I Corinthians 1:8
I Corinthians is loaded with eschatological references. The overall theme of the book is not end times, so why did Paul reference the eschaton so many times? Perhaps it is tied to the other themes of the book. Let’s take a look at a smattering of these references.
3:13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire . . .
4:5 Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
5:5 You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit man be saved in the day of the Lord.
6:2 Did you not know that the saints will judge the world?
6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
7:31 . . . For the present form of this world is passing away.
The citations continue throughout I Corinthians. As you can see, there is a great deal of data here to be considered. What is the connection? Surely there is a reason why Paul connected this writing with so much eschatological material. We have verses pointing to the resurrection, the judgment upon sin, our ruling in judging the world, and the coming kingdom. The future is either grand or horrific, depending on whether you are in Christ or not. These citations have a great deal to do with the rest of the book.
Some of the issues dealt with throughout this book include division, sexual sin, divorce and remarriage, church order, the Lord’s Supper, love, eating food sacrificed to idols, and the reality of our future state. Most of these items share one thing in common: they are instructional – what we are to do or not to do. The one exception would be the sections on resurrection. Of course, we are commanded to wait for and look for the resurrection as a definite future occurrence, so the instructional implication is present even there.
We are commanded to not allow favoritism to divide us as believers. There is no place for sectarianism in regards to our salvation. Division disrupts the body of Christ. We are shown here how God wants us to exercise our liberty. We are to consider one another as conveyed in chapter 13 – the love chapter. Sexual sin is dealt with extensively. There was a well-known case of incest going on in the church; Paul uses that to instruct the church that God ordained sexual relations between one man and one woman united in marriage. Any other exercise of sexual activity is sinful. The sections dealing with the gifts of the Spirit are written to tell us how to order our worship. There is a right way to worship and anything that brings confusion into the worship service is not of God. Case by case, we are presented with how we should live with regard to our Christian community.
Paul wants the church to function in such a way that God is glorified. God is not glorified when there is chaos, division, and gross sinfulness present in the body of Christ. We must operate as a New Testament church. We were created to be different than the world. Certain things might be seen as acceptable with worldly eyes, but we are being pushed to see things how God sees them.
Ultimately, why is this all important? Yes, we know because the glory of God is in sight, but that glory right now is seen as from a distance. The glory of God is something we perceive. It is real, but it is not truly present in a physical, tangible manner. One day that is going to change, though. Paul is trying to get us to see that the glory of God is on its way ino our present world. It is coming; the kingdom of God is coming. At some appointed time in history yet to be, God is going to pierce our world and our Lord will come back. We should behave as Paul emphasizes in light of the reality of the coming presence of the Lord.
The coming presence of the Lord will be synonymous with judgment. The cross announced the judgement of God upon sin that Jesus bore, but the second coming will enact that judgment upon our world. The Lord will call this world to account for its history – the real theme of I Corinthians. We are to live our lives expectantly toward eschatological realities. If we are in Christ, this is a good thing. Passages heralding the eschaton show us that not only will we be on the right side of the law, but that Christ will have us to judge the world itself. We will transition to the rule of junior judges, so to speak. We have an inheritance – an eternal, incorruptible inheritance – as I Corinthians makes clear to us. But what if someone is not in Christ? Well, then this is not so much good news for them. God is glorified no matter the outcome. If you are saved, then God is glorified in your salvation. If you are not saved, God will be glorified in your judgment. Thus, God’s justice is the means of His glory. These passages issue forth the statement that this world will be judged by fire. It is true that after the great flood, God promised He would not destroy the world in the same way. He never said that He would not destroy the world, just that He would not do so with a flood again.
Judgment is coming. When we are called to give account for our lives, what will the heavens declare? Will we be seen as ministering peace or division? Will our sins come on the video display? We won’t enumerate them. Paul dealt with some of the grossest of sins in this book, but they might be anything. Do we live our Christian life victorious over sin or do we enslave ourselves again? Do we serve as members of the church in a manner that brings order? You see, ecclesiology and eschatology are directly linked to each other. We are in I Corinthians to pursue our sanctification in light of our eschatology. Yes, it matters that much.
Would you honor us with a comment?