Agonizomai: 1Cor 15:24-27 - Glimpsing Triune Hierarchy

Saturday, September 13, 2008

1Cor 15:24-27 - Glimpsing Triune Hierarchy

24-27 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Paul has re-established with the confused Corinthians the doctrine of resurrection that he first delivered to them as an integral and vital part of the gospel. Remember that apart from faith in Christ’s resurrection there is no true gospel and so, any presentation of the gospel must include the doctrine of His resurrection - and, by implication, the teaching that our own resurrection both spiritually and physically is indissolubly linked to His.

It is useless to believe that Christ lived and died and was resurrected unless the meaning and implication of these historical events is apprehended and assented to in the heart. To be apprehended they must be taught or preached. This is what the Bible means by "preaching Christ". It doesn’t mean just parroting or mentioning His name, or the events surrounding his life; it means communicating those facts in such a way that the implications of them are laid bare for faith to lay hold of.

Note the outwardly subtle, but inwardly vast difference between relying upon our own means and power on the one hand, and relying upon God’s means and power on the other. We do not invent, concoct, embellish or otherwise conjure up things that will ensure that people believe, if only we press the right buttons. The means are not the effectual ends. That is full blown Pelagianism, or modern Finney-ism. No - we preach God’s word in His way to all and sundry, and trust that He alone will save whomever He wills. In the one case we rely upon ourselves to obtain the result, and in the other we are merely the means by which God brings about His preordained will.

So, having re-established the correct doctrine (yes, doctrine) of resurrection, Paul goes on to flesh out some details concerning the end times. We ourselves will be bodily resurrected at the very end of history when Christ returns the kingdom to the Father, after establishing (manifesting) His complete victory over Satan, the demons and death itself. In fact, our resurrection is a part of the demonstration by which the powers of darkness are publicly put to shame.

The devil’s own words come back to haunt him. The from Satan’s lips, "You will not surely die" is miraculously turned into truth through the life and death of Christ the Son of God. But only through His life and death and resurrection. Yet Satan cannot say that he was right, for all men did die in Adam both spiritually and physically. What a galling taste there will be in the mouth of that vile being on that day! To have tried to corner God by His own words and to have discovered that God made a way where there was no way to bring truth out of the lie through an unimaginable deed, displaying in the process the eternal glories of His righteousness. Such a final realization for such a wicked being will be eternally tormenting.

But the last - the very last enemy that disappears is bodily death. It was the first physical result of disobedience and so it will be the last thing righted. This is symmetry. It is reflective of last things being first and first last. It is a punctuation mark upon the story of redemptive history. Like all good stories, the threads of the plot are all tidied up in the very last chapter.

An interesting side note to bodily resurrection is what the cross of Christ accomplished for the unbeliever. For resurrection and the negation of the physical death that God originally decreed comes about also for the unredeemed. He tasted death for everyone. {Heb 2:9} The unbelievers also rise bodily from the grave. It is the dead in Christ who rise first, but all will rise.

Unlike the wicked spirits, wicked men are corporeal creatures and must be both judged and sentenced in the body for the deeds done in the body. This is why the Christian believes in eternal conscious and bodily torment of the unredeemed in hell. We are bodily beings.

On the one hand, those who apprehended through faith that they rose in Christ will actually rise to life eternal in and with Him. They receive glorified, physical, eternal resurrected bodies. On the other hand, those for whom the death and resurrection of Christ was sufficient, but was never apprehended through faith for whatever reason, are still raised from physical death to be judged and condemned in the body and consigned to eternal punishment.

Is this what is meant by Peter when referring to those denying the Lord that bought them? Is this why, to them, He is not kurios, but despotes? {2Pe 2:1} In any event, it cannot be ignored that the resurrection of Christ is in some way connected to not only the eternal glorification of the redeemed, but also the eternal damnation of the lost. He is not just connected passively but actively. Christ has His part in the eternal torment of the damned, because He is the same wrathful God who despised their sin. If you doubt this, the read Re 14:10.

I suppose that what I am saying is that we cannot divide God into two or more beings with opposing aims. One, the Father - remote, stern, judgmental and Old Testament-ish; the other gentle Jesus, meek and mild - approachable, loving and forgiving. God is one. There is no division of Being and no division of character, purpose or will. There is the manifestation of different Persons Who perform different functions but there is absolutely no division whatsoever. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." By this is meant "of one will and purpose," as well as of one substance.

God has decided that all of human history and all of human eternity finds its meaning, its experience and its ordained conclusion in the work of the Son. He is the centre of all creation and all meaning is to be found in Him. He is a the focus of the eternal destiny of all human beings, whether they are eternally saved or eternally damned. It all hinges upon Him, His life and the meaning of that life. And a part of His life was His resurrection leading to the manifestation of His victory over sin and death.

The victory won by Christ on the cross through His death and which was testified to by His bodily resurrection from the dead is, from the eternal perspective, already a fait accompli. Nevertheless, in time where we mere mortals live, that victory is worked out through the calling and the lives of the church militant. God the Father has put all things into subjection under Christ. This is a picture from ancient times, when victorious kings would place their feet upon the heads or necks of vanquished enemies. Jesus did the work appointed to Him by the Father, and the Father exalts the Son over all the enemies that so attacked and abused Him in the incarnation by working out that victory in history; by effectually calling out and saving a people, a promised bride for the Son; by shaming the powers of darkness; by overcoming and destroying death.

But there will come a time when all this has been accomplished in history for we mortals to see - and then the Son will turn all things back over to the Father. This need not be confusing. Some people think that all this putting under, and exalting above, and subjection to, and serving that goes on among the Persons of the Godhead implies some sort of inequality. Far from it! It demonstrates the very nature of our triune God. All the Persons, though united in substance and will, nevertheless express themselves by honouring and exalting and, in some senses submitting to each other. Jesus said, when in the flesh, that the Father was greater than He. Here, He turns all things back over to the Father at the end of history. But the Father was greater than Jesus during the incarnation because Jesus emptied Himself of His glory, humbled Himself, and was found in fashion as a man. And at the end of history He returns to the Father only what the Father has already given to Him. Nobody is Lording it over anybody else. Such thoughts spring not from any Biblical text, but from our own corrupt, prideful, unsubmissive, proud, fallen carnal natures.

Note that the very reason for the Son turning all things over to the Father that the Father had given to Him is so that God may be all in all. The Theanthropos which is Christ rules the church age by decree of God. But when that age is over, then God as He was before creation, and before the incarnation, will once more govern all things. But the Eternal Son will forever be the Theanthropos - both God and man.


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