What Does Paul Mean When He Calls Jesus Resurrection Firstfruits in 1 Corinthians 15?

In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul refers to Jesus as the “firstfruits” of the resurrection. But what exactly does he mean by this term? And why is it significant for our understanding of Jesus’ resurrection and its implications for our own future resurrection?

To answer these questions, we need to first understand the context in which Paul is writing. In this chapter, he is addressing a group of believers in Corinth who are questioning the reality of the resurrection. Some were denying that it had even happened, while others were confused about what kind of body believers would have in the resurrection.

Paul’s response is to affirm unequivocally that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (verse 20). He argues that if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins (verse 17). But because Christ has been raised, we can have confidence that we too will be raised when he returns (verses 22-23).

It’s in this context that Paul introduces the concept of firstfruits. He writes:

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

The term “firstfruits” comes from Jewish agricultural practice. When farmers harvested their crops, they would take a small portion of their first and best produce and offer it to God as a symbol of their gratitude and trust in his provision for their needs. This act was called offering “firstfruits.”

For Paul, Jesus’ resurrection was like offering firstfruits to God. It was a foretaste and guarantee of what was to come for all believers at his return. Just as the firstfruits were a promise of a bountiful harvest, so too was Jesus’ resurrection a promise of our own future resurrection.

But why use this particular metaphor? What does it tell us about the nature of Jesus’ resurrection and its significance for us?

First, it emphasizes the uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection. He was the first to be raised from the dead in a glorified body that would never again experience death (Romans 6:9). His resurrection was not just a resuscitation of his physical body, but a transformation into a new kind of existence that would never die again.

Second, it highlights the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and our own future resurrection. Just as the firstfruits were a guarantee of an abundant harvest to come, so too was Jesus’ resurrection a guarantee that we too will one day be raised to eternal life. Our bodies will be transformed into glorified bodies like his (Philippians 3:21), and we will never again experience death or decay.

Finally, it underscores the continuity between Jesus’ resurrected body and his pre-resurrection body. The same Jesus who died on the cross and was buried in the tomb is the one who was raised to new life.

His resurrected body bore the scars of his crucifixion (John 20:27), and he was recognizable to his disciples (Luke 24:36-43). This tells us that our own resurrected bodies will not be completely different from our current bodies, but they will be transformed and perfected.

In conclusion, when Paul calls Jesus “the firstfruits” of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he is using an agricultural metaphor to emphasize both the uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection and its significance for our own future resurrection. Just as offering firstfruits was an act of trust in God’s provision for their needs, so too is trusting in Christ’s resurrection an act of faith that we too will one day be raised to eternal life.