As every do-it-yourselfer knows, sometimes, you just have to follow the plan. I’ve probably assembled a whole truckload of boxed furniture kits in my time, and it’s tempting to skip the instructions and go straight to work. Check to make sure all the parts are in the box? Forget that! Come on, I’ve got this: let’s build.
And then I remember all the things I’ve assembled upside-down, sigh, and read the instructions.
As we’ve seen in previous posts, Paul is trying to help the Corinthians envision their glorious future: a harvest of resurrection, a new creation. Such language could captivate their imagination. But first things first. God has a step-by-step plan, and “each event will happen in the right order” (1 Cor 15:23, CEB). The resurrection of Jesus begins the sequence; eventually, when he returns, those who belong to him will share in his resurrection; he must rule as King until every power that stands against God is defeated; and finally, he will hand the kingdom over to God the Father (vss. 23-25).
And since death and the resurrection of the dead are the matters under debate, Paul makes it clear: death itself is the final enemy of God which must be defeated (vs.26). Resurrection is not the end goal: the full and final sovereignty of God is, or as Paul puts it, “that God may be all in all” (vs. 28). The point is this: if there is no resurrection of the dead, then death has the victory, and God is not sovereign. To deny the resurrection is to defame God.
As John Donne once wrote:
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
The God who gives life must and will be all in all. That’s good news.