In our last message we considered the three categories of believers who experience the resurrection: the dead in Christ, those who sleep through Jesus, and those who are alive and remain (1 Thes. 4: 14,16,17). Each of these groups shall be raised up to be made alive in Christ according to God’s progressive arrangement. For the Spirit of God bids to resurrection every believer in his own time and order.
However, it is not just believers who shall partake in the resurrection. There is also the resurrection of the unjust (Acts 24:15). Both the righteous and the unrighteous have a lot in the resurrection. One is raised to the resurrection of life and the other to the resurrection of judgment (Joh. 5:25,28). But, whether it’s to life or judgment, we should bear in mind that the resurrection is itself only possible by the power of Christ quickening Spirit. The resurrection is not a mere event, it is the person of Christ. For, He is “the resurrection and the life” (Joh. 11:25). Therefore, to experience the resurrection is to experience the impartation of Christ. The former CANNOT occur without the latter. It is also this partaking of Christ’s life that brings the inworking of judgment in the life of the unrighteous. However, this judgment is corrective and disciplinary rather than vindictive and final. His judgments are unto righteousness and not death. Thus, Isaiah writes: “When Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9).
With this in mind, we should recognize that in the all-embracing plan of God’s kingdom there is an order of the resurrection that culminates in God being all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). The scripture makes clear that every person, without exception, shall be made alive in Christ. Paul penned an undisputable truth when he wrote: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
This is one of the most powerful declarations in God’s word and one that brings me great joy. It is a truth that should bring delight to every heart who genuinely seeks the absolute supremacy of God’s kingdom. This simple statement captures the central premise of the gospel. It depicts humanity at both its lowest and highest state while also bearing witness to the fullness of the harvest brought forth by Christ’s sacrifice. Despite this, it is a truth that is generally unknown and even forbidden by the church. In fact, the greatest opposition to this truth comes from the very institution that seeks to evangelize the world. In the most twisted of logic, many believers think that a fleeting hell and the salvation of all people strips God of His glory and lessens the work of the cross. The average Christian’s devotion to hell is not only disturbing, it’s demonic. If only the saints had the spiritual awareness to see it.
That truth is rejected by an institution that claims to be the repository and guardian of truth is not a new phenomenon. Both the Pharisees/Sadducees of the temple and the Roman Catholic Church are examples of how tradition darkens the truth of God. But, the fountain of truth is the Spirit of Christ! It’s not organized religion, it’s not seminaries, and it’s not the pulpit of Babylon. We live in a day when truth has become conflated with popularity and pragmatism. But, the unpopularity of a truth does not make it a lie just as the popularity of a truth should not legitimize it. If you were to lose with the truth, it would still be true. If you were to be rejected, hated and banished for declaring the truth, the truth remains to be the truth.
Anyone who loves the truth must put aside their religious biases to seek the Spirit of truth with an open heart. And one such verse that demands this of every saint is 1 Corinthians 15:22-23: “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order”.
All made alive in Christ
The Spirit of God draws to resurrection all men. Just as all men were subject to corruption and mortality that came by Adam they shall also be raised up to partake of the divine life that came by Jesus Christ. This is the victorious gospel of the Kingdom that we declare. Some may argue that you can’t build a doctrine on one verse. Yet the scriptures are full of verses that reiterate this truth. In Romans 5:12-21 (I encourage you to read the whole section), Paul contrasts Adam’s offense with Christ’s gift. He concludes:
“But the free gift is not like the offense… Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience MANY were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience MANY will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:15,18-19 emphasis added). Verse 19 is especially problematic for those who argue that man’s lack of belief negates the justification of all men. We will revisit this point later.
Jesus said: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL PEOPLES to Myself” (Joh. 12:32). The only conditional in this statement is Christ’s death (i.e. Him being lifted up). If Christ actually died and rose again, then in His resurrection, He has drawn all people to Himself – not some, not a few, not just the Christian, not just the protestant, not just the Jew… ALL PEOPLES!
So, if this is indeed true, why don’t we yet see all people drawn to God, made righteous and alive in Christ? Paul affirms that every person is drawn to individually experience salvation in their appointed time and in their prearranged order.
Each in his own order
Let us further consider this order by which all are made alive in Christ. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death… Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:22-25,28).
Simply put, the order is as follows: (i) Christ the firstfruits, (ii) those who are Christ’s at His coming, and (iii) all things – all people, all authority, all rule, all enemies. Paul distinguishes three categories of people in sequential order indicating their distinction by rank, which is according to their calling.
A dear brother has well written: “I do not teach exclusivism — the notion that God loves and has chosen to redeem and bless only one specific portion of humanity, to the exclusion of all others. But I do teach elitism — the truth that God does not call everyone to the same calling, that there are both least and greatest in the kingdom of God. There is a high calling or highest calling in Christ Jesus! There is a firstfruits unto God and the Lamb! There are those who are before the throne, then there are those who sit upon the throne! There is, therefore, an elitism. Your salvation was free — the gift of God. Your baptism in the Holy Spirit was free — the gift of God… But after that — you get what you pay for! Overcoming is not a gift. There is a price to be paid! The High Calling is not a gift. The Throne is not a gift. Manifest Sonship is not a gift. Sonship is not free. You obtain it by being a virgin, undefiled with women! By following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth! By being without guile and without fault! By having the Father’s name written in your forehead! And by hearing and learning and singing the new song of total and complete redemption!”
Accordingly, the first category of people who are called by God to the highest calling are Christ the firstfruits. They are the same company of saints we have discussed in the last two messages. They are the dead in Christ – the overcoming company of son who first lay hold of perfection in Christ. There are some who may assume that Paul is speaking about Jesus Christ here. However, we need to bear in mind that Paul is continuing his description of all of humanity who had previously died in Adam and who were to made alive in Christ. Therefore, Christ the firstfruits are a category of humanity who are first to be redeemed from among men in order to be made alive in Christ. They are a first-fruit Christ.
Following them are those who are Christ’s at His coming. These are the remainder of the saints who shall come out of Babylon being released from their Adamic consciousness to apprehend the fullness of life in Christ. Here, the “coming” is not referring to the physical arrival of the Lord. The word is ‘parousia’ which means presence. The word does not refer to an event or the act of coming, but a state or condition of one who has already arrived and is present. Young’s Literal Translation reads accordingly: “those who are Christ’s, in His presence” (1 Cor. 15:23). (For more on this refer to: The Appearing of Christ – Part 10: His Presence in His body).
Thus far, the order of those who are made alive in Christ involves all believing saints. But, in no way can these two groups constitute “all” that died in Adam. There is yet a final category of people in this progressive order that are often ignored. These are the billions who make up the majority of humanity. Without this group accounted for, it could not be that “all” are made alive in Christ. That’s is why Paul goes on to state: “then comes the end”. What is this end? When “all things are made subject to Him… that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). The end is when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power, when He reigns having put all enemies under His feet – the last of which to be destroyed is death.
Referring to this last category of people, Jesus declared: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (Joh. 10:16). The Lord affirms this by saying: “I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him” (Isa. 56:8). One flock and one Shepperd – that is the kingdom mandate.
To this, there may be some who will argue that “all things” does not include people. We need not labor this point. Anyone who argues along these lines needs to examine their convictions. That God would restore the animals and trees and not those who are created in His image is an insult to God and a disregard for the value of man. To think that God would restore all nations but not all people is also an illogical notion. Anyone who argues that ‘all things’ does not include people not only ignores the context of this section of scripture, but has to also make a case for several passages where ‘all things’ are used to comprise people.
I want to close by briefly considering another objection to the above-mentioned truth – that of man’s choice. Many believers count Christ’s death and His gift as a suggestion – a mere offer presented for one to reject or accept. In so doing they stripe it of its power. These often use the example of a physical gift to argue this point. They claim that a gift given to a person requires an action from the recipient. I once heard a story of a starving man who walked into a church building and fell on the steps of the pulpit announcing his hungry. The people proceeded to offer the man a plate of food. But, the man did not eat the food offered to him, all the while insisting that he was hungry. The story goes that the man eventually died. The conclusion – salvation requires that men choose to take the action necessary to accept the free gift.
However, such illustrations are inaccurate depictions of the spiritual reality. A more accurate account would be to offer food to a person who is already dead and to expect them to eat. However, we all know that a dead man can’t choose. Spiritually, we were all dead in trespasses and sins when God made us alive with Christ (Col. 2:13, Eph. 2:5). He was the initiator. He was the One who awakened us from our spiritual death. And no person awakened from death refuses life, for He is already partaking in it. Thus, there is a natural progression from being spiritually awakened to believing. This progression is as instinctive as a newborn using its lungs for the very first time to take its first breath as it comes out of its mother’s womb. Just as in the physical, there is a similar spiritual progression in being born again. Let us never forget that it is God who brings every man to the place of willing obedience. For “it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
Dear saint, please reflect on this. You would be greatly mistaken if you think you chose God. For the Lord declares: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Joh. 15:16, 6:44). If you are a believer today, you are so because He chose you from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and drew you in His appointed time by the quickening of His Holy Spirit to impart to you the measure of faith necessary to believe. But, if you were privileged to be freely offered so great a salvation, will not God who desiers all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) also offer the same to all people? Surely!
May God establish these truths in the hearts of His people.