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The Last Enemy

Sermon Date:April 12, 2020

Sermon Series:

Sermon Topics:1 Corinthians 15:12-26

Author:Allen Burns

The Last Enemy

Put aside any distractions. I beg you; please pay attention. I bring a message to you as an ambassador of the God of the universe, the Creator of all things.

Please. Listen very carefully.

All of you who are listening to me speak, today, you have life. One day, maybe later today, maybe tomorrow, next month, who knows when, one day for certain, you will not have life.

You will stop living. You will die.

Your death will be an abrupt stop. You will no longer think, breathe, touch, laugh, or cry. There is no smelling or tasting of your favorite food.  You will not see, hear, or talk to all the people you know and love. You will not run or swim. Your body will grow cold. You will be given over to a funeral home. A tombstone will be the only thing to mark your life.

Death is sobering. Let the thought of dying permeate your thinking right now. You may say, “But I don’t want to think about death, it hurts.” I know. Thinking about death can hurt. But, to not think about death is irresponsible and immature.

Death stings like a scorpion’s deadly poison. But what if there is a truth that eliminates the sting of death? What if there is life after death? Is there more than just this life?

Whether or not there is life after death, or stated another way, “a resurrection,” is the most important truth for all people. 

If there is a resurrection after we die, it changes everything. It impacts how we live before we die. If there is a resurrection, we need to prepare for what comes after we die. If there is a resurrection, does it change the purpose and meaning of the life we have now? Does the resurrection lead to a life that is eternal, or will we die once again?

If there is a resurrection, and death is not the end, thinking about death does not hurt. In fact, if there is a resurrection, we can say, “Death, where is your sting?”

Is death the end? Or is there a resurrection from the dead?

Today, we celebrate what is called Resurrection Sunday. It is the anniversary of the day Jesus rises from the dead. He was dead. But now, He is alive. Really? Really. There is historical proof.

A small section of proof, among the many more pieces of evidence, is found in what the Apostle Paul writes in chapter 15 of his letter to the church in Corinth. He lists the people who see Jesus alive (1 Cor. 15:5-8).

Paul states that Jesus appeared to Cephas, who is Simon Peter, and then the rest of the Apostles. Paul recounts that Jesus appears to a group of people numbering over five hundred at one time. He boldly tells the Corinthians most of the five hundred are still alive. His implication is, they are still living, go talk to them. Find out for yourself. Paul includes himself in the list. He says, “He Jesus appeared to me also.”

After writing about the proof of the resurrection, Paul presents two arguments about the resurrection. The first argument is what if there is no resurrection. Then, Paul presents the opposite side, which is what if there is a resurrection.

If there is no resurrection

Apparently, there are people in the Corinth church who deny there is such a thing as a resurrection. Paul asks them flat out, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12)

The church in Corinth is founded upon preaching that Christ is raised from the dead. If we read through the book of Acts, and look at how all the churches begin, every church is founded on the truth that Jesus is raised from the dead. The resurrection is a compelling, essential truth of the Christian faith.

Some in Corinth take an absurd position. It is impossible to claim oneself to be a Christian and deny the resurrection. The resurrection is a foundational truth. Without it, Christianity is worthless.

Perhaps the Corinthians are influenced by society. Many people in the Ancient Roman culture do not believe in the resurrection. They are heavily influenced by philosophy, and most philosophers in that age deny the existence of an afterlife.

The same goes for today. Many in our culture do not believe in a resurrection. The gravestone of those who do not believe in a resurrection might read, “I was not — I was — I am not.”

What about you? Do you believe in the resurrection?

The Bible teaches that whether or not we believe in a resurrection hinges upon one truth, and that is, whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Did Jesus rise from the dead?

What if He did not. What are the ramifications of no resurrection? How does no resurrection impact Christianity?

Our preaching is in vain

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. (1 Cor. 15:13-14)

Paul makes a very radical statement.

He says everything about Christianity is vanity if there is no resurrection. Preaching is vain. Faith is vain. The Christian religion is vain. It is completely pointless. It is a total waste. It is the most useless of all pursuits.

If Jesus is not raised, then the preaching of the gospel is in vain. People that are going about as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, in fact, all Christians, sharing the gospel, are completely useless. Delete the Christian podcasts. Turn off the Christian radio. Stop going to church. Find another religion. Christianity is a waste of time. It is vain.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Bible is a fairy tale. It’s an interesting story. Let’s move on.

Stop listening to people preaching about Jesus. Stop having faith in Christ. Stop wasting your time.

We are false witnesses

Not only is Christianity vain, but those who propagate Christianity are liars.

Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. (1 Cor. 15:15)

Another word for being a false witness is a liar. Wow. Liars? Do we have to get into name-calling? Yes. Let’s root out deceit.

If there is no resurrection, Christians are liars. Don’t trust them. They spread horrible information. They are the epitome of fake news. They cause a stir wherever they go and try to get people to give money to their organization so they may spread a big fat lie.

Even worse, they lie about God. They sit on a witness stand and tell a bald-faced lie about God.

Imagine misrepresenting the God of the universe! If there is no resurrection, Christians are running around saying that the Creator of the world did something that He did not. We might as well say God couldn’t make the mountains; He had to ask the angels for help. Or, God is the source of all evil.

People who say God does things when God does not are walking on thin ice. The last person we want to offend is an Almighty God.

Christian, if there is no resurrection, stop lying.

We are still in our sins

The more we think about the implications of no resurrection, we realize the basic premises of the gospel unravel.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. (1 Cor. 15:16-17)

The gospel is dependent upon the resurrection. If Christ is not raised, our faith is worthless. Putting faith in Christ, being our substitute for sin is of no value. Christian faith is worthless; we are still in our sins. The Bible says that Jesus is delivered over because of our sins and is raised from the dead sow we are declared just (Romans 4:25).

If Jesus is not raised from the dead, we are not justified. If we are not justified, then we are guilty. If we are guilty of our sins, we have a very big problem.

The dead have perished

The problem with being in our sins is that after we die, we perish. Sinners perish into condemnation.

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (1 Cor. 15:18).

There is no hope if there is no resurrection. Forget having any consolation about our loved ones who have gone to the grave. They are dead in their sins. They have no hope. They face God as guilty sinners.

Just in the past few years, we have lost many to their deaths. There are many who are part of our church family. If there is no resurrection, what of the fate of Jan Johnson, Tom Johnson, Sandy Moxley, Timmie Lapan, and Kathie Biebel? In addition to these, what about all of our loved ones and friends who have died. They, too, have perished as sinners.

If there is no resurrection, a funeral for a Christian is no different than a funeral for an atheist.

In fact, it is different. It’s different because the life of a Christian is to be pitied.

We are to be most pitied

If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:19)

If there is no resurrection, let’s face the music. We are pitiful human beings. Every word of cursing toward a Christian is deserved. We are wretched.

Think of all the times as a Christian that we live sacrificially for the sake of the gospel. Thousands and thousands of Christians have suffered martyrdom for the sake of the gospel.

And, those of us who are alive, following after Christ, denying ourselves, giving away hard-earned money, trying to be holy and unstained from all this world has to offer are nothing but fools. Let’s stop the shenanigans now. Let’s do as the world says. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry. We need to live for this life. True salvation is to be rescued from poverty and to live as much as possible chasing after having the best life we can get now. Stop living for a future life. If there is no resurrection, there is no future life.

What people in the world say is true. He who dies with the most toys wins.

If there is no resurrection

If there is no resurrection. Let’s seriously consider what the Bible says in verses 12-19.  Christians are vain, lying, sinners who will perish. How pitiful for all those who follow Jesus as their Savior. He is no Savior. He is still in the grave.

Christianity is the biggest fraud ever pulled in the history of mankind.

 

If there is a resurrection

Thankfully, Paul is not done. His argument does not stop. There is a flip side to his argument. Let’s listen to what He has to say.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (1 Cor. 15:20)

But! But! Christ has been raised from the dead. Because Christ is raised from the dead, all our worries about no resurrection no longer exist.

He is the first fruits of those who are asleep; those who are dead. The first fruit is like the first ear of corn from a vast field of corn. He is the first of many. The notion of a first fruit always implies more fruit to come.

There is going to be a great harvest of fruit. Jesus is the first of the fruit, and all those who die in Christ will also be raised from the dead! There is a resurrection!

Those who are in Christ are made alive

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, (1 Cor. 15:21-23)

The universality of the sin nature applies to all people. We are all in Adam. We are his species. We have Adam’s sin nature. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is Jesus!

Jesus is born a man. Therefore, because He is a man who is raised from the dead, the universality of all who are in Christ are made alive.

The important word is “in Christ.” Those who listen to the preaching of the gospel and put their faith in Christ are those who are in Christ. To be in Christ is to be joined in union with Him. As Christ goes, we go. Those who are in Christ are co-heirs with Him.

As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, “Together we are alive, risen, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6). We are already made alive and risen with Christ. It is a spiritual reality. But, it is yet to happen.

It will happen when Jesus comes again. At His second-coming, there will be a resurrection of the dead. Those who are in Christ are resurrected to life. But, those who are not in Christ will also be resurrected, but they will still be in their sins. They are resurrected to eternal condemnation.

Are you in Christ? If you are, the resurrection of Jesus is fantastic news. But, if you are not in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus is terrible news. If you are not in Christ, the resurrection means you will face the judgment of God for every sin you commit.

The resurrection of Jesus, a historical fact, proves there is a resurrection. There is more to come after we die on earth. There is a spiritual reality.

Be warned. Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Christ abolishes all enemies; the last is death

The Apostle Paul finishes and explains what will happen at the end of the age. When Jesus appears in the sky at the end of the age, the end has come. He writes:

“then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Cor. 15:24-26)

At the end of this age, there is a new age in which there are no other authorities except Jesus.

God is turning over all things so they are under the authority of Jesus. Jesus has authority over all rulers and powers. Jesus has the authority to forgive sin. He will command all things. He will say go, and there is no choice but to go. He will say, stay, and there will be no choice but to stay.

Right now, in this present age, God has enemies. As Christians, God’s enemies are our enemies as well. The enemies of God seek to destroy us. The enemies of God are not those that we can see with physical eyes. Our struggle is not against the physical realm, but we fight spiritual forces. Our struggle is against the rulers, powers, forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). 

The greatest of all these enemies is death. Death of people is not a physical problem, but it is a spiritual problem. The death of people comes about because of the spiritual problem of sin. Before there was sin, there was no death. Death is a spiritual enemy.

Let’s ask ourselves, is there a greater enemy than death? There is no greater enemy. Jesus defeats all our enemies, and the last enemy that He will abolish is death.

It’s very important that Paul uses the word abolish. That means it is forever obliterated. When we have life eternal, we don’t have to worry about death. Death is abolished. We will only face death once.

The most important truth of Christianity is the resurrection. The reason it is important is that the greatest enemy we face is death. Every time we share the truth about Jesus to someone who does not know Him, we always need to speak about the resurrection.

The resurrection is the priority. It is of top importance. There is nothing more significant. We need to put the resurrection at the forefront of our thinking. Let’s not only talk about the resurrection during the Easter season; we need to make the resurrection a daily topic.

I lost my job. But there is a resurrection for those who are in Christ.

There is a worldwide pandemic. But there is a resurrection for those who are in Christ.

Many Christians are being persecuted. But there is a resurrection for those who are in Christ.

There is a war in the middle-east. But there is a resurrection for those who are in Christ.

It always comes back to the resurrection. It puts everything into perspective.

To die is gain

I will die. You will die. The good news of the resurrection is that our tombstone has a different inscription if we are in Christ.

Our gravestone may read, “I was not alive. I was alive. I am most alive.”

Death is not the end, but it is the beginning of eternal joy. It is because of the resurrection that the Apostle Paul writes, “But, To live is Christ, but to die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21)

This day that we celebrate, Resurrection Sunday is indeed the greatest of days to celebrate. Jesus is alive, and we are made alive in Him.

“Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory!”

Hallelujah! Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.