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(I Cor 15:20-28)
April 21, 2019

Read I Cor 15:20-28 – I Cor 15 – the great resurrection chapter. Last year
we saw the awful implications if resurrection’s not true in vv. 12-19. Today,
we’ll see the sweeping implications of the fact that it is true!

When asked what epitaph he wanted on his tombstone, Dustin Hoffman, said,
“I knew this was going to happen.” Clever – but true. Death is the one
certainty that awaits all us. And we’re powerless to stop it. So how could Jesus
say, Jn 11:26: “And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”?
Radical, yes. But also just plain stupid. We’re all going to die and that’s that.

But before we write Jesus off, we might consider He often knew more than
the average person. Perhaps He was coming at it from a different angle. You
see, all human attempts to deal with death make this assumption. They assume
that death is a purely physical issue; thus, while it may be delayed, the normal
decay and degeneration that is part of the human experience will inevitably
catch up with us like it has all who have gone before, and we will die.

But what if death is not merely a physical issue? What if it is also a spiritual
issue? Might a different perspective help? Famous experiment. A Swarthmore
prof asked his students to get a ping-pong ball from the bottom of an upright
rusty pipe. They had hammer, pliers, rulers, soda straw, pins and a bucket of
dirty water to work with. Eventually a few saw the solution – pour the water in
and let it float to the top. A repeat that replaced the dirty water with a pitcher
of ice water surrounded by goblets – not one student solved. Everyone knows
ice water if for drinking. And everyone knows death is a physical necessity.

But Jesus was it differently. To understand His comment, we have to start at

the very beginning where we will find a different perspective on the cause of
death, and therefore insight into its solution. God’s fascinating view of history.

I. Paradise Lost (The Origin of Death)

Naturalism assumes that death just is – always has been, always will be. The
Bible tells a different story. 21) “For as by a man came death.” What man was
that? 22 For as in Adam all die.” To explain Jesus’ resurrection, Paul starts at
the very beginning where the only one who was actually there – God – tells

us man was not the result of evolutionary processes, but was, rather, a direct
creation – made special by the fact that he was made in the image of God.

Further, we find mankind did not stumble into intelligent existence out of a
brutal dog-eat-dog world, but was originally placed by his Creator in a
Garden of perfection. Everything he needed, including food of every kind,
satisfying work to do and a companion suitable to him, and he to her, was
provided. They were in the lap of luxury and satisfaction. Paradise.

But to show their love for God, and to move from innocence to perfection,
they were given a test, a little one. Hardly worthy of the name. But they were
warned the consequences of failure would be devastating. Gen 2:16b-17:
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it
you shall surely die [dying you shall die].” And that’s just what happened.

Now, was it spiritual death or physical death that was the penalty? Answer –
both. They immediately suffered spiritual death -- separation from God. Gen
3: 8) “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the
cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of
the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” Sweet fellowship with God
turned into hiding from God – separation – spiritual death.

But they also died physically – not by just keeling over. But the moment their
heart went after the forbidden fruit, physical decay set in. The first cell in their
body began the disintegration process. They began to age. The death forces of
nature were set in motion. There was no going back. Physical death was
inevitable. Augustine said, “Before the fall, Adam was able to sin or not to
sin; after the fall, he was not able not to sin.” If you think sin is a small thing,
you’ve only to look to Adam and Eve. Sin violates an infinite Creator.

And not only did they die, their descendants died as well. As our head,
Adam’s failure was our failure. 22 For as in Adam all die.” The Bible says in
Rom 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and
death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sin,
death, the loss of paradise –all part of the same devastating package. Every
physical, emotional and spiritual disability traces back to the fall of Adam.

The decaying Adam could only pass on decaying flesh to all his descendants.
Thus every newborn begins to die the moment it is born. The sinful Adam
could only pass on the sin nature that was now at the core of his being. So
David says in Psa 51:5: “In sin did my mother conceive me.” Physical and
spiritual death is our heritage from Father Adam, the result of original sin.

Now, sin is a forbidden word these days – often, even in churches. But our
whole experience begs that question. Otto Rank says, “The neurotic type
suffers from a consciousness of sin just as much as did his religious
ancestor, without believing in the conception of sin. This is precisely what
makes him “neurotic”; he feels a sinner without the religious belief in sin.”
G. K. Chesterton nailed it: “Certain new theologians dispute original sin,
which is the only part of Xn theology which can really be proved.” Exactly!
Sin is real; death is the proof. Thankfully, that is not the end of the story.

II. Paradise Regained (The Death of Death)

Naturalism sees death purely in physical terms. It just is – always has been,
always will be. But God says differently. It is not purely physical; it is the
result of spiritual failure. Death isn’t just is – it is a consequence. So can it be
reversed by some spiritual means? Great question – and the Bible says, “Yes!”

At that original sin, God was immediately on the scene. He pronounced

judgment on all the participants. But in the middle of those judgments was
unbelievable hope. In judging the serpent – Satan who according to Rev 20:2
was that “ancient serpent”, God says in Gen 3:15: “I will put enmity between
you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall
bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Just at the time of the first
deadly sin, there is the promise of a redeemer – one who will injured by
Satan, but who will ultimately destroy him. And we know who that seed is!
Gal 4:4: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,
born of woman.” Jesus promised in Gen 3:15; delivered at Jesus’ birth!

As the 2nd Adam, he sets out to reverse all the first Adam messed up. Heb
2:14: “Since therefore the children (mankind) share in flesh and blood, [Jesus]
himself partook of the same things (flesh and blood), that thru death he might
destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” A masterplan
of astounding beauty. To Eve He promises a seed who will undo the sin and
evil brought on by the fall. His heel will be bruised; but he will bruise the head
of the enemy. Just exactly what happened at the cross. In plotting Jesus’ death
there, Satan killed himself. For the perfect lamb of God was paying sin’s
penalty, thus removing the death sentence releasing from guilt all who believe.

And the proof of all this? The resurrection. This is why the resurrection is so
crucial. If He’s not alive, Satan did win. If He can’t defeat death Himself, how
can He help anyone else? 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.” Sweet words? A man got us into this
mess; a greater man got us out! The resurrection proves it! The grave is
empty; the body is gone; life is restored – and that changes everything. His
death is the death of death; it’s paradise regained. His resurrection proves it.

And look! He is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (20). Like the
first onion or carrot out of the field promises more to come, so Jesus back
from the dead promises more to come. All who have “fallen asleep”. That’s
how the NT describes the dead in Christ. Xns who have died haven’t really
died. II Cor 5:8: “Absent from the body; present with the Lord.” Jesus
promised the thief in Lu 23:43: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” This
is the death of death. At the cross, God took death, turned it back on itself
and destroyed it forever. Jesus’ words are true: Jn 11:26: “And everyone who
lives and believes in me shall never die.” Paradise regained for believers.

Death is dead bc He lives. In Westminster Abbey, you’d find buried many of

England’s famous statesmen. William Wilberforce is one who spent his whole
career fighting slavery in England – dying just three days after passage of the
Slavery Abolition Acts 1833. He loved Jesus. His epitaph: “Tis death is dead,
not he.” He got it right. Either Jesus is dead, or death is dead. Praise God,
“Tis death is dead, not he.” The moment sin was paid for, death died.

III. Paradise Restored (The Banishment of Death)

So, if death is dead, why do people still die? Well, the last thing Jesus told His
disciples astounding: Mt 28:18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has
been given to me.” Just 3 years prior, He’d been a simple carpenter in a
nowhere place, whom few had ever heard of. “Now,” He says, “I’ve got all
power and all authority to do anything and to control anything whether its
on earth or even in heaven.” That’s breathtaking! Mindboggling. But after
His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus’ mission to planet earth is nearly
complete, and the Father has placed everything under his control.

So why doesn’t it look like it? Why does it appear that He just fled the scene?
Heb 2:8b answers: “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left
nothing outside his control. [BUT] At present, we do not YET see everything
in subjection to him.” He’s got all authority, but for His own greater purposes,
He’s not showing His full hand. But the end hasn’t been written yet. The
story is not complete. We need to know the rest of the story. We’re like a
football game where the Broncos are ahead 56-0 with 2 minutes left. The
game is decided. The victory’s won, but they have to play it out to the end.

So what is the rest of the story? 24) “Then comes the end, when he delivers the
kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and
power.” Paul’s saying the full benefits of His victory at the cross aren’t fully
realized, until He delivers the fully formed kingdom to God the Father – after
He “destroys every rule and every authority and power.” The word “destroy”
(καταργέω) means “to invalidate, to render powerless, to abolish, wipe
out.” Rule, authority and power refers to demonic powers in this context. I Jn
3:9 tells us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of
the devil.” He did that – by His death on the cross at His first coming. The
victory was won there and then. So, why is there still physical death?

Docs at Good Samaritan Med Center in Phoenix get several patients who are
bitten by rattlesnakes who were dead. Sometimes they have been shot and
their heads cut off, but the snake head retains a reflex action for up to 60
minutes after decapitation! That is just like Satan and his demons – defeated
at the cross, no chance of ultimate survival – yet, in God’s providence and for
His glory, they have striking power for a time. But the end is coming.
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.” Death is the last enemy to go. When? 27 “For ‘God has put all things
in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in
subjection,’ it is plain that he [the Father] is excepted who put all things in
subjection under him. [the Father is the only exception to things subject to
Jesus] 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also
be subjected to him [the Father] who put all things in subjection under him,
that God may be all in all.” Jesus’ finest hour, when He has completed His
mission of reversing completely the effects of the fall and establishing God’s
rule over all who love Him; all else banished forever from His presence.

Details of these future events are in Rev 19:11 thru chapter 20. Jesus comes
again bringing judgment this time against all who reject Him: Rev 19:11:
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is
called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” In
Rev 20:2, Satan is “bound for 1,000 years” as Jesus rules in a millennial
kingdom. Without Satan’s influence, conditions are dramatically improved,
but not yet perfect. Isa 65:20: “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives
but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young
man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be
accursed.” In this kingdom, Jesus rules with a rod of iron – but there is still sin
and still death, showing the depravity of the human heart.

The Rev 20:7: “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be
released from his prison.” He leads one more rebellion against God, but 9b)
“fire came down from heaven and consumed them.” Shortest battle in history,
after which Satan is banished forever into the lake of fire. The resurrection and
judgment of unbelievers follows. Then 20:14: “Then Death and Hades were
thrown into the lake of fire.” Now death has not only died, but it is banished
forever, along with the Devil who brought it in the first place. So Satan is no
more; sin is no more; and death in any form is no more. A new heaven and
new earth are created. The pristine, perfect conditions are described in Rev
21-22, and this is the kingdom that Jesus ultimate presents to the Father. This
is the end of death; but this is just the beginning of eternal life for those who
love God. What a future awaits us, Beloved. Are you in? I pray that you are.

Conc – To lure customers, a new barber advertised a $2.99 special. Shortly

the old barber put this sign in his window: “We fix $2.99 haircuts.” So, the
world the flesh and the devil always promise fulfillment, happiness and peace
they cannot deliver. The $2.99 special! Meanwhile, Jesus has bought, paid for
and is even now “preparing a place for us” which will fix all the $2.99 failed
promises. In the end, the curse of Eden will be reversed. Meantime, Phil 3:20-
21: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the LJC, 21)
who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power
that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” He is the firstfruits of
all that are to come which is all who trust in Him. Let’s pray.