Text: 1 Corinthians 15:21-26, 30-42
Benjamin Franklin, in a letter written to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, said something that we have most likely all heard before: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Franklin was right on the money with this statement: death is a certainty. One day, each and every single person who has ever lived will die. Death is a certainty and we know why: “For the wages of sin is death….” It is because of sin that we will die. We can try to cheat death, stave off death, do whatever we can to make sure that death won’t happen, but in the end, all that we do will prove to be futile because we will all die.
We know that because of sin, death exits. But from where did sin come from? Turning to our text, we find that answer out: “For as by a man came death….” Through Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, man brought death into creation. Because of that, death is a permanent part of creation. All of creation dies, from the smallest of living things to the greatest.
But St. Paul continues, “by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” On this text, Luther says, “Just as Adam was the beginning, the first man, through whom we must all die as he died, so Christ is the first Man through whom we are all to arise to a new life as He arose first…. namely, as death came, and still comes, over us all through one man, so the resurrection from the dead shall come through one Man.”
Man brought death into creation and Man brought about the resurrection of the dead. The man that brought death was Adam by his disobedience to God and His word: don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. Because man ate from the tree, man died. Death is here and it is here to stay.
But just as man brought death to creation, the Son of Man brought life to creation. In the most ironic of ways, Christ brought life. The only way that creation has life is through death, the death of Christ. By doing what we are unable to do, that is, keep the Law of God perfectly, Christ lived the life that we were meant to live in the Garden of Eden. But not only did Jesus live the life perfectly, He also died the perfect death. When I say perfect, I mean perfect in the eyes of God. Perfect, in that His death made full satisfaction for our sins. Perfect, in that you are now able to stand before God with sins forgiven. Perfect, in that Christ has given to you eternal life in the Father.
Not only do you have life, you have resurrection in Jesus. Understand what that means for you. As one who has been bought and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you will not stay dead when you die. You will rise again to new life in Jesus, dwelling in the house of God forevermore. This was done for you and not by you. This was done solely by Jesus and no one or nothing else.
This has been earned by Christ, for you. This has all been done to undo what Adam brought into creation through the Fall. St. Paul is able to say, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” All has been defeated. Death is defeated, once and for all. No longer is death a permanent part of creation. No longer does death have any sway on creation.
And so we are left with the question, why? Why would God do this? Why would go to the great lengths that He has for us sinners? Why would God go to such great lengths for you? It is because of the great love that He has for His creation. Since death was not meant to be a part of creation, would God purge death? How would He purge it? He would purge it through the blood of His only-begotten Son, Jesus. The sting of death, its curse and punishment, has been removed through Jesus Christ. Because Jesus shed His holy, innocent blood for us, God has forever canceled our debt of sin and given us a free gift of grace, the forgiveness of all our sins for Christ’s sake. By His resurrection from the dead Christ has defeated sin, the devil, hell, and death. Death has lost its sting! Now, the grave for the Christian becomes the gate to life eternal.
No believer is excluded because of sin or guilt. Christ has forgiven all sin. God does not promise eternal life to our sinful nature. Our guilt and those things that result from our sin will be and are destroyed in death. God did not let our ancestors go back into the Garden of Eden and eat from the tree of life while they were in their sinful condition because He did not want to give that sinful nature eternal life.
What will that resurrection body look like? The resurrection body is the same and yet radically different. The Lord who created our physical bodies will give us spiritual bodies. Our bodies in their present state or condition will be changed in a flash: no longer full of lusts, no longer sinful, no longer limited by hunger, thirst, pain, or mortality. But we will have real bodies free from sin and its debilitating effects! That means that you will have the perfect body, one without any sin.
For all who believe in Christ, they have received what He has won for them. We trust the promise that God began a new life in us when we were baptized. That new life is sustained and strengthened through God’s Word and Holy Communion. There is no alternate way to be included in God’s will other than through faith in Jesus Christ. You and I have a new nature in Christ. He will continue all those great spiritual blessings he has given us on earth. Our relationship with God and with his people will be a part of our eternal life. After the old has been discarded, God will permit us to eat from the tree of life and so our new nature will live forever.
For us, we are asked an interesting question, one that the Corinthians of the day asked as well: how are the dead raised? The answer is different from how they die. They die as the result of man’s Fall. They die because sin has permeated every fiber of creation. They die because that is the effect of sin. They are raised because of Christ. They are raised in the likeness of Christ. They are raised because they have Christ’s blood washed over them.
As for you, heed the words of Paul to the Romans: “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” You are dead – dead to sin, dead to that which separates you from God. But even more important than that, you are alive – alive because Christ has fed you from the tree of life, feeding you with Himself so that you will have life eternal. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.