Last Sunday of the Church Year–“The Resurrection of the Dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

Contrary to popular belief, Christian congregations are not perfect. Just because one calls themselves Christian doesn’t mean that they are perfect. This was made very clear at the Church at Corinth. For being Christians, they had an awful lot wrong with them. Their basic beliefs were often skewed at best and completely wrong at its worst. As we see in our text for today, the Corinthians got the resurrection from the dead wrong. Paul writes prior to our text, Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” As Paul records for us, it does not appear that Christ’s resurrection necessarily was being denied. As one scholar put it, “The doubters in Corinth declared the resurrection to be impossible for this reason, that it is contrary to nature, and they considered the resurrection of Christ an isolated occurrence with which they could connect no consequences for anyone else.”

Paul sets off to correct any misconceptions that the Corinthians may have. He says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” What more conclusive word can be spoken than that Christ has been raised from the dead? That’s what Christianity hinges upon, the resurrection. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then Christianity means absolutely nothing. Once you die, you’re dead and that’s all there is to it. But if Christ did rise from the dead, then that means something very important: it means that you too will rise from the dead. It means that death is not all that there is. It means that everlasting life is granted to you. This is what the Corinthians missed and unfortunately, this is what Christians sometimes miss as well.

As we come to the end of the Church Year, we focus on the second coming of Christ, when “He will come to judge the living and the dead.” We look at what the second coming of Christ means for us. It means that those who have died in the faith will be resurrected and body and soul be reunited in a body that is perfect and without sin. For those still living in the faith when Christ comes, it means that we shall not see death, but instead be granted that everlasting life as have the saints of old. But what about those outside of the faith? It means that they will be raised to everlasting hell and torment. The second coming of Christ will indeed be a joyous event for those who have the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit placed upon them. However, it will also be a terrifying event for those who do not confess the name of Christ.

For you, God’s saints on earth, rejoice in the words of St. Paul: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” You have already been resurrected from the dead because you have God’s name placed upon you. In your Baptism, you died to sin and you received new life in Christ. That new life gave to you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The best part of it: you didn’t have to do anything to earn it; it was freely given to you.

That is the power of Christ’s resurrection. Because Christ was raised from the dead, you too shall be raised from the dead. That was the message that Paul was trying to get across to the Corinthians. Just earlier, Paul told the Corinthians, And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” It truly is that simple, yet that’s what the Corinthians were missing. There were those who did not believe in the resurrection of Christ, yet alone the resurrection of the dead as a whole. They were missing the boat on what Christ had been preaching during His life and what Paul had tried to remind the church of.

Paul’s words are words of encouragement for the Corinthians to be patient. The end is not yet; their loved ones must still rest in the grave for a time. But everything will surely happen in its proper order. Christ’s resurrection is the great first step, the firstfruits holding the promise of everything else. Then His resurrection will work through the whole Church, as those who belong to Him will be raised when He descends from heaven on the Last Day.

That same message of Paul is relevant to you and I as well, for the resurrection of Christ speaks of our resurrection as well. Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated All Saints’ Day, the day where we remember those who died in the faith. Their faith was centered on Christ and what He has done for them. Their faith was focused on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who won for them forgiveness of all of their sins and gained for them everlasting life. They trusted in Christ’s promises for them and for all who believe. They trusted in Christ’s resurrection, and because Christ was raised from the dead, they knew that they too would be raised from the dead.

We too rejoice because Christ’s resurrection means our resurrection. Everything that Christ endured on this earth: His birth, His life, His passion, His death, and ultimately His resurrection were for you so that you would have everything that He comes to give, free of charge. He gives it to you without your asking, without merit or worth on your part, without you having to do anything except receive this wonderful gift of Christ for you.

What greater comfort can one have knowing that Christ has died for them, in order to redeem them from their sins! Luther had these words to say regarding our text: “For a Christian has no joy or comfort except alone in the life hereafter, as he hears this article, that Christ is risen from the dead, that he also will raise him and bring him from death and all unhappiness to eternal joy.”

Christ has come. He has given to you the gift of forgiveness so that you may be raised from the dead, just as He was raised from the dead. Christ promises to you resurrection, a resurrection on the Last Day when all believers in Christ shall be raised and body and soul reunited and where we will be with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our joy, our comfort, lies in Christ and His resurrection and the resurrection earned for us by Jesus. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.