If “The Law” In 1 Corinthians 15:56 Is In Reference To The Law of Moses, Does This Mean That “Covenant Eschatology” Is True?
This question can be broken down into two questions. The first question is: “Is ‘the law’ in 1 Corinthians 15:56 a reference to the law of Moses?” The second question is: “Does this mean that covenant eschatology is true?”
The answer to the first question is “yes” - “the law” in 1 Corinthians 15:56 is a reference to the law of Moses. The answer to the second question is “no”.
Using the principle of consistency of language, Paul is not referring to a different law in 1 Corinthians because he used this same phraseology in referring to the law of Moses in 1 Corinthians 9:8; 14:34.
According to the “covenant eschatology” advocates, they claim that the Law of Moses was not taken away until A.D. 70. They believe that 1 Corinthians 15:56 supports their false doctrine because it is supposedly showing that the law of Moses is still binding since 1 Corinthians was written around the mid-50s A.D.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 states: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Paul states that the “sting of death is sin.” When we examine the historical account of Genesis 1-3, we learn that God did create man immortal because physical death was a consequence of human sin (Romans 5:12-21). Adam and Eve had access to the partaking of the tree of life. We learn that Satan came and deceived the woman and she along with her husband fell into transgression (Genesis 3:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:13). Sin brought about spiritual separation from God (Isaiah 59:1,2; Romans 6:23), but it also would bring forth eternal, conscious punishment in hell if the sin not repented of and covered by the blood of Christ before a person dies physically (Acts 17:30; Romans 6:3,4; Revelation 1:5).
Paul states that the “strength of sin is the law.” Paul is stating that sin (using the figure of speech of personification) took advantage of the existence of law (particularly in this context – the law of Moses – since the law of Moses was given to the Jews only – Deuteronomy 5:1-3) to condemn the Jews. It must be noted though that the Gentiles who were under the “law of the heart” in Romans 2:14-15 [the law that was enforced upon Gentiles before the universal “law of Christ” (the gospel – 1 Corinthians 9:21)] would have been subject to spiritual death when they transgressed that law. Paul was once a Jew who recognized that the law of Moses did not hold any ultimate provision unto salvation (Romans 7:1-25). He realized that only through the gospel of Jesus Christ was there victory over sin. The consequence of sin is that it brought forth physical death. The termination of physical death was broken by the resurrection of Jesus Christ because physical death could not hold onto Jesus. He was released from the pangs of physical death and had victory over the grave (Psalm 16:8-11). Therefore, part of the victory that sin brought abuse to the law of Moses would end.
This verse cannot be used to support the “covenant eschatology” view because Paul, an inspired writer, would not contradict himself elsewhere in his epistles where he states that the law of Moses had been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14-17; Ephesians 2:14-16) and was, therefore, no longer binding.
This verse cannot be used to support the “covenant eschatology” view because the Gentiles were never amenable to the law of Moses anyways and most of the Corinthian members were primarily made up of Gentiles (1 Corinthians 2,5,6,8). The “death” of 1 Corinthians 15:56 would be, according to the covenant eschatologists' misuse of it, referring to the result of transgressing the law of Moses. But how could that be possible if the Gentiles were never amenable to the law of Moses?
Paul was writing in the gnomic (or general) present tense. The primary force of the present tense in this context is to bring something to the forefront. What is Paul wanting to bring to the forefront? What is his primary emphasis? Paul makes a stark contrast between the law of Moses and what Jesus Christ was able to do: “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The law of Moses condemns; yet it could not make any provision where one could be made righteous in the sight of God. But the gospel of Christ does shower forth the opportunity for a person to be made righteous in the sight of God (Romans 1:16-17). It is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the implications of the resurrection (Romans 4:21-25) that we can be brought spiritually back into fellowship with God (Ephesians 2:1-10), but also because Jesus is the firstfruits of those who never die again (1 Corinthians 15:20,23); then when Jesus returns those who are in Him will be the first to rise from the grave to enter into eternal life with the Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16).
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