuation of of Christ's climactic kingdom victory. So in effect, Paul is saying that Christ cannot bring about the end by handing over the kingdom unto the Father UNTIL he has destroyed all rule, authority, power, and finally, death itself.

Staying with the flow of thought a bit longer, notice that v27 gives the reason why Christ MUST destroy death: FOR HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET. Paul quotes here from Psalm 8:6 and explains again, that it is a PROPHETIC NECESSITY that Christ conquer death and CRUSH THIS KINGDOM ENEMY UNDER HIS FEET as part of his kingly rule. Add all this together and the relationship between Christ's mediatorial kingship and future bodily resurrection become quite clear. Paul argues that the end will come when he delivers the kingdom over to the Father after Christ's returns in glory, which simultaneously activates the resurrection of the dead and the climactic conquest of his enemies including all rule, authority, power, and death. Why must it all happen in this order? PROPHETIC NECESSITY! Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:6 prophecy that Christ MUST RULE AS KING until he has stomped out all opposition to his kingly rule. Only after every enemy has been DECISIVELY CONQUERED will Jesus hand over the mediatorial kingdom to the Father.

In vv.24-28 Paul brings out a huge theological argument to assure the hearts and minds of all believers that there will be a bodily resurrection in the future. Christ's mediatorial kingship requires that he must reign until death is conquered. The obvious sign of the death's total defeat is the bodily resurrection. When soul and body are gloriously and powerfully reunited there will be no doubt at all that Christ is king over all and that he has definitively DESTROYED THE POWER OF DEATH FOREVER AND EVER.


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