There is no chapter in the Bible where such a fundamental explanation is given about the meaning of Christ’s resurrection, as chapter 15 of 1Corinthians. In verse 22, Paul declares:
For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified.
As universal as is the truth that in Adam all men are mortal, so universal is the truth that in Christ all of humanity will be made alive, beyond the reach of death. Paul continues in verse 23 with:
Yet each in his own class: the Firstfruit, Christ …
The vivification of all people occurs in phases. The firstfruit in the vivification is Christ. In this statement, Paul clarifies a very important detail on what he understands by vivification. Was Christ the first to rise from the dead? No, there are many people to whom this happened before it happened to Him. Consider, for example, the young man of Nain and Lazarus. But those who earlier than He rose from the dead, would die again. Their resurrection was a return to the old, transitory life; completely different than what took place in the garden of Arimathea, “because we know that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more: death, no more has dominion over Him” (cp Rom.6:9). In His resurrection, Christ Jesus, “indeed, abolishes death, yet illuminates life and incorruption…” (2Tim.1:10). The vivification which Paul writes about is more than a resurrection. With vivification, Paul refers to life that lies beyond the reach of death.
In verse 23 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul continues to write:
thereupon those who are Christ’s in His presence;
After the resurrection of the Firstfruit, Christ, in the past, the next phase of the vivification will take place, during Christ’s future parousia. This is usually translated as coming, but literally, parousia means presence. Different from what the word “coming” suggests, the word parousia (presence) does not merely denote a moment of arriving, but also of staying, thereafter. This parousia begins at the snatching away (1Thes.4:15-17) and will have a continuation in His appearing to Israel and the nations of the world. The sequence of events, at those occasions, is not now the subject. It is enough to note that during the period of the parousia, at different times, they “who are Christ’s” will experience “the first resurrection“.
After the mentioning of the vivification of those “that are Christ’s”, there is awaiting one more category, namely, the rest of humanity to be vivified. After all, the starting point was that all who are dying in Adam, in Christ will be vivified (15:22).
… thereafter the consummation…
Since the subject is the order or classification of the vivification, Paul’s mentioning of “the end” (“the consummation”), refers here to the final vivification. When that will occur, he now explain’s in verses 24-26:
24 … whenever He may be giving up the kingdom to His God and Father, whenever He should be nullifying all sovereignty and all authority and power. 25 For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy is being abolished: death.
The usual explanation is that Paul, in these verses, was referring to the resurrection of judgment, at the great white throne, after the thousand years (Rev.20). But that is impossible for two reasons:
1. At the great white throne, there will not be a vivification, as Paul describes in 1Cor.15. There will, indeed, be a resurrection “of the rest of the dead” (Rev.20:5), but all those whose names are not written in the book of life, will end up in the lake of fire, the “second death” (Rev.20:14). They will have risen, again to die; certainly not to a life that is beyond the reach of death.
2. At the great white throne, the reign of Christ’s will not, as yet, have come to an end. Christ will reign “for the eons of the eons” (Rev.11:15). He will reign, not only during, but also after the thousand years, as is revealed in Revelation 22:5. When a new heaven and a new earth will come, Christ will continue to reign. The reason is simple: Christ must reign until death, as the last enemy, will be nullified. And since at the start of the new heaven and the new Earth, many will still be in “the second death” (Revelation 21:8), Christ’s reign will continue. Death is there, indeed, under control (because nobody will die anymore), but it will not, as yet, have been destroyed. Despite the excellent glory of this “eon of the eons,” people will still need healing (Rev.22:2).
This confirms that Paul with “the consummation” is not referring to “the resurrection of judgment”, at the great white throne. This event plays no role in Paul’s explanation in 1 Corinthians 15, because no vivification will be involved, such as the Firstfruit, Christ, encountered. With “the consummation”, Paul is referring, unmistakably, to a (much) later occasion. That will be when Christ’s reign will be completed by the abolishing of death, i.e. by permanently making alive all those who still were dead!
Then, and not before this, will Christ’s mission be fully accomplished. Elsewhere, Paul wrote that “… as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying” (Rom.5:18). A perfected Kingdom, where every creature will be subject, where there will be no more death, and (therefore) all will be vivified, will Christ be delivering up to His God and Father. And then …
…whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all
Translation: Peter Feddema