Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 15

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Verse 1

[The response in this section also is rather to a condition of the church than to a question. In the eyes of the Greeks the body was the prison-house of the soul, and death was a release of the soul from its captivity. The resurrection of the body, therefore, was regarded by them as a calamity rather than as a blessing, and so contrary to all sound philosophy as to excite ridicule (Acts 17:32). While Paul was present in Corinth, his firm faith, full understanding, and clear teaching, had held the church firmly to the truth; but in his absence the church had grown forgetful of the precise nature of his teaching, and, attempting to harmonize the gospel doctrine of a resurrection with the theories of their own learned teachers, the Greek Christians of Corinth had many of them come to look upon the resurrection promised to Christians as a mere resurrection of the soul, and hence as one which, as to the dead, was already past (2 Timothy 2:18). They flatly denied the possibility of a bodily resurrection. The chapter before us is a restatement of the truth as opposed to this error, and a general discussion of the doctrine of a resurrection tending to remove all the erroneous views which the Greeks held with regard to it. This chapter has been read as an antidote to the pain of death at millions of funerals.] Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand,

Verse 2

by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. [or without cause. In these two verses Paul reminds them of many important facts, as follows: that they had already heard the gospel, weighed, tested and received it, and that they now stood as a church organized under it, and that their hopes of salvation depended upon their holding fast to it, unless they had believed inconsiderately, under the impulse of a mere fitful admiration. His correlative appeal to them to think more deeply and steadfastly will be found in the last verse of the chapter.]

Verse 3

For I delivered unto you first of all [as a matter of primary importance: see 1 Corinthians 2:3-4] that which also I received [and hence no device or invention of my own]: that Christ died for our sins [to atone for them-- 1 John 3:5; Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Titus 2:14] according to the scriptures [Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:10; Daniel 9:26; Psalms 22:1-22; Zechariah 12:10];

Verse 4

and that he was buried [and this also was according to the Scriptures-- Isaiah 53:9]; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures [Psalms 16:10; Isaiah 53:10; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 2:10 . Here the apostle reminds the Corinthians that the message which he delivered to them was one which he had received by divine revelation; that it consisted of three pre-eminent facts, namely, the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord; that of these facts the two which were hard to believe, i. e., the first and the last, were made more easy of belief by having been predicted in the Scriptures, the latter with minuteness, even as to the day. The apostle does not waste time proving the death; it was witnessed by thousands, it had never been denied by friend or enemy, and it was not now called in question by the Corinthians. The third item was the one called in question, and, having first proved it by a witness before the fact (the Scriptures), the apostle proceeds to refresh their minds as to how fully it had been proved by witnesses after the fact (viz.: the apostles and others), thus making them again aware that the resurrection was a literal, historical, objective fact. A fact so important and so difficult of belief demanded a host of witnesses, but Paul had them to produce; this thing was not done in a corner-- Acts 26:26];

Verse 5

and that he appeared to Cephas [Luke 24:34]; then to the twelve [John 20:26-29 . "The twelve" was an official name for the apostles, though there were but eleven of them at this time];

Verse 6

then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain [among the living] until now [and hence are producible as witnesses], but some are fallen asleep [Matthew 28:16];

Verse 7

then he appeared to James [This was the one called "the brother of our Lord," and "James the just." Though Paul speaks of him as an apostle (Galatians 1:19), he was not one of the twelve. But he was prominent in that day as a chief elder at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:11). He was author of the Epistle which bears his name. The appearance here mentioned evidently converted James, for before the resurrection the brethren of our Lord did not believe on him--comp. John 12:3-5; Acts 1:14; Acts 9:5]; then to all the apostles [Acts 1:3];

Verse 8

and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. [Acts 9:5; Acts 22:14; Acts 26:16 . The abortive child is usually weak, puny and undersized. Paul speaks of himself as such a child in the brotherhood of the apostles, and does this without mock modesty (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 3:8). For comment on this catalogue of appearances, see "Fourfold Gospel," pp. 751, 753, 761, 764, 766. The other apostles had three years and a half filled with instruction, and so were fully developed in their office; while Paul became a disciple in an instant, and received his instructions briefly by revelation.]

Verse 9

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. [Comp. Acts 7:57; Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:1; 1 Timothy 1:13; Galatians 1:13]

Verse 10

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. [Galatians 2:8; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29]

Verse 11

Whether then it be I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. [Paul recognizes the tardiness of his belief on the Lord and the lateness of his vision of him as an evidence of his unworthiness. Though this personal allusion appears on its face to be a digression from his argument, it really lends great force to it. There could be no higher honor known to men than to be chosen as a witness of the resurrection of Christ. For this reason it might be thought that Paul was zealous in establishing the truth of the resurrection because of the honors which he enjoyed as a witness to that truth. But he reminds them that the circumstances under which he saw the Lord so emphasized his own unworthiness (he being then on his way to persecute the Christians at Damascus) that the memory of the event wakened in him a sense of humiliation rather than exaltation. In fact, he would be exalted rather than dishonored by their unbelief, for he could claim no reverence as a witness when his testimony necessarily involved a confession of his crimes. But having confessed his crime and consequent inferiority, and knowing that this admission would be most strictly construed by those who disparaged him and contended that he was not an apostle, he rehabilitates himself by showing that his own littleness had been made big by the abounding grace of God, so that he had labored more abundantly than any of the apostles. Moreover, those to whom Peter or Apollos were more acceptable, would gain nothing by their partiality and discrimination in respect to this matter, for all who had preached Christ to them had been a unit in proclaiming the resurrection. Christ had never been preached otherwise than as a risen one. Again, this preaching had resulted in their believing, which was the point he did not wish them to lose sight of. Having committed themselves to belief, they did wrong in thus becoming champions of unbelief; i. e., unbelief in the resurrection. It should be observed that in proving the resurrection Paul cites witnesses (1) who were living; (2) who were many of them commonly known by name; (3) who were too familiar with the form, face, voice, manner, life, etc., of Jesus to be deceived by a pretender, if any could have found motive for practicing such a deception. Having shown their folly in abandoning without evidence that which they had believed on competent testimony, the apostle turns to show the consequences of their act.]

Verse 12

Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Verse 13

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised:

Verse 14

and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. [The resurrection of Christ was the very heart of the gospel, the essence of gospel preaching. The Corinthians had not realized how serious a matter it was to admit the impossibility of any resurrection. By so doing they made the resurrection of Jesus a fiction, and if his resurrection was fictitious, then Christian preaching and Christian faith were both empty vanities. Verily the argument of the rationalists had proved too much, causing them to deny the very faith which they professed. The apostle goes on to develop this thought, in connection with another thought--the nature of the issue between the rationalists and Christ’s ministers. It was not an issue of truth or mistake, but of truth or falsehood--a direct accusation that the apostles and their colleagues were liars-- Acts 2:32; Acts 4:33; Acts 13:30]

Verse 15

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised.

Verse 16

For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised:

Verse 17

and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. [unjustified-- Romans 4:25]

Verse 18

Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Verse 19

If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. [2 Corinthians 1:5-9; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; 2 Timothy 3:12 . If, as the rationalists affirmed, there was no such thing as a resurrection, then Christ was not raised from the dead, and if he was not raised, the apostles and others who witnessed as to his resurrection had borne false testimony as to God, accusing him of doing what he had never done. They were also false witnesses as to the Corinthians, having given them a vain faith as to forgiveness and eternal life, when in reality they were yet in their sins, and doomed to receive the wages of sin which is death. They were also false witnesses as to the dead, for, instead of falling asleep in Jesus, the dead had perished. Moreover, they and other witnesses who had done all this, were wholly without excuse; for they had made others miserable without any profit whatever to themselves. If there was no resurrection and future reward for these witnesses, they must have testified falsely, hoping for some gain in this present life; but instead of such gain, these witnesses had drawn upon themselves from every quarter such storms of persecution as made their lives most pitiable--miserable enough to induce them to abandon so profitless a falsehood. The absolute self-sacrifice of such a life as Paul’s can be explained only by admitting that he believed his own testimony, and truly hoped for a resurrection and blessings in the future state. At this point he ceases to be the persuasive logician, and speaks as the authoritative, inspired prophet. Against the vain and erroneous reasonings of men he places the infallible and unfailing revelations of the Spirit]

Verse 20

But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep.

Verse 21

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

Verse 22

For as in Adam all die [Genesis 3:1], so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Verse 23

But each in his own order [literally, cohort, regiment, or military division]: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming. [After clearly reaffirming his testimony to the resurrection of Christ, he goes on to show the comprehensive, all-inclusive nature of that resurrection. This he does by appeal to Scriptural figure and fact. On the morrow after the Sabbath of the passover a sheaf of barley (the earliest grain to ripen) was waved as firstfruits before the Lord (Leviticus 23:9-14). The firstfruits had to be thus presented before the harvest could be begun, and its presentation was an earnest of the ingathering. Now on this very day after the Sabbath Christ was raised as the firstfruits from the dead, and became the earnest of the general resurrection. Moreover, that which was so clearly shown in the type was written with equal clearness in the history. If the justice of God caused the death of Adam to include in its scope the death of all, so the mercy of God had caused the resurrection of Christ to work the contrary effect of liberating all from the grave. But as the firstfruits preceded the harvest, so the raising of Christ preceded the resurrection of the race. But as the firstfruits was part of the harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is a partial resurrection of all humanity. He must be the Omega as well as the Alpha of the resurrection, and must raise all in whom his Spirit dwells. Because Paul states that there shall be order in the resurrection, and because he names but two parties in the order--Christ and his disciples, commentators have been deceived into thinking that there will be a third order--the wicked. Thus they have the anomaly of firstfruits followed by two harvests. But this is contradicted by the entire trend of Scripture, which speaks of a resurrection, and not of resurrections; of a harvest (Matthew 13:36-43), and not harvests; and which describes the judgment day in terms which can not be reconciled with two separate resurrections (Matthew 25:31-46). The only apparent exception is the spiritual or figurative resurrection mentioned in the Apocalypse (Revelation 20:4-6). The truth is that in this chapter Paul is considering only the resurrection of the righteous, and takes no account of the resurrection of the wicked at all, for to have done so would have involved his readers in endless confusion. The context clearly shows this. There is but one resurrection day for humanity, and but one trumpet to summon them to arise and appear in one common hour of judgment.]

Verse 24

Then cometh the end [the apostle does not mean to say that this end comes immediately after the resurrection, but that it is next in order of great events, so far as humanity is concerned], when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power.

Verse 25

For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. [Ephesians 1:20-22; Matthew 28:18; 1 Peter 3:22]

Verse 26

The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. [2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 20:14]

Verse 27

For [saith the Psalmist], He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection [Psalms 8:6; Psalms 110:1; Psalms 2:6-9], it is evident that he [the Father] is excepted who did subject all things unto him.

Verse 28

And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all. [i. e., that God may have all headship of all creation; complete and absolute supremacy (Colossians 3:11), so that "all things shall say, ’God is all things to me’" (Bengel). In 1 Corinthians 15:23 the apostle, while arguing the reasonableness of the resurrection, is led to mention its relation to the end of the world, but the resurrection presents its reasonableness in another form, being intimately associated with a higher, more transcendent climax than even the termination of this physical universe; for it is an essential preliminary to the culmination of Christ’s mediatorial kingdom into the kingdom of the Father. This culmination can not take place until the mediatorial kingdom has attained ripened perfection through the subjugation of all things. But among the enemies to be thus subdued, death stands forth with marked prominence, and the weapon which subdues him is, and can be no other than, the resurrection. Hence the supreme glorification, or, as it were, the crowning of God as all in all, is predicated upon a resurrection as a condition precedent. The chain of Paul’s logic is long, but it runs thus: no glorification until the mediatorial kingdom is turned over to God; no turning over of this kingdom until its work is complete; no completion of its work till all its enemies are destroyed; no destruction of all these enemies while death, a chief one, survives; no destruction of death save by the resurrection: therefore no full glorification of God without a resurrection. The logic would hold good for the doctrine of Universalism, were it not that there is a second death which is not looked upon as an enemy to the kingdom of God.]

Verse 29

Else [i. e., if it were otherwise--if baptism were not an all-important factor in God’s plan] what shall they do that are baptized for [on account of, with reference to. For full discussion of this preposition see Canon Evans’ additional note, Speaker’s Commentary in loco] the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? [The word "baptized" is an imperfect participle, and denotes an act being continually performed. Paul’s question, then, is this: If the resurrection is not part of God’s plan--if affairs are otherwise, and there is really no resurrection then what are converts to do, who, under the mistaken notion that there is a resurrection, are now constantly presenting themselves to be buried in baptism on account of the dead? If the dead are not raised, why then are these converts buried in baptism on their account, or with a view to them? Romans 6:3-11 makes Paul’s meaning in this passage very plain. The dead are a class of whom Christ is the head and firstfruits unto resurrection. By baptism we symbolically unite ourselves with that class, and so with Christ, and we do this because of the hope that we shall be raised with that class through the power of Christ (Romans 6:5). But if the dead are not raised at all, then why should converts be united with them by a symbolic burial? why should they be baptized on their account, or with reference to them? If there is no resurrection, baptism, which symbolizes it, is meaningless. Commentators belonging to churches which have substituted sprinkling for baptism make sad havoc of this passage. Having lost sight of the symbolic meaning of baptism--that it is a union of the convert with the dead, and especially with the dead and buried Christ as their head and firstfruits unto life--they are at a loss how to interpret the apostle’s words, and in despair assert that Christians were in the habit of being baptized vicariously for their friends who died without baptism. Long after Paul wrote, a similar misunderstanding of this passage led the followers both of Marcion and Cerenthus to practice such vicarious baptisms; but the practice grew out of Paul’s words, instead of his words being called forth by the practice.]

Verse 30

why do we also stand in jeopardy every hour?

Verse 31

I protest by that glorying in [concerning] you, brethren, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. [Romans 8:36]

Verse 32

If after the manner of men [as a carnal man, having no future hope] I fought with beasts at Ephesus, what doth it profit me? [The tense and words indicate that Paul had become a beast-fighter as a settled occupation. It is conceded that his language was figurative, and that he spoke of contending with beasts in human form (Titus 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:17), rather than to the fighting of actual beasts in the arena. Had Paul been thrown to the lions, Luke could hardly have failed to mention it when recording the events of Paul’s ministry at Ephesus. Moreover, Paul’s Roman citizenship shielded him from such a punishment. But he does not refer to the tumult in the theater (Acts 20:19), for it took place after this letter was written. But we may well believe that Paul was in daily danger in Ephesus-- 2 Corinthians 1:8-9] If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. [This is an Epicurean maxim which had passed into a proverb. "If," says South, "men but persuade themselves that they shall die like beasts, they soon will live like beasts too." In the three verses above, Paul passes from the symbolic death of baptism to consider death literally. In the hope of a resurrection he was enduring daily a living death, his life being hourly in jeopardy. If it was idle folly in converts to be symbolically united with the dead, much more was it gross foolishness for the apostle to live thus continually on the verge of being literally, actually united with them. But the folly in both instances was made wisdom by the fact of a resurrection. Thus to the arguments already adduced Paul adds the additional one that Christianity, in its initial ordinance, and in its daily life-experience, is built upon the hope of a resurrection. Without this hope no sensible man could start to be a Christian, much less continue to live in accordance with his profession.]

Verse 33

Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.

Verse 34

Awake to soberness righteously, and sin not; for some have no knowledge of God: I speak this to move you to shame. [Do not be deceived by freethinkers and shun those who would corrupt the truth, for right doctrine and right practice stand or fall together. Shake off, therefore, this drunken fit, and keep from those sins in which it has tempted you to indulge. The sentence "Evil," etc., is a quotation taken from the Greek poet Menander. To show the full enormity of the teaching of the rationalists, Paul declares that it is a shame to the Corinthians to have such Christless Christians in the church--men who have so little knowledge of even the power of God as to deny his ability to bring to pass so simple a matter as the resurrection. That God gives life is daily apparent; and to give it is infinitely more wonderful than to restore it.]

Verse 35

But some one will say, How are the dead raised? and with what manner of body do they come?

Verse 36

Thou foolish one, that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened except it die [comp. John 12:24]:

Verse 37

and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but a bare [naked] grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind;

Verse 38

but God giveth it a body even as it pleased him [guided by his sense of fitness and propriety], and to each seed a body of its own. [In this paragraph Paul answers the first question of 1 Corinthians 15:35 . The Corinthians, like all materialists, made the resurrection a puzzling problem. They wondered how God could restore a body which returned to the dust, passed thence into vegetation, and thence into the bodies of animals and other men. Paul calls the man who thus puzzles himself a foolish one, because he denies that the all-powerful God can do with a human body that which he himself practically does annually with the bodies (grains) of wheat, etc., by merely availing himself of the common course of nature. When he sows a grain of wheat he does not expect it to come up a naked grain as he sowed it, but he knows that it will die, and in its death produce another body, consisting of stalk, blade, head and other grains similar to the one sown. He knows that though the body thus produced bear small outward resemblance to the single grain planted, yet it is the product of the grain’s germinal life, and on examination can be absolutely demonstrated to be such. Moreover, by doing this same thing with corn, oats and other grain he finds that each produces a body of its own kind, adapted by the wisdom of God to its needs. With all this before him, how foolish in man to deny that God can cause the dead body to rise in a higher and nobler form, and that he can also cause each man to have a resurrected body true to his individuality, so that Smith shall no more rise in the likeness of Jones than corn come up after the similitude of oats. But the analogy taught by nature is true in another respect; i. e., the body produced by the seed is greater and more excellent than the seed. Paul enlarges and applies this thought.]

Verse 39

All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fishes.

Verse 40

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

Verse 41

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory.

Verse 42

So also is the resurrection of the dead. [Here the apostle answers the second question of 1 Corinthians 15:35 . If a man rises from the dead changed as the grain of wheat is changed, will he not have a different body, and so lose his identity? Will he not cease to be man? Paul gives a threefold answer to this question. He shows that there may be diversity, and yet a common ground of identity. There are diverse forms of flesh, yet all these forms are flesh; there may be different forms of bodies having different glories, yet are they all bodies; yea, even the glories may differ in luster and yet may have common identity as glory. Thus also is the resurrection of the dead. The flesh is changed, and yet it is in a sense flesh--humanity; there may be modifications in the form, and yet it will be the same body. There may be great changes in the glory, yet the glory will still be glory, and not essentially different. Thus man may still be man, and yet be vastly improved. In this part of the argument Paul is correcting a cardinal error in Greek thought. They stumbled at the doctrine of a resurrection, because they regarded the body as a clog to the soul; and so the body might indeed be, if God could form but one kind of body. But he can form celestial as well as terrestrial bodies, and spiritual bodies adapted to the needs of the spirit, which will not hinder it as does this earthly tabernacle which it now inhabits--bodies which will not only prove no disadvantage, but of infinite assistance, because answering every requirement. This truth is now further exemplified.] It is sown in corruption [Ecclesiastes 12:7]; it is raised in incorruption [Luke 20:35-36]:

Verse 43

it is sown in dishonor [buried because it is repulsive and will become offensive-- John 11:39]; it is raised in glory [Philippians 3:21]: it is sown in weakness [devoid of all ability]; it is raised in power [Revelation 3:21]:

Verse 44

it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. [This power of God to preserve identity in diversity works out glorious results for man. Our earthly body, when planted in death, will indeed bring forth after its kind, but God, in the fullness of his power and grace, shall cause it to lay aside its terrestrial glory, and assume the celestial. The nature of the change thus effected is illustrated by four contrasts, the corruption, dishonor, weakness and animal nature of the terrestrial body being laid aside for the incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual body of the celestial world. If man owns a natural, or psychical, body, i. e., a body which is sustained and operated by his lower or soul-life, and suited to this world of death; so he also owns a spiritual body, suited to the desires, motions and operations of the spirit and eternal life; a body wherein the soul takes its proper position of subordination to the spirit, according to God’s original plan and purpose when he created man in his image. Paul says "is," for such a body already exists, and is occupied by Christ our head-- Revelation 1:18]

Verse 45

So also it is written [Genesis 2:7], The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Verse 46

Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual.

Verse 47

The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven.

Verse 48

As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

Verse 49

And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. [Here the two heads of humanity are contrasted. Adam was a quickening soul, and Christ a quickening spirit (comp. Genesis 2:7; and John 20:22 . See also 2 Corinthians 3:17; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:11; John 7:38-39). But of these two heads the natural came first. We are Adam’s by generation, and Christ’s by regeneration. The life principle of Adam is soul, and he was formed of the earth: the life principle of Christ is spiritual. He was in heaven (John 1:1) and from thence entered the world and became flesh (John 1:14; John 3:13; John 3:21; Philippians 2:6-8; John 1:1-3; Luke 1:35). Now, as the two heads differ, so do the two families, and each resembles its head; the earthly progeny of Adam having earthly natures, and the spiritual progeny of Christ having spiritual and heavenly natures. But in both families the earthly nature comes first, and the spiritual children wait for their manifestation, which is the very thing about which the apostle has been talking, for it comes when they are raised from the dead (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2; Romans 8:22-23; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). Life is not retrogression, but ascension. Therefore he assures them that as they have borne the image of the earthly Adam, so also are they to bear the image of the heavenly Christ, both of whom have the bodies of men, yet bodies differing vastly in glory, power, etc., for one belongs to the earth, dies and returns to it, while the other belongs to the deathless heaven and forever abides there.]

Verse 50

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. [1 Peter 1:4]

Verse 51

Behold, I tell you a mystery [a secret not previously revealed]: We all shall not sleep [die], but we shall all be changed,

Verse 52

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Verse 53

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. [Man in his fleshly nature has no place in heaven, for corruption is antagonistic to incorruption, as light is to darkness. It is essential, therefore, that man must put off the corruption of Adam and the natural body of Adam, and assume the incorruptible, spiritual body of Christ, before he can enter upon his celestial inheritance. Those who are alive at Christ’s coming shall not escape this necessary change. If the dead are changed by resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42-43), the living shall also be changed by transfiguration; but both shall be changed, and the change in each shall take place at the same moment; i. e., when the trumpet shall summon all to appear before God-- 1 Thessalonians 4:16]

Verse 54

But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written [Isaiah 25:8], Death is swallowed up in victory. [When the natural body shall be transformed into the spiritual, then shall be fulfilled that prophecy which describes death--the one who has swallowed up the human race, as being himself swallowed up in victory.]

Verse 55

O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? [This passage is quoted loosely from Hosea 13:14 . Warned by the glow and glory of his argument, the apostle bursts forth in this strain of triumphant exultation, which has wakened a corresponding thrill in the heart of the Christian, and has been a solace and comfort to the church through all subsequent centuries.]

Verse 56

The sting of death is sin [Romans 6:23]; and the power of sin is the law [Romans 4:15; Romans 7:10-12]:

Verse 57

but thanks be to God [Psalms 98:1], who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [Death is here spoken of under the figure of a serpent. Sin is the bite or sting with which he slays men, and the power or poisonous strength of sin is found in the curse which the law pronounces upon the sinner. By the triple power of law, sin and death, the glory of man was brought to nought; but thanks are due to God, who restored glory to man through Jesus Christ. Christ gave man the victory over the law, for he nailed it to his cross (Colossians 2:14); he gave him victory over sin, for he made atonement for sin (Hebrews 7:27); and he gave him victory over death by his resurrection, which is the earnest of the general resurrection. Wonderful threefold victory!]

Verse 58

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord. [Therefore, since you see that the dead are raised and made capable of enjoying heaven, do not again be moved from your belief in these well-proven and established truths, and be careful to abound in the Lord’s work, for no matter what your present sufferings and persecutions may be, the Lord will amply reward you in the resurrection, and your labor will not be in vain.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.