Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-20
Memory Verse: “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
Introduction: The first fruit is the very earliest or very first of the harvest of that which follows. In ancient times, also, the firstborn son was often given special recognition and double inheritance. Jesus Christ is called the “first fruits of them that slept.” In speaking of the resurrection of the dead, Christ is called the “first fruits” of the resurrection, “afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23). At the resurrection of the righteous, they are to exchange the earthly image (mortality) for the heavenly image (immortality). Because Christ is the first fruits of the general resurrection of the righteous, He is therefore also called the “first fruits” of immortality.
In all of the previous miracles of people being raised from the “sleep of death,” they were restored to their homes, their people, and their previous mortal life. They had a restoration of their human, mortal bodies that were still subject to death. So, they were not the “first fruits” of immortality. These miracles were similar to healing miracles by which mortal life is extended (John 11:43-47; Luke 7:12-15; 8:49-55).
By reading 1 Corinthians 15:20-38, the meaning of Christ’s resurrection as a “first fruit” is made clear. He was “first fruits” of the resurrection of the righteous dead-of the future, general resurrection of the righteous – when all the saints to that time will receive immortality together and on whose bodies death will have no more power. Notice the future tense in all the texts in this lesson which refer to that event. Christ was the first to rise from the dead in His own likeness as a heavenly being. He was the “first fruits” of immortality that comes to the righteous at the resurrection (Romans 6:8-9). Christ’s resurrection was the “first fruits” of the resurrection of those dead in Christ to be raised in the “first resurrection” at His return, for then only would they receive immortality – not before.
Christ was sent to earth, as required by the redemption of mankind from sin and death. Without His resurrection, the Plan of Redemption would have failed, and all mankind would have perished without hope beyond this life. The Gospel would be powerless without His resurrection, as it would be in vain without His return and final work in the redemptive Plan.
To all those who believe and obey Him, of all generations, Christ’s sacrifice was not, and is not, in vain. The time is coming when “He will swallow up death in victory … will ransom them from the power of the grave … will redeem them from death … O grave, I will be the destruction” (Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14)
- What is meant by Christ’s being the “first fruits” of the resurrection to immortality “of them that slept”? 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; [Lesson Commentary].
- How is death described in the Scriptures? 1 Corinthians 15:20, 51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16.
- What did David and Isaiah say concerning the condition of man [soul] in death? Psalm 6:5; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18.
- Do the dead know anything? Ecclesiastes 9:5; Isaiah 38:18.
- When did Job expect to escape from the sleep of death? Job 14:10-15; 19:25-27.
- Is it possible for the “soul” to die? Ezekiel 18:4; James 5:20; Revelation 16:3. What, then, is meant by “soul”?
- Is God able to destroy both soul and body? Matthew 10:28.
- Do any of the righteous receive their rewards and immortality before other saints do? Hebrews 11:39-40; Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16.
- With what bodies will the saved come forth in the first resurrection? 1 Corinthians 15:52-54.
- Who was the first to rise from the dead with immortality? Review 1 Corinthians 15:35-49.