Before getting into the topic at hand, which is the order of salvations to come that Paul wrote about, it’s important to understand why humans actually sin in the first place (other than Adam and Eve; they had a whole other reason that we don’t have time to get into here), and why Jesus didn’t (and before getting into it, I should point out that people who claim the reason He didn’t sin is simply because He is God and that only God in the flesh could avoid sinning are also telling us, even if without realizing it, that we humans can never be free of sin, not even after our resurrection, since we aren’t going to become God, so that wasn’t the reason). The reason humans sin is because we’re mortal/dying, and we’re dying because Adam sinned (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” — missing a single word, such as the word “that” in this case, when reading a passage in Scripture can change everything and make you completely miss the point of the passage). Contrary to what pretty much all Christians have been taught, we ourselves don’t die because we sin. Only Adam and Eve died because they sinned — or, rather, began to die/became mortal because they sinned: “in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying” is a more literal translation of what God said in the Hebrew Scriptures about the “forbidden fruit.” It wasn’t that they “died spiritually,” as most Christians assume (yet which you won’t find taught in Scripture, probably because it’s actually a completely meaningless expression); it was just that they were paid the wages of sin: to die they began dying, meaning they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death.
Even someone reading a more common Bible translation has to admit that this is the case if they compare God’s warning in those translations along the lines that, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” to what Paul said in the verse from Romans we’ve already covered. If they think about it they’ll realize that the warning (if that translation happened to be accurate) wasn’t literal since Adam didn’t physically drop dead that day, which means they’re already interpreting the passage figuratively. And since there are no passages in Scripture that talk about the so-called “spiritual death” they tend to believe in, yet there are verses where Paul tells us mortality leading to death was the consequence of Adam’s sin, what I’m explaining is really the only consistent interpretation of the warning in Genesis that I can think of.
You see, it’s important to realize Paul didn’t simply write “for all have sinned” in Romans 5:12 the way he did in Romans 3:32. Instead, he wrote, “for that all have sinned.” Yes, it would have meant “because all have sinned” if he had left out the word “that” in this verse, but he didn’t, and so “for that reason all have sinned,” or “because of that mortality all have sinned,” is what Paul was getting at in this passage (making mortality the cause and sin the effect for humanity at large in this passage rather than the other way around). Some people have tried to claim that the verse should really be translated more along the lines of, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men because all have sinned.” I’m not going to even bother getting into why they make this claim because, aside from the fact that this translation is literally nonsensical (I can’t see any way that the phrase “and so death passed upon all men because all have sinned” can legitimately follow “wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” and still make any sort of sense at all, at least not based on any rules of English grammar that I’m aware of), if we die because we sin, the first part of the verse would be entirely superfluous, and might as well be cut out of the verse altogether, since that part of the passage would tell us basically nothing about why we sin (there’s no actual connection made between Adam’s sin and our sins in the verse if that’s what it means). I mean, let’s break it down: A) Adam sinned (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world”), B) his sin brought him mortality leading to eventual death (“and death by sin”), C) his mortality passed down to his descendants (“and so death passed upon all men”) and D) because of our mortality, all of us descendants of Adam have sinned (“for that all have sinned”), giving us a nice “sequence of reasons,” each step of the way. But if we were to instead translate the last two parts of the verse as saying, “and so death passed upon all men because all have sinned,” we’ve suddenly lost the whole narrative, since this sort of translation doesn’t tell us why all have sinned. That “all have sinned” because “death passed upon all men” answers that question, but reversing the order (making sin the cause and death the effect rather than death, or mortality, the cause and sin the effect) just makes a mess of the whole thing, leaving us with the question of why we sin, which was what Paul was trying to explain in the first place with this verse. And for those of you who are thinking that “Original Sin” is the answer to that question, aside from the fact that this is an Augustinian concept with no scriptural basis — which means it’s a nonstarter when it comes to this topic, since we have to base our theology on Scripture — it also doesn’t have any connection with the sequence of reasons laid out in the verse leading to why we sin, so, at the very least, including the first two parts of the verse becomes entirely pointless, which makes it pretty ridiculous to think that this is what Paul was getting at. And so, I maintain that this is a case where the KJV translators got it best, and interpret it accordingly (meaning that “death passed upon all men,” and “for that reason all have sinned”), giving us answers to both the question of why we’re mortal, as well as the question of why we sin.
So, instead of dying because we sin, as most Christians have always assumed, we actually sin because we’re dying and don’t have abundant life in us, or the Spirit without measure, the way Jesus did (which is why He couldn’t actually die until He willingly gave His life up and God took His Spirit from Jesus; while Jesus, just like Adam prior to his own sin, was actually technically amortal — which means that, while He wasn’t immortal, which means incapable of dying, the fact that He didn’t have a human father meant He was not slowly dying the way we mortals are — having the Spirit without measure kept Him alive even on the cross, at least until the Spirit was taken from Him) to keep us from sinning the way He avoided it (although we also eventually will, at our resurrection and/or vivification, when we’re made immortal; to be vivified — or quickened, as the KJV puts it — simply means to be made immortal, for those who aren’t familiar with the term), and we’re dying because we genetically inherited the wages of the first Adam’s sin: mortality. (Yes, we can avoid sinning some of the time, but being mortal makes us too weak to avoid sinning all of the time.)
And, just as a quick but related aside, please don’t confuse “death” with “judgement.” Death (which, yes, can technically be a punishment for certain sins, such as in the instances of capital punishment in the Mosaic law) is really just a natural genetic effect of being born into the line of Adam; in general it isn’t actually a punishment (not outside of specific “legal” cases anyway) or judgement in and of itself (at least not for anyone who isn’t Adam or Eve), or else newborn babies who haven’t sinned yet would never die, and abortions (at the very least, “late-term” abortions) would be impossible to perform. Judgement, on the other hand, will be experienced by those who are not saved (relatively speaking) when they appear before the Great White Throne, and by members of the body of Christ at the dais of Christ (sometimes also referred to as the judgement seat of Christ).
However, “just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (or, perhaps more literally put, since not everyone will actually die, “even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified”). I hope it’s now become clear that, if what we need to be saved from is mortality (and, of course, death, for those who died before Christ’s return), as well as sinfulness because of that mortality, salvation is largely about being resurrected (if dead), vivified, and made perfect rather than about avoiding a torture chamber called “hell” (the word “hell” is actually a figurative translation of multiple words, and they each refer to different places and concepts from one another, none of which are what most Christians have assumed for the last 1500 years or so). It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “thus also shall all in Christ be vivified.” If it had, one might be able to assume that it only applied to a specific group of people (only those “in Christ”). Thankfully, that’s not how it was worded. Instead, Paul was using a parallelism there to tell us that everyone affected by the action of the first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. Just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects of the first Adam’s action (mortality and, in most cases, physical death, as well as sinfulness because of that mortality), they also have no say in experiencing the effects of the last Adam’s action (eventual immortality and sinlessness).
As Paul also wrote in Romans 5:18–19, just as condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one (and not because of their own offences or disobedience), righteousness and justification will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one (and not because of their own obedience, which would have to include obedience towards any commands to do anything specific in order to get saved, including choosing to believe anything specific, at least as far as salvation from an absolute perspective goes).
Most Christians mistakenly believe that only those “in Christ” will be vivified, completely missing the significance of the order of the wording in that verse in 1 Corinthians 15. But the whole point of the parallelism in this passage is to make it clear that Christ has at least the exact same level of effect on humanity that Adam had, meaning Christ’s action changes the exact same “all” that Adam’s action did (a paraphrase of this verse that should make the meaning of the passage more clear would be, “just as because of what Adam did, every human is condemned by being made mortal, equally so, because of what Christ did, every human will also eventually experience salvation by being made immortal”).
But while Paul tells us that everyone who experiences mortality because of what Adam did will also eventually experience immortality because of what Christ did, he also tells us that there’s an order to when each person will be made fully alive. This is a good time to explain why being “made alive,” or being ”vivified” (which is ζῳοποιέω/zōopoieō in the original Greek), should not to be confused with being resurrected (which is ἀνάστασις/anastasis in the original Greek). Since only the dead experience resurrection (at least from a literal perspective), and since both the resurrected dead and those still living members of the body of Christ will experience vivification (the dead first, after being resurrected, followed by those who are still living) at the Snatching Away (which is the actual version of the event often called the Rapture that many Christians mistakenly believe will eventually happen to them, and which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), being ”made alive,” or being vivified, can only refer to being made immortal. This means that there are three different orders of humans who will be “made alive,” or made immortal, according to this passage, and these three orders combined consist of all humanity (even though each order will be vivified in their own times).
The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which refers to the body of Christ (aside from the Head of the body, Who would presumably have to be excluded unless Jesus was also directly affected by Adam’s sin, which He wasn’t since He was amortal rather than mortal — that was kind of the point of the virgin birth, after all) being quickened at the time of the Rapture. Both the resurrected dead and the still living in the body of Christ will experience this immortality at that time (the dead members of the body of Christ will be resurrected first, after which they and the remaining living members of the body of Christ will be “made alive”/made immortal), and will no longer sin from then on (because they’ll no longer be mortal). This event is God withdrawing His ambassadors from earth (as one does before declaring war), who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ in heavenly places.
The second order is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring to those in the Israel of God who are vivified after being resurrected at the time known as the former resurrection (also referred to as the resurrection of the just), near the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, 75 days after Jesus returns to earth and the Tribulation period has concluded, and presumably includes both the resurrected dead saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision as well as the “Old Testament” saints (please read this article if you aren’t familiar with the difference between the body of Christ and the Israel of God). I should say, for a long time I assumed that everyone who is saved under this Gospel (as well as all the “Old Testament” saints), both dead and living, will be vivified at this point, but I’ve since concluded that only those who were dead and who will be resurrected will be vivified at this time, while everyone else saved under this Gospel will simply remain alive (at least to begin with) in an amortal state thanks to partaking of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life, and won’t be made truly immortal until the final order of vivifications is completed much later. As for why I’ve come to this conclusion, I’ll just quickly say that if the reward for “overcoming” by some of those during the Tribulation will be to partake of the tree of life, and if one needs to continuously consume its products in order to remain healthy and alive as Scripture appears to say, yet the vivification of the resurrected dead happens instantaneously, as is demonstrated by those in the body of Christ when they’re caught up in the air, it seems that there must two different methods of remaining alive during the Millennium and beyond (vivification as the first method, and partaking of the tree of life as the second). With that in mind, I should also say that some like to group the body of Christ in with this order as well, and believe it applies to everyone saved under both Gospels — even if some are vivified three-and-a-half or more (likely more; in fact, almost certainly more than seven) years apart from each other — and believe the first is just speaking of Christ Himself. However, as I already mentioned, to do so would mean Jesus was affected directly by Adam’s sin, so placing the body of Christ in the first order rather than the second makes the most sense, and even more-so in light of my conclusion that only the resurrected dead of those in the Israel of God will be vivified at the end of the Tribulation.
Now, most people assume “they that are Christ’s at his coming” in verse 23 is the final group of resurrections and vivifications mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, but if Paul isn’t referring to the “telos,” or consummation, of humanity — meaning a final group of humans being resurrected and vivified — when he wrote, “then cometh the end” (or, “thereafter the consummation” — “εἶτα τὸ τέλος”/“eita to telos” in the Greek) in the next verse (“then the end group of people from the ‘every man in his own order’ of groups of people will be made immortal” is what that statement has to mean, as I’ll now explain), it would have to simply mean “then comes the end of the world” or “then comes the end of the eon (or eons)” or something similar instead (although I should add that this technically could be said to have a double fulfillment, since the consummation of the eons, also known as the end of the ages, is when this final vivification occurs, and is something that the body of Christ has already attained in spirit and will have also attained physically at their own vivification long before the actual final eon or age ends, but the end of the eons isn’t the main point of this statement). Paul wasn’t simply referring to the end of the eons there with no connection to what he’d just been discussing. It would literally make no sense at all for him to go from discussing the order of resurrections/vivifications among humanity to suddenly arbitrarily discussing an entirely unrelated topic (the triumph of Christ over His enemies at a time in the distant future, with no connection to the topic he was already discussing), then to go right back to discussing resurrection and vivification again as he does a few verses later.
Another reason this can’t simply be referring to the end of the eons rather than to the final group to be vivified is his explanation that this “consummation” exists at the time when Christ has nullified all sovereignties and all authorities and powers (referring to rulership by spiritual, celestial beings in the heavens, including by evil ones) and gives up the kingdom to His God and Father, and that it occurs when all His enemies are finally put under His feet, and when the final enemy — death — is finally abolished altogether. The problem is, if he was solely referring to a period of time in that statement, the way it’s written makes it sound like he’d then be claiming it takes place right after the resurrection and vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming.” But since we know from the rest of Scripture that there will still be enemies of Christ, as well as much more death happening, after that, this idea simply makes no sense at all. Remember, there will be well over 1,000 years to go between the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming” and “the end” at the time when Christ finally does defeat all enemies and turns over the kingdom to His Father, since, at the very least, there is still a final, even if somewhat one-sided, battle between Him and those who consider Him to be their enemy a whole millennium after their vivification. In addition, we’re told in Isaiah 65 that there will still be death on the new earth for a period of time after the Great White Throne Judgement as well, at least prior to the conclusion of the final eon, which also completely demolishes the ideas of Amillennialism and Preterism (or at least Partial Preterism), I should add. (And for those who are thinking that Revelation 21:1–8 means there won’t be any death on the new earth, a careful study of that passage should make it clear that this only applies to those who get to reside within the walls of the New Jerusalem, at least prior to the conclusion of the final eon.)
And it can’t be referring to the supposed “spiritual death” that most Christians believe in either (which some of them also mistakenly assume the death in verse 22 is referring to; although if it did, then Jesus definitely couldn’t be included in the “firstfruits” reference), because verse 24 tells us that His enemies are subjected and death is abolished at a point in time after “they that are Christ’s at His coming” have been vivified, not that they are subjected or that death is destroyed by that group being vivified (and remember, death is the last enemy to be defeated, yet there will still be more death and enemies continuing to exist long after the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming,” including on the new earth for a time). So if this part of the chapter is just talking about a so-called “spiritual death” (whatever that means) rather than physical mortality, and it’s only talking about certain people being given some sort of “spiritual life” (or “going to heaven” after they die), the same problem applies because it tells us that the end of “death” doesn’t occur until after both “they that are Christ’s at His coming” are given immortality and all the rest of Christ’s enemies have been subjected as well.
So, unless someone has a better explanation of what these verses are referring to (and so far one hasn’t been forthcoming when I’ve asked), it would seem this would definitely have to mean the final group, or the rest of humanity (including both those who are dead — meaning those whose bodies were been burned up in the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgement, and those who happen to die on the new earth — as well as those who are still living, thanks to having partaken of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life to keep from dying, but haven’t been vivified yet, referring to those whose names were written in the book of life at the Great White Throne Judgement after their resurrection for said judgement who hadn’t already been vivified previously, as well as those, and the descendants of those, still mortal humans who didn’t join Satan and die during his final rebellion at the end of the fourth eon), fully vivified after the fifth and final eon (known as the eon of the eons) is completed and Jesus’ reign over the kingdom comes to an end because He’s placed all enemies (including death) under His feet and turns all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father.
This means, by the way, that people who use passages that seem to tell us Jesus will reign forever to prove that “everlasting torment” in “hell” (or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation) also never ends because those passages use the same Greek words are actually basing their argument on an obvious misunderstanding since Paul is clear that He won’t reign forever but rather only for the eons (or the ages) or for the eons of the eons (or the ages of the ages), meaning He reigns for the final two, and greatest, eons — we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most wicked or evil, eon — but stops reigning after they’re over. This also demonstrates just how few people are aware that A) all of the passages that are translated as “everlasting” or “for ever” in the popular versions of the Bible have to be interpreted figuratively based on this fact and the fact that Paul was clear everyone will eventually be vivified, as well as that B) Paul saw much farther into the future than John did in the book generally called Revelation (John only saw into the beginning of the fifth eon, whereas Paul saw all the way to the end of the eons).
So, bottom line, it’s clear that every single human who will have ever lived will also have been made immortal (and hence sinless) by the end of the eons because of what Christ accomplished, although, if God has given you the faith to believe this Good News now, you’ll get to be included in that first group and experience salvation long before everyone else does. But either way, this is Good News for everyone, even if some will have to face the Great White Throne Judgement — and possibly even the lake of fire — first.
[Just as a quick side note, if you’ve read my eBook, you’re likely experiencing some déjà vu right about now. That’s because I included parts of chapter 2 of the book in the above post.]