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Christ’s Resurrection as Firstfruits

As Christians, we have a distinctly living hope (1 Pet 1:3). We look to the resurrected Christ as our salvation, and his resurrection from the dead is the climactic accomplishment of that redemption. Even so, we look to his return when death, the last enemy, will be conquered and we will be raised to glorified bodies (1 Cor 15:26, 50ff). We often look to Christ’s resurrection as the guarantee of this future event, but we don’t always give full credit to the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection. In his book By Faith, Not By Sight, Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. explores Paul’s use of ἀπαρχὴ (firstfuits) in 1 Cor. 15 and its significance for this connection. He writes,

We must not miss the full impact of what Paul is saying here. For him it does not go far enough to say, as it is often put, that Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection, in the sense of being certain because of God’s eternal purpose or his word of promise to the church, alhtough both are certainly true for Paul. Rather, Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee in the sense that it is nothing less than the actual and, as such, representative beginning of the “general epochal event.” In Paul’s view, the general resurrection, as it includes believers, begins with Christ’s resurrection. (By Faith, Not By Sight, p. 60)

In summary, we should not see Christ’s resurrection as an event separate from our own future resurrection. Paul is using an agricultural metaphor. Christ is the ἀπαρχὴ, the firstfuits of the same harvest. Even though the first row of corn is harvested before the last, they are nevertheless part of the same crop. Likewise, though we wait for our bodily resurrection, we may rest in the fact that the Lord of the harvest has already begun.

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