1 Corinthians 15 and Premillennialism

August 6, 2013

In S. Lewis Johnson’s study through 1 Corinthians, he devotes one message specifically to the question: was Paul a premillennialist?  Is 1 Corinthians 15 consistent with the teaching of an in-between kingdom (the 1000 years before the Eternal State)?

After a quite lengthy introduction and basic material (including definitions of terms such as amillennialism and postmillennialism), Dr. Johnson gets to the issue itself (starting shortly after 30 minutes).   The key scriptures here are the passage itself — 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 – plus its references to two Old Testament texts, plus Hebrews 1:13 through 2:8 (which also references the same two Old Testament texts and in the same sequence).

The first two ‘Then’ statements

Verses 23 and 24 include this section:  (23) “Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ,” followed by verse 24, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father …”.  We know that the first “then” encompasses a gap of nearly 2000 years.

Would it be out of the possibility of accomplishment that we should say, since the first ‘then’ has comprehended almost two thousand years, that the next ‘then’ might comprehend a thousand years?  If the first ‘then’ comprehends we know so far close to two thousand years, it’s entirely possible for the next ‘then’ (one epeita, one is the preposition epe connected with the adverb eita.  And then eita very closely related epeita, eita). — see you people know Greek already then.  You know those expressions.  So it’s not beyond our comprehension at all.

Then verse 25, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.” This also indicates a period of time for that reign. Because it is written in a tense, for he must go on reigning until he has put all enemies under his feet.  In other words, the reign of our Lord is a time of war or possible war, put it that way. 

Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8

These two psalms are cited, in this order, both in 1 Corinthians 15 and in the first two chapters of Hebrews. In the 1 Corinthians passage, verse 25 references Psalm 110:1 — “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”  Verse 27 further references Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:6b, “you have put all things under his feet”:  (1 Cor. 15:27)  “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”

Both places where these two psalms are cited, they speak of a reign of Christ, AND both locate the reign of Christ in the future after the Parousia (the Second Coming).  Hebrews 1:13 cites Pslam 110:1, and Hebrews 2:5, Psalm 8.  Notice Hebrews 2:8 (immediately after the quotation from Psalm 8):  “At present,we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him.”

Now it’s obvious, what he is simply saying is, if you look out at the creation, it’s ultimately to be under man; but at the present time it is not under man.  Now, as we look around it’s not in subjection yet to Him.  ‘But we see Jesus’: why should that give us encouragement?  Well, because He is the covenantal head, and what He has done is a guarantee that these things are going to come to pass.

S. Lewis Johnson considers the amillennialist claim here: that hostile powers have been conquered by the cross through the present reign of our Lord in heaven, that He’s reigning now, the kingdom is then delivered to the Father by the Son at the Second Advent, and the end comes with the destruction of death.  The key question is:  What is the destruction of death, and when does it take place?  The amillennialist answer is that later verses in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 50-58, talk about the coming of our Lord; and these verses discuss the defeat of death, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  The amillennial idea is that our Lord is reigning now, the kingdom is now, and death comes at the Second Advent: that’s when death experiences death. In other words, if he is reigning now and if death is defeated at his second advent, then how can there be reign for a thousand years after death has been defeated? 

What this overlooks is that 1 Corinthians 15 is written about believers. See for instance verses 21-23: the “even so in Christ all shall be made alive” is talking about all believers; it doesn’t teach universalism.  So, 1 Corinthians 15:50 through 58 is concerned with the defeat of death for believers, but not the final destruction of death.

Hebrews 2:5, the section referencing Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8, also refers to this as “the world to come.”  The kingdom age, that over which the Son of Man rules, is not this age but yet future.

1 Corinthians 4 also tells us that Paul expected a future kingdom age, in his comments to the Corinthians about their over-realized eschatology.  So while 1 Corinthians 15 by itself does not tell us everything about premillennialism, what Paul says here is consistent with Revelation 20 and the many other scripture texts that tell about the intermediate kingdom, yet future, before the Eternal State.

  1. August 6, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Hey, Lewis, looks like you’ve got them AMILS beat. Thanks Lynda for another good ‘un.

    • August 7, 2013 at 7:39 am

      Thanks bography. It was a good message from SLJ.

  2. rochadd
    August 10, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Miss L, you never cease to amaze. Thank you!

    • August 10, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Thanks, Rochadd!

  3. November 24, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    The timing of the believers’ resurrection is qualified by the words, “at His coming”.

    When Christ comes, it doesn’t have to take a thousand years for Christ to judge all His enemies.

    • November 25, 2015 at 11:26 am

      John: Premillennialism does not say that it “takes a thousand years for Christ to judge all His enemies.”

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