1 Corinthians 15:20-28
So, how has your mood been recently? I was commenting to Pastor Radunzel the other day, "It is a good thing that the season of End Time falls during our country's elections." Elections are an ugly time, whether your preferred candidate happens to win or lose. How would you describe the current mood in our country? Joyful? Peaceful? Hopeful?
Well, you may say that is the case for the side whose candidate came out victorious, but even then I don't think so. I think the person may be happy that his or her candidate won, but I wouldn't say that the mood of our country is currently joyful, peaceful, or full of hope. Better adjectives might be frustrated, angry, tired, depressed, or perhaps even vengeful for many.
Of course, this is what happens when people put too much hope in men. Men will always disappoint. And I'm not talking about the male gender, although that may be true to you, women. But humans, fallen humans, the people that make up mankind will inevitably disappoint because like this world, we are irreparably broken. There is not going to be a utopia on this earth—ever! Which is why Paul says in the verse just before our text: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (v. 19). In other words, if Christ isn't raised from the dead, then this life is all we got. No wonder so many are in a foul mood!
"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…" (v. 20). That is what I want to talk to you about today. I know that it is not Easter, but every Sunday that we gather for worship is a mini Easter celebration. For every single Sunday, the message is proclaimed that Christ is victorious over sin and death. He lives! And he lives as King!
Today, of course, is Christ the King Sunday. We say that Christ the Lord is King. He always has been, and he always will be. Think of when God first created his kingdom on earth in the Garden of Eden. There was so much joy! Everything that surrounded Adam in the Garden caused him joy: the animals, the plants, the weather, even his wife! But especially God.
You see, even though God gave the earth to Adam to take care of and rule, Adam still wasn't king. God was his King. And that is why Adam had joy. God was in charge, and therefore all was good.
When did things start going bad? When Adam tried to be in charge. When Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying their King and acting as if they were king, the joy they once had was suddenly lost. And it wasn't just momentarily absent; it was gone.
Let me just expand that thought a little bit. Sin ruins joy, and it always will. Either your own sin, someone else's sin, or just the general effects of sin in a fallen world such as sickness and death. But the essence of sin is that it ruins joy because joy comes from God.
Think of how humans have attempted to dethrone God in our world and the subsequent sadness that comes as a result. God is the author of life. That means he is the authority. He is the one who first thought of life and then brought it into being. When an author writes their book, they are the authority of what goes on the page. Nobody else has the right to tell them what they should write. It is their story!
Well, God is the author, and yet men are trying to rewrite the story. How so? They are changing the definitions. God is the author of life. He says that life starts at conception in the womb. They say, "No, life doesn't start in the womb. That's just a mass of flesh. Life doesn't start until after the fetus is born."
God says, "The definition of marriage is one man and one woman." Society says, "No, that is not the definition of marriage. We define what marriage is.”
They say, “The nuclear family is not the optimal design. Children don't need a mother and father in the house. We know better." Question: Are children thriving now that there are so many absentee fathers? Are they doing better because the male figure (so they say) is the root of all problems?
God says, "I created male and female. That is the way I designed humans to be. I am the author." Mankind has come to the absurd point of saying, "Gender neutral is a superior definition." So, the Christian asks: "Well, if Christ is indeed King, where in the world is he ruling?" And the answer is: in the believer's heart.
Paul is writing to believers in the city of Corinth. Some of them had been going around saying, "There is no resurrection of the dead. This life is all that there is." (15:12). Paul's answer to them is, "That's absurd. Of course, there is a resurrection of the dead. Christ has been raised from the dead. We don't have time to go into it today, but if you read verses 3 through 8 of chapter 15, there Paul lays out all the evidence of Christ's bodily resurrection. He says that on one occasion over five hundred people saw him with their own eyes! (15:6).
In the verses before us today, Paul explains what this means for you and me. And it is this: since Christ has conquered death [again this is a historical fact—you can prove it], all those who believe in him will also conquer death. His victory is also our victory.
The way Paul fleshes this truth out is by using the illustration of firstfruits. "Firstfruits" are the beginning of the subsequent harvest. The proof that there will be a harvest this year is seen in the firstfruits. Well, Paul calls Jesus' resurrection the Firstfruits of what will follow. He is "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (v. 20). So, the fact that Christ the King has risen from the dead is the proof that all those who are part of his kingdom will also rise from the dead. Because he has power over death. Verses 22 and 23: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him."
Now, remember the question that I asked last Sunday: Are you winning? We could also ask the question: Is Christ winning? And the answer to both of those questions is, “Yes.” All that is going on in history right now are the last futile moves of the devil as he tries to avoid the Final Judgment. The moment Jesus died and rose from the dead it was checkmate for the devil. And he knows it. He is making a lot of noise in our world right now trying to deceive people into thinking that Jesus isn't real or that Jesus was just a man. That there is no resurrection of the dead, and that man is in charge of his own destiny. The Bible describes it differently.
Verse 24: "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (vv. 24-26).
"For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." That is what Jesus is doing right now. Someone says, "But I don't see it." No, not with our physical eyes, but we see it with the eyes of faith.
You see, the great work of Christ in this world was to reverse the effects and power of sin after the Fall. Paul is saying, "When the Great Day comes, Christ will reverse everything that Adam ruined and he will destroy every enemy that stands against Him and his kingdom, the Church."
And of course, that is what we see all through the Gospels. What were Jesus miracles, but a reversal of the effects of sin. You take any miracle, and it is Jesus showing his power over the effects of sin in this world and reversing them. The effects of sickness in all of his healings. The effects of death in his raising people from the dead. The effects of the devil in the casting out of demons. The fallen world was being reversed. So, Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is near." Yes, it was, in the person of Jesus, the King.
And if the kingdom of God was at hand 2,000 years ago, then it is especially present now, for Jesus says, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). Within me? Yes, by faith. By faith Christ rules your heart so that you confess him as King. So that as a Christian you don't try to redefine what the author has already written and declared to be. As Christians we go against the crowd and publicly confess, "Jesus is God, risen from the dead, and he rules the universe." Not the politicians. Not the tech companies of the world. Not the billionaires and oligarchs. The media may think they write history, but they don’t. Jesus does. It is His Story. He is the author, and he is going to write a large chunk of this world right out of His Story.
He is going to write death out of it (v. 26). And all of this is certain and true. How can you be sure? Christ rose from the dead. Nobody else has. Lenin is still dead. Stalin is still dead. Mao Zedong is still dead. All the presidents and kings of the past are still dead. They don't reign. They don't rule the earth. They don't control your destiny. Christ does.
Which is why you have joy.
Because the greatest reversal of the devil's ruin in our world came through his greatest threat: death. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. God killed the power of sin on the cross. And that means that it has no power to kill the one who is connected to Christ's resurrection by faith. You are forgiven.
"In fact, since death came through a man, through a man also comes the resurrection of the dead” (v. 21). The first Adam died. The last Adam lives. In whom is your faith placed? In the first Adam, as in man? Or in Jesus, the God-man, sent from heaven, the true King of creation? Answering that question is what will determine your joy.
"The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15) Amen!