Christ or Cocaine

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #186

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:30–32).

Paul then advances another argument for the resurrection of Jesus. The apostles were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, and they understood that resurrection to be a guarantee of their own resurrection. It would therefore make no sense for them to establish a fraudulent faith that did nothing but jeopardize their health and safety if they knew that the dead were not raised.

By putting this argument forward, Paul is confirming a standard argument for the resurrection of Jesus, which is the fearlessness of the apostles—in contrast to their behavior prior to the crucifixion—in proclaiming that resurrection. The apostles had all seen the resurrected Jesus, and their subsequent behavior makes no sense unless they had seen the resurrected Jesus.

Paul is in danger every hour. Every knock on the door could be a raid. Paul avows, with his right hand on his pride in the Corinthians, that he dies every day. This is the meaning of taking up your cross daily, and following Jesus. Why would Paul have fought the way he did at Ephesus if the dead are not raised. He is very blunt about it. If there is no resurrection, then the only sensible option is to party on the lip of the abyss. In the Pauline logic, it is either Christ or cocaine.

Baptism for the Dead

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #185

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (1 Cor. 15:29).

This now brings us to a cryptic argument that Paul advances in favor of the resurrection, an argument that he advances in his famous aside about baptism for the dead. There are (at least) several ways to take this.

First, the heretical group in Corinth that was disputing the resurrection of the dead (and who made this section of the letter necessary) could have been a group that was also practicing baptism for the dead. Paul doesn’t say “we” are baptized for the dead. He says that “they” are. And so Paul’s mild rejoinder to them is this—what kind of sense does that make? If the dead are not raised, then why bother getting baptized for them?

A second view is that advanced by R.L. Dabney, which is that this “baptism” refers to the ritual purification undertaken by someone who had recently buried someone. This is referred to in Num. 19:11-13, and we know from Mark 7:4 and Heb. 9:10 that these ritual washings were called baptisms. If there is no resurrection, then why all the Hebraic fuss over burials and cleansing from burials? In this understanding, the “they” who still do this are Jewish Christians who are allowed to continue their ancient practices (although not for justification) so long as the Temple still stood.

This second view has the advantage of not constructing an imaginary world from a few passing comments. In addition, the second view limits itself to the raw material of scriptural possibilities.

All Things Under His Feet

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #184

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:27–28).

This section begins with a quotation from Psalm 8:6, and the citation is applied to Christ. But if we look at Psalm 8 generally, and see how it is quoted in Hebrews, we know that the psalm is about mankind and, as the New Testament teaches us, about the new mankind in Christ. This treatment needs to be quoted at length.

For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:5–9).

The world to come is not subjected to angels, but rather to man—even though the psalmist wonders at how kind God has been to man. Man was initially lower than the angels, but has now been promoted past the angels. All things on earth in principle have therefore been subjected to man, but it has to be man in Christ. This happens gradually—we do not yet see all things subject to man. But we do see Jesus, made lower than the angels for a time, but now exalted to the right hand of the Father. Because Jesus has been exalted in this way, we know that all enemies of Christ will be gradually subdued through the power of the gospel, from tornadoes to thistles, from cancer to crabgrass.

The Last Enemy

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #183

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).

In the verse just prior to this one we are told that Christ must reign as He progressively puts down all opposition to His rule. All rule and authority and power is being made subject to Him, and in this verse we see His triumph over the last and greatest enemy, which is death. On a personal note, this was the verse I tripped over when I became a postmillennialist. Some might say I tripped over it and hit my head, but here was my thinking on it.

In the more common views of Christ’s reign, death is the first enemy to be destroyed. Human history goes along doing its thing until the Second Coming dramatically interrupts it. The dead are raised, and then comes the millennium (if you are premill) or the eternal state (if you are amill). But in both cases, death is the first enemy to go down. In this scenario, however, death goes down after all rule, authority, and power—with the assumption being that this is all rule, authority, and power that is opposed to Christ—has been defeated.

This means that our task, prior to the Second Coming, is through the gospel to casting down imaginations, to be casting down every high thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. The lion will lie down with the lamb, children will play with cobras, tornados will be diverted from their courses, and Congress will start doing good things. A man considered by his neighbors as accursed will die when he is one hundred. And after all this, with so many wonderful things accomplished, and the earth being as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, God will give the signal for the final trump, and death will be destroyed. Death and Hades will be thrown in the lake of fire.

Enemies Subdued

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #182

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:23–25).

The resurrection of the dead is a stupendous event, but it is also an ordered one. Every man is raised in the proper order, at the right time. The great event from the end of history is inaugurated in the middle of history. So Christ was raised first, and He was raised first as the first fruits. The second wave of the resurrection will happen to those who belong to Christ and it will happen to them when He comes again. So at the Second Coming we have the completion of the resurrection.

After the resurrection is completed, the end comes. The end will be characterized by Christ turning over, delivering up, His kingdom to God the Father. Christ is reigning now, and during the course of His reign He progressively subdues all those who set themselves as His adversaries. Over the course of history, as He has been doing for two thousand years now, He puts down all rule, all authority, and all power. His reign will extend as long as there are adversaries still to subdue. He is at the right hand of God the Father, and He must remain there until all His enemies are made His footstool. He must reign until all His enemies are put under His feet. This means that all the enemies of Christ, with the one exception of death, will be subdued to Him prior to His coming.

Two Adams

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #181

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).

From the time of Adam on down, the saints of God had been gathered to their fathers. They had fallen asleep. They had returned to the dust. Christ descended to death, just as they had, but after a brief time in the grave, He returned to life again. Paul says here that He did this as the firstfruits of those slept. Those who had slept represented a huge amount of seed in the ground, and the Lord Jesus came back from the dead as the harbinger of what was to come.

It was fitting that a man would bring about the resurrection of the dead because it had been a man who had brought about the problem of death in the first place. What Paul says here makes an implicit comparison between Adam and Christ, a comparison he makes explicit in the next breath. All men die because they are in Adam, and in the same way, and on the same principles, everyone who is in Christ will be made alive.

A Pitiable Lot

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #180

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:18–19).

If the dead are not raised, then those who have died in Christ are dead and gone. If the dead are not raised, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have simply perished. If our hope in Christ is only a “this life” thing, then Christians truly are a pitiable lot. We, of all men, are most to be pitied. We are miserable, because we are consoling ourselves in our current miseries with a future glory that will never happen.

Paul says elsewhere that our current sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. But, of course, this only makes sense if that future glory really is revealed in us. If nothing of the sort is going to happen, if the dead are not raised, then we are letting far too many opportunities for pleasure pass us by.

Logic and Liberation

“Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:15–17).

If the dead are not to be raised at the end of history, then Christ could not have been raised in the middle of history. And if there is no resurrection, the Christian faith is vanity. Moreover, Paul continues, if the dead are not raised, then those who testified that God had raised the dead in Christ are guilty of bearing false witness on behalf of God. If the dead are not raised, then God could not have raised the dead. And if the dead are not raised in Christ, then Christian faith is vain, and all Christians are still in their sins. Deliverance from sin is dependent upon deliverance from the dead.

One other important point needs to be made about this passage. Throughout Paul is assuming the absolute authority of logic. For his apostolic argument, he is dependent upon the authority of right reason. If the dead are not raised, then Christ, being dead, could not have been raised. If dead, then not raised. Christ was dead . . . If P, then Q. P, and so therefore Q. This is modus ponens, and therefore valid.

If right reason is not a reflection of the absolute and holy nature of God, then we are still in our sins.