In His Own Order

by Mike Ratliff

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:22-24 ESV)

A few days ago, I posted an article about Hell. This was in response to a new push from the Emergent movement toward “Christian Universalism.” I used Sacred Scripture to show that Hell is eternal and those thrown into it will be there eternally. Those who have objected to this have used only an argument to state their point. That argument is that God would not send people to burn in Hell for eternity. What is their basis for this? They misquote passages such as the one I placed at the top of this post saying that “all’ and “all’ means all people. The basis for taking this stand is this, “I reject that God will send all unbelievers to burn in Hell eternally!” Really? On what are you basing that? It sure cannot be Sacred Scripture unless you are one who takes a little from here and a little from there and ignores context and the rest of it that states the very opposite.

Let us unpack 1 Corinthians 15:3-28.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:3-11 ESV)

This is a summary by Paul to the Corinthians of how the Gospel came to them. Some at Corinth were denying that Christ rose from the dead. Here Paul is addressing this heresy by starting with how the Corinthians came to believe when he planted the church there. Christ died for the sins of those who believe, who are the elect. This is the “our” in v3. This word in Greek simply refers to “us” or “our company of people.” This is the elect, not all people. He died, but He rose from the dead. Why is this important?

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope [2] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 ESV)

Paul tells us that Christ’s resurrection is true or our faith is in vain. Notice the emphasis in v17 where Paul says, that if people are not ‘saved’ by Christ’s death and resurrection that they are “still in their sins.” What does that mean? It means that God has not justified those still in their sins. Let us look at another passage.

22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:22-25 ESV)

The person referred to in v22 is Abraham. Those who believe and obey the Gospel believe God who raised Christ from the dead who had been delivered up for “our” trespasses and rose for our justification. The “our” in this passage is, again, referring to believers only, not unbelievers. Believers are justified by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), not by doing some work. Justification is a declaration by God that the believer has Christ’s righteousness because it was imputed to them at belief just as their sins were imputed to Christ on the Cross. Only those whose sins were ‘paid for’ on the Cross are included in the “our.”

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God [3] has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28 ESV)

Now we come to the passage used by Christian Universalists in an attempt to say that God will eventually justify all people. Who is the “man” in v21 through whom came death? This is Adam. His fall is found in Genesis 3. However, by another “man” has come the resurrection of the dead. This “man” is Jesus Christ our Lord. Then Paul uses the word “all” twice to emphasize that Adam is the Federal Head of the Human Race and Christ is the Federal Head of the elect, His people, those who believe. All represented by Adam are born spiritually dead. However, all born of Christ have been resurrected from this spiritual death unto a new life in Him. Then we see the order of resurrection. Christ was the firstfruits of this resurrection. Those in Christ, His elect, will be resurrected again at His coming when He returns to make His enemies His footstool. He will subject all in rebellion against God and do away with death. There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth, where those whom Christ made His footstool will not be found. He is reigning right now. He is ruling in the midst of His enemies, but when He returns, these enemies will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity. (Psalm 110)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)

Look at those who are cast or thrown into the Lake of Fire. The only ones spared not being cast there are the ones whose names are found in the book of life. Is this lake of fire eternal? Our Lord spoke of this place many times and referred to it as γέεννα or geenna. He spoke of it as the place where ones worm does not die nor are the flames quenched. This is speaking of always. Consider the following passage.

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46 ESV)

The Greek word Matthew used here, quoting our Lord, for “eternal” is αἰώνιος or aiōnios. It means “everlasting” or “eternal.” The righteous, those in Christ, are going into eternal life, but those who do not believe are going into eternal punishment. The Greek word used here for punishment is κόλασις or kolasis. It means “punishment” or “torment.” Who is that would be the “unrighteous.” This is speaking of all who do not believe and obey the Gospel. God has not justified them. They are still in their sins. This would include all in pagan religions as well, no matter how sincere they are. There is only one way to get one’s name in the book of life and that is through Christ. He is the only way and no one can come to Him on his or her own terms. No, our Lord said that no one comes to Him unless the Father first draws him or her.

If you are reading this and have found yourself in that place of doubt and are being convicted that you are still in your sins then now is the time for you to obey the call of God to turn from your sins, believe that Christ is the Son of God and that He died for your sins. You must turn from your sins as you turn to Him in belief. Plead for your soul asking that God forgive you for your sins and bring you to that place of belief. If you refuse to do this then be assured that your name will not be found in the book of life on the Day of Judgment. Remember simply rejecting truth does not negate it nor is truth relative.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “In His Own Order

  1. Pingback: In His Own Order - Reformata

  2. Amen brother Mike,
    Hey at least these Universalists believe that Christ blood actually saves. They are consistent with the arminian view that Jesus atoned for the human race, yet take it to it’s logical conclusion. I dabbled in universalism as an unbeliever. Because I was correctly taught that the Glory of God was the central interpretive motif of the bible, I had decided that God saving everyone would give him more Glory. I was defining Glory on my own and trying to make God nice. Now I see the true Glory in His sovereign Grace, a mercy that is not robbed of it’s meaning by no real threat of punishment.
    Are you going to keep coming to PCC? I would like to get to know you and your wife better.

  3. Truth hurts dosesn’t it? The truth is, according to the word of God, there is hell, an eternal punishment, in the lake of fire.

    Whether people accept it or not does not matter, God says it is there and it is.

    He should know, He created it, Matthew 25v41.
    A just God has to punish sin. God hates sin, and He hates the one who sins, Psalm 5v5.

    Ask yourself this, ‘Does God love people more than He hates sin, or does He hate sin more than He loves people?’

    I’ll leave it at that.

  4. Keith, amen brother! Good to hear from you. Yes, we love PCC. We will be traveling after the 23rd through January 10th. However, we should be there this coming Sunday. Looking forward to it brother.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Mike: Thanks so much for this. I have been engaged in a discussion over at my blog with a CU on this very passage. I am going to post a link to this article there.

    God bless!

  6. Pingback: The Universalism Heresy « The Peregrin Pages

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