I suppose we’re all aware, whether we agree with the exegetical interpretation there or not, about 1 Cor 15:20-28, where Christ must reign until He places all His enemies under His feet, nullifying every sovereignty and every authority and power (with death itself being the final enemy abolished), after which He will give His kingdom to His Father, submitting Himself to His Father as all things have been submitted to Him (which implies that all things will then be in loyal submission to Him since otherwise the comparison would involve Christ submitting in continuing rebellion to the Father!) so that God may be all in all.
And if you’re a new visitor to the site and haven’t heard about this, well, there it is.
Right then; relatedly Paul declares at the end of what we call that chapter that we, his beloved brethren in Christ, should become settled, unmovable, superabounding in the work of the Lord always, being aware that our toil is not for nothing in the Lord. “Now thanks be to God, Who is giving us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
This would make maximum sense if the victory of evangelism was maximal; which at least implies Calv persistence in saving those whom God chooses to save. But does it also imply maximum scope? The eschaton prophecy of vv.20-28 would seem to indicate so. But wouldn’t it be great if there was independent confirmation, in this same discussion by Paul, of what Paul meant, one way or another?
Well, right before Paul exhorts us to keep on being steadfast in expecting total victory of our toil in the Lord (which must mean evangelism), he quotes two similar verses, one from Isaiah 25:8 and one from Hosea 13:14.
Isaiah 25 follows a chapter where God utterly destroys the earth, punishing heavenly armies (which must mean rebels) and the kings of the earth on earth, gathering them together, confining them in prison like in a dungeon, after which they will be… well, the Hebrew word there (pawkad) is a primitive one that means a whole bunch of things, which can include being punished. But they’re already being punished, so it might be worth looking at some of the other meanings. The basic meaning however is “to visit”. That can be visiting with hostile intention, or with helpful intention; and God has already been hostile to them! There are numerous applications of the term which could mean that they shall be remembered by God, cared for, set free.
Anyway, chapter 25 continues the theme of God ruining, destroying and killing tyrannical Gentiles (including Moab and its fortress specifically). The end result being aimed at by God, however, is also mentioned with scattered references along the way, with special focus in the middle of this prophetic hymn–which is where Paul is quoting his verse: “And YHWH of Armies will prepare a feast of plump foods for all peoples on His mountain; a banquet of aged wine and fat pieces of meat with marrow, refined aged wine! And on this mountain He will swallow up the face of the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is woven over all the nations. He will swallow up death for all time, and ADNY YHWH will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for YHWH has spoken! And it will be said in that day, ‘Behold, this is our God for Whom we have waited that He might save us! This is YHWH for Whom we have waited! Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation!’”
But that only applies to God’s righteous people, right? Maybe to God’s righteous people among the Gentiles, too (though that would be hardly imaginable to ancient Jews), but anyway surely by “all people” God doesn’t mean the tyrants, too, right?
Well, actually, in verses 3-5, leading directly into the beginning of the victorious peace of verses 6-9 (quoted above), when those strong rebel ruthless tyrant people are overthrown by God and see how God has saved the helpless and weak (whom the rebel tyrants now number among!), the “uproar” (or rebellious chaotic shouting) of the foreigners will be subdued, and the song of the ruthless will be silenced. But that means they will be hopelessly destroyed, maybe even annihilated out of existence, right? As with verse 14 in the following chapter?–“The dead will not live, the shades will not rise, therefore You have punished and destroyed them, and You have wiped out all remembrance of them!”
Well, whatever it means for those rebels to not live or rise for their remembrance to be altogether wiped out, it apparently must include what God prophecies (through Isaiah) in chapter 25 to be the result of all this overthrow and defeat: “Therefore a strong people will glorify You; cities of ruthless nations will revere You!”
So they cannot in fact be wiped out of existence, yet in some way they must be wiped out of existence; and in some way they must rise again, yet not rise again!
Their destruction as sinners and rebirth as loyal followers of God, in peace with the people they persecuted, would go a very long way toward fulfilling all these disparate bits of information. It also happens to fit the punishment/salvation theme of 1 Cor 15’s middle portion.
Perhaps (not??) incidentally, it also happens to fit the prophecy from the second half of Isaiah 26 where, after stating earlier (at verse 14) that the dead will not live and the shades will not rise due to the punishment and destruction from YHWH, the punished ones seek YHWH in distress as a pregnant woman in labor who can only bring forth wind, admitting that they could not accomplish deliverance for the earth nor give birth to the inhabitants of the earth. The result of their repentance? “Your dead will live! Their (or My) corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawnlight, and the earth will give birth to the shades!”
So, in fact, after repentance the apparently annihilated rebels from 26:14 will be brought back by God after all–the parallel of the wording cannot be accidental.
(And then in the sequel chapter, Isaiah 27, in the midst of further colorful descriptions of the forthcoming destruction of rebels, up to and including Leviathan, God speaks of that same day of wrath to come, “I have no wrath! Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle, I would step on them *, I would burn them up completely. Or let him take hold of My protection, let him make peace with Me, let him make peace with Me!”)
At any rate, Paul is here quoting a chapter where the Gentiles are being saved, and he is doing so in context of a discussion of the general resurrection, which in turn is being discussed in context of the salvation of Christ. (And that chapter of Isaiah tends to indicate that it’s all the nations, including the die-hard rebels against God, which will see this new life and salvation. But the die-hard rebels will first have to die before they repent.)
The other quote at 1 Cor 15:55 is from Hosea 13:14. This whole scroll is primarily about rebel Israel, sometimes typified by “Ephraim” (which is almost certainly a reference to Absalom the rebel son of David who died, hanging from a tree with a bleeding head and a side pierced by a spear, in the forests of Ephraim between Jerusalem and Jericho. Isaiah has more than a few things to say about rebuking Ephraim, too, not-incidentally, including in chapters closely subsequent to Isaiah 25.)
Basically the same material is covered in this chapter as in Isaiah 25, except the focus is on rebel Israel rather than on the rebel Gentiles. Some of the language of rebuke and destruction is even strikingly similar; for example v.3, “Therefore they [idolatrous Israel] will be like the morning cloud, and like dew which goes away early, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor, and like smoke from a window.”
God complains that He has been YHWH their God since they came out of Egypt and they should have known no other god except Him, “for there is no savior beside Me!” The people he cared for in the wilderness became fat and satisfied once they found pasture, and their hearts became proud. So God is going to rip them open like a leopard or a lion, seeing as how they are now “against Me, against your help!”
In fact, the whole chapter is a warning about God’s destruction coming upon Ephraim (and also upon Samaria for doing the same ungrateful rebellion against their only Savior). If we only read this chapter, we’d be wondering (quite literally) what the hell Paul saw in this to praise God about in regard to a saving resurrection!–for verse 14, which he quotes, is presented more as a question: “Shall I ransom them from the hand of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight!!”
In other words, the immediate context looks a lot like God is calling on Death and Sheol to destroy them!
But afterward, in chapter 14, God calls on rebel Israel to return to Him for they have stumbled due to their injustice. And in fact God promises to heal their apostasy and will love them freely, for His anger will turn away from them, and He will restore them to the fullness of His promises for them. But!–and this must have been what Paul understood–not until He has completed His prophecies of utter death and destruction for them, down into Sheol! Death and Sheol first, then they’ll learn better, then restoration.
This is why Paul can quote a verse from Hosea where God actually calls on the sting of death and Sheol, and use the same phrases as a victorious rebuke against death and Sheol: for the resurrection goes beyond the punishment of God into the reconciliation of sinners with God.
At any rate, Paul is here quoting a chapter where Israel isn’t being saved yet (in fact she’s being destroyed for being a rebel adulterous idolatrous unjust proud ingrate!), but eventually will be (after the destruction), and he is doing so in the context of the general resurrection, which in turn is being discussed in the context of the salvation of Christ.
So the question from before about the scope of God’s persistence in salvation from sin (though not necessarily from punishment), is answered: yes, the scope is total. Rebel Gentiles + rebel Israel (plus even the rebels in heaven grouped with the rebel kings of the earth!) == everyone, all sinners. No sinners are excluded from God’s salvation. The verses referenced by Paul fit the interpretation of the God in Christ saving Christ’s enemies who will be resurrected to wrath–but not to hopeless wrath.*