There was a great deal of excitement in the local area when the first Resurrection Sheaf, which was to be followed by many other like sheaves (Lev 23:10,11), was waved over and around Jerusalem.
Jesus of Nazareth, the sinless, spotless, Son of God who had come from heaven to earth to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men, had become a victim of vicious gossip, slander, ridicule, misunderstanding, false accusation, unfair judgment, unjust sentencing, and the shameful suffering and death of the cross. He had entered through the gate of death. The political power that then ruled the world had locked the gate of the grave and set a watch to keep their victim inside the prison-house of death. But suddenly the earth shook, the gate of the grave opened, the watchmen fell down as dead men, and Jesus having loosed the pains of death took up His life again and moved out of the grave declaring Himself to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead and became the firstfruits of them that slept. His enemies were quite perturbed. They had earlier declared that they would believe in Him if He were to come down from the cross to which they had nailed Him. But now He had given them an equal or even greater manifestation of power, and they formulated a lie about it. Persistent unbelief will not be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
The women who came first to the sepulcher early the first day of the week were astounded to see the sealed stone rolled away from the grave and find celestial messengers there to assure them of the resurrected Christ. In their excitement, they ran to tell the disciples. Upon hearing the word of the women, Peter and John excitedly raced to the empty tomb. That same day and for 39 more days, Jesus made His comforting and reassuring appearance to many of His followers. His enemies never saw Him again nor will they until every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
On the day of Pentecost, the excitement of the Holy Spirit descending upon and dominating the Apostles soon drew people together by the thousands. When the multitude heard that God had raised up the Christ whom they had by wicked hands crucified and slain, their excitement turned into a sense of conviction and guilt which brought 3,000 souls to repentance and salvation. These, along with the apostles, comprised the firstfruits of the newly born Church of Christ.
A belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the basic conditions of salvation, for if thou shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Rom 10:9). It is basic to a sound system of theology, for if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain. It is a foundational source of power in our witness, for if Christ be not raised, our preaching is vain. Our future hope of immortality is based upon it, for if Christ be not raised, then they which are fallen asleep in Jesus are perished (1Co 15:12-19).
In 1 Corinthians 15, we have the greatest single exposition on the resurrection found anywhere in Holy Writ. In this unique unfolding of the miracle of the resurrection and the mystery of immortality, two resurrections are in focus— the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of they that are Christ's.
In the forepart of the chapter, we are given several undeniable, infallible proofs of the resurrection of Christ and how His resurrection relates to, and calls for, or guarantees a future glorious resurrection for the saints.
Coming to verse 23, we are informed of the order of these two resurrections. Order here refers to what comes before or follows after, as A comes before B in the alphabet, and 1 comes before 2 in numbers. Christ's resurrection comes first in order, and they that are Christ's will come after Christ's. Since these two resurrections are the only ones referred to in this chapter, their order is simply given in relation to each other. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are told of other resurrections and when they take place.
There is an Old Testament saints’ resurrection recorded for us in Matthew 27:50-53 when many of the saints which slept arose and came out of the graves after His Christ's resurrection. As these Old Testament saints went into the holy city and appeared unto many, they were a manifestation of what the resurrection of Christ will mean to all the righteous dead of all time. Considering the various resurrections of the Bible, this one is second to Christ's. This is no contradiction of 1 Corinthians 15:23 since only two resurrections— Christ's and they that are Christ's are under consideration there.
The next resurrection— the third in order seems clearly to be the New Testament saints which sleep in Jesus… the dead in Christ as recorded for us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. These will be resurrected and caught up with the then living saints to meet the descending, shouting, trumpet-blowing Lord Jesus in the air. This Scripture is identical in content to 1 Corinthians 15:23. It will be they that are Christ's that will be raised at His coming. Nothing is said about any other resurrection at this time.
The fourth resurrection in the 1,2,3,4, order is recorded for us in Revelation 20:4 in one of the several dozen revelations of Jesus Christ to John. John saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image (Rev 13:16), neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The term they lived means "they lived again." That is, their bodies which had been beheaded and were, therefore, dead, were resurrected to live again and share with Christ in a special reign of Christ designated to be of a one-thousand-year duration (Rev 20:4b). These are the people who will have lived during the short reign of the beast, the antichrist. They will have honored the warning of the Angel, flying in the midst of heaven, against receiving the mark of the beast and will have chosen death rather than to worship the beast and receive his mark (Rev 14:9-12). These resurrected martyrs, along with all the righteous who have been resurrected, will together constitute what the Bible classifies as the first resurrection. There are only two characteristically different classified resurrections of the Bible. It is worthy of note that whenever the Scripture generalizes the resurrections of the righteous and the unrighteous in the same text, the righteous are always mentioned first (Dan 12:2; John 5:28). All the resurrected righteous dead together comprise the "first resurrection" of the only two characteristically different resurrections— the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation.
The final resurrection recorded for us will take place, according to the testimony of Jesus one thousand years after the beasts, martyred saints are resurrected (Rev 20:5). This is the first information we have in the Bible regarding the time of the resurrection of the wicked dead. It is the second of the two characteristically different resurrections. These will be raised and called to the Great White Throne to be judged and sentenced forever to the Lake of Fire, which is the second death (Rev 20:11-15). There is no mention of the resurrection of the wicked when they that are Christ's at His coming are raised as in 1 Corinthians 15, nor when the dead in Christ are raised, and the living saints are caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1Th 4:14-18).
Coming back to 1 Corinthians 15, beginning at verse 35, Paul answers the would-be skeptics— the rationalizers who would challenge the resurrection based on it being a human impossibility. How could corruptible, decomposed, worm-eaten bodies (Job 19:26) come forth again and whatever would such bodies look like if they would be raised up, seems to be the question.
Paul then uses the simple everyday miracle of the production of new life in new grain. The life of old grain dies as it produces new life of similarly identifiable grain. Wheat that dies to produce new grain never produces new grain of corn. Nor does corn ever produce new grain of wheat. Old grains always produce new grains of their own kind. Among other object lessons, Paul also uses the stars as an illustration. While all stars look like stars, they are sufficiently different to have individual identities. One star differeth from another star in glory. So also in the resurrection (1Co 15:35-42).
That resurrected bodies will embody a distinct identity similar to the earthly identity is indicated by Jesus when He said, There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out (Luke 13:28). Moses and Elijah were identifiable on the mount of transfiguration. The rich man in the torments of hell could identify Abraham and Lazarus in the place of comfort. If those who are thrust out of the kingdom are able to identify those who are in the kingdom, would those who are together in the kingdom be any less able to identify each other? Jesus Himself carried earthly identifying marks in His resurrection body. He had flesh and bones in which He carried and doubtless still carries, the identifying wounds of Calvary (Luke 24:39).
After clearing up the "how" of the resurrection, Paul bursts forth with a declaration of the new, improved quality of life that the newly resurrected bodies will experience. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor: it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body (1Co 15: 42-44).
The new body will bear the image of the glorified Christ - the heavenly one, rather than the image of Adam, the earthly one. It will bear none of the inefficiencies, inadequacies, or deteriorations of our present mortal bodies (1Co 15:49,49). When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is (1Jo 3:2).
The Apostle concludes this gloriously enthralling, captivating, hopeful message of the resurrection and immortality with the motivating effect this should have in helping us to stay put on the great fundamental principles of the "forever settled" holy oracles of God and keep us on the move abounding in the things that glorify our dying, risen, exalted and soon-coming Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1Co 15:58).