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Victory in Jesus

December 18, 2022 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Growing in Grace

Topic: Resurrection Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:49-58

Sermon Text:

A couple months ago Beth and I were shopping at Sam’s Club going aisle by aisle filling our cart with whatever we needed. When we got to the coffee aisle, I went to grab some coffee and she said, “no, we don’t need coffee.” Now, just that morning I saw we were low and tried to explain I was sure we needed coffee and I knew we didn’t have any extra at home. She just shook her head and smiled in that way that I have learned means she is doing her best to be patient with me when I am not listening and told me she had ordered some online and it would be delivered the next day.

Although our cupboard was empty and we did not yet have the coffee in our hands, it was ours. We could rely on the promise that at the right time, it would be there. It was already paid for, it was on the way, and the store could be trusted to deliver it. We did not have to worry. Coffee would not be an issue. The decisive act that made the coffee our possession had been accomplished and it was ours.

Friends, that is the way it is with heaven, with glory, and with immortality: The decisive act is done. It is not yet in our hands, but it is assuredly coming. The promise is made, and the work to secure it has been completed. If you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, heavenly glory is already yours. The life of faith is not a striving to obtain something, it is resting in a promise of something that has already been achieved. It is a living trust in God to keep his promises.

This morning we finish up chapter 15 in our series Growing in Grace, working our way passage by passage through the letter of 1 Corinthians. For the past several weeks the apostle Paul has been teaching us about the promise of the resurrection of believers and why it is important. As Paul concludes this teaching, he is showing us that in Christ, believers’ already have meaning, purpose, and direction that ends in incomparable glory. That is the key point of the message this morning, In Christ, believers’ already have meaning, purpose, and direction that ends in incomparable glory.

We begin at verse 51,

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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.


Remember, the context is that Paul explaining how it is that bodies can enter the kingdom of God. The Corinthians were confused about this and so Paul explains that our bodies will be changed. They won’t be exactly as they are now. He says this happens in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, which is an expression that just means it is instantaneous.


Paul says this is a mystery. In the Bible, mystery means that it is something previously unknown and that can only be known if God reveals it. The people of God in the Old Testament knew the promise of resurrection and that the Day of the Lord would come quickly from passages like Ezekiel chapter 37, Isaiah 13, and others.


The mystery Paul reveals is that believers will be changed and those who are alive will be transformed without passing through death. That transformation wasn’t explained in the Old Testament. Usually, what we see in the Old Testament are just expressions of trust in the resurrection rather than how it would work. For example, in Job 19:25–26, Job says,

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God

Or Daniel 12:2 which says,

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.


The idea that there is this transformation from a fleshly body to a spiritual body wasn’t explicitly clear. In fact, Paul’s teaching in our passage today is taken from Isaiah 25:8 that says God “will swallow up death forever” and Hosea 13:4 which says, “I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? …” and Paul is revealing new details and insight into how this will happen as he answers the questions raised by the Corinthians.

The mystery, or new information, the Holy Spirit now reveals through Paul is that our new bodies are spiritual bodies and even those alive will be changed. Paul also talks about this in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 where he says,

15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

This mysterious transformation that accompanies the resurrection and glorification of believers happens when believers are caught up in the air with Jesus at an event usually called the rapture. The word rapture means to be carried off or snatched up and refers to believers meeting Jesus in the air. Many people spend a lot of time and energy speculating about when this will happen, but I want to tell you a secret. I know exactly when the rapture will happen. I know because Paul tells us.

Look at verse 16 of the Thessalonian passage,

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Now look at verse 52 of our main passage...

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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.


The Rapture occurs at the Last Trumpet when Jesus returns. Jesus says in Matthew 24:29–31,

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.


A little less than 200 years ago a teaching arose claiming the mystery Paul was talking about was actually that Jesus would return in two stages rather than one as the Church has previously believed. Rather than these events happening at one time when Jesus comes back, people began teaching the rapture would happen several (usually 7) years before his final return. Instead of returning completely, it was said he would come and take away believers in a secret rapture before the time of tribulation and then return finally at a later point.


That is what I was taught and is probably what most of you were taught. Many wonderful brothers and sisters believe it passionately, including several that I respect very greatly. But when we look at these passages there is no mention of a two-stage fulfillment. I am just not convinced Paul is talking about a different trumpet than John or Jesus.


These are complex issues that require much study and I don’t claim to have all the answers but I find that in the plain reading of all these passages the resurrection of the just and therefore the rapture happens at the last trump when Jesus returns to defeat the Antichrist and reward the saints. I think Paul, Jesus, and John were all describing the same events. Jesus is coming again and when he does, believers will be resurrected to glory, caught up to meet him in the air, and will share in his earthly kingdom with him.


I know many of you have a different view and think I am wrong about this. That’s ok. This is an important issue, but not one to divide over. Many of my friends think I am wrong, but my heart is captive to the word, and I believe this is what the Bible says. After 30 years of reflection, I remain increasingly convinced that early Church had this right. We are all agreed that Jesus is coming, and the important thing is to be ready even now. That is where we should focus most of our energy, are we honoring Christ now.


I know many of you are interested in digging into these things more deeply because end-times questions were the most popular “select a sermon” requests. So, in a few weeks I will preach another message that goes into this further and we are considering some things for the new year that could build on that. I don’t want to get any further into that right now though.


Paul’s main point is that all believers will be transformed by the power of God so that we can be with the Lord forever. When God does this, we receive complete victory over sin and death because of what Jesus achieved through his perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead.


We will be transformed by the power of God from death to life, from those with no hope and spiritually dead, into those who are alive, loving God, and freed, body and mind, from the ravages of sin and death.


A couple weeks ago we had those big poplar trees near the driveway taken down. To the casual observer, those trees looked strong and substantial. Birds and squirrels made their homes among their branches, and they provided shade and blocked the wind. The biggest one looked strong and sturdy, it was something like 5’ across at its base. Sure, there were some dead branches mixed in with the green leaves but overall, the trees looked full of life.


But what you couldn’t see unless you looked very closely is those trees were rotting from the inside out. The green leaves hid the fact that many of the boughs were dead. When winds and storms came, large sections would crack and break off. Even the strongest parts of the tree were dying, and it was only a matter of time before the entire thing collapsed and came crashing down.


That is the way it is with sinners like us. To the casual observer, we look strong and full of life, but the truth is we are rotten inside. We try to hide the dead and gnarled branches with the leaves of a few good deeds, but it is just a matter of time before the entire thing comes crashing down and we are exposed for what we really are.


Our pride allows us to maintain appearances so long as we are comfortable and getting what we want, but if something or someone gets in our way, they find out rather quickly that the most important thing in our world is us. We give lip service to good things and to God, but our true god is Self. Serving ourselves is more important than serving God and our sin is the evidence that we love God and others only when it is convenient for us. This is the default setting of all human beings.


And the truth is we have no more power to fix ourselves than the tree did. Our march toward death and judgment is just as inevitable as the spread of the rot in those branches. But in an act of amazing love, Jesus did what we could never do. He lived the righteous life we were supposed to live and took upon himself the penalty for the sins of everyone who would ever believe in him. He was crucified on a cross to satisfy the justice of God for all who would ever believe in him. Then he was raised from the dead three days later to show that he was greater than sin and death.


He offers forgiveness and new life purely as an act of grace. There is nothing any of us can ever do to deserve the love that was shown on the cross. The cross shows us that the righteousness that came from us was so useless that for us to be forgiven and made righteous, the holy Son of God had to give his own life. That is how big the debt was. That is how big the gap is between you and me and Jesus. My life earned the death of Christ, but his life earned the salvation of every person who will ever be saved.


God offers his son freely. All that is required is that we believe and repent and we receive the gift of eternal life. We experience peace and joy with God and deliverance from guilt and the power of sin now. Paul is telling us it gets even better. It will not only be our hearts and minds that are changed but all that we are. Paul says,


53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”


Like putting on new clothes we will discard our weakness and put on glory. Death which once swallowed up everything we could experience has now encountered a force even more powerful force than itself. In this age death rules, nothing can escape it or overcome it, but the love of God is so abundant that even death cannot consume it. When death encounters a believer in Christ it is like the python that tried to swallow an antelope and choked to death. It is just too much.


The process of dying is a horrible and frightful thing. It is a painful thing to watch our loved one’s waste away. Death leaves a severe wound but for those in Christ even death has been transformed. Believers should not fear death because it is just a doorway that we must walk through to receive our inheritance. The love of God has the power to transform even death into a blessing for his people.


Yes, even death is under the sovereign authority of almighty God. It is among the “all things” that God works together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Every breath and every heartbeat that move us closer to physical death, moves us also closer to ultimate victory. Paul says,


56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Why does Paul say it this way? Isn’t this backwards? Wouldn’t you expect him to say the sting of sin is death and not the other way around? We are often told in the Bible that sin leads to death. In this case, Paul mentions not only sin and death but the law as well and I think that is a clue as to what he wants us to see. As sinners we are condemned to death under the law. The reason we were condemned under the law is because we are sinners, we broke God’s laws and deserved the penalty.


But think about this for a moment. The law is good and perfect and from God so why should it bring death?


When I was a kid, I bought an old beat-up car. It was a pile of junk. The frame was bent, one of the mounts was broken so the engine vibrated horribly, and it only had a little 90 horsepower 4 cylinder engine. The car wouldn’t go more than 70 miles an hour, but it had a speedometer that went up to 120. That speedometer could tell me how fast I was going but didn’t give me the ability to go any faster. That is the way it is with the law. It tells us what we are but doesn’t give us the power to be anything else.


The law brings death because it is holy, and we are evil. The reason sin abounds is because, apart from God’s work in Christ, we are spiritually dead. The natural person is unable to follow God’s commands. Romans 8:7–8 says,

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


Until God does a work of grace in our heart to bring new life and open our eyes, we cannot please God. Remember what Paul said back in chapter 2, verse 14,


14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.


It is our spiritually dead hearts that provide for sin to bring death through the law. Speaking of this same dynamic of the law, Romans 7:13–14 says,


13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.


Sin is the sting of death because the deadness of our fallen hearts leads us to sin, and that sin brings the condemnation of the law. Death is at work in every aspect of our fallen existence but it is the power of the gospel that in Jesus God has brought victory over death. There are many false gospels in the world that seek the improvement of men but the true Gospel crucifies the old man so he can be raised a new creation. This is the promise God fulfills in Jesus, that we are made new creations. God promised his people he would bring them into a kingdom of righteousness not merely by defeating external enemies but by transforming their hearts. Ezekiel 36:25–28 says,


25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.


That is what makes someone a child of God. Not coming forward at the end of a service. Not signing a card or joining a church. People are not made Christians by a decision; they are made Christians by the power of God transforming their dead sinful heart into one that beats with affection for him.


This faith and love are rewarded with eternal glory, not because we are good, but because God is. Not because of our work, but because of his. If you are trusting in Jesus alone as your representative before God, then every sin you have ever committed and every sin you ever will commit is under his blood. Neither sin or death have any claim upon those for whom Christ died. The word says, 8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Why then are we anxious? Why are we downcast and frustrated? Why are we so weak and fainthearted in our work for the kingdom? We already have victory in Jesus. We are accepted, adopted, and loved in Jesus and we know the future is one of unimaginable blessing and majesty.


If you are a believer, do not let the enemy discourage you with your sins, for they are forgiven. Do not let him accuse you with the coldness of your love, because you are kept not by the strength of your love, but by the strength of the love of Christ. Do not let him concern you with your frailty, for God will complete the work he began in you and you will stand with Christ glorified and renewed.


Paul says,


58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.


This gospel truth equips us to be steadfast. That means unwavering in our devotion to the work of the Lord. We don’t only serve when it is easy. We don’t give up because it becomes difficult or isn’t going according to our plans. If we were perfectly logical and faithful, we would never lose focus in serving the Lord because we are thankful to God who has given us victory in Jesus.

This gospel truth equips us to be immovable. We are not to be swayed by every wind of doctrine or new idea. We are not to be persuaded by the vain philosophies of the world or the opinions of the culture. We stand upon the very promises of almighty God, sealed in the blood of his son. As the old hymn says,

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through Him who with us sideth

Let goods and kindred go

This mortal life also

The body they may kill

God's truth abideth still

His kingdom is forever!


This gospel truth equips us to be always abounding in the work of the Lord. We are to be ALWAYS abounding in work. That means that there should never be a time when work for the Lord does not overflow from us. Knowing the great love that God has for us and the great salvation he has given us, we should be blessing people every moment, everywhere we go. This is his work in us and it too is grace.


These aren’t hoops to jump through or requirements. They are just a description of a life that is filled with the knowledge of the love of God in Christ. I pray you will leave this place today encouraged and motivated to let the love of God in Jesus overflow from you into blessings to others. You are not here by accident. Believer Christ is at work in you and in him your life has meaning, purpose and direction that ends in incomparable glory!


The decisive battle is over, and the victory is ours. Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior of our souls is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He is coming again to bring all those who trust in him to glory and to execute sentence upon all our enemies. Come quickly Lord Jesus!



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