Summary: 1) Sin’s been stomped 2) Satan will succumb 3) Death will die
“One down, two to go!” That’s something you might hear a student say in the coming weeks. At least I remember thinking that when I was taking exams at the end of the school year. “One down, two to go!” It’s also what a mother might say to a child she is coaxing into eating the last spoonfuls of vegetables. “One down, two to go!” It’s also the encouragement the Apostle Paul gives us this Easter Sunday because thanks to Jesus’ resurrection sin’s been stomped, Satan will succumb, and death will die. One down, two to go! Let’s take a closer look at this word of encouragement.
The Apostle Paul wrote our text as a letter to a Christian congregation in the Greek city of Corinth. He had heard that some of the members there were saying that Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead. There are so-called Christians today who still say this and they always seem to be the ones who are interviewed for these Easter specials you find on the TV at this time of year. But dear friends, do not listen to them. Listen instead to the testimony that Paul provided to the Corinthians. He wrote, “[Jesus] was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he 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 15:4–8).
Paul wants you to know that Jesus’ resurrection was first of all prophesied. It’s something God said would happen. So if you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, then you should have no problem believing that Jesus also rose from the dead as God said he would. But if prophecy alone won’t convince you, Paul listed over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Christ whom the Corinthians themselves could have interviewed to verify Paul’s report. Over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Jesus! How many references do you usually need when applying for a job? Two, maybe three? If that’s all it takes for an employer to decide if you are worth hiring, then shouldn’t the 500-plus witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection be enough to convince us that Paul’s report regarding Jesus’ resurrection is true?
And you can be sure that these witnesses were not in on a big conspiracy. If they were, how do you explain that they willingly suffered great hardship and even persecution to continue to proclaim this truth? Paul himself was repeatedly imprisoned. He was whipped and flogged, even stoned and left for dead once. If Jesus’ resurrection was all a lie, don’t you think Paul would eventually give up promoting it? There was, after all, nothing to gain from telling others that Jesus had risen from the dead if he really hadn’t.
That’s why Paul was puzzled to hear that some of the Corinthian members were saying that Jesus hadn’t risen. Not only were they wrong about that, they also apparently didn’t realize that a dead Jesus would be of no use to them. Paul said: “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:17–20a).