Scripture
1 Corinthians 15:51-57
Date
April 1, 2018
Speaker
Pastor Witt

 

 

Greeting: Christ is arisen from the grave’s dark prison.  We now rejoice with gladness; Christ will end all sadness.

 

Text: 51) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – 52) in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  53) For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  54) When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  5) “Where, O Death, is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?”  56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  57) But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Introduction: Just fifteen years ago, the countries of Iceland, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Tonga and the Philippines united to defeat Saddam Hussein and his military forces to win a hard-fought war for the liberation of Iraq.   At this point, some of you may be asking: “Pastor, how well do you know recent history?   These countries could not have defeated Saddam Hussein and his forces.  The 177 troops they committed to the coalition effort would have been far too weak to do much of anything.  Wasn’t it the United States and its military forces, sometimes numbering as high as 140,000 that were responsible for the liberation of the Iraqi people?”   You would be correct.  But it is also correct to say that these smaller, weaker countries also won the liberation of Iraq.   Because of the leadership and sacrifice of the United States, these other countries can also claim victory and share in the joy and satisfaction that others made possible for the Iraqi people.

 

On Easter morning, you and I are able to claim a victory over enemies that we could never defeat by ourselves.  We are able to announce a victory over the dreaded enemies of death and the destruction of our bodies.  We can do this because another Person made it possible.  Today we celebrate the victory that Jesus Christ won all by Himself over the great enemies of our life.  In Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we see the victory that insures our own.   Listen as God urges us to HAIL THE VICTORY THAT ASSURES OUR VICTORY.

 

 

1. Over The Bitter Sting Of Death

 

There are two great enemies that Saint Paul mentions at the end of the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.   One of those enemies is death.  The other is the destruction of the body.  Saint Paul refers several times to the “sting of death.”  Death does sting bitterly.  It strikes sharply.  It hurts deeply.  If you need a reminder of that, perhaps you might want to call the families of Susan Cagle, Ray Collett, Vivian Fields, Annie Schaeffer, and Floyd Thomure, whose deaths were announced in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week along with 154 other people.   Or perhaps you might want to talk with the families of Jaime Guttenberg and Peter Wang, both teenagers and two of the 17 people killed last month at Margaret Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.”

A person once expressed the bitterness of death by having the words “death ends all” placed on the gravestone of a loved one.  Death brings things to a decisive close.  It stops us from carrying on our work and from pausing to reflect and enjoy what’s around us.  It prevents us from dreaming new dreams and from tackling new challenges.  It separates us from the people, the things and the experiences we love.  Death ends it all.  It takes everyone and everything away and gives nothing back. 

 

Death is a bitter enemy.  It claims thousands of people each day.  It has claimed people close to us: perhaps grandparents, parents, brothers, sister, children, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors, fellow Christians.  It will claim more of them in the future.  And all too soon, it will claim us.  Death is a formidable foe.  It is vastly stronger than we are and relentlessly swallows up life after life.  By nature, we have every reason to hate death, to fear it and to strive to avoid it.

 

Death is a great enemy.  But Jesus Christ is greater than death.  On Easter morning, Jesus showed His greatness by rising from the dead and winning a smashing victory over death.   Death comes because of human sin.  God tells us in His Word: “The wages of sin is death.  The soul who sins is the one who will die.”  Death, both physical death and eternal death in hell, is the tragic penalty for disobedience to God’s commands.  By offering His sinless life as the payment for our sins, Jesus removed the sin which gives death its power.  By rising from the dead on Easter, Jesus showed that He was the Champion over death.  As the Defeater of death, Jesus will one day destroy death altogether.  Paul wrote about his earlier in 1 Corinthians 15, when he said; “Jesus must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  The time is coming when death will no longer exist.

 

Jesus’ victory allows all who believe in Him as their Savior from sin to claim their own victory over death.  When Jesus returns at the end of time, glorious things will happen for Christians.  Believers in Christ who are alive will instantaneously be changed into a heavenly condition without having to die.  Believers in Christ who have died will rise from their graves to live with God forever in heaven.  There will be joyful reunions, grand celebrations, magnificent undertakings.  Death will not trouble us ever again.  Even now we can join St. Paul in taunting death as our defeated enemy.  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”   This Easter morning, we hail the victory over death that assures our own.

 

 

2. Over The Body’s State Of Ruin

 

We also hail a second aspect to Christ’s victory for us.  It is His victory over the body’s state of ruin and decay.   Sin and death take a dreadful toll on our natural bodies and literally ruin them.   One of the consequences of our sin is that our bodies are afflicted with evils.   Allergies, colds, flu, headaches, strains, breaks, arthritis, degenerative diseases, heart attacks, cancers, blindness, mental illnesses are  just some of the forces that trouble and impair our bodies.  The parts and powers of our bodies experience greater decline as we age.  Finally, our bodies break down altogether.  We die and our bodies are placed in the grave – weak, decaying, powerless pieces of matter.

 

By rising from the dead on Easter, Jesus won a victory for the human bodies of His believers.  When Jesus came out of His tomb, He had His physical body, but that mortal, mutilated body had been transformed into a magnificent, glorious condition.  God promises that those who believe in the risen Savior will receive a body like the glorified body of the Lord Jesus.  The weakening, dishonoring, decaying effects which sin and death bring on our bodies are defeated and will be reversed and removed because of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

 

On the Last Day, in the final resurrection, Christ will not only raise His believers to life.  He will also transform their death-destroyed bodies into a magnificent condition.  Saint Paul describes that transformation when he writes: “The dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”  Bodies once weak and vulnerable will become strong and impregnable.  Bodies once subject to decline and decay will become imperishable and incorruptible.  Bodies once at the mercy of mortality and death will become deathless and immortal.  Bodies once fit only for burning or burial will become fit for the glory of heaven and the presence of God.  Such will be the splendid, magnificent, glorious condition of our bodies in the resurrection.  Because of Jesus’ victory, we shall give up our old, used-up, powerless earthly bodies in exchange for renewed, strong, eternal bodies.  What a triumphant time that will be!

 

One special person’s victory leads to victory for others.  Jesus’ victory over sin and death on Easter leads to our victory over death and the destruction of our bodies.  For your earthly and eternal blessing, believe/ keep believing this glorious truth: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And take comfort in knowing that because Jesus rose from the dead, so will you.  And because Jesus gained a glorious body, you will, too.  Hail the victory that assures your victory.  Ponder it.  Savor it. Thank and praise God for it at Easter and always.  Amen.