A Neglected Millennial Passage from Saint Paul -- By: Robert D. Culver

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 113:450 (Apr 1956)
Article: A Neglected Millennial Passage from Saint Paul
Author: Robert D. Culver

A Neglected Millennial Passage from Saint Paul

Robert D. Culver

The passage for this discussion, as it appears in the Authorized Version of 1611, reads as follows: “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. 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 authority and power” (1 Cor 15:20–24).

As is obvious from the title, there is a special interest in this passage: to discover if the section has any important bearing on the question of the possibility of two future resurrections with a millennium, or some similar period of time, separating them. This is the prime essential affirmation of premillennialism. It is the usual thing for discussion of this subject to proceed as if the twentieth chapter of Revelation contains the only essential data on the subject—as if the whole issue of a further probationary period after the parousia of Christ could be settled once and for all if a period of time between a future resurrection of the just and another of the unjust could be discovered in or expelled from that passage. Granted that Revelation 20 is the most complete passage on the subject, its value as definitive evidence is hampered by the fact that it appears as part of an apocalypse or vision. Of prophetic visions Moses was told there would always be something less than “mouth to mouth” speech, “even apparently and not in dark speeches” (Num 12:8). All informed persons who attempt exposition of the Book of Revelation will heartily agree. But, here in 1 Corinthians, from the prosaic, usually factual and direct pen of Paul, is a

chapter on the resurrection of the dead in which it is difficult to find even a common figure of speech. The portion of the chapter before us appears at first glance to require something like that period of time between the resurrection of the just and of the unjust affirmed by premillennialists. Will sustained attention enforce the impression, or is it only a kind of verbal mirage which disappears with investigation?

The writer does not expect to convince all his readers of his own conclusion on the passage; he does hope that by bringing the attention of students back to it the passage may begin to receive some of the...

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