1 Corinthians 15:51-57
1 Corinthians 15:51-57 Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. 54 When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? 56 Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
2. Easter changes everything
He's been bedridden for many weeks now. He doesn’t eat much. What he does eat usually comes back up. Mostly just popsicles anymore, you know, something to wet his mouth. The kids try to get by as much as they can, but of course they have to work. Hospice has been coming now every day. They are a big help. The cancer has moved to his spine so he has been in a lot of pain. The nurses do what they can to make him comfortable. So he is on a lot of morphine and that makes him pretty goofy at times. It=s hard to carry on much of a conversation. When his mind is clear, though, he tries to smile and tell me it will be all right.
We knew it was coming, but when it happened, it was still a hard. His breathing was getting more and more shallow. He hadn’t spoken for nearly 24 hours. He was so drugged up, we weren’t sure if he was awake or asleep. And then it happened. A big sigh. His last breath. He was gone.
Have you experienced death? Have you sat with a loved one who was slowly being taken from you by cancer? Or maybe you received that phone call in the middle of the night telling you about a car accident. You rushed to the hospital only to find out it’s too late. Or maybe it was a sudden, unexpected heart attack. Have you been there? Have you experienced death?
It may happen quickly or slowly. We may see it coming or we may not, but it’s still death. Every death is the last time you will hold him, talk with him, laugh with him. Every death ends the same, with a body stripped of dignity, of power and of life. Every death feels the same B the feeling of pain, loneliness, loss. Every time death is the winner.
Death always seems to win and I hate to lose. Just ask Connie. I think we were just married and we were at a family reunion. My brother and I along with our wives were playing volleyball against a whole bunch of our cousins. Well, the game started out friendly, but it quickly escalated. My brother and I, who both hate to lose, were diving for balls, sprinting through the sand, pushing our wives out of the way to get to make a save. The wives weren’t too happy with us, but we won. We don=t like to lose.
But death wins every time.
Death is a bully. No one escapes this bully. You can’t take the lone way home or voluntarily hand him your lunch money to avoid a bruising. We’ve felt the cruel string of losing grandparents, parents, spouses and maybe even our own children. And soon death will come looking for us, too.
Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. Death is pictured like a scorpion. Scorpions were a familiar sight in the hot, dry climate of Judea. You know what a scorpion looks like? A scorpion has a long tail with a stinger at the end. It whips that tail forward and stings its victims. Death is like that. Death’s stinger is sin. That’s what makes death what it is. If a scorpion didn’t have a stinger, it would be just another bug. The stinger is what makes the scorpion a feared spider. Sin is what makes death so dreadful. Sin gives death its poison.
Ever since Satan infused sin into life, death has reigned over us all. None of us escape death because none of us have been able to escape the corruption of sin. Parent, you see it in your children, don’t you? Oh, they look like angels this morning in their Easter clothes, but you know the devil is waiting to come out when you get home. Children, you see it in your parents, too, don’t you? Impatience, angry words. Gossip. And if you pause long enough to linger over the mirror of God’s law, we see it all too well in ourselves.
Corruptible. Mortal. Death wins.
There’s no escape from death. Even with all of our great advances in medical science, death still wins. We haven’t stopped it yet. So what do we do? People try to disguise it. We keep death hidden away behind hospital doors. When we can’t hide it, we dress it up with flowers and caskets. Or people try to argue away the sting of death telling us it’s just a natural part of cycle of life.
Have you seen the latest idea in funerals? They are called death pods. You put the body in an egg-shaped biodegradable pod, put the pod in the ground and plant a tree over it. As it decomposes, it becomes fertilizer for the tree. That’s supposed to give your death purpose in the cycle of life. But it’s still death. Death still wins. And it’s not natural. Death is the violent separation of the soul from the body that God never wanted for mankind.
But on this morning three women made their sad trek to finish the death ritual. On their way they wondered about moving the heavy stone closing the tomb. On this morning they discovered the stone was already rolled away and tipped over lying flat on the ground. On this morning they saw the most important sight in all of history – the tomb was empty. But death is such a bully and has such a grip on us, it would not let them believe what their eyes were seeing. Someone stole his body – that was the only logical answer they could think of.
So the angels appeared and announced, “He is risen!” Then Jesus appeared to Mary, later to Peter and then all the disciples to make clear he is risen indeed. Death did not win. Life has conquered death.
The bully didn’t give up without a fight. And what a battle it was! Anguish under the olive trees in the garden, betrayal by his close friends, scourge and whips, thorns and nails, cross and spear. Seeming failure. But Easter now comes with the message from the angel lips, “He is risen!” The seal is broken, the stone rolled away, the guards fled, and the song of victory went through the angel ranks of heaven: “He is risen!”
And that changes everything. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? 56 Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Death is beaten. Victory is ours in Jesus Christ. Death still wreaks havoc in this world, but for us, death is now just a change of clothes.
For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. 54 When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. You’ve seen the sign: “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” Your appearance and attire must meet certain standards or you are not welcome. Heaven is like that. Heaven is a place where there will be no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, no death. You can’t have corruptible there. You can’t have a decaying body in a permanent home.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, death becomes a change of clothes. We take off the corruptible, the mortal. We take off sin and all its consequences and we put on no sin, no corruption, no death.
And for those who are still alive when Jesus returns, all this will happen in a moment. Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. The word translated “moment” is the Greek word, “atom,” which means something that can’t be divided. It’s an amount of time that can’t be divided into something shorter. It’s a flash, a blink of an eye when we will be dressed in incorruption.
In the darkest hours of World War II when the destiny of civilization hung in the balance, the Congress of Allied Women adopted the slogan, “Believe victory! Think victory! Preach victory! Live victory!” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is victory. That old bully, Death, has no more sting. Believe victory! When cancer has taken its toll on your body and you are face to face with death, think victory. When someone is struggling with sin and consumed by guilt, preach victory. When problems, stress and temptation challenge your life, remember you are not a loser, beaten by sin and death. Don’t give in to doubt and selfish sorrow. With Christ you are a winner. Live victory!
Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? 56 Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Easter is victory!