The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:23 Explained

1 Corinthians 15:23

KJV: But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

YLT: and each in his proper order, a first-fruit Christ, afterwards those who are the Christ's, in his presence,

Darby: But each in his own rank: the first-fruits, Christ; then those that are the Christ's at his coming.

ASV: But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ's, at his coming.

What does 1 Corinthians 15:23 Mean?

Verse Meaning

The word translated "order" or "turn" is a military one used of ranks of soldiers (tagma). Paul"s idea was that Christ was the first rank and experienced resurrection. Christians are in a different rank and will experience resurrection together at a different time, namely, at the Lord"s coming (Gr. parousia, lit. appearing, i.e, at the Rapture). The apostle did not go on to give a complete explanation of the various resurrections here. There will be other ranks of people who will rise at other times, including Tribulation saints, Old Testament believers, and the unsaved.
"Passages like John 5:25-29 and Revelation 20 indicate that there is no such thing taught in Scripture as a "general resurrection."" [1]
Paul"s point here was that the resurrection of Christians is just as certain to take place as the fact that Christ"s already took place. He did not mean that our resurrection will be of a different type than Christ"s (i.e, "spiritual" rather than physical).

Context Summary

1 Corinthians 15:12-28 - Christ's Resurrection Assures Ours
The argument here goes to show, first, that our resurrection is intimately connected with Christ's. There must be such a thing, because he, as the representative of humanity, arose from the dead, in a human body which, though more ethereal in its texture, was easily recognizable by those who had known Him previously. Mary was recalled by the well-known intonations of her Master's voice. Thomas was compelled to believe, in spite of his protestations to the contrary. In fact, all of our Lord's friends were convinced against themselves. They credited the tidings of the risen Lord as idle tales. Therefore, says the Apostle, it is far easier to admit that man will rise than to face the difficulties of a still buried Christ, a vain faith, a vain gospel, and a false testimony from so many accredited witnesses.
What a burst of music breaks forth in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28! The first fruit sheaf is the forerunner and specimen of all the harvest. In Christ the whole Church was presented to God, and we may judge of the whole by Him. Note the divine order in 1 Corinthians 15:23 : first, Christ; then, His own; lastly, the end, when death itself shall be destroyed, all enemies conquered, and the kingdom of an emancipated universe finally handed back by the Mediator to the Father. [source]

Chapter Summary: 1 Corinthians 15

1  By Christ's resurrection,
12  he proves the necessity of our resurrection,
16  against all such as deny the resurrection of the body
21  The fruit,
35  and the manner thereof;
51  and of the resurrection of those who shall be found alive at the last day

Greek Commentary for 1 Corinthians 15:23

Order [ταγματι]
Old military term from τασσω — tassō to arrange, here only in N.T. Each in his own division, troop, rank. [source]
At his coming [εν τηι παρουσιαι]
The word παρουσια — parousia was the technical word “for the arrival or visit of the king or emperor” and can be traced from the Ptolemaic period into the second century a.d. (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 368). “Advent-coins were struck after a parousia of the emperor.” Paul is only discussing “those that are Christ‘s” (1 Corinthians 3:23; Galatians 5:24) and so says nothing about judgment (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). [source]
Order [τάγματι]
Only here in the New Testament. In Sept., a band, troop, or cohort; also a standard; Numbers 10:14; Numbers 18:22, Numbers 18:25. How the one idea ran into the other may be perceived from the analogy of the Latin manipulus, a handful of hay twisted round a pole and used by the Romans as the standard of a company of soldiers, from which the company itself was called manipulus. In classical Greek, besides the meaning of company, it means an ordinance and a fixed assessment. Here in the sense of band, or company, in pursuance of the principle of a descending series of ranks, and of consequent subordinations which is assumed by Paul. The series runs, God, Christ, man. See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; 1 Corinthians 11:3. The reference is not to time or merit, but simply to the fact that each occupies his own place in the economy of resurrection, which is one great process in several acts. Band after band rises. First Christ, then Christians. The same idea appears in the first-fruits and the harvest. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for 1 Corinthians 15:23

Acts 13:34 Now no more to return to corruption [μηκετι μελλοντα υποστρεπειν εις διαπτοραν]
No longer about to return as Lazarus did. Jesus did not die again and so is the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23; Romans 6:9). [source]
Acts 2:35 Till I make [εως αν τω]
Second aorist active subjunctive of τιτημι — tithēmi with αν — an after εως — heōs for the future, a common Greek idiom. This dominion of Christ as Mediator will last till the plan of the kingdom is carried out (1 Corinthians 15:23-28). Complete subjugation will come, perhaps referring to the custom of victorious kings placing their feet upon the necks of their enemies (Joshua 10:24). [source]
Romans 11:16 First fruit [απαρχη]
See note on 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23. The metaphor is from Numbers 15:19. The lxx has απαρχην πυραματος — aparchēn phuramatos first of the dough as a heave offering. [source]
1 Corinthians 15:20 The first-fruits [απαρχη]
Old word from απαρχομαι — aparchomai to offer firstlings or first-fruits. In lxx for first-fruits. In papyri for legacy-duty, entrance-fee, and also first-fruits as here. See also 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Romans 8:23, etc. Christ is “first-born from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). Others raised from the dead died again, but not so Jesus. That sleep (των κεκοιμημενων — tōn kekoimēmenōn). Perfect middle participle as in Matthew 27:52 which see. Beautiful picture of death from which word (κοιμαομαι — koimaomai) comes our χεμετερψ — cemetery f0). [source]
1 Corinthians 16:15 Ye know [οιδατε]
Koiné{[28928]}š form for second perfect indicative used as present of οραω — horaō Parenthetic clause through rest of the verse. Stephanas is mentioned also in 1 Corinthians 1:16 and in 1 Corinthians 16:17. For απαρχη — aparchē see note on 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23. [source]
1 Corinthians 16:17 At the coming [επι τηι παρουσιαι]
At the coming here of Stephanas, etc., the very word used of the παρουσια — parousia of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23). [source]
Galatians 5:24 They that are Christ's [οἱ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ]
The best texts add Ἱησοῦ theythat are of Christ Jesus. Belong to him. The exact phrase only here. But see 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Corinthians 10:7, Galatians 3:29. [source]
Colossians 1:18 The first-born from the dead [πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν]
Defining how Christ is the beginning of the new spiritual life: by His resurrection. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23, and Prince of life, Acts 3:15(note) See on Revelation 1:5, where the phrase is slightly different, “first-born of the dead.” He comes forth from among the dead as the first-born issues from the womb. Compare Acts 2:4, “having loosed the pains of death,” where the Greek is ὠδῖνας birth-throesThere is a parallelism between first-born of the creation and first-born from the dead as regards the relation of headship in which Christ stands to creation and to the Church alike; but the parallelism is not complete. “He is the first-born from the dead as having been Himself one of the dead. He is not the first-born of all creation as being himself created” (Dwight). [source]
1 Thessalonians 2:19 At his coming [εν τηι αυτου παρουσιαι]
This word παρουσια — parousia is untechnical (just presence from παρειμι — pareimi) in 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6.; 2 Corinthians 10:10; Philemon 1:26; Philemon 2:12. But here (also 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 15:23) we have the technical sense of the second coming of Christ. Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, pp. 372ff.) notes that the word in the papyri is almost technical for the arrival of a king or ruler who expects to receive his “crown of coming.” The Thessalonians, Paul says, will be his crown, glory, joy when Jesus comes. [source]
2 Thessalonians 2:13 Beloved of the Lord [ηγαπημενοι υπο κυριου]
Perfect passive participle of αγαπαω — agapaō with υπο — hupo and the ablative as in 1 Thessalonians 1:4, only here κυριου — kuriou instead of τεου — theou the Lord Jesus rather than God the Father. Because that God chose you (οτι ειλατο υμας ο τεος — hoti heilato humas ho theos). First aorist middle indicative of αιρεω — haireō to take, old verb, but uncompounded only in N.T. here, Philemon 1:22; Hebrews 11:25, and here only in sense of choose, that being usually εχαιρεομαι — exaireomai or προοριζω — proorizō From the beginning Probably the correct text (Aleph D L) and not απαρχην — aparchēn (first fruits, B G P), though here alone in Paul‘s writings and a hard reading, the eternal choice or purpose of God (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9), while απαρχην — aparchēn is a favourite idea with Paul (1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Romans 8:23; Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5). Unto salvation (εις σωτηριαν — eis sōtērian). The ultimate goal, final salvation. In sanctification of the Spirit Subjective genitive πνευματος — pneumatos sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit. And belief of the truth (και πιστει αλητειας — kai pistei alētheias). Objective genitive αλητειας — alētheias belief in the truth. [source]
2 Thessalonians 2:13 From the beginning [απ αρχης]
Probably the correct text (Aleph D L) and not απαρχην — aparchēn (first fruits, B G P), though here alone in Paul‘s writings and a hard reading, the eternal choice or purpose of God (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9), while απαρχην — aparchēn is a favourite idea with Paul (1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Romans 8:23; Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5). Unto salvation (εις σωτηριαν — eis sōtērian). The ultimate goal, final salvation. In sanctification of the Spirit Subjective genitive πνευματος — pneumatos sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit. And belief of the truth (και πιστει αλητειας — kai pistei alētheias). Objective genitive αλητειας — alētheias belief in the truth. [source]
James 1:18 A kind of first-fruits [ἀπαρχήν τινα]
A kind of indicates the figurative nature of the term. Time figure is taken from the requirement of the Jewish law that the first-born of men and cattle, and the first growth of fruits and grain should be consecrated to the Lord. The point of the illustration is that Christians, like first-fruits, should be consecrated to God. The expression “first-fruits ” is common in the New Testament. See Romans 8:23; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23; Revelation 14:4. [source]
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy [μακαριος και αγιος]
A fifth beatitude (Revelation 1:3; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9) already and two more to come (Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:14, seven in all). Here αγιος — hagios is added to the usual μακαριος — makarios The second death The spiritual death of Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8 in contrast to the first or physical death. This language raises a question about the interpretation of the first and the second resurrections, whether both are of the body or one of the spirit. There seems no way to reach a solid conception about it. In 1 Corinthians 15:23 there is no mention of the resurrection of any save “those of Christ” However, Paul elsewhere (Acts 24:15) speaks of the resurrection of the just and of the unjust as if one event. [source]

What do the individual words in 1 Corinthians 15:23 mean?

Each however in the own order [the] firstfruit Christ then those of Christ at the coming of Him
Ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ

Ἕκαστος  Each 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἕκαστος  
Sense: each, every.
δὲ  however 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
ἰδίῳ  own 
Parse: Adjective, Dative Neuter Singular
Root: ἴδιος  
Sense: pertaining to one’s self, one’s own, belonging to one’s self.
τάγματι  order 
Parse: Noun, Dative Neuter Singular
Root: τάγμα  
Sense: that which has been arranged, thing placed in order.
ἀπαρχὴ  [the]  firstfruit 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: ἀπαρχή  
Sense: to offer firstlings or firstfruits.
Χριστός  Christ 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Χριστός  
Sense: Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God.
οἱ  those 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Χριστοῦ  Christ 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: Χριστός  
Sense: Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God.
ἐν  at 
Parse: Preposition
Root: ἐν 
Sense: in, by, with etc.
παρουσίᾳ  coming 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: παρουσία  
Sense: presence.
αὐτοῦ  of  Him 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive Masculine 3rd Person Singular
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.