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Theology > Jesus > Resurrection and Ascension > Firstborn from the Dead


Twice the Scriptures affirm the same truth regarding Christ: Paul states that He is “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18); and John writes that Christ is “the firstborn from the dead” (Rev. 1:5).

It is Christ who has triumphed over death and has made possible a new state for the believer: ultimately the believer will be raised, transformed, and given a body like Christ’s own glorious body (Phil. 3:20-21). It is not that Christ is the first person to be raised from the dead (others were raised, and they all died again), but that in His resurrection death itself is defeated and a future is guaranteed in which there will be no more death—He is “the firstborn from the dead”.

Before King Agrippa Paul stated that his message was identical to the prediction of Moses and the prophets, a prediction “that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23). In the death of Christ salvation was accomplished, and in connection with that salvation He was “the first to rise from the dead” and thereby proclaim the reality of salvation for Jew and Gentile alike.

Not only is salvation preached and offered to man through Christ, but in the resurrection of Christ the resurrection of the last days has begun; in Christ the first stage of the last days has occurred. He is “the firstborn from the dead.” And it is His resurrection that guarantees the resurrection of all believers, meaning that His resurrection is the basis for the believer’s eschatological hope.

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20). In the Old Testament an offering of firstfruits was brought to God (Lev. 23:10-20); this offering served as a two-fold symbol: one, more fruit was to follow, the initial fruit anticipated a full harvest; and two, all of the harvest was the doing of God and belonged to God. With this imagery and practice as his foundation Paul teaches that the resurrection of Christ is the “firstfruits,” assuring us that more resurrections will follow and the combined salvation-resurrection of each believer is the doing of God. Paul writes: “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (I Cor. 15:23).

The resurrection creates new possibility: the possibility of salvation, the possibility of a new relationship, and the possibility of a future resurrection. The old man, the man in Adam, becomes the new man, the man in Christ; a new spiritual nature is begun indicating that the full redemption of the body will follow (I Cor. 15:21-22; Rom. 6:4-10).

Note: Christ is also called: “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15; see: Ps. 89:27; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 1:14); Christ is the One with sovereignty and preeminence (see: God is Sovereign).

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