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But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul explained the truth of the resurrection, starting with Jesus. He then explained how the resurrection of Jesus directly connects to us – that Jesus has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Firstfruits translates the ancient Greek word aparche. In connection with the Old Testament, this word was used for the sacrificial offering of firstfruits. In daily life it was also used for an entrance fee.
Jesus was the firstfruits of our resurrection in both ways. In the Old Testament, the offering of firstfruits brought one bundle of grain to represent and to anticipate the entire of the harvest (Leviticus 23:9-14). The resurrection of Jesus represents our resurrection, because if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5). The resurrection of Jesus anticipates our resurrection, because we will be raised with a body like His.
The resurrection of Jesus is also the firstfruits of our resurrection in the sense that He is our “entrance fee” to resurrection. Jesus paid our admission to the resurrection!
Paul continued, “By man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.” The idea is that Adam (by man) is one “head” of the human race, and all mankind was brought under death by Adam. The second Adam, Jesus Christ (by Man) is the other head of the human race, and Jesus brings resurrection to all that are “under” His headship.
It all happens, “Each one in his own order.” It would be strange, and inappropriate, for us to receive resurrection before Jesus. So, He receives resurrection first as the firstfruits, and then we receive it “afterward . . . at His coming.”
Jesus is the firstfruits of our resurrection; yet He was not the first one raised from the dead. We read of the widow’s son in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44) and Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12), among others. Each of these was resuscitated from death, but none of them were resurrected. Each of them was raised in the same body they died in and they eventually died again.
Resurrection isn’t just living again; it is living again in a new body. The new body is based on our old body, but is perfectly suited for life in eternity. Jesus was not the first one brought back from the dead, but He was the first one resurrected.
When we trust in Jesus, His resurrection becomes the promise of our own.