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. 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: they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death.
If one compares God’s warning to Adam 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, this should be clear. If you think about it, you should realize that the warning as it was rendered in the KJV wasn’t literal since Adam didn’t physically drop dead that day, which means you’re already interpreting the passage figuratively. And since there are no passages in Scripture that talk about the so-called “spiritual death” most 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). Of course, 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 the KJV translators got it right, and that we should 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 quickening, when we’re made immortal; to be quickened 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) 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 judgement seat of Christ.
However, “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 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), quickened, and made perfect rather than about avoiding a torture chamber called “hell” (the word “hell” is actually a figurative term which refers to different places and concepts from one another — depending on the passage the word is used in — none of which are what most Christians have assumed for the last 1,500 years or so). It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “even so shall all in Christ be made alive.” 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 made alive, 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 ”quickened,” should not to be confused with being resurrected. 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 be quickened (the dead first, after being resurrected, followed by those who are still living) at the Rapture, being ”made alive,” or being quickened, can only refer to being made immortal. This means that there are three different groups of humans who will be “made alive,” or made immortal, according to this passage, and these three groups combined consist of all humanity (even though each group will be quickened in their own order).
The first group 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 group is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring to those in the Israel of God who are quickened after being resurrected at Israel’s first 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 quickened at this point, but I’ve since concluded that only those who were dead and who will be resurrected will be quickened 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 quickenings 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 quickening 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 (quickening 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 quickened three-and-a-half or more (likely more than seven) years apart from each other — and believe the first is just speaking of Christ Himself. However, 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 quickened 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 quickenings mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, but Paul then speaks of a third and final group to be quickened when he wrote “then cometh the end” in verse 24, referring to a final group of humans to be quickened (“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). You see, if Paul isn’t referring to a final group of humans being resurrected and/or made immortal when he says, “then cometh the end” in that verse, it would have to mean “then comes the end of the world (or worlds)” or “then comes the end of the age (or ages)” or something similar instead (although I should add that this technically could be said to have a double meaning, since the end of the ages is when this final quickening occurs, and is something that the body of Christ has already attained in spirit, and will have also attained physically at their own quickening long before the actual final age ends, but the end of the ages isn’t the main point of this statement). Paul wasn’t simply referring to the end of the ages 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/quickenings among humanity to suddenly arbitrarily discussing an entirely unrelated topic (the triumph of Christ over His enemies, and the destruction of death, at a time in the distant future, but with no connection to the topic he was already discussing), then to go right back to discussing resurrection and quickening again as he does a few verses later.
Another reason this can’t simply be referring to the end of the ages rather than to the final group to be quickened is his explanation that this “end” exists at the time when Christ has subjected all authorities and principalities and powers (referring to rulership by both humans on earth as well as spiritual 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 destroyed 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 quickening 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 quickening 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 quickening. 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 age, which also helps demolish 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 age.)
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 destroyed at a point in time after “they that are Christ’s at His coming” have been quickened, not that they are subjected or that death is destroyed by that group being quickened (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 quickening 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 be talking about the final (end) group to be quickened, meaning the rest of humanity (including both those who are dead — meaning those whose bodies were burned up in the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgement, and those who happen to die on the New Earth during the final age — 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 quickened yet, referring to those whose names were written in the book of life but who hadn’t already been quickened 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 Millennium), finally quickened after the fifth and final age is completed and Jesus’ reign over the Kingdom comes to an end because He’s defeated all enemies (including death) and has turned all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father, and God is finally “All in all” (yes, in all, not just in a lucky few; if Paul had not pointed out that the “all” he was writing about doesn’t include God, people could then turn around and say that “all” doesn’t actually mean “all” because it obviously couldn’t include God, so it could then also exclude people who die as non-believers as well if it doesn’t actually mean “all,” but because Paul does point out that God isn’t included in the “all,” yet doesn’t mention anyone else as being excluded from the group, we know that everyone other than God is going to be included in the “all,” even those who die as non-believers — and for those who like to argue that “all” in this verse can’t actually mean everyone because of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:6, what I just wrote about “all” including everyone other than God tells us that it has to be referring to all sapient creatures other than God regardless, but that aside, there’s no good reason to assume that the “all” in chapter 12 isn’t talking about everyone anyway, and based on what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, it almost certainly is).
This means, by the way, that people who use passages that seem to tell us Jesus will reign “for ever” to prove that “everlasting punishment” in hell (or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation) will also never end “because those passages use the same words” are actually basing their argument on an obvious misunderstanding since Paul is clear that His reign won’t be never-ending, but rather will only last until He’s defeated the final enemy, meaning He reigns for the final two, and greatest, ages — meaning the fourth and fifth ages; we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most evil, “world” (meaning “age”), for those who aren’t aware — but stops reigning after they’re over. This also demonstrates just how few people are aware that A) the passages which are translated as “everlasting” or “for ever” in the KJV have to be interpreted qualitatively rather than quantitatively based on this fact and the fact that Paul was clear that everyone will eventually be quickened, as well as that B) Paul saw much farther into the future than John did in the book called Revelation (John only saw into the beginning of the fifth age, whereas Paul saw all the way to the end of the “ages” or “worlds,” after that fifth and final age ends).
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 ages 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.