Two Views of Redemptive Order
By Fred O. Blakely
From an overall view of the situation, two contrasting orders of the unfolding of redemption’s plan are apparent. These, of course, are in no sense contradictory of each other. They simply portray the case as regarded from different perspectives. It is a good exercise of the spirit to consider them.
The Priority of the Natural. The first presents what might be termed the priority of the natural creation in the scheme of things, and is set forth by Paul in First Corinthians 15:42-47. He points out the order of the development of God’s purpose, as shown in the respective federal heads of the race—Adam and Christ. “That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual,” he observes.
His reference is to the fact that the “first Adam” came before the “last Adam” [Christ]. Hence, the natural body which came from Adam the first is our first tabernacle, but, after it is cast off by death, comes the “spiritual body,” which Adam the last gives. He concludes with the blessed assurance that “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly,” i.e., Christ, our resurrected body being “fashioned according to His glorious body” (v. 49; cf. Phil. 3:21).
The Grand Scope Envisaged. The Apostle here envisages the grand outworking of God’s eternal purpose in Christ. Insofar as bodily salvation is concerned, that purpose will ultimate in the complete undoing of the curse of corruption and mortality brought by Adam’s sin, as Romans 5:12-21 develops more fully.
This is what was declared earlier in First Corinthians 15:20-22: “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept [not only of the justified, but also of the unjustified; see John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15]. For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” “But every man in his own order,” it is added: “Christ the Firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (v. 23).
The Two Orders of Resurrection. Only two orders of resurrection are here mentioned—that of our Lord’s and that of the general resurrection “at His coming.” The term, “they that are Christ’s,” must, in its broader sense, refer, not to His church exclusively (though by it the Apostle for the moment may have specifically meant that), but to all mankind. This is because Christ, as we have seen, is here generally contemplated as the federal Head of humanity (as regards bodily resurrection), just as the first Adam was so in the old creation.
This must be the inclusive scope intended by “they that are Christ’s”; otherwise, the Apostle contradicts himself by saying that Christ is “the Firstfruits of them that slept,” and that resurrection by Christ is as certain and extensive as death was by Adam. Such a contradiction, of course, is unthinkable, as it is impossible that it should exist.
The First Place of the Spiritual. It is noteworthy that, in one view of the situation, there is a reversal of the redemptive order set forth above. From this aspect, “that which is spiritual” is first, then “that which” is bodily, not the other way round, as regarded in First Corinthians 15:46.
The Edenic “transgression” (I Tim. 2:14) was essentially spiritual, although physical activity was involved in the taking and eating of the proscribed tree’s fruit (Gen. 3:6). Accordingly, the immediately-effective part of God’s punishment of death for the sin was also spiritual. He had warned Adam that the day in which he should eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” he should “surely die” (ch. 2:15-16). And “it was so” (ch. 1:11), he being that day alienated from his Creator, with whom he apparently had previously enjoyed close communion, which spiritual separation is death. It was 930 years later that he paid the penalty of physical death.
The Parallel in Redemption. And so it is, when contemplated from this angle, with “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Man is first redeemed spiritually through his acceptance by faith and baptism of God’s saving grace. He, thus, lives unto God in his spirit before his bodily redemption becomes effective. The latter will take place “in the resurrection” (Mt. 22:30), at Jesus’ second coming. Not until then shall he experience “the redemption” of the body (Rom. 8:23-25; Eph. 1:13-14), realizing the consummate salvation from the condemnation and death into which the first Adam, by sin against God, plunged the human race.
Meanwhile, those who have now “received the atonement” for sin wrought by Christ (Rom. 5:11) live unto God through Him, and “rejoice in hope” of the bodily salvation “ready to be revealed” when Jesus appears (Rom. 5:2; I Pet. 1:5). As the first Adam sinned, and experienced the spiritual phase of his death sentence, so they who have obeyed Christ now have spiritual life in Him. And as Adam later tasted of the physical part of the death penalty, so they, too, shall, by and by, have their corruptible bodies replaced by incorruptible ones, and be given to live forever in full fellowship with and service of the gracious Father, as completely redeemed beings.
So does the order of redemption, as thus viewed, parallel that of the curse’s application as a result of the fall. First the spiritual is experienced, then comes the bodily, of which the former is an earnest and pledge. Great and marvelous, of a truth, are the works of our God, and precise in every detail as to their correspondence. —The End—