The God Who Swallowed Death

The God Who Swallowed Death

Text: Isaiah 25:1-8; 1 Cor. 15: 1-11; 16-20; 31-34  

Introduction  

  • In September 2016, Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg along with his wife Priscilla Chan stood on a stage in front of a large crowd.
    • Behind them, in words magnified on a giant screen, was the question “Can we cure all diseases in our children’s lifetime?”
    • That’s the question they are hoping to answer “Yes” to as they began a new initiative to invest 3 billion dollars into advancing healthcare and technology, in hopes that they can cure all major diseases by year 2100.
    • Some have claimed they are trying “chase immortality”—yet even Zuckerburg admitted later that this doesn’t mean that “no one will get sick” nor can they cheat death.
  • There’s a big part of us that scoffs at this—but there’s an even bigger part of us that wishes it were true.
    • If someone was just powerful enough, wealthy enough, smart enough, etc. to cure all disease, sickness, and the death that results from it, what hope that would bring.
    • Yet, we realize that, with all of the technological advances the “fountain of youth” still evades us.
    • As the Philosopher Socrates once said, “Must not all things at last be swallowed up in death?”
  • But what if something—someone—swallowed what was consuming us?
    • This is the picture that Isaiah paints of God in Isaiah 25:7-8.
    • Isaiah and Israel’s hope was in the God who swallows death.
    • And we discover that he did that very thing within the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1:9-10; 1 Cor. 154).
  • This morning you may be here because of that very message (and the slight hope that it could be true)—so we want to focus on that together in 1 Cor. 15 on our lesson “The God Who Swallowed Death.”

A Central, Saving Message (1-3)

  • There’s a lot of people who have opinions about what Christianity should be all about—but it all comes back to the central, saving message of the gospel.
    • This message of the death, burial, and resurrection was of “first importance” (v. 3)—that is the essential, foundational message of Christianity.
    • What are the facts?
      • That Christ died for our sins.
      • That He was buried.
      • That He rose on the third day.
    • All of this was “in accordance to the scriptures”—that is, none of this took God off guard.
      • This was the fulfillment of passages like Isaiah 25 as well as Isaiah 53.
      • These are the “plans formed of old, faithful and sure” (Isa. 25:1).
      • Acts 2:22-32
    • This message has the power to save any man, but can only save them if it: received, believed, stood within, and held fast to.
      • Paul makes it very clear that, if the church hopes to be saved from death and eternal damnation, it must continue to believe and stand firm in this doctrine.
      • This accords with what he writes in Romans 10:9.
      • Some question whether you must believe in the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to be a Christian—maybe you can take it is a metaphor, or a hallucination.
      • Make very clear: you cannot be a Christian, and you cannot be saved from the wrath of God, without a genuine, obedient faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    • This is the central saving message of Christianity, and it must be believed, taught, upheld, and defended.
    • Yet, it isn’t necessarily an easy message for our modern minds to digest.

A Radical, but Reliable Truth (5-8)

  • The claim of the resurrection is a radical one.
    • Claiming that a man, 2,000 years ago was crucified and rose from the grave.
    • That this act was the definitive moment which showed he was the Son of God (Rom. 1:4).
    • Radical truth which you confess as a Christian to believe.
    • And, there is a unifying power within the church to that belief.
  • But, as radical as it is, we believe its extremely reliable—one of the main reasons has to do with eye witness testimony.
    • Secular historical data: was a man name Jesus crucified within the first century; followers did claim he rose from the grave and was Messiah—indisputable.
    • Within scripture:
      • Multiplicity or reliable witnesses:
        • Men who were Jewish that:
          • Taught from an early age not to worship man.
          • Taught that the Sabbath was the Holy Day.
          • Didn’t believe in a crucified Messiah.
          • Taught that there was a general resurrection but not an individual, specific one.
          • Willing died for their testimony.
        • Women who:
          • Wouldn’t have been considered reliable witnesses.
          • First, most important witnesses to the tomb.
        • Within 1 Corinthians 15, why mention this list if they weren’t true?
          • If they were dead, it wouldn’t have done Paul any good.
          • If they were alive, and didn’t agree with his testimony, it simply would have hurt his case.
        • The reality is that, as radical as this claim is, its historically reliable—you can live with certainty and assurance in the resurrection of Jesus—in fact you must!
        • This radical, but reliable belief has immediate implications, daily implications for my life—how can it not?

A Definite, but Demanding Hope (16-20; 31-34)

  • There were obviously some within Corinth who were questioning or even denying it (“some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead”).
    • Being a Grecian city should be no surprise (Acts 17:32).
    • Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-28).
    • Question sometimes asked: “Does it really matter what is believed?”
  • Paul begins a list of several “cause and effect” implications if the resurrection is denied (this plays on the fact that the resurrection is the central focus of the gospel).
    • If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not raised (v. 13)
    • If Christ is not raised, preaching and your faith is pointless (v. 14)
    • If there is no resurrection, we are liars and misrepresenting God (v. 15)
    • Your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (v. 17)
    • Those who have died faithful Christians are simply gone (v. 18)
    • We are to be pitied (v. 19)
  • Summarize: if there is no resurrection from the dead, and if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity should not exist.
  • Then in v. 20 there is a sudden, confident contrast: “But, Christ has been raised from the dead.”
    • Just as the denial of the resurrection has implications for Christians, the affirmation and belief has it as well: first-fruits of those who believe.
    • First-fruits were the fruits picked at the beginning of harvest—the promise of more to come just like this one.
    • If you truly believe in the absolute, definite action of what God did in Jesus through his death and resurrection, then you can absolute confidence in what God will do in the future—the resurrection then is the anchor point of our hope.
    • Within the resurrection of Jesus he gave the death blow to sin, and it will finally and ultimately be “swallowed” in the last day (v. 26).
  • Say “truly believe” because there are implications for your life if you claim that belief (v. 31-34)
    • If we believe in the resurrection we will:
      • Die every day.
      • Stop sinning
      • Have knowledge of God.
    • A genuine faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus is going to show itself “evident”—just as Jesus showed his resurrection body by “many proofs” (Acts 1:3), so too must the life of the Christian show forth, by trusting obedience, the proof of the resurrected Jesus living within them (1 John 3:3)
  • But not only that, this give us immense, unspeakable, glorious hope (1 Pet. 1:3).
    • For the body racked with cancer, terminal illness, and chronic pain; for the mind that has grown dim and diminished by age and dementia, or darkened by the cloud of depression; for the mothers and fathers who have lost precious children;
    • To children who have lost precious mothers and fathers; to the poor who have no hope or rest, to the hungry who have no hope of being filled, to the oppressed, overworked, underpaid, undervalued, forgotten, lonely, heartbroken, hated, rejected, scorned, humiliated—the resurrection of Jesus brings hope for them!

Conclusion

  • And this is that hope—that hope which is so central and saving to Christianity; that hope which is radical, but reliable; that hope which is definite but demanding:
  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
  • Do you?

 

 

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