The Hope Of The Resurrection Of The Redeemed
1 CORINTHIANS 15:53-58
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and the mortal must put on the immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY, O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power 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 toil is not in vain in the Lord (NASB).
A missionary told an old chief about Jesus Christ, describing Him as God’s only way to heaven. “The Jesus road is a good road,” the aged chief agreed. “But I have followed the Indian road all my life and I cannot change now.” A year later, he lay in his hut, deathly sick. The missionary hurried to his side and once more told him of Christ. “Can I turn to Jesus now?” the dying chief asked. “My own road stops here. It has no way through the valley!”
Every road that a man walks in life ends at the grave. The roads of religion, fame, wealth, and success can never take you through the valley of the shadow of death. Only Christ can do that! And He will, if you but trust Him.
I. THE RESURRECTION IS ESSENTIAL FOR
THE LIFE TO COME V. 53
In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul is addressing matters pertaining to death and the resurrection. In fact, this passage is the detailed treatise on the resurrection in the entire New Testament. The church of Corinth has sent to Paul theological, ethical, and practical issues that are bothering them. Some people in Corinth are advocating that there is no resurrection after death. If you have read about the city of Corinth, you would understand the reason some were advocating such teaching, given the immoral climate of Corinth. Those who have embraced immorality as a lifestyle were saying, you have one chance at life, why don’t you live for today.
Apostle Paul writes to refute the false teaching that is promoting the loose living that is creeping into the church. He begins with the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the basis for the Christian’s hope of resurrection. He says that there were about five hundred eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Out of this five hundred, Paul considered himself as the least, as someone, who was untimely born. Paul says then that because Christ is risen and alive Christians have hope beyond the grave. Why do Christians have hope beyond the grave? Because when Christ returns He will also raise us up from the dead. In other words, this body which perishes due to death will be transformed into an imperishable body.
In verse 53, the words, perishable and mortal are synonymous, and imperishable and immortal are synonymous. The phrase put on or clothe itself is a metaphor pointing us to the truth that the body is not the real person; it is only its clothing. In the life to come the real person will put on another suit, so to speak. If Jesus Christ tarries, all of us who are believers would die. When we die, this body will decay, it will decompose, but when Christ comes to raise us up from the dead, He will give us a body that will not be subject to decay. We will receive a body similar to our Lord’s that will never decay. Therefore, if your body is riddle with pain, aches, and sickness today, at the resurrection Christ will give you a new body that will be free from pain, aches, and diseases. In other words, Christ will give you a perfect body that some are trying in vain to have today. The long chain of decay and death inaugurated by the first Adam will eventually be irrevocably broken by the last Adam.
The last Adam is Jesus Christ. The three deadly enemies conquered the first Adam. The serpent deceived Adam and Eve, which is Satan to sin against God. Due to sin Adam died. When Jesus came, He defeated Satan by His obedience to the heavenly Father. He defeated Satan and sin. He was brutally crucified, but on the third day, Jesus rose again from the dead. Therefore, Jesus has defeated these three enemies, Satan, sin, and death. These three enemies are every person’s concern and source of fear, but since Christ has defeated them, Christians are not to be afraid (Heb. 4:14-15).
II. THE RESURRECTION IS THE DEFEAT OF DEATH VV. 54-57
Today we see death all around us. A German lunatic pilot recently intentionally plunged passages and crew to their untimely death on the Alps Mountains. We heard of the sudden death of about 260 people on American Airline flight # 587 on its way to the Dominican Republic a few years ago. For now, death seems to triumph; it does conquer and destroy. It does not discriminate on the basis of age or gender. Death takes both the old and the young; it takes a baby, a teenager, and adult. It takes blacks and whites; it takes Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians, and Africans. Death is no respecter of persons. Death takes the rich and the poor; it takes the educated and the uneducated. He takes all kinds of people. You cannot bribe death. Death is a malignant adversary, torturing people. ISIS that evil Islamic terrorist group selected some Ethiopian Christians and executed them mercilessly because of their faith in Christ. When your time comes, death will call your number and you cannot resist or fight death. However, in view of Christ’s resurrection, God has dealt a mortal blow to both sin and death, and one day when we are finally raised with Christ, then death is swallowed up in victory. No more can death tyrannize, because it has been swallowed up in victory. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has reversed the victory that death enjoyed over people. When Christ returns and the dead in Christ are raised, the victory of believers will be complete.
In verses 54 and 55, Paul is rejoicing because of the defeat of death. "O death, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting." Satan seemed to be victorious in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3) and at the cross of Jesus. But God turned Satan’s apparent victory into defeat when Christ rose from the dead. Therefore, death is no longer a source of dread or fear. Christ overcame it, and one day we will also overcome it.
A boy and his father were traveling in a car when a bee flew through the open window. The boy was so highly allergic to bee stings that both he and his father knew that his life was in danger. As the boy frantically jumped around and tried to avoid the agitated bee, the father calmly reached out and grabbed the bee. When he opened his hand, the bee began to fly again, terrorizing the boy once more. The father then said, “Look, son,” holding up a hand with an implanted stinger, his stinger is gone; “he cannot hurt you any longer.” As a bee loses its stinger when it stings, so death lost its sting when it stung Jesus. Jesus has removed the venom or poison out of death. Therefore, death is a thoroughfare for believers into the presence of the Father.
"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." Sin gives death its penal character and makes it a fearful thing. It is not death in itself that is the harmful thing; rather it is death that is the wages of sin (Rom. 3:23).
Today some people’s fear of death is so strong and their confidence in technology so great that they are spending tens of thousands of dollars to have their bodies frozen at the time of death. Their hope is that they might be revived to live again when a cure is found for whatever caused their death.
Nevertheless, moral issues are the serious ones. You and I are not to fear death; rather it is sin that you and I are to fear. Death is simply a passing out of this life into the immediate presence of Christ, if you are a believer. Death is a gain, not a loss. The Apostle Paul says, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Where sin is pardoned, death has no sting. When Christ has forgiven you of your sin, death does not have control over you. However, it is quite another matter where sin has not been dealt with. Then death becomes a virulent enemy. The sting is not in death; it is in sin. Have your sins been forgiven? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb of God? The ally of sin is the law. The law is the unexpected ally and source of power of sin. The law of God is good, but it has no power to bring you to salvation. In fact, the law becomes sin’s stronghold because it sets before you a standard you ought to reach, but you can’t. The law makes sinners of us all. It condemns us all. "But glory be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is victorious over death (Rom. 6:9). Indeed, He has abolished death (2 Tim. 1:10). He has satisfied the law’s claim, for "He redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13).
The law will no longer make sinners out of us who cannot keep it. Death has been defeated, and we have hope beyond the grave. Christ has replaced the reign of sin with that of grace (Rom. 5:20f.); Christ has drawn its sting and left it powerless. Because of Christ’s victory over sin, Satan, and death, the Christian life is a life of victory and not defeat.
III. THE RESURRECTION IS AN INCENTIVE TO SERVICE V. 58
In conclusion, Paul is saying to you and me that because of what Christ has done for us, we are to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." This is an exhortation to you and me to be stable in Christ. In other words, you should not allow any circumstance to make you fickle, not even the death of a loved one. Get a firm grip on the truth of the resurrection, on God’s final plan for all believers, and all things. You must allow the truth of the resurrection to sink deep in your heart and mind. Not only that, your service for Christ in this life is not in vain. Therefore, when you render service to someone and the person refuses to thank you don’t worry, because your labor in Christ will not be in vain. Continue to serve Christ and do good. The Christian life is an abundant life. There is nothing narrow in the genuine Christian experience. Because of the resurrection everything we do is not in vain.
Sometimes you and I hesitate to do good because we don’t see the results. But if we maintain a heavenly perspective, we will understand that we often will not see the good that results from our efforts. If we believe that Christ has won the ultimate victory, that fact must affect the way we live our lives right now. Don’t let discouragement from an apparent lack of results keep you from working for the cause of Christ. Do the good that you have the opportunity to do; knowing that your work will have eternal results. I am not advocating that if you have not surrendered your life to Christ, your goodness will provide eternal results. The eternal results are the benefits of those who live their lives for Christ. Therefore, if you do not belong to Christ this is the right time to give your life to Christ. This is the day of salvation.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."