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1 Corinthians 15:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But now is Christ risen - On the contrary, Christ is raised from the dead, and is become the first fruits of them that slept. His resurrection has been demonstrated, and our resurrection necessarily follows; as sure as the first fruits are the proof that there is a harvest, so surely the resurrection of Christ is a proof of ours. The Judaizing teacher at Corinth would feel the force of this observation much sooner than we can, who are not much acquainted with Jewish customs. "Although," says Dr. Lightfoot, "the resurrection of Christ, compared with some first fruits, has very good harmony with them; yet especially it agrees with the offering of the sheaf, commonly called עומר omer, not only as the thing itself, but also as to the circumstances of the time. For first there was the passover, and the day following was a Sabbatic day, and on the day following that the first fruits were offered. So Christ, our passover, was crucified: the day following his crucifixion was the Sabbath, and the day following that, He, the first fruits of them that slept, rose again. All who died before Christ, and were raised again to life, died afterwards; but Christ is the first fruits of all who shall be raised from the dead to die no more."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But now is Christ risen … - This language is the bursting forth of a full heart and of overpowering conviction. It would seem as if Paul were impatient of the slow process of argument; weary of meeting objections, and of stating the consequences of a denial of the doctrine; and longing to give utterance to “what he knew,” that Christ was risen from the dead. That was a point on which he was certain. He had seen him after he was risen; and he could no more doubt this “fact” than he could any other which he had witnessed with his own eyes. He makes, therefore, this strong affirmation; and in doing it, he at the same time affirms that the dead will also rise, since he had shown 1 Corinthians 15:12-18 that all the objection to the doctrine of the resurrection was removed by the fact that Christ had risen, and had shown that his resurrection involved the certainty that his people also would rise. There is special force in the word “now” in this verse. The meaning may be thus expressed: “I have showed the consequences which would follow from the supposition that Christ was not raised up. I have shown how it would destroy all our hopes, plunge us into grief, annihilate our faith, make our preaching vain, and involve us in the belief that our pious friends have perished, and that we are yet in our sins. I have shown how it would produce the deepest disappointment and misery. But all this was mere supposition. There is no reason to apprehend any such consequences, or to be thus alarmed. “Christ” is “risen.” Of that there is no doubt. That is not to be called in question. It is established by irrefragable testimony; and consequently our hopes are not vain, our faith is not useless, our pious friends have not perished, and we shall not be disappointed.”

And become the first-fruits - The word rendered “first-fruits” ( ἀπαρχὴ aparchē) occurs in the New Testament in the following places; Romans 8:23 (see the note on this place); Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4. It occurs often in the Septuagint as the translations of חלב cheleb“fat,” or “fatness” Numbers 18:12, Numbers 18:29-30, Numbers 18:32; as the translation of מצשׂרה ma‛asrah“the tenth” or “the tithe” Deuteronomy 12:6; of צוון ‛awon“iniquity” Numbers 18:1; of ראשׁית rē'shiyt“the beginning, the commencement, the first” (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 23:1; Numbers 15:18-19, etc.): of תּרמה teruwmah“oblation, offering; lifting up; of that which is lifted up or waved as the first sheaf of the harvest,” etc. Exodus 25:2-3; Exodus 35:5; Numbers 5:9; Numbers 18:8, etc. The first-fruits, or the first sheaf of ripe grain was required to be offered to the Lord, and was waved before him by the priest, as expressing the sense of gratitude by the husbandman, and his recognition of the fact that God had a right to all that he had; Leviticus 23:10-14. The word, therefore, comes to have two:

(1)That which is “first,” the beginning, or that which has the priority of time; and,

(2)That which is apart and portion of the whole which is to follow, and which is the earnest or pledge of that; as the “first” sheaf of ripe grain was not only the first in order of time, but was the earnest or pledge of the entire harvest which was soon to succeed.

In allusion to this, Paul uses the word here. It was not merely or mainly that Christ was the first in order of time that rose from the dead, for Lazarus and the widow‘s son had been raised before him; but it was that he was chief in regard to the dignity, value, and importance of his rising; he was connected with all that should rise, as the first sheaf of the harvest was with the crop; he was a “part” of the mighty harvest of the resurrection, and his rising was a “portion” of that great rising, as the sheaf was a portion of the harvest itself; and he was so connected with them all, and their rising so depended on his, that his resurrection was a demonstration that they would rise. It may also be implied here, as Grotius and Schoettgen have remarked, that he is the first of those who were raised so as not to die again; and that, therefore, those raised by Elisha and by the Saviour himself do not come into the account. They all died again; but the Saviour will not die, nor will those whom he will raise up in the resurrection die any more. He is, therefore, the first of those that thus rise, and a portion of that great host which shall be raised to die no more. May there not be another idea? The first sheaf of the harvest was consecrated to God, and then all the harvest was regarded as consecrated to him. May it not be implied that, by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, all those of whom he speaks are regarded as sacred to God, and as consecrated and accepted by the resurrection and acceptance of him who was the first-fruits?

Of them that slept - Of the pious dead; see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:6.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
All that are by faith united to Christ, are by his resurrection assured of their own. As through the sin of the first Adam, all men became mortal, because all had from him the same sinful nature, so, through the resurrection of Christ, shall all who are made to partake of the Spirit, and the spiritual nature, revive, and live for ever. There will be an order in the resurrection. Christ himself has been the first-fruits; at his coming, his redeemed people will be raised before others; at the last the wicked will rise also. Then will be the end of this present state of things. Would we triumph in that solemn and important season, we must now submit to his rule, accept his salvation, and live to his glory. Then shall we rejoice in the completion of his undertaking, that God may receive the whole glory of our salvation, that we may for ever serve him, and enjoy his favour. What shall those do, who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Perhaps baptism is used here in a figure, for afflictions, sufferings, and martyrdom, as Mt 20:22,23. What is, or will become of those who have suffered many and great injuries, and have even lost their lives, for this doctrine of the resurrection, if the dead rise not at all? Whatever the meaning may be, doubtless the apostle's argument was understood by the Corinthians. And it is as plain to us that Christianity would be a foolish profession, if it proposed advantage to themselves by their faithfulness to God; and to have our fruit to holiness, that our end may be everlasting life. But we must not live like beasts, as we do not die like them. It must be ignorance of God that leads any to disbelieve the resurrection and future life. Those who own a God and a providence, and observe how unequal things are in the present life, how frequently the best men fare worst, cannot doubt as to an after-state, where every thing will be set to rights. Let us not be joined with ungodly men; but warn all around us, especially children and young persons, to shun them as a pestilence. Let us awake to righteousness, and not sin.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1092

6. Sacred Facts Immortalized—After His resurrection, Christ did not show Himself to any save His followers, but testimony in regard to His resurrection was not wanting. It came from various sources, from the five hundred who assembled in Galilee to see their risen Lord. This testimony could not be quenched. The sacred facts of Christ's resurrection were immortalized (Manuscript 115, 1897). 6BC 1092.1

Countenance as the Face of God—After His resurrection, Christ met with His disciples in Galilee. At the time appointed, about five hundred disciples were assembled on the mountainside. Suddenly Jesus stood among them. No one could tell whence or how He came. Many who were present had never before seen Him; but in His hands and feet they beheld the marks of the crucifixion; His countenance was as the face of God, and when they saw Him they worshiped Him (Letter 115, 1904). 6BC 1092.2

9. See EGW on Acts 9:1-4. 6BC 1092.3

20 (Leviticus 23:10, 11). Christ the Antitypical Wave-Sheaf—It was to the glory of God that the Prince of life should be the first fruits, the antitype of the typical wavesheaf. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” ... 6BC 1092.4

Christ was the first fruits of them that slept. This very scene, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, was observed in type by the Jews at one of their sacred feasts.... They came up to the Temple when the first fruits had been gathered in, and held a feast of thanksgiving. The first fruits of the harvest crop were sacredly dedicated to the Lord. That crop was not to be appropriated for the benefit of man. The first ripe fruit was dedicated as a thank offering to God. He was acknowledged as the Lord of the harvest. When the first heads of grain ripened in the field, they were carefully gathered, and when the people went up to Jerusalem, they were presented to the Lord, waving the ripened sheaf before Him as a thank offering. After this ceremony the sickle could be put to the wheat, and it could be gathered into sheaves (Manuscript 115, 1897). 6BC 1092.5

20, 42-52 (ch. 13:12; Romans 8:11). A Sample of the Final Resurrection—The resurrection of Jesus was a sample of the final resurrection of all who sleep in Him. The risen body of the Saviour, His deportment, the accents of His speech, were all familiar to His followers. In like manner will those who sleep in Jesus rise again. We shall know our friends even as the disciples knew Jesus. Though they may have been deformed, diseased, or disfigured in this mortal life, yet in their resurrected and glorified body their individual identity will be perfectly preserved, and we shall recognize, in the face radiant with the light shining from the face of Jesus, the lineaments of those we love (The Spirit of Prophecy 3:219). 6BC 1092.6

22, 45 (Romans 5:12-19; see EGW on John 1:1-3, 14). Sinner Given a Second Trial—As representative of the fallen race, Christ passed over the same ground on which Adam stumbled and fell. By a life of perfect obedience to God's law, Christ redeemed man from the penalty of Adam's disgraceful fall. Man has violated God's law. Only for those who return to their allegiance to God, only for those who obey the law that they have violated, will the blood of Christ avail. Christ will never become a party to sin. Bearing the penalty of the law, He gives the sinner another chance, a second trial. He opens a way whereby the sinner can be reinstated in God's favor. Christ bears the penalty of man's past transgressions, and by imparting to man His righteousness, makes it possible for man to keep God's holy law (Manuscript 126, 1901). 6BC 1092.7

(Revelation 1:8; 22:13.) The Alpha and Omega—When the students of prophecy shall set their hearts to know the truths of Revelation, they will realize what an importance is attached to this search. Christ Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Genesis of the Old Testament, and the Revelation of the New. Both meet together in Christ. Adam and God are reconciled by the obedience of the second Adam, who accomplished the work of overcoming the temptations of Satan and redeeming Adam's disgraceful failure and fall. 6BC 1092.8

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 304-7

Christ, Creator and Life-giver

[This article appeared in The Youth's Instructor, August 11, 1898, under the title “The Risen Saviour—Part 2.”]

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 812

Many who love God and who seek to honor God fear that they have no right to claim His rich promises. They will dwell upon their painful struggles and the darkness which encompasses their path, and in so doing they lose sight of the light of the love that Jesus Christ has shed upon them. They lose sight of the great redemption that has been purchased for them at infinite cost. Many are standing afar off as if they were afraid to touch even the hem of Christ's garment, but His gracious invitation is even extended to them, and He is pleading, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).—Manuscript 61, 1894. 2MCP 812.1

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Ellen G. White
Lift Him Up, 100.1

Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Corinthians 15:20. LHU 100.1

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