The Last Enemy (1 Corinthians 15)

April 9, 2023

Series: 1 Corinthians

Good morning. What a beautiful song. Thank you, Eddie, for taking us to the cross, but beyond the cross, because we know the story of Jesus did not end on that Friday morning. That’s why we’re here today. We’re here on Sunday morning because Jesus lives. Good morning to everyone. Thank you, God, for the fantastic weather that we’ve received. It is a blessing to be together today. Happy Easter to everyone. I’m Marcus Overstreet. I serve as one of the ministers here. So thankful for this church, thankful for my own family. I was so lost that I could have died more than 20 years ago. But Jesus brought me by his side and redeemed me and gave me a second chance. So I’m very, very thankful for that. I wouldn’t have my wife, Amy, today without Jesus, my three kids, Nate, Ella, Charlotte. I am a blessed man. I’m so thankful to be with all of you today. Thankful to be with my family. Let’s turn our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15. If you’re just joining us today and you’ve been away for a while, it’s your first time. We’ve been studying from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians Church.

We’re going to look at 1 Corinthians 15 this morning. So for me, I did want to share a little bit about where I’m coming from. I enjoyed the hymns today. I hope everyone enjoyed those hymns. Deeply meaningful, especially for me because I am getting older. I turned 50 years young two weeks ago today. 50 years young. And it’s no joke getting older. First, your memory gets worse, and then your hearing gets worse, and then your eyesight gets worse, and then your memory gets worse. Some of you don’t follow because you’re older than me. But getting old is no joke. I wanted to share with you today. I’ve been reflecting on this more and it’s meant more and more to me. I found the final word on this. I have the top 10 signs you’re getting older. So you may want to write these down. I think many of you can relate to these. The top 10 signs that you are getting older. Number one, it takes you twice as long to look half as good. Number two, you have more hair in your ears than on your head. They do make products for this. I shaved them this morning.

More hair in your ears than you have on your head. Number three, 10 signs that you’re getting old. Number three, happy hour has become a nap. You know what I’m talking about. Number four, your wild oats have turned into brand flakes. Some of you don’t even know about these things. You will one day. Number five, this is for my good friend Gil over there who’s been taking great pictures today. Gil, how are you doing? Thank you. Number five, your back goes out more than you do. Number six, some of you are guilty as charged on this one. Number six, you sing along to the elevator music. Number seven, this one’s for Eddie. You begin to brag about your lawn mower. All right. Number eight, your back goes out more than you do. Yeah, you tell the same jokes. Or your memory goes out. It’s one of the two. If it worked the first time, why not tell the same joke, same crowd? It was only a few seconds ago, you already forgot it. Number nine, the ninth sign that you’re getting older, you begin to take your metal detector to the beach. And then number 10, the last proven sign that you’re getting older, you now have a rewards card with Sketchers.

Amen. I share these things transitioning. Get a bit more serious here. But no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we try to ignore it, none of us is getting any younger. And Eddie alluded to this just a few moments ago. We’re all aging. We’re all destined to die. Any efforts to stop the aging process ultimately are doomed to fail. So I think we do need to face it as human beings, death is our greatest enemy. Death is an enemy. Check out 1 Corinthians 15. We’ll look at verse 26. 1 Corinthians 15, verse 26. And here the Apostle Paul emphatically states, The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Think on that. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. That’s the title of today’s lesson, The Last enemy. But I’ll tell you this, brothers, sisters, family, friends, I bring you tremendous good news this morning. You and I have the golden opportunity to serve and follow a risen Lord. It is Jesus. It is Jesus alone who conquered death, hell, and the grave. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, and Jesus has proven he will do it.

Have you ever wondered what radically changed the lives of the Christians in the first century? I mean, how in the world did the church grow so fast and spread all over the Roman world during that time? How did this happen? I’ll submit to you, it was not the miracles. It was not the relationships, even though the relationships were fantastic, it was not their kingdom dreams. It was not the deep teaching. And dare I say, it was not even the cross. Because after the death of Jesus, what happened? All the disciples ran away. They went into hiding. They locked the door. In just a few days, Peter, James, and John, they went back to their nets and they started fishing again. The Apostles were insecure. They were hopeless. They were full of fear. But what really turned these men and women around, how they forever changed history, was becoming a powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus. And we are witnesses to those witnesses. The risen Lord, this was the unmistakable, undeniable message of the first century church. Jesus is alive, the risen Lord. If you’re a Christian, what is your message today? What does the Christian life mean to you?

Today is Sunday. Today is the Lord’s day. Today is the Lord’s day because Jesus has risen from the dead and he will never die again. It’s fascinating as we study 1 Corinthians as a church, on the one hand, 1 Corinthians 15, it’s the most glorious, the most thorough teaching that we have on the resurrection and the entirety of the Bible. That’s 1 Corinthians 15. It’s really one of my favorite chapters in all the Bible. Read it, study it, soak it in. It will change how you live. But on the other hand, you have the first 14 chapters of 1 Corinthians. We’re in the middle of it right now, studying it as a church, the first 14 chapters of 1 Corinthians. They illustrate how we behave when we do not focus on the resurrection. Think about that. What we’ve studied thus far, we can get critical, divisive, independent. We have a man focus instead of a God focus. We’re easily hurt or offended, unforgiving. There are lawsuits, sexual sin, divorce. We conform to culture. We lose sight of the resurrection, and that’s when we start going off the rails as a church.

Paul spends the first 11 verses here in Chapter 15, making sure we remember the good news first preached to us, the saving news of Jesus Christ crucified and Jesus Christ resurrected. Let’s read together Chapter 15 and let’s go back to Verse 3. 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 Verse 3. Paul writes, For what I received, I passed on to you as a first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried and he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. Then he appeared to Peter and then to the 12. And after that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles, and last of all, He appeared to me also as to one abnormally born. If we get this right, we get everything right. If we get this wrong, we get everything wrong. Our gospel is incomplete unless we connect the resurrection of Jesus to our own future resurrection. I know for me, and I think I can speak for some of you, for some reason, most of us, we can embrace the fact of the resurrection of Jesus, but we can often fail to make the connection that that same resurrection will happen to you and me if we are faithful disciples of Jesus.

The church in Corinth, they were tripped up by this same struggle. Let’s read now in verse 12, 1 Corinthians 15, verse 12, But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, well, how can some of you say that there’s no resurrection of the dead? There’s no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. You’re still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep or those who have died in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. The first fruits of those who have fallen asleep or those who have physically died before us.

In other words, Jesus is the first of many that will be raised from the dead. He’s only the first. And it uses this farming term here of first fruits. And that’s what Jesus is. A first fruit is the first sample of a crop that points to the quality of the remainder of the crop. That’s what Jesus is for us. Christ is the first fruits of what His followers will be like in their new bodies one day. What is true of Jesus and His resurrection is true of His followers. And then Paul makes sure that he emphasizes here that Christianity without the resurrection is a fraud. Christianity without the hope of the resurrection, it is the most pitiful existence. Let’s keep reading here in verse 21, For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam, the first man, all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in its own turn. Christ, the first fruits, then when Jesus comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come when Jesus hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power.

For Jesus must reign until He has put all of His enemies under His feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. This tells us how our resurrection will happen. The first fruits, that’s Jesus. Jesus conquers death. And we read that in the scriptures. He conquers death and He reappears in His new body. And then when Christ returns to earth the second time, all of His disciples will come alive as well. Just like Jesus did on Easter Sunday 2,000 years ago. And then next, the end will come. All the enemies of God will be crushed under the feet of Jesus. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Death itself shall die. What I’m telling you, this is the true hope of every Christian. This is the hope of the resurrection. Satan will do anything he can to distract us from focusing on the resurrection. Satan knows that people who believe and live for their resurrection are dangerous to him. So he attacks us in this area. How much in the last month have you thought about your resurrection? Verse 19 warns us. I think this is what can burden us as Christians is we lose sight of the resurrection.

We stop at Friday and we don’t go all the way to Sunday morning. How much in the last month have you thought about your resurrection? Verse 19 warns us if we’re Christians living only for the hopes and blessings of this world, then we’re the saddest people in Orlando. Are you with me, church? Why is all of this so important? Again, we all face a frightening enemy, and that’s death. But verse 26 tells us death will lose to Jesus. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Last Saturday, we attended a celebration of life for Tony Avila’s dad, Louis. Many of us made the trip down, and we’re so glad we did. Here in Orlando, Louis is known as Tony’s dad. But in Broward, that’s not the case at all. We know Louis as Tony’s dad here, but in Broward, Louis is a spiritual giant. Louis is legendary. His faith, his love for others, his smile and his laugh that lights up a room. And Tony, I do want to share. It dawned on Amy and me as we were driving home from the celebration of life that you have so many of your dad’s incredible qualities, especially your way with people.

And prior to his death, Louis recorded a video and shared about his excitement for his own resurrection. They ended up playing that video at the memorial service. It was moving. It was inspiring. I was thankful to get to see Louis smile and his laugh and just his inspiration from being a disciple once again. It was an amazing day. Now, I do want you to think about this in light of Jesus. I was thinking just this week how awkward it would have been, and stay with me on this, but how awkward it would have been to sit next to Jesus at Louis’ funeral. That’s because Jesus just didn’t know how to conduct himself at funerals. He was just different. He saw things differently. Imagine sitting next to Jesus at a funeral. Based on what we know Jesus was like around the dead, just imagine sitting next to Jesus and what it would have been like at that time. Jesus said some crazy things around dead people. They were cringy. He’d see the dead person and he would shout, Get up. Or Jesus would come on the scene and say, Come out of the tomb. But Jesus, he stinks by now. No, come out of the tomb. Or could you imagine sitting next to Jesus at a funeral and he just stands up during a solemn moment and he goes, He’s not dead. He’s only asleep. Here’s how Jesus would console family members. Why are all of you crying? Now, this is not because Jesus was unloving or Jesus did not have a respect for the dead. Not at all. It’s because Jesus had a very clear view of the other side. Jesus did not live for this world. He lived for the next world. He knew this world was very temporary. He knew the next one was eternal. That’s where he came from. Jesus knew that God will not and cannot allow death to have the final say. He would not allow death to have the final victory. Death would be crushed. And Paul, the apostle, he also had this on straight. He longed for his resurrection to live as Christ, to die as gain. That’s why we see Paul, no matter how much suffering that Paul went through, he lived a life of a disciple that was joyful, inspired, evangelistic, no matter what he was going through. That was Paul.

We see this in verse 30. 1 Corinthians 15, verse 30, Paul asked this rhetorical question, and as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? Why go through all this? Why am I doing this? Verse 31, I die every day. I mean that, brothers and sisters, just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. I mean, if I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought. Stop sinning for there are some who are ignorant of God, and I say this to your shame. I think many of you know the Christian life is hard. It’s hard to stick with it. It’s hard to persevere. It’s hard to keep doing the right thing. It’s hard to learn new things. It’s hard to grow in your character. It’s hard to keep being like Jesus as so many different things come our way. The Christian life means giving up your life. It means saying no to the world.

It means often saying no to our own desires, often saying no to our own dreams, our emotions. And the Christian life means saying yes to Jesus. I acknowledge, and Paul does as well, this is hard. So why do we do it? Why go through the hard times? Why put my heart in harm’s way over and over again? Why the sacrifice? It’s all about the hope of the resurrection. It’s all about pledging your allegiance to the only one who can destroy the greatest enemy, and that’s death itself. That’s why Paul says in Verse 32, if the dead are not raised, you’re wasting your time with church. Let’s eat and drink and party and pagan it up all we want to because we’re dying anyway, and that’s it. Then there’s Verse 33, do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character. We often use this verse to encourage us, warn us against staying away from bad influences, and certainly that’s the case. But it’s much more specific here in this context. In context, what Paul is saying is don’t get entangled with people not living for the resurrection because they’re going to be heading in a different direction.

Don’t spend too much time. Don’t get too yoked with people who are caught up in the drama and desires of this world. Even Christians, he’s speaking to Christians here. It’s a sobering thought for me. This past week, this past year, am I someone who is good company to be with, or am I someone who is bad company to be with in this church? For the people around me, am I drawing people in? Do they see that my life is different because I live for the resurrection? That’s the only way that my sacrifice and the things I go through even makes sense. Because I live for the hope of the resurrection. Are you good company or are you bad company? In other words, do I speak faith, hope, and joy into every situation? Am I a man or woman controlled by the resurrection of Jesus? And never, ever forget this. One day, sooner than you think, Jesus is coming back. Sooner than you think, Jesus will completely destroy death. God wants to give you and me more than we could ever ask for or imagine. Many people believe marriage is one of the best things we have going down here on Earth if we do it the right way.

But heaven is so good, marriage is not even necessary in heaven. I love you, Amy. This is the word of God. More than we could ever ask for or imagine. When we reflect on the glory of our resurrection, the fear of death starts to fade away. How does that sound? Funerals become graduation ceremonies. Death becomes the birth canal to life. Too many times we view dead Christians as if they’re missing out on the party. This is completely wrong if we reflect on the glory of the resurrection. I miss my dad who died in the Lord 22 years ago. I miss Amy’s mom who died in the Lord about a decade ago. We miss Louis Avila. You have loved ones you’ve missed, but if they died in the Lord, we’re the ones missing out on the party right now. We must reflect on the glory of the resurrection. I love the story about how a Florist one day mixed up two orders. A Florist mixes up two orders. There was a man who started a new business and he had rushed into the flower shop in a rage. He was starting a new business. The flower order was messed up.

He said, How could you have messed up my order like this? My new business? Because in the mix up, the new business had received a floral arrangement with a note attached that said, Rest in peace. Meanwhile, the other set of flowers arrived at the funeral home with another note that said, Good luck on your new location. And for me, in view of the resurrection, I prefer the latter when I die. How about you? Good luck in your new location. Let’s finish today by reading the end of chapter 15. We’ll start in verse 50. 1 Corinthians 15, verse 50, I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true.

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of the sin is the law. But thanks be to God. Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and my dear sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. We hate death. We’ll do anything, pay anything just to postpone death for a few hours. We hate it. But suppose you couldn’t die. Do you know what that would mean if you couldn’t die? The blind would remain blind. The paralyzed would never walk. The child with mental disability would never have a normal mind. The injustices of this world would continue to prevail. That which is crooked would remain crooked and never be straightened. The last would remain last. The first would remain first. The least would remain the least. Those terminally ill would remain ill forever and never terminate.

And aching hearts would continue to ache and never, ever be healed. Suppose we could not die. Wouldn’t that be horrible? Instead, each one of us yearns for a life not measured by years or not measured by flesh. We yearn to have another crack at life. We yearn to do it all over again, but to do it so much differently. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to die and not be dead? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to die and not be dead? That’s not some vague hope. That’s the unchangeable promise of God. That’s the resurrection of Jesus. That’s the resurrection for those who follow Jesus. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Our best days as Christians are right in front of us. Amen.


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