Summary: A Delightful Death Notice 1) Death: born in Adam 2) Death: died in Christ
With Canada taking a greater role in the peacekeeping operation of Afghanistan, hundreds of Canadian families are on edge. A late night phone call or an unexpected knock at the door sets hearts racing. Could it be bad news from the front? Has a roadside bomb claimed Dad? Receiving a death notice is never easy, even if the death was expected and ended a loved one’s suffering.
But why are we talking about death on Easter? Aren’t we supposed to be talking about life and new beginnings? We are and we will as the Apostle Paul delivers a delightful death notice. A delightful death notice? I thought we just said there is no such thing. There is if the death notice is an obituary for death. Paul reports that while death was born in Adam he assures us that death died in Christ. Let’s take a closer look at this delightful death notice.
Contrary to what many people think, death has not always been a fact of life. When God created the world his intent was that all creatures would live forever. Adam and Eve would still be alive today if it hadn’t been for sin. But when they disobeyed God by eating from the tree they weren’t supposed to eat from, death came into the world. The death born in Adam has been handed down to us all so that we’re all dying, from the oldest person here to the most energetic toddler.
While Adam gave birth to death, we make it flourish. A broken promise, for example, kills the trust a child once had in us. Our selfish words strangle our marriage. And our refusal to admit that we are wrong and seek forgiveness has mangled many a friendship. Death will continue until we can eradicate these and all sins. Even if it were possible to eradicate sin, we still would have to pay with our lives for the sins we committed in the past. A boy who promises not to break any more windows will still have to pay for the windows he has already broken.
What we could not do, eliminate sin and eradicate death, God did for us in Jesus. Jesus lived a sin-free life and then he died to pay for our sins. Perhaps an illustration will help us understand what an awesome, love-filled feat this was. When someone has a bad heart, they can become better when they receive a healthy heart from a donor. In the case of a heart transplant, the donor must be deceased because everyone needs a heart to survive. But what if a friend of yours agreed to trade hearts with you? Your friend agreed to take your diseased heart while you took his good one. In time of course your friend would die from heart failure, the failure of your heart. You might see a parent doing something like that for a son or daughter but would the person we pick on at school or make fun of in the office do the same for us? Probably not. Yet that’s what Jesus did. He gave us his perfect life in exchange for our sin-filled one and he suffered hell as a result. Jesus did this even though we were God’s enemies.
But wait a minute; I thought we were studying death’s obituary, not Jesus’ obituary? We are. Jesus’ death was death’s undoing. Three days after he died Jesus came back to life never to die again! Paul wants us to know we can be sure of Jesus’ resurrection because there were many eyewitnesses of the resurrected Savior. Paul wrote, “[Jesus] appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me” (1 Corinthians 15:5b-8a).
Since there was no doubt that Jesus had been raised from the dead, Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to know that they too could be certain of their own resurrection. Paul went on to write, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
We Christians don’t have to fear death because Paul calls Jesus the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means that Jesus is just the first of many who will be raised back to life to live forever (unlike Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow of Nain who were raised back to life only to die again later). Think of what Paul describes like picking up a mobile that has fallen to the ground. When you raise the top figure of the mobile and keep lifting it, what happens to the figures that are connected to it? They rise too. This is what Paul says will happen on Judgment Day to all those who are connected to Jesus through faith. God will raise us all and give us glorified bodies that will never suffer death again.