1 Corinthians 15:20-28
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death. 27 For God has put everything under His feet. But when it says “everything” is put under Him, it is obvious that He who puts everything under Him is the exception. 28 And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all.
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The last enemy to be abolished is death.
—1 Corinthians 15:26
My grandfather—my dad's dad—died when I was about three years old. I got my middle name, William, from him. I’ve always been told that I’m a lot like him, inquisitive and contemplative. My grandmother told me I have his hands.
I don't remember him much, and I can only recall a few snapshot memories. When he died, I was too young to really understand what it meant, and I was spared from being very deeply affected by what was going on at the time.
But a loss is a loss, and I became more acutely aware of this as I got older. I’ve come to miss him, and I’ve often wondered what it would be like if he was still around, the kind of conversations we’d have, and the lessons he could teach.
Death is the most uncomfortable subject and greatest fear of humankind, though public speaking beats it or comes in a close second (depending on who you ask). Our mortality is inescapable. "It is appointed for people to die once..." (Hebrews 9:27).
No one is exempt from losing friends and loved ones. It’s perhaps the hardest thing we have to face. Sometimes it happens suddenly, and sometimes we can see it coming. But, either way, it’s never expected. We even avoid the very word "death" preferring platitudes like "passed on" or "passed away" to soften the blow.
Yet, death has become normal for us.
"...In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes" (Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptist Leroy, 1789).
But, and this is an important “but,” death was not meant to be a normal part of God's creation. Indeed, it wasn't meant to be a part of God's creation at all. When God surveyed all that he had made he saw that it was "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
Throughout our lives we’re surrounded by sickness, corruption, and death, and that’s just how things are. However, all that is, was created pristine and unmarred by the stain of sin. It ought not to be normal and deep within each of us there’s awareness that this isn't right.
Death is the enemy, the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). It’s part of a broken world, and it grieves God. The shortest verse in all of scripture is "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). It refers to Jesus' response to the death of his friend Lazarus.
Jesus was moved to tears by the reality of death and the havoc it wreaks in a world that should never have tasted it. God is grieved by death in any form. The rending of the soul from the body was never an experience we were meant to have.
Certainly God can redeem anything, death included. He’s sovereign. But death is the product of a broken world and not of His will or design. We misunderstand his character and sovereignty when we think otherwise.
In the midst of all of this corruption, all this sickness, all this death, and the heartache that it brings to us all, Jesus has been resurrected! Death has been conquered! Just ponder that for a moment.
In the passage leading up to our reading today, Paul has meticulously established the objective epistemological fact that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. But the good news doesn't stop there.
In today's reading, Paul goes on to show the implications of Christ's resurrection. That is, that Jesus Christ is indeed "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). As children of Adam we have all inherited death. Yet, as Children of God we’ll inherit life—the life of Jesus Christ now and for eternity.
All of us, unless Christ returns, will face death. Our soul will go to be present with Jesus (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Our bodies will go to the grave. However, in Christ we share a victory over sin and death.
There’s coming a day when Christ will return, and that victory will be fully realized. In the twinkling of an eye, our souls will reunite with our bodies and be glorified. What exactly that means we can only try and imagine, but it isn't some ethereal existence sitting on white fluffy clouds and playing golden harps. It’s life the way it was intended to be in a new creation free from the taint of sin in perfect fellowship with God.
- Sometimes as believers, especially if one has been a believer for a while, the impact of Scripture can be lost. Imagine you’re one of the citizens of Corinth and hearing the good news of the resurrection for the first time. What would your response be?
- Thinking about your own life, how does the truth of the resurrection change your perspective on this present world?
- Standing on the knowledge and truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, what might you need to change or do differently?