1 Corinthians 15:51–57
51Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are in Eastertide, the period when the Church has historically continued to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is too momentous an event to celebrate only one Sunday – for it is Jesus’ resurrection that eliminates for us the fear of death and assures us that the bodies of all those who believe in Him shall likewise be raised from their graves.
And it is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised all those who believe in Him from their graves, when He has transformed our lowly bodies into the likeness of His glorious body – righteous, incorruptible, and immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, because Christ has risen, we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. And this is what Psalm 27:13 articulates. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” Or as Paul writes in our text today, “Oh death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So how are we to treat death? With contempt. As John Donne would teach us to say, “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so…” Why? Because Christ is risen and has broken death’s power. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So what should characterize our lives? Fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen!
So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and hopeful, let us confess our lack of faith to the Lord and petition Him for renewed boldness. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin.