(Vs. 20.) The first-fruits were what first sprang out of the earth, were soonest ripe, were reaped first, gathered in and offered to the Lord (Deut. 26:1-3). So Christ first rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and presented himself to God as the representative of his people. There were others who were raised from the dead before him, but Christ was the first to be raised to immortal life. All of these others died again. He is the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence (Col. 1:18). Our resurrection is secured by him, our Representative (John 14:19).
(Vs. 21, 22.) The first man, Adam, was the representative, the covenant and federal head of all men. We all lived in him and died in him when he sinned (Rom. 5:12). Sin, disease, physical death and eternal death came upon us through Adam's disobedience. So Christ is the Representative, the covenant and federal Head of the elect, and because he became a man, obeyed God's law perfectly, died for our sins and rose again, in him we have righteousness, redemption and eternal life (Rom. 5:17-19). All who are "in Adam" die; all who are "in Christ" (by grace, divine purpose and faith) shall live.
(Vs. 23.) God has appointed the order of the resurrection of his people. Christ is the first-fruits of this harvest, rising from the dead to die no more. Afterwards, at his second coming, all believers shall rise together (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 1 John 3:2).
(Vs. 24.) "Then cometh the end" - that is, the accomplishment, completion and perfection of all things: the end of the world as it now is; the end of all evil power, authority and activity; the end of all earthly rule, authority and divisions, such as nations, families and races; the end of all eccleslastical rule, authority and power. There will be no more prophets, apostles, bishops and pastors and teachers. But the mediatorial kingdom of Christ is referred to here mainly. The grand design of the Father in creation, providence and salvation is to have a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, populated by a holy people perfectly conformed to the likeness of his Son. This he gave to Christ, in the eternal council and covenant, to accomplish, to perfect and to deliver to him at the end (Luke 22:37; John 17:4; 6:38, 39).
(Vs. 25, 26.) The Lord God has decreed that Christ should (as Prophet, Priest and King) reign over his people, over all flesh (John 17:2), over all things (Matt. 28:18; Col. 1:16-18; Ps. 110:1), until every contrary creature, word, thought and imagination are conquered. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death, for we shall rise to die no more.
(Vs. 27.) Paul refers to Psalm 8:4.6, and according to Hebrews 2:6-9, this is Christ. But the apostle adds that when God said, "All things are put under his feet," the Father is not included!
(Vs. 28.) When all is accomplished, God's design in redemption is complete and all evil is cast out, then nothing shall appear but the essential kingdom of God, the power by which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (three persons though but one God) shall reign.
(Vs. 29.) The apostle returns to his subject, the resurrection of the dead. "If the dead are not raised, then why do we submit to believers' baptism, which declares that we died with Christ, are buried and are risen with Christ?" This is a meaningless ordinance if there is no resurrection.
(Vs. 30-32.) "For that matter, why do we expose ourselves to ridicule, suffering and even death if we entertain no hope of eternal life? If there is no resurrection, we would not only be of all men most miserable but also most stupid. I face death every day. If the dead rise not, what advantage do I have? If we have no hope of resurrection, let us live as the heathen live."
(Vs. 33.) "Do not be deceived by those who deny the resurrection and by such denial argue for a sinful course of life. If you listen to these people and are influenced by them, you will be corrupted, for evil companions, associations and communion have a bad influence on the lives and practices even of good men."
(Vs. 34.) "Awake from this condition of sleep and carelessness. Awake to truth, righteousness and godliness. Don't be deceived by the false teachers who deny the resurrection, for there are some among you who have not a true knowledge of God, the gospel of Christ and the hope of eternal life. I say this to your shame."