Sermons on 1 Corinthians | The Day Death Died | 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

Empty grave of Jesus

The Day Death Died (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

When I went to International Bible College, a fella by the name of William Western was my roommate. William was a junior, and, like any good upperclassman, he told me what classes to avoid and which to take. William was an excellent song leader, and he spent years leading singing at a large congregation just north of Nashville, Tennessee.

The only bad thing I can really say about William is that he was a Tennessee Vols fan. When I left home, my Nannie got me a University of Kentucky bathmat. I was so proud of that bathmat and placed it where I’d step out on it every morning. Well, along came William. He got a much larger Tennessee bathmat, placed it at the bathtub, and placed my UK bathmat over at the toilet.

Six weeks or so ago, I was texting with a college friend. James said, “Justin, you do know that William passed away last week, don’t you?” I had no idea William had died, and James simply texted back, “COVID.” William had been sick for some time, and he succumbed to pneumonia brought on by COVID.

Some of you know folks who have left this world because of COVID. If you don’t know anyone who has died from the coronavirus, you know folks who have died. Car accidents. Drug overdoses. Cancer. Heart disease. Suicide.

The truth of the matter is that we’re all going to leave this world. When David’s time to die drew near, he gave Solomon some final instructions; David began his charge by saying: “I am about to go the way of all the earth” (1 Ki 2:2). Death is the “way of all the earth,” for all men die. “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people” (Rom 5:12).

But that isn’t the whole story. As we continue to struggle with COVID, it’s wise to remember one first day of the week when some women went to Jesus’s tomb. When they arrived at the tomb, they found the large stone rolled away. An angel was there and told them, “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here” (Mk 16:6). That is the day death died. That is the day which gives hope when we’re grieving. That is the day which gives us hope when death reaches its chilly fingers toward us.

Paul discussed that glorious day in 1 Corinthians 15, and he told us: “Jesus defeated death.”

Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

verses 50-53:

Paul helped the Corinthians understand the spiritual nature of the heavenly kingdom. Because the heavenly kingdom is a spiritual, not physical, kingdom, the physical body must be changed. The “perishable,” that which is susceptible to decay, cannot enter a place where no decay ever comes. Even those living when the Lord returns will need to be changed. The dead who have rotted in the ground will be raised imperishable and no longer be able to rot.

verse 54:

On the day Jesus comes again and all bodies are changed, the saying shall come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” That’s a quote from Isaiah 25:8. God’s plan to raise man to life eternal is not a recent development, but it’s an eternal plan—God has always planned to raise his children.

The Greek term for “swallow” means to swallow completely. There is going to be utter victory over death when Jesus comes again.

verse 55:

Paul asked two rhetorical questions to show the utter annihilation of death.

“Where, O death, is your victory?” Death has no victory. Through his resurrection, Jesus will destroy death when he comes again (1 Cor 15:25-26). God “gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).

“Where, O death, is your sting?” Death is pictured as a venomous creature such as a hornet or a scorpion. Because Jesus has been raised, that sting—sin, which has spread death to all men—has been removed.

verses 56-57:

Here is the climax of Paul’s whole treatise on the resurrection—God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Corinthians were troubled over the resurrection. Some were denying the resurrection would even happen. Others were questioning what type of body folks would have in the resurrection. Paul answered both those groups and then broke out in praise at the glorious hope given in Christ. “Jesus defeated death.”


Jesus defeated death.” Therefore:

You need to give thanks.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).

Yes, thanksgiving should be a way of life for the Christian. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Col 3:15). “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18).

In this context, Christians need to be especially mindful of thanksgiving around the resurrection from the dead. Because death died the day Jesus rose from the dead, you need to give thanks. Every day in your prayers this week I want you to mention specifically thanksgiving that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that one day he will raise you, too.

If you need some motivation for thanksgiving, imagine a world where Jesus Christ is still in his Jerusalem tomb. COVID would be ravaging the world, and there would be no hope—every person we lost to the coronavirus would be in Torment awaiting an eternity in a devil’s hell. You’d still be in your sins without the resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:17). You would have no hope of ever seeing a loved one again; when the lid of the casket was closed, that would be it. The only hope you’d have would be in this world (1 Cor 15:19); imagine flipping on the TV and seeing disease and death and destruction and knowing it doesn’t get any better; imagine facing the trials of your life and knowing it doesn’t get any better. That’s the world without the resurrection of Jesus!

You need to stand firm.

“Therefore [because of the resurrection], my dear brothers and 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” (1 Cor 15:58).

In my life, I have baptized many folks who just didn’t stand firm. They’ll worship for a while. They’ll leave sin behind. They’ll ask questions when they don’t understand. They’ll search the Scriptures to fortify their faith. And then they’re gone!

Paul said that because Jesus was raised and you will one day be raised there’s every reason to be steadfast. When the tempter comes, there’s no reason to give in, for you will have eternal life. When friends urge you to do wrong, there’s no reason to go along, for you will have eternal life. When you just don’t feel like doing right, there’s every reason to do right because you will have eternal life.

Dedication—standing firm—is so important for your faith. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet 5:9).

Take a look at your life and see what, if anything, is keeping you from standing firm in the truth of the gospel. How dedicated are you to the Lord Jesus? How much do you worship? How much do you give? How much do you set the right example? How much do you pray? How much do you serve the less fortunate? How much do you study Scripture?

What in your life have you allowed to influence your faithfulness? Is there some recreation that occupies a place only God should have? Is there some sin that has crowded God from your heart? Is your family dragging you away from the Lord? Is your TV consumption more important than honoring the God of heaven?

Jesus has defeated death; you’re going to be resurrected. Stand firm.

You need to labor.

“Therefore [because of the resurrection], my dear brothers and 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” (1 Cor 15:58).

Because Jesus died and was raised for you and because he will raise your body, you need to be working. About the rich in this world, Paul told Timothy, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Tim 6:18). “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (Js 2:17-18). “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pet 2:12).

This congregation has been in shutdown mode long enough. It’s time to act. It’s time to move. It’s time to be about the Lord’s work once more. Let’s get to work!

What talents do you have that you can use in the kingdom of God? Do you have the gift of encouragement and can you encourage folks to be faithful? Do you have the gift of evangelism and can you be sharing your faith? Do you have the gift of teaching and can you be teaching classes? Do you have the gift of service and can you help the widows get the assistance they need? How can you be laboring in the Lord, knowing your labor is not in vain?

Do you need to come this morning and begin laboring in God’s kingdom?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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