God’s being “all in all” is rooted in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and the resultant future, when Christ returns and “the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Paul begins 1 Corinthians 15 by discussing the gospel message, namely, that Jesus died, was buried, rose from the dead, and appeared to many witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1–11). Some of the Corinthians had been claiming the resurrection was a false doctrine (1 Corinthians 15:12). Paul counters that the resurrection of Jesus and of those who believe in the gospel is crucial for the present process of becoming holy and the Christian’s future glorification. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:17–19, if the resurrection of Jesus is a false reality, the Christian’s future resurrection is not a reality. Without the resurrection of Christ, the Christian is “of all men most to be pitied.”
Paul makes a clear defense of the resurrection of Christ beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:20. This resurrection will lead to a future resurrection for all those who have life through faith in Him. Jesus was the first person to be raised from the dead, never to die again. His is an eternal resurrection. As Jesus has led the way, other events will follow: believers who have died before Jesus’ second coming will be resurrected when He comes (1 Corinthians 15:23), and those still living will be made incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:50–58; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).
After Jesus comes again, He will bind Satan, set up an earthly kingdom, and physically rule for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1–6). At the end of that time, Satan will be released from imprisonment, and Satan and his followers will rebel and be destroyed (Revelation 20:5–10). Jesus will then give authority back to the Father, and He Himself will be in subjection to the Father. It’s based on these truths that Paul claims, “God may be all in all.” Ultimately, all in all is an expression of the rightful authority that God possesses. In the future, when evil has been eradicated forever, God will reign as the unchallenged Supreme over all the universe. He will be the one and only Ruler of all hearts and lives and the only desire of His creatures. When God is all in all, our redemption will be fully accomplished, and God’s glory will fill all creation (cf. Psalm 72:19).
God’s being “all in all” is expressed in the NLT as being “utterly supreme over everything, everywhere.” The full context: “All who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, ‘God has put all things under his authority.’ . . . Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere” (1 Corinthians 15:23–28, NLT). The AMP depicts God as “manifesting His glory without any opposition, the supreme indwelling and controlling factor of life.”
It’s important to note that, in reality, God has always had complete authority over His creation, although, in this present world, His rule is not as evident due to the presence of His enemies. One day, all God’s enemies will be vanquished. Not even death can last (1 Corinthians 15:26).
According to 1 Corinthians 15:28, Jesus will practically continue in an eternal submission to God the Father. Ontologically, Jesus is equal with God as the Second Person of the Trinity (John 8:58). Just as God has absolute authority as Creator, Jesus has absolute authority as Creator (see Colossians 1:15–16; 3:11).
As Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 15, he shows the implications of God’s being all in all. Those who are to be resurrected need to lead holy lives, fulfilling the purpose of bringing God glory. For if the resurrection isn’t true, why not “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32)? However, the resurrection is true—all of humanity will be resurrected by God, so “do not be misled . . . and stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).
Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. He will gather His elect to Himself in the future, reign on earth, and abolish Satan and death. Upon completing these events, all enemies will be defeated. All things will be subject to God, giving all authority to God, and He will be “all in all.” In light of this future, let us obey Jesus, stop sinning, and enjoy the grace of God.