"Our True Hero"
In every good story, there is an enemy to be conquered by a hero: Aslan and the White Witch, Simba and Scar, Batman and the Joker, and Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort to name just a few. I’ve even heard it said, “Weak villain, weak story.” It could be argued that every good story is only pointing to the one true story of our great King coming to rescue His people from the most wicked of enemies: death. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that Jesus defeats the enemies of humanity and “delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24 ESV). And yet there is one enemy left to be conquered; the most bitter and final enemy is death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Christ’s death on the cross made atonement for our sins, but it was His Resurrection from death which secured our eternal hope of life. At Christmas, we marvel over the incarnation. We would do well, however, to simultaneously fixate upon the end of the story. Charles Wesley’s great Advent Hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” captures this paring with the memorable lyric, “Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” These three reasons for Jesus’ birth can all be found in 1 Corinthians 15. Christ was born so that people might no longer die (1 Corinthians 15:22), He was born to extend resurrection to us (1 Corinthians 15:52), and thus He was born to make a way for us to live eternally (1 Corinthians 15:49).
It is Jesus’ Resurrection that gives us hope that this life is not the end for us. Perhaps this Christmas you are grieving the absence of a loved one who has died or you are watching the painful decay of illness that leads to death. Life may seem hopeless and dark in stark contrast to the cheerfulness of the season. Take comfort, brothers and sisters, in the promises of this passage. Your King has come, and He has defeated the final enemy on your behalf. And though death may sting for a moment, one day at Christ’s return this will be our song: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54b–55 ESV). Thanks be to God!
1 Corinthians 15:12-58
The Resurrection of the Dead
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
The Resurrection Body
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Mystery and Victory
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 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. 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?”
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.
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.