“The spiritual is not first, but the natural, then the spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 15: 46) Paul writes of the sequence of the defeat of the last enemy, death. We are not born incorruptible; rather we are born “in corruption.” (1 Corinthians 15: 42)
In the sequence in which death is defeated, first comes Adam, then comes Jesus. In other words, writes Paul, first we “bear the image of the man made of dust” but later we “also bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1 Corinthians 15: 49)
“For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15: 53) When this happens, says Paul, then “death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15: 54)
Obviously death exists in the here and now. Anyone who claims that death is already swallowed up in victory has missed the sequence. Jesus defeats death in His body so that one day He will clothe us with immortality in a resurrected body, a heavenly body like His. At that time, death will be defeated and we will own our victory.
Paul is very concerned that people in the Corinthian church are saying there is no resurrection of the body. He argues that if Christ is raised bodily, then Christians are raised bodily.
“The last enemy to be abolished is death,” writes Paul. (1 Corinthians 15: 27)
“Then the saying that is written will take place: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15: 54 – 56)
This will occur, says Paul, when Christ returns in His glory. We will change; “the dead will be raised incorruptible, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15: 52, 53)
Paul reminds us that “there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is different from that of the earthly ones. There is a splendor of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars; for [one] star differs from [another] star in splendor. So it is with the resurrection of the dead… If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15: 40 – 42)
So, presently we live in the company of our greatest enemies: sin and death. But Paul exhorts us: “My dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15: 58)