Summary: Death is certain but the promise of Resurrection is more certain. Why is that promise so powerful and what difference can our resurrection mean to us?
(We began the sermon by singing the favorite hymn: Victory In Jesus
“I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.”
(Words and Music by E.M. Bartlett)
Our text today says "Death is swallowed up in VICTORY. O death, where is your VICTORY? O grave, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:54b-57
This is Easter and we’re going to be talking about Resurrection, but in order to have a resurrection… something has to happen first. What has to happen in order for resurrection to occur? That’s right - death. Jerry Seinfeld once noted that “According to most studies, people’s No. 1 fear is public speaking. No. 2 is death. So to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
A lot of people may joke about death. But there comes a time when death is not a laughing matter. When death threatens someone you love, or when it threatens you… nobody laughs. That’s because death can be a scary thing. In fact Hebrews 2:15 tells about people “… who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
You see, we were created in the image of God. We were never made to die. It’s not normal, it’s not fair. It’s not the way things should be. But we will all die... and unless we have the hope the resurrection that death can be devastating.
ILLUS: Kathryn (a previous member of this congregation) once shared in a Sunday School class about the time when she was little girl and her younger sister died. They had the funeral and the casket was laid to rest in the cemetery. And every year on her sister’s birthday her dad would go out to the cemetery, lay flowers on the grave … and then kneel down and weep and weep and weep… year, after year, after year.
Death can be devastating. And the problem is, that unless Jesus comes first, you and I will ALL die. In fact, I read once that someone did a study and they found that 10 out of every 10 people will die.
Death is a reality and it's a truth we can’t get away from. So, how do people deal with death? Well some try to ignore it. They don’t write wills, they don’t buy cemetery plots… they figure if they ignore it, maybe it will go away! Some will try to joke about it, like Seinfeld. Other will try to buy it off. There are many scientists who spend their entire careers seeking a fountain of youth – a way for people to live to 200 or 300 years of age. But even if they succeed – people will still die. They’ll just die a little later. And there’s others who echo the words of 1 Corinthians 15:32 “… If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Let’s party! If we’re going to die anyway, why not just enjoy life to the fullest.
But God has a different take on this. John 3:16 declares “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him might NOT PERISH but have EVERLASTING LIFE”
That doesn’t mean we won’t physically die. What that means is that (when we die) we won’t cease to exist. We may go into a grave… but we won’t stay there.
In Revelation 1:17-18 Jesus introduces Himself this way: "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I HAVE THE KEYS of Death and Hades.” In other words, when Jesus died on the cross and was placed in the grave, He didn’t stay in the grave. When He rose from the dead He picked up the keys to the place on His way out. And when He comes back, every grave will open - because He has the keys.
That’s why in I Corinthians15:51-52 we read these powerful words: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”