Today: [1 Corinthians 15:] When Death is Swallowed Up in Victory: In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul lays out the foundations of our faith in Christ. He asserts that faith in Christ is inherently connected with an understanding of the resurrection and the end of all things. Teachings on the end times are very much out of fashion in today’s religious climate, but for Paul, they are the very heart of what Jesus came to bring about by His death, burial, and resurrection.
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[1Co 15:1-29 KJV] 1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which [was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore whether [it were] I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then [cometh] the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul shifts the emphasis of his letter to a word of clarity concerning the gospel that he is commissioned to preach. He knows that he may not visit among the believers in this city any time soon and commands them to keep in their memory his teaching and testimony lest their belief in Christ be in vain. Here you see the boldness and the apostolic character of his ministry. A preacher today would not dare to suggest that the validity of his followers’ faith rested solely on whether or not they retained his or her teachings. Who is the apostle in your life? Who is the person used by God as Paul is with these believers – to establish the paternity of God in your life? We hear much about the orphan spirit, but we must understand that without fathers – true apostolic fathers we can never deal with the spirit of estrangement and fatherlessness that grips Christian culture today.
What is the message that Paul emphasizes here? That Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day. Is that all we need to know? Apparently not because Paul goes on to cite the testimony of the apostles of the lamb who witnessed the resurrection and ascension of the Lord into heaven. Again we see the importance of apostolic foundation in the church as those who were eyewitnesses of these miraculous things that constitute the very heart of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Did Peter and the twelve see Jesus? Yes, they did. Did the 500 see Jesus on the mount of Ascension? Yes, they did. Lastly, v. 8 tells us that Paul as well on the road to Damascus saw the Lord as a man born out of due time. What is the nature of Paul’s calling? In v. nine he says he is an unworthy apostle because he persecuted the church. He is unworthy but an apostle nonetheless. By this statement, he makes the point that the value of an apostle is not in his own qualifications but in the calling itself conferred not by man or by popular opinion but by God Himself.
In v. 10 Paul declares that the apostleship rests upon him by God’s grace and that it was not in vain. What does he mean by this statement? He is saying that God did not waste His resources by calling Paul because Paul “labored more abundantly” than all the other apostles put together! Is he boastful? Not at all. This is the man that wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. Were the other apostles illiterate or incapable of writing? No, they weren’t. We can see that Paul in his thinking must have wondered why the other apostles did not go with him to the work with the same intensity that he did.
In verse 12 Paul addresses those among the Corinthians who claimed there was no resurrection from the dead at all. This is ridiculous to him because he witnessed the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus. The resurrection for Paul was not a doctrine but a fact because of his own testimony. Many Christians today claim to have a testimony of salvation but when polled do not actually believe in the resurrection. According to recent polls, 25% of professing Christians do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. 31% do not believe that there is life after death. Yet 65% of Christians in America voted for Donald Trump. That means that in the USA Christians have more faith in Donald Trump than they do in Jesus Himself. To Paul this is unthinkable. What is the purpose of the faith if we have no hope of life eternal?
In verse 19 Paul makes a statement that bears hearing in our day – “if in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable…” Think about the preaching you have heard in your lifetime. Most messages and themes we hear from our pulpits are coping messages about hear and now. Very little is said about heaven, or hell or eternal things. Scripture is seldom quoted. The name of Jesus is almost never invoked. It is a deplorable state of affairs that in America today the name of Donald Trump is invoked far more often than the name of our savior. As one of my mentors was fond of saying “ain’t nothing wrong – but something ain’t right!”
In verse 20 Paul declares not only is Christ risen from the dead but He is only the first fruits of those that die. As death came by a man (Adam) so by a man (Jesus in His humanity) shall all those who believe be made alive. In Adam all die so in Christ all shall be made alive. Notice that Paul says “by a man” all will be made alive. Jesus provided and brought forth our salvation as a man, in his humanity. This is extremely important for us to know lest we worship Him after the manner of the pagans who worshipped their own fanciful creations of myth and legend losing sight of the fact not only of Jesus’ god-head but the common humanity that he even now shares with every one of us.
What is the end of the matter? Paul moves to the subject of end things. The end comes when Jesus as the head of the body will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father having put down all rule and all authority and all power. All means all. He must reign until his enemies are put under his feet, and the last enemy is death itself.
[1 Co 15:30-58 KJV]
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. 33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak [this] to your shame. 35 But some [man] will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 [Thou] fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other [grain]: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 39 All flesh [is] not the same flesh: but [there is] one [kind of] flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, [and] another of birds. 40 [There are] also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial [is] one, and the [glory] of the terrestrial [is] another. 41 [There is] one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for [one] star differeth from [another] star in glory. 42 So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that [was] not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven. 48 As [is] the earthy, such [are] they also that are earthy: and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? 56 The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. 57 But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
In making his insistence concerning the resurrection and the end of all things Paul complains to the Corinthians that if these things are not so then why stand we in jeopardy every hour? In other words, the teachings he is coming against conveyed the thought that there was no resurrection, no second coming, no end of all things. Isn’t that the attitude common today among Christian leaders? If you talk about the second coming or what some call the rapture they chuckle and sneer at how immature you are. They (so they think) are much more in-depth in the word – knowing, so they allege that these are fairy tales and things they have no intention of preaching and make every effort to disparage those who do. Paul rebukes those who cannot look any further than the interests of their own lives, who have no investment in the cosmic scope of the purposes of God. We must get this. It is essential that we understand that living for God is about being connected to something so much more significant than ourselves or our own petty interests.
What about death? Is death the end of things for us? No – we are to look at death as one that sows bare grain. We may face death in the trajectory of our lives, and honestly it is a dishonor. Death does not dignify us – it dishonors us. It may be that we will be sown in dishonor, but v. 43 says we will be raised in power. We may be planted into the ground as the remnants of a natural body, but we will be raised with a spiritual body – this corruption will put on, Paul says incorruption.
In v. 45 Paul states that the first Adam was made a living soul, but Jesus as the last Adam was made a quickening or life-giving spirit. The principle is (v. 46) first the natural and then the spiritual. It is our inheritance as believers not only to bear the marred image of Adam but the image of the heavenly, even of Jesus himself. This is not something we can inherit as mere flesh and blood. There will come a change. In a moment (v. 52) in the twinkling of an eye, at what Paul calls the last trumpet we shall all be changed. If Paul preached this in our pulpits today people would be bored and uninterested because they have been taught to scorn the idea of the second coming. This verse plainly points to a moment in time when God will instantaneously bring something about that will conclude human existence as we know it and commence the dispensation of heaven over all creation. This is when death will be swallowed up in victory. This is when the sting of death and the strength of sin will be broken, and the testimony of Christ in us will then shine with full intensity. How does this come about? By our own goodness or righteousness? No, only by an act of God (v. 57) thanks be today who gives us the victory not through our own efforts or righteousness by Jesus Christ our Lord.
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