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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 15:50-58

05/05/2013

The Victory!

1st Corinthians 15:50-58

In our last study we noticed that Paul was faced with two questions about the resurrection of the dead; how can the resurrection happen, and what will our new resurrected bodies be like. He used a number of illustrations to show how there are many different types of flesh, different bodies, already in the world, and that God made them all, and gave each one of them their individuality! So with the new resurrected body! The God who made Adam out of dust could without doubt recreate a spiritual body for each of us at the resurrection. The nature of that new body he illustrated by a number of contrasts with our present bodies, and showed that our new bodies would be incorruptible, honourable, powerful and spiritual! There is, Paul argues, a natural progression in all of this, for the physical always precedes the spiritual! Now the Apostle turns his attention to the events and results of that last day, and he gives us his final word, in this epistle, regarding the last day:-

The Coming of the Lord Jesus!
Here we have a marvellous and a powerful description of the Day when the Lord will return and the dead shall be raised!
* The NEED for such a Glorious Day. We are not fully equipped, in our present bodies, to inhabit the new heaven and the new earth! So Paul reminds us that, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. To live eternally with the Lord, in heaven will require an absolutely radical change in the nature and structure of our bodies! Presently we are just flesh and blood, and human flesh and human bodies, as presently composed, cannot enter Heaven! These bodies are equipped for an earthly life, and they must be changed, to suit them for a heavenly life! It must be made spiritual and it must be made incorruptible, so that, like heaven itself, it will never pass away!
* The REVELATION of that Glorious Day. Behold, I shew you a mystery You will remember that we have already learned, for example, in 1 Cor. 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, that a mystery is not something that we cannot understand. In fact, a mystery is something that is plainly revealed to us! It is a revelation that God has chosen to make to man! There is nothing inexplicable or mystifying, or secret about the second coming! It is laid out for us in God’s Word, because He wants us to be aware of it, and live in the light of it! Paul is revealing to us something of the mind and purpose of the Lord
* The EVENTS of the Glorious Day. So what shall happen on that day and to whom?

Who will it affect? We shall not all sleep. There are two classes of believers who will be affected by the Lord’s return. Those who have died, as we have previously seen, will rise, and will be clothed in their new bodies and will go to be with the Lord! Until that day they will have been in heaven, awaiting the Resurrection Day! But what of those who are still alive when the Lord comes? You see, there will be a final generation of mankind who will never ever taste death at all! There will be those who are still alive, and Paul deals with them here! We shall not all sleep! William Barclay and some other liberals think that Paul was in error here, and that he was expecting the Lord to return in his own lifetime. Not at all! Charles Hodge points out that the ‘we all’ of this text refers to all believers who had ever lived, were living, or ever should live! Both the living and the dead Christians will rise to meet the Lord, and both will be changed! Paul says, but we shall all be changed! To the Thessalonians, Paul makes the same point, in 1 Thes. 4:14-17 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

When will it occur? At the end of time! In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. Right at the very last day! When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more!
It will be sudden! The word moment is a translation of the Greek word ‘ατομω, (atom!) and in Greek it literally means ‘indivisible!’ We cannot conceive of any shorter period of time! It is less time than it would take to involuntarily blink your eyelid!
It will be unexpected! Jesus tells us this! Luke 12:40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
It will be final! I cannot see here a secret rapture, and a later resurrection. The suddenness of the Lord’s return here is not the prelude to a time of tribulation, or a second coming, or a thousand year reign. The sudden return of the Lord is for His saints, both living and dead, to clothe them in their new bodies, to take them home, and to overthrow the wickedness of this world. But see the finality of it! When he comes for his saints. The LAST TRUMPET shall sound! There shall be no more trumpet blasts! The trumpet is the sound that awakens the dead, that rouses the troops for battle that sounds the warning to Israel… But this is the LAST TIME it will sound! No more warning, no more Gospel of Grace no more presentations of God’s love for sinners, the Day of Grace is over! Jesus said it would happen thus! Matthew 24:31

What will actually happen? the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. We see from 1st Thessalonians that there is a proper sequence to the events of the Day. The trumpet shall sound, the dead in Christ shall rise to meet the Lord in the air, those saints who are alive on that day shall be caught up with them, and shall not prevent them who have died, and we all shall be changed! The wicked dead will be cast into the Lake of Fire for ever and ever! John 5:28-29

What will be its results? Paul has already told us that we shall be changed. Now he describes for us the nature of that change! For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

I can vaguely remember the funeral of Winston Churchill. Churchill had planned his funeral, which took place in Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. He included many of the great hymns of the church and used the moving Anglican liturgy. Following Churchill’s instructions to the letter, a bugler, positioned, high in the dome of Saint Paul’s, sounded out, after the benediction, the sound of “Taps,” the universal signal that says the day is over. But that was not the end of this part of the ceremony. As Churchill had instructed, as soon as “Taps” was finished, another bugler, placed on the other side of the great dome, played the notes of “Reveille” “It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning.” The final word on the life of a man is that death is NOT the end! There will be a morning! The trumpet will sound!

Have you noticed the element of CERTAINTY that runs through Paul’s writing here? The trumpet SHALL sound, the dead WILL be raised, we SHALL be changed! We have lost sight of this glorious confidence today! Oh, if we could only grasp the certainty of Christ’s coming! If we could just get it into our minds that at any moment he might break through the clouds to receive us, what a difference that would make to our lives! It would change our priorities! It would change our prayer lives! Careless Christians would be on their knees in prayer! Frivolous Christians would cease their foolish jesting and go out to win souls! Carnal Christians would live out and out for Jesus! The Prayer Meetings would be full again, and when a call goes out for evangelism, people would be queuing to go out on the doors to tell others! May the Lord help us to grasp this great assurance today!

The Cemetery is Defeated!
The next point that Paul must make in relation to the Lord’s Coming, and our resurrection, is that on that day, death will be defeated! 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.

A Triumph for All Eternity!! Paul has a picture here, of a resurrected believer, standing before the lord in Heaven, and with endless eternity to enjoy His Saviour’s presence! The prospect of NO MORE DEATH is exciting and wonderful! The believer is incorruptible, and he is immortal! It is a mighty victory!

A Triumph of Great Healing! O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The resurrection removes the sting of death! But why is death a sting? Well, it is because of SIN that death entered into this world, and when the resurrection occurs, there will be NO MORE SIN, hence, no more death! DEATH’S STING IS GONE!

A Triumph of Grace Alone! The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. Because the sting of death is sin, and sin’s strength lies in the law, only the GRACE OF GOD can deal with sin and death! The law brought death, but grace brings us life! Rev. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Hebrews 2:14-15 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

A Triumph to Gladden the Heart! But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory. I’m glad that death is defeated! I’m glad that there will be a day of resurrection! The result of the saving grace of God, a glorious promise of eternal life… It gladdens the heart of believers and causes us to rejoice!
Notice too that this victory come only through Christ! through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note the last words of some of the great Christian saints, for they demonstrate a great confidence and assurance that the work of Christ has relieved them of the fear and sting of death! Martin Luther said “Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation: God is the Lord by whom we escape death.” John Knox said, “Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death.” John

Calvin on his deathbed said, “Thou, Lord, bruisest me; but I am abundantly satisfied, since it is from Thy hand.” John Wesley, “The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!” His brother Charles Wesley said, “I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness–satisfied, satisfied!”

The Consistent Christian is Vindicated!
The American author, Mark Twain once quipped, “Let us endeavour so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Paul said something very similar to that as he brings this section of his letter to a close! He says Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. We are ‘beloved brethren’ and Paul urges us to be react to the coming of the Lord by:-

* A Steadfast Stand! Let us be firm in our defence of the faith and determined to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. 1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

* An Unmoveable Faith! Are we not so capricious today? We are up one day, and down the next! But in the light of Christ’s coming, let us be unmovable!

* An Abundant Labour! The word labour here means ‘exhausting toil.’ Certainly that is what God’s work is! We are not to be weary in our well-doing! The Amplified Bible reads, “Be firm, … always abounding in the work of the Lord, that is, always being superior (excelling, doing more than enough) in the service of the Lord!”

* A Fervent Hope! For we will be rewarded, and we know that the labour that we do for the Lord here will never be in vain, for one day we will receive our Crown of service in glory! Rev. 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

The hymn writer Fanny Crosby gave us more than 6,000 gospel songs. Although blinded by an illness at the age of 6 weeks, she never became bitter. One time a preacher sympathetically remarked, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you.” She replied quickly, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?” “Why?” asked the surprised clergyman. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Saviour!” One of Miss Crosby’s hymns was so personal that for years she kept it to herself. “One day at the Bible conference in Northfield, Massachusetts, Miss Crosby was asked by D.L. Moody to give a personal testimony. At first she hesitated, then quietly rose and said, ‘There is one hymn I have written which has never been published. I call it my soul’s poem. Sometimes when I am troubled, I repeat it to myself, for it brings comfort to my heart.’ She then recited while many wept, ‘Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall see; but oh, the joy when I shall wake within the palace of the King! And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story–saved by grace!'” At the age of 95 Fanny Crosby passed into glory and and the first face she ever saw was the face of Jesus.

From → Sermon Notes

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