Summary: Jesus’ physical resurrection guarantees that the best is yet to come.
When Mary and I had our pool built right after we moved into our current home, that pool came with a lifetime structural warranty. But today that guarantee is of no value whatsoever because the company that built our pool went out of business several years later.
Perhaps some of you have had similar experiences. You bought some product or service that came with some kind of guarantee, only to find that the person or company behind that guarantee left town or went out of business or they just didn’t have the ability to make good on their promises.
What Mary and I learned from that experience, and what many of you have probably learned from similar experiences, is that the guarantee is only as good as the person making the promise. So every time that we rely on a guarantee, the question that we always have to ask is this: How do I really know that this company or person really means what they say and that they have the longevity and ability to back up their promises?
While He was here on this earth Jesus made a lot of promises to His followers. So it’s only natural for us to ask those same kinds of questions when it comes to those promises: How can I be sure that I can rely on those promises? How can I be sure that Jesus really meant what He said and that He has the longevity and power to actually carry them out?
This morning, we’ll let the apostle Paul answer those questions.
But before we do that, I want to ask you to think for a moment about all the promises that Jesus made while He was here on earth. While all of those promises are important, to me the most encouraging of all is the one He made just hours before He was arrested and crucified. It is the promise found at the beginning of John chapter 14 where Jesus told his disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them and that He would come back again and take them to that place so that they would be with Him once again.
I’m not sure the disciples understood the importance of that promise right at that moment, but I can assure you that after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, that promise, probably more than any other, was what sustained them as they were continually persecuted as they proclaimed Jesus to a largely hostile world around them.
That promise still gives tremendous hope to all of us who are disciples of Jesus over 2,000 years later. But how do we really know that we can count on that promise? Let’s look at how the apostle Paul answered that question.
1 Corinthians chapter 15 is the longest chapter in the New Testament and it undoubtedly is also one of the most important. While the Corinthians did believe in a kind of resurrection, they didn’t really believe the promise of Jesus that He was going to prepare a physical place where they would physically spend eternity in His presence. Although they believed that the soul was immortal, they denied the idea of a physical resurrection. So Paul writes this chapter to prove that there is a future for our bodies as well as our souls.
This morning we only have time to read a short section of that chapter, but it is an important section that reveals that for a Christian the best is yet to come.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(1 Corinthians 15:20-26 ESV)
I want to call your attention to a word that we really don’t use much today that Paul uses twice in this passage. In fact, it is a word that my spell-checker flags every time that I type it. It is the word “firstfruits”. Although we don’t use that word very often in our culture, it was a very familiar concept for the Jews and we find it throughout the Bible. It is a concept that is closely related to that of the firstborn and in the Bible we find that both the firstborn and the firstfruits of all that was produced from the land were to be consecrated to God.