Then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. (15:24–28)
The third aspect of the resurrection plan that Paul discusses here is what may be called the restoration. The apostle summarizes some of the things that will happen in the last times.
Then (eita, “after this”) may imply an interval of time between the resurrection at His coming and the establishment of His kingdom. That would coincide with the teaching of our Lord in Matthew 24 and 25, where He tells of all the signs that will precede His kingdom, even the sign of the Son of Man in heaven and the gathering together of the elect (24:30–31).
Telos (end) not only can refer to that which is final but also to that which is completed, consummated, or fulfilled. In the final culmination of the ages, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, all things will be restored as they were originally designed and created by God to be. In the end it will be as it was in the beginning. Sin will be no more, and God will reign supremely, without enemy and without challenge. That gives us great insight into the divine redemptive plan. Here is the culmination: Christ turns over the restored world to God His Father, who sent Him to recover it.
Christ’s final act will be to conquer permanently every enemy of God, every contending rule and authority and power. They will forever be abolished, never to exist again, never again to oppose God or to deceive, mislead, or threaten His people or corrupt any of His creation.
This final act of Christ, the turning over the world to His Father, will be worked out over the period of a thousand years, during the millennial rule of Christ on earth. As vividly and dramatically portrayed in the symbols and statements of Revelation 5–20, Christ will take back to Himself the earth that He created and that is rightfully His. The scene of Revelation 5 depicts the Son taking rightful possession of the title deed to the earth, His going out to take it back from the usurper to present it to the Father. In doing that He will quell all rebellions and subdue all enemies. He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. It is necessary for Him to rule.
The figure of putting His enemies under His feet comes from the common practice in ancient times of kings and emperors always sitting enthroned above their subjects, so that when the subjects bowed they were literally under, or lower, than the sovereign’s feet. With enemies, a king often would literally put his foot on the neck of the conquered king or general, symbolizing the enemy’s total subjection. In His millennial reign, all of Christ’s enemies will be put in subjection to Him, under His feet, so that God’s sovereign plan may be fulfilled.
During the Millennium no open rebellion will be tolerated, but there will still be rebelliousness in the hearts of Christ’s enemies. Because His enemies will not submit to Him willingly, He will have to “rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15). But they will be ruled. At the end of the thousand years Satan will be unleashed for a brief period to lead a final insurrection against God and His kingdom (20:7–9), after which he, with all who belong to him, will be banished to hell, to suffer eternally in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10–15).
The last enemy, both of God and of man, is death, which, with all the other enemies, will be abolished. Christ broke the power of Satan, “him who had the power of death” (Heb. 2:14), at the cross, but Satan and death will not be permanently abolished until the end of the Millennium. The victory was won at Calvary, but the eternal peace and righteousness that victory guarantees will not be consummated and completed until the enemies who were conquered are also banished and abolished. Then, His final work having been accomplished, Christ delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father.
When He took the assignment of salvation from His Father, Christ came to earth as a baby, and lived and grew up as a man among men. He taught, preached, healed, and did miraculous works. He died, was buried, was raised and ascended to His Father, where He now intercedes for those who are His. When He returns He will fight, conquer, rule, judge, and then, as His last work on the Father’s behalf, forever subdue and finally judge all the enemies of God (Rev. 20:11–15), re-create the earth and heavens (Rev. 21:1–2), and finally deliver the kingdom to the God and Father.
The kingdom that Christ delivers up will be a redeemed environment indwelt by His redeemed people, those who have become eternal subjects of the everlasting kingdom through faith in Him. In light of Paul’s major argument in this chapter, it is obvious that his point here is that, if there were no resurrection, there would be no subjects for God’s eternal kingdom; and there would be no Lord to rule. Unless He and they were raised, all of God’s people eventually would die, and that would be the end—the end of them and the end of the kingdom. But Scripture assures us that “His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:33), and He and His subjects will have no end.
Lest any of his readers misunderstand, Paul goes on to explain the obvious: But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. God the Father is the exception who will not be subject to Christ, for it is the Father who gave the rule and authority to the Son (Matt. 28:18; John 5:27), and whom the Son faithfully and perfectly served.
From the time of His incarnation until the time when He presents the kingdom to the Father, Christ is in the role of a Servant, fulfilling His divine task as assigned by His Father. But when that final work is accomplished, He will assume His former, full, glorious place in the perfect harmony of the Trinity. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. Christ will continue to reign, because His reign is eternal (Rev. 11:15), but He will reign with the Father in trinitarian glory, subject to the Trinity in that way eternally designed for Him.
When God created man He made him perfect, righteous, good, and subservient. At the Fall, this supreme creature of God, along with all the rest of His creation, was corrupted and ruined. But the new men He creates through His Son will never be corrupted or ruined. They will be raised up to live and reign eternally in His eternal kingdom with His eternal Son.
25 There is now a battle going on between Christ and the spiritual forces of evil. When Christ ascended into heaven, he sat down “at the right hand of God” (Mt 26:64; Ac 2:33; Ro 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3), an expression that denotes his reigning in power. It is this reign that Paul refers to when he writes, “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” These last words are a quotation from Psalm 110:1, the most quoted OT chapter in the NT. Here Paul interprets this verse as a prediction of Jesus’ present rule before the end. Jesus himself quoted Psalm 110:1 as a prediction of his reign as the Son and the Lord of David (Mt 22:44 par.). Christ is reigning at the present time despite the presence and power of evil in the world, and in his own time he will overthrow all the spiritual forces of evil.
26 The destruction of the last enemy—death—will occur at the time when the dead “who belong to [Christ]” (v. 23) will be raised again and receive new bodies. Prior to that, though Paul does not say so explicitly, Christians can expect to die like anyone else. That final victory has still not taken place.
25 The argument that begins with this verse and carries through v. 28 is Paul’s explanation of the how and why of the two “events” of the End, mentioned at the end of v. 24. The explanation is based on his use (interpretation?) of two passages from the Psalms (110:1 and 8:6 [LXX 8:7]), which have the similar theme of “placing his enemies (subjecting all things) under his feet.” Although the argument gets somewhat complex, primarily because one is not always sure of the antecedent of all the pronouns, whether Christ or God, the point of the whole seems plain enough. God himself stands as both the source and goal of all that is; and since he has set in motion the final destruction of death, when that occurs, he will be “all in all.” Christ’s role is to bring about this destruction through the resurrection, which is inherently tied to his own. When that occurs, all of God’s enemies will be subjected to Christ, so that in turn he may be made subject to God, who, it turns out, has been the one who subjected all things to him in any case.
Paul thus begins by picking up the theme of “Christ’s rule” from v. 24. This rule is currently in effect, but at “the end,” when he has destroyed all the powers, he will “hand [it] over to God the Father.” Paul now puts that into biblical perspective. Christ’s rule, which by implication began with his resurrection (or subsequent ascension), must continue until Ps. 110:1 is fulfilled, “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
What is not certain is the intended subject of the verb “until he has put.” In favor of “Christ” is (a) the grammar itself, since the natural antecedent is the subject of the preceding “he must reign,” referring to Christ; and (b) the fact that this serves as an explanation of v. 24, where Christ is the subject of the clause “when he destroys all dominion, etc.” In favor of “God” is (a) the fact that in the psalm itself God places all things under the Messiah’s feet, and (b) that in v. 28 God is finally designated as the subject of Ps. 8:6, as the one who has subjected all things to Christ. Almost certainly we must go with the grammar here and see Christ as the subject. Thus, he must reign (as he is now doing by virtue of his being Lord) until he places all his enemies (especially death, as v. 26 makes clear) under his feet. By subjecting death to himself through the resurrection of the dead, which is causally related to his being the firstfruits, Christ will thus have brought Satan’s tyranny to its conclusion.
Paul’s concern is therefore not with “two reigns,” but with the Messiah’s bringing to completion his work of redemption. The further explanation in vv. 27–28 makes it clear that God ultimately lies behind this final action of the Messiah. The reason for this is that the destruction of death takes place in the raising of the dead itself, an event that occurs because those who are in Christ are in solidarity with him, so that his resurrection becomes the foundation of theirs; and God is the ultimate “cause” of the resurrection, which takes place in two “orders.”
26 The grammar of this sentence is somewhat puzzling; nonetheless, its point is certain. This is Paul’s own interpretation of the “last enemy” that must be put under the reigning Messiah’s feet, death itself, and thus is the reason for this entire explanation in the first place. The sentence literally reads, “The last enemy is being destroyed, namely death.” The difficulty lies with the present tense and passive voice of the verb, plus the fact that no conjunction or particle joins it to what has preceded. F. C. Burkitt53 suggested that it serves as the apodosis of the two “when” clauses in v. 24, with “the end” being understood adverbially (= “at the end”) and v. 25 as a parenthesis explaining the twin protases of v. 24. Thus: “Then at the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power (for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet), the last enemy is being destroyed, death itself.” Attractive as that is as a way out of the grammatical difficulty, the reading of v. 25 as a parenthesis when the content of v. 26 is dependent on it seems to nullify it.
Nonetheless, Burkitt is probably on the right track in terms of understanding Paul’s intent. The asyndeton (lack of conjunction) gives the sentence a “strong and decisive prominence” between the two scriptural adaptations. The present passive is best understood as referring to what takes place at the time of v. 24; that is, it refers to Christ’s destroying “every dominion, authority and power.” In a sense death, the final enemy to be subdued, is already being destroyed through the resurrection of Christ; but Paul’s concern here is with its final destruction, which takes place when Christ’s own resurrection as firstfruits culminates in the full harvest of the resurrection of those who are his. Death is the final enemy. At its destruction true meaningfulness is given to life itself. As long as people die, God’s own sovereign purposes are not yet fully realized. Hence the necessity of the resurrection—so as to destroy death by “robbing” it of its store of those who do not belong to it because they belong to Christ! This is precisely the point made again at the end of the argument in vv. 53–57.
25. For he must rule until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
Paul continues to explain the significance and the time span of Christ’s rule with the conjunction for. He advances the concept of divine necessity by saying not that Christ rules but that he must rule. He implies that God the Father has given his Son the mandate both to reign and to complete the divine plan of redemption.
Throughout his correspondence with the Corinthians, Paul bases his teachings on the Scriptures. Here he alludes to one of the psalms that speaks of Christ’s kingship:
The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”
[Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44]
The allusion displays Paul’s freedom in adapting the Scriptures. David, the psalmist, portrays God as the speaker who addresses his Son and reveals that God will subjugate the enemies to be a footstool for his Son’s feet. But Paul rewrites the Old Testament text to give it a christological emphasis and have Christ overpower all his enemies. This passage should not be interpreted to stress the work of either God or Christ. The context shows that both God and Christ function alternatively as subjects of the verbs in verses 20–28.
Christ’s universal reign begins when he rises victoriously from the grave in his state of exaltation and ends when he effectively eliminates the power of all his spiritual enemies. These enemies are all the spiritual forces that have rule, authority, and power (v. 24). Peter writes that at Christ’s ascension, the “angels, authorities and powers [were placed] in submission to him” (1 Peter 3:22). During Christ’s reign they continue to exercise their demonic influence until he abolishes their powers at the end of time.
When Christ destroys the last enemy, namely, death, he has already delivered his kingdom to God the Father. Consequently, the services of angels to believers have come to an end, for God’s people will have received full salvation (see Heb. 1:14). During the time of Christ’s kingdom, the process of conquest continues until it finally enters the settled permanent state of God’s kingdom.
- The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Among the hostile forces is the power of death. For the human race, this force has continued to rule from the time of Adam’s sin (see Gen. 2:17; 3:17, 19) until the present. We view death as a power that is foreign to the human race; it became triumphant over humanity when Satan induced man to sin. Adam’s disobedience resulted in the death of himself, his wife, and all his descendants. But Jesus conquered death through his resurrection and will abolish it in the consummation.
The adjective last describes death and should be interpreted to mean that death is the last foe among the demonic forces that exercise rule, authority, and power over humanity (v. 24). This domination, however, is abolished when all Christ’s people have been raised from the dead and are glorified.
Paul writes the verb to abolish in the passive voice and intimates that God is the agent who will terminate the power of this destructive force. God brought Jesus back to life and has given his followers the assurance that they also will be raised from the dead. If there is no resurrection, death continues to sway its power. But if there is a resurrection of all the believers, the power of death ends once for all.
Those Corinthians who denied the resurrection also failed to realize Christ’s triumph over death, for he holds the keys of death and the grave (Rev. 1:18). According to the apostle John, both death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death (Rev. 20:14). In the renewal of heaven and earth, death will be no more (Rev. 21:4).
Scholars note an attractive symmetrical structure in verses 24–28 (see the illustration below). Verse 26 (E) is at the center. Verse 25 (D) corresponds with verse 27 (D´), verse 24 (C) with verse 27 (C´), verse 24 (B) with verse 28 (B´), and verse 24 (A) with verse 28 (A´). The verses that show parallels reinforce each other and reiterate their meaning.
In verse 25, Paul alludes to Psalm 110:1 with its message of the subjection of all Christ’s enemies under his feet. In verse 27, he broadens this message to include everything (in similar wording taken from Ps. 8:7). Further, the phrase then comes the end in verse 24 signifies that God is all in all as supreme ruler in this universe (v. 28).
|(A) 24. Then comes the end,
|(B) when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father,
|(C) after he has abolished all rule, and all authority and power.
|(D) 25. For he must rule until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
|(E) 26. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
|(D´) 27. For he has put all things under his feet.
|(C´) And when he says, “All things are put under him,” it is clear that the one who subjected all things to him is excepted.
|(B´) 28. And when all things are subjected to him, then even the Son himself shall be subjected to the one who subjected all things to him
|(A´) so that God may be all in all.
 Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 397). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 553–554). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.