Love that Conquers Death

This is Love  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:26
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This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
In a one act play that he wrote in his thirties, Woody Allen wrote this often-quoted line:
“It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
On another occasion, during one of his stand-up comedy routines, Allen expressed a similar sentiment:
I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying.
My guess is that many of you smiled, or even laughed, at what Allen said. But I’m also guessing that you did that nervously. That’s because in our culture, we’re uncomfortable talking or thinking about death, even to the point that we usually don’t even use words like “death”, “die” or “dead”. Instead we use euphemisms and say that someone “passed away” or “passed on” or “went to a better place” or even “kicked the bucket” or that they are “deceased”.
But over the past few months as we’ve been bombarded with the daily statistics regarding the coronavirus, we really haven’t been able to avoid coming face to face with the idea of death. And that has understandably created a lot of fear all around the world. But as we’re going to see this morning, we don’t need to fear death. In fact, we’re going to see that because of the resurrection of Jesus, death can actually become our friend rather than our enemy.
I think one of the reasons that we struggle so much with the idea of death is that there are so many different views about what happens to us when we die:
There are many who don’t believe in God at all and therefore tend to believe that death is the end and that after that we just cease to exist.
There are some who believe that we become ghosts or spirits or even angels. How many times have you seen people say something like “God must have needed another angel” or claimed that their loved one is now an angel?
Some believe that you continually become someone or something else through the process of reincarnation. If you’re really good, you can even become a god.
Some believe that death is just a state of non-conscious existence that some call “soul sleep”.
And it’s not hard to see that if you view death in any of those ways, that death is an enemy that is to be avoided at all costs.
But this morning, as we continue our current series - This is Love - we’re going to discover that the love of Jesus that was demonstrated to us by His death and resurrection, is a love that conquers death.
Last week we began our series by talking about the love of Jesus that forgives our sin. We learned that as a result of the resurrection Jesus to continues to go to great lengths to forgive our sins even when we fail Him repeatedly. And as we’ll see today, that is an essential aspect of how the resurrection also makes it possible for the love of Jesus to conquer death.
If you have your Bibles handy, go ahead and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 15. As you turn there, let me give you a little background on Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.
Paul first established the church there on his second missionary journey and he ministered there for about a year and a half - longer that he had previously stayed in any city. The following year Paul embarks on his third missionary journey and ends up in Ephesus, where he spends three years strengthening the church there. During that time he hears of the struggles and problems within the church in Corinth and writes this letter.
One of the issues that Paul addresses in that letter is the resurrection of Jesus. We know that the people of Corinth were greatly influenced by the Greek outlook on death and the afterlife. The Greeks generally believed that physical matter, like the body, was evil and that only the soul or spirit was good. Therefore, to them the idea of a bodily resurrection after death, just wasn’t possible. So Paul writes chapter 15 to explain why the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus was essential to the gospel. If Jesus was only a good man, or a good teacher, or even a prophet who was only still with them spiritually, then the entire gospel falls apart and we are still dead in our sins. And if that is the case then we really should fear death.
Paul begins the chapter by recounting all of the people who had personally witnessed the physical resurrected body of Jesus, including Himself. That group consisted of over 500 people who had seen the resurrected Jesus over the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension to the Father.
He then goes on to remind his readers that the resurrection is at the very heart of the gospel. If Jesus did not in fact rise from the grave, then he was no different than any other person who ever died and therefore their faith in Him was futile. But since He did indeed come back from the dead, that not only meant that their sins were forgiven, but it is also the guarantee His disciples will also experience a physical resurrection some day.
Let’s pick up Paul’s letter in verse 20:
1 Corinthians 15:20–26 ESV
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Here is the main thought I want us to take away from what Paul writes here:

The resurrection of Jesus transforms death from an enemy to a friend

Theologians have certain written volumes on just these few verses. And we could certainly spend the rest of our time here. But in order to get to the heart of what I want you to take away today, let me drill this down to the essential ideas Paul expresses here:

Before Adam sinned > no death

Before Adam sinned, there was no death.

Adam sins > death for all

Adam’s sin introduced death into the world. And because all of us are sinners, just like Adam, we are all going to die one day. Remember what we learned last week? “The wages of sin is death”.
We’ve heard a lot about the potential death rate from the coronavirus the last few months. And that’s really hard to measure since we have no idea just how many people have contracted the virus. But what we do know for sure is that the death rate for all humans is 100%. Every one of us will die physically one day.

At His resurrection, Jesus became the “firstfruits

When Jesus rose from the grave, He became the “firstfruits” of all who will follow Him in also experiencing a physical resurrection. The term “firstfruits” comes from the Jewish concept where the farmer would bring the firstfruits of his crops to God as an offering. The term “firstfruits” signified that the produce was the first to be harvested chronologically, but also that the farmer was trusting in God for the rest of the harvest.
So for us, the fact that Jesus is our firstfruits means two things:
Jesus is the first to be resurrected chronologically
While there are some examples of people coming back to life in the Bible, like Lazarus, who was raised back to life by Jesus, all of those people died again. Jesus is the first to experience a permanent resurrection.
Jesus is our guarantee of a future bodily resurrection
Because the resurrection of Jesus was real and genuine, we can be assured that when He returns to this earth, that, if we are His disciples, we too will have a bodily resurrection.
Let’s skip down to verse 42 now as Paul further describes what is going to occur at that time.
1 Corinthians 15:42–55 ESV
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Once again, there is so much here and we could literally spend weeks on these verses. But let me see if I can summarize the essentials for us.

When Jesus returns to this earth, He is going to physically transform our earthly bodies into new resurrection bodies.

Although Paul goes to great lengths to describe what those resurrection bodies are going to be like, I think that they are going to be so different than what we have now that Paul really struggles with how to put what Jesus has revealed to him into words. But he does give us some important insight into the nature of that transformation.
Perishable > imperishable
What we do know is that our new bodies won’t be like the body of flesh we have now. Did you know that those bodies essentially need to be completely recycled every 7-10 years? Over that period, nearly every cell in our bodies is replaced. But due to the effects of sin, every time we get a new set of cells, decay occurs and so our bodies continue to deteriorate and eventually we die. So these bodies we have now are perishable.
Our new resurrection bodies won’t be like that. In fact, verse 50 seems to imply that those bodies won’t even have the same kind of blood we have right now. They will be imperishable. They won’t need to be recycled, they won’t wear our, they won’t get sick or tired or hurt. I think we’d all agree that is the kind of body we’d love to have.
Natural > spiritual
We also see here that our bodies will be transformed from “natural” to “spiritual”. That doesn’t mean we will just be some disembodied spirit floating around the universe. Nor will be be little cherubs floating around on a cloud playing a harp. I don’t know about you, but that is really not something I would look forward to personally.
Just like Jesus, the resurrection body will be a body of flesh that we can touch and that can eat and drink. But the nature of that body is going to be completely different than what it is today. However, just like the disciples were able to recognize Jesus after His resurrection, it seems that we will still be able to recognize each other.
For all disciples of Jesus - living and dead
At the return of Jesus, this transformation will take place for all who are in Christ - both the living and the dead. Throughout this passage Paul uses the term “sleep” to refer to those who die phyically. That is a reference to our physical bodies, which do in essence “sleep” while they await Jesus’ return.
When He returns to this earth Jesus will instantly transform the bodies of those who are still alive at His return. I’d sure like to be one of those people, wouldn’t you? And then He will raise the bodies of all of His disciples who have died previously. He will collect every atom of their bodies, no matter what state of decay they may have experienced, and transform them into a glorious resurrection body.
Essentially, in a manner that none of us can fully comprehend, Jesus is going to take the same materials that make up our physical bodies right now and transform them into bodies with new properties that will be perfectly designed for the purpose of spending eternity in the physical presence of the one who transformed us.
I know that this has been a whirlwind trip through just a portion of this fantastic chapter of the Bible. But I’m confident that we’ve been able to firmly establish the idea that we began with:

The resurrection of Jesus transforms death from an enemy to a friend

So what are the...


That depends on whether or not you are already a disciple of Jesus or not. so as we close, let me briefly address two groups of people:

If you are not yet a disciple of Jesus:

I’m allergic to bee stings so I obviously try to avoid being stung. Several years ago I was driving in my car with the windows down and a bee stung me in the ear and then ended up in my car. Because I knew that the bee no longer had its stinger and could no longer hurt me, I just reached down and grabbed it and removed it from my car.
In verse 56, Paul reveals that:
The sting of death is sin… (v. 56)
I think what Paul means by that is that where there is still unforgiven sin, death gives a fatal blow. We talked a lot about that last week and how our sin, if we don’t allow Jesus to deal with it for us, not only leads to physical death, but eternal spiritual death as well.
On the cross, Jesus took that stinger for us. Death plunged the stinger of sin into His body and it remains there. So if we place our faith in Jesus and trust in Him alone to forgive our sins, then that stinger can no longer do us any harm. just like a bee who has already stung can’t sting again. Death might be able to buzz around and annoy us a little but it can’t sting.
As I hope I’ve made very clear this morning, the resurrection only transforms death from an enemy to a friend for those who are disciples of Jesus. So if you have never committed you life to Jesus before and made Him your Lord and Savior, I want to encourage you to do that today.
You can do that right where you are by just praying to God and asking Him to forgive your sin and telling Him that you trust in Jesus alone as the way for your sins to be forgiven and that you are willingly giving up the control of your life to Him. You don’t have to use any fancy words because what God is really concerned with is your heart.

If you are a disciple of Jesus:

I am confident that this is true for many, if not most of you joining us today. For you, my prayer is that you would be confident in the fact that physical death is not and end, but only a beginning. It is not an enemy but rather a friend. But as we await that day when Jesus gives us those new resurrection bodies, how are we to live? Paul closes this chapter with this command:
1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Paul exhorts us to do two things here:
Be planted
Paul uses two similar, but slightly different adjectives here to describe the kind of people we are to be.
The adjective “steadfast” implies that this idea of Jesus conquering death is so firmly seated in our minds and hearts that we won’t turn away from Jesus
The adjective “immovable” has a similar meaning but it has more to do with not being swayed by outside forces like other people or our circumstances.
Keep serving Jesus
This is a frequent theme in several of Paul’s letters. Some disciples were so convinced that Jesus was going to return soon, that they just sat around doing nothing. While it is good for us to look forward with anticipation to the return of Jesus, since none of us know when that is going to occur, we are to be busy serving others in the name of Jesus. as Paul writes here, we are to “abound” in that work.
This idea really fits in with the message from a couple weeks ago from Isaiah 6, where we saw the importance of being ready to say “Send me” when we are presented with opportunities to serve others in the name of Jesus. So I want to encourage you this week to find at least one practical way to abound in the work of the Lord.
On that first Easter morning, Jesus showed the world that His love is stronger than death. That means that we no longer need to fear death because for those who are disciples of Jesus, death is no longer our enemy, but rather our friend.
My friend, Death is very strong. No human can escape from it’s conquering power. However, Jesus Christ defeated death by the unquenchable and unstoppable love toward you and me. Now God’s love is much stronger than even death. He conquered death and he rose again on the third day. He paid for your sins and now you can receive his forgiveness and eternal life. As you read above, you no longer need to be chained to the fear of death
Death is nothing to be feared any longer for it is under the power of The King of Kings and the Lord of Lord, and it’s the same power that those who believe in Jesus Christ are under which is why the Psalmist could say:
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