1Cor 15:55                            O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?                             3/31/2013     

#1.      The Death of Christ (Eph 1:3-7, Rom 8:35)

 

 

 

Š      The Resurrection of Christ (Hos 6:1-2, Rom 8:30, John 10:30)

 

 

 

#2.      Why Was It a Surprise? (1Cor 15:12-21)

 

 

 

Š      Our Death and the Second Death (Gen 2:17, Matt 12:36, Rev 20:14-15, Rom 6:23, Eph 2:1)

 

 

 

#3.      The Atonement of Christ (John 15:6, Isa 4:2, 11:1-2, Jer 23:5-6, 33:15-16, Zec 3:8-9)

 

 

 

Š      More on the Atonement of Christ (Heb 5:7, Luke 22:44, Acts 2:27, 2:31, Matt 27:45-46)

 

 

 

Š      Why Is His Resurrection So Glorious? (Col 1:18, 13-14, Rev 1:5)

 

 

 

#4.      Today (1Cor 15:51-57, Luke 18:8, Rev 11:15, 1Thess 4:16, 1Cor 15:55-56, Psalm 2:1-3)

 

 

 

Š      O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1Cor 15:55)

There are two different ways we can preach from the Bible. One way is to list the historical events that occurred, and the other way is to ask ourselves the question: Why? The first method is a dry list of what God did in the course of time, like we read for example in First and Second Chronicles, and most of you would fall asleep when I would do that. But the second method will keep you awake, for it is interesting to know how everything fits into everything else. For example, the teachings of Jonathan Edwards are this way. He does not simply state facts in the Scriptures, but he asks: Why is this so? Let us try this approach. And so the first thing we want to discuss this morning is: The Death of Christ.

#1.      The Death of Christ (Eph 1:3-7, Rom 8:35)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 1:3 (2X). The death of Christ is a certain fact of history. The whole world knows about the crucifixion and the death of Christ. This was an event foreordained by God. And why did God do that? Let us read about that here in Eph 1.

Eph 1:3-7, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  5  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  6  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  7  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Verses 4-7 state the fact that God, before the foundation of the world, before He created the first speck of dust, has chosen a people for Himself who shall be holy and blameless before Him. These chosen people, also called God’s elect, have been predestinated to be the adopted children of God through the intervention of Jesus Christ, and they have been chosen according to the good pleasure of His will. These chosen people will be redeemed through the blood of Christ, which means that they shall stand blameless before God because all their sins will be atoned for by the death of Christ on the cross; all their sins shall be forgiven them through the payment of Christ on the cross in AD 33. All this was written as a decision God made before the foundation of the world, before He created the first speck of dust. These are the facts. And now we need to know why God did that.

These facts support a basic principle of the Gospel. The basic principle of the Gospel is that it is all a free gift; it is a gift from God by His grace. And what is the meaning of grace? Grace is God’s unmerited favor. It is a favor that God bestows upon His chosen people, His elect, but it is not based on any works of His people, for it is unmerited. That is why God has to make the choice, not man. None of our good works can contribute anything to the favor of God toward us. It is only the payment of Christ on the cross that shall persuade God to extend His favor toward us. And so, the death of Christ was foreordained by God, and was orchestrated by God, to provide atonement for our sins. This explains the historical fact and the reason why, of the death of Christ and His resurrection.

We want to make sure that we understand from verse 3 that the names of all the elect were placed in Christ, which means in God the Son, before the foundation of the world. Why did God do that? God declares that the salvation and the exaltation of His elect people shall proceed the way He planned it. None of our bad works shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35).

Š      The Resurrection of Christ (Hos 6:1-2, Rom 8:30, John 10:30)

Please turn to Hos 1:1 (2X). But Christ did not remain dead. After two days in the grave He rose again to new life. I am not talking about the length of time for the entire atonement, but about the length of time He rested in the grave. God is very clear about this in Hos 6:2. We read in Hos 6:1-2,

Hos 6:1-2  Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.       (Two days means from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning.)

When we read in the Bible about Christ being three days and three nights in the heart of the earth it is not talking about His burial in the heart of the earth, but about the length of the entire atonement process, which took three days and three nights, beginning on Thursday evening until Sunday morning. The heart of the earth must be understood in the spiritual sense. Christ was not buried in the heart of the earth, but He was buried above the ground in the cave of Joseph of Arimathaea.

The wording of Hos 6:1-2 implies that the elect were in Christ when He was torn, and when He was healed. Since we were in Christ from before the foundation of the world we were crucified with Christ, we died with Christ, we were buried with Christ, we were raised with Christ, we ascended with Christ into the heavenlies, and we are seated with Christ on the right hand of the Father, present tense. That is why we read in Rom 8:30, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” past tense.

Today is Easter Sunday, a memorial to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today has been declared the most important feast day of the church. And why is this so? In the first 25 years of my life as a Christian I have never understood why this is so. The doctrines of the church have been so watered down that no one could satisfactorily explain to me why this was the most important feast day of the church. And now I have to bring up again the matter of slogans in the church. They will victoriously claim, “He is risen,” or they will say “Christ is risen from the dead,” or they will say, “He conquered death.” And so on. These are all slogans. These are labels that people slap onto an event, and then they store the event in a file cabinet of their mind. I must say this to the shame of the church at large that they are hiding themselves behind these slogans. They do not grasp the importance of the resurrection of Christ. You see, we should not only record the event in a file cabinet of our mind, but we should ask: WHY, and then we should try to understand what the meaning is of this event. God did not place it in the Bible for us to store this information as an incidental fact.

Who are we talking about? We are talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the incarnation of God the Son, the second Person of the triune Godhead. Most people have not understood this. They speak of Christ as the Son of God, but they will not admit that He is also God, for God the Son is fully God. They should have been tipped off to this fact when the Lord Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” So let us consider this when we speak of the resurrection of Christ.

#2.      Why Was It a Surprise? (1Cor 15:12-21)

Why does the church make it such a big deal that Christ rose from the grave? Could we really expect any other outcome? Could we expect that God the Son would remain with the body of the man Christ Jesus in the grave? No! That would be a totally unbelievable solution. We would not believe that the Triune God would allow Himself to be mutilated in this way, and we would not believe that Christ was frustrated in His attempt to make the full payment for our sins. Besides, Christ was not the first one to be raised from the dead. God has raised from the dead six other people before He raised Christ from the dead. Through Elijah and through Elisha God has raised two little children from the dead. A man who had died was lowered into the grave of Elisha, and when his body touched the bones of Elisha he suddenly revived. The Lord Jesus raised from the dead a twelve year old girl, and the adult son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus of Bethany. And after the death of Christ through the apostle Peter a widow named Dorcas was brought back to life. And so, it is not at all out of the ordinary that God raised Christ from the dead. Why was it such a big surprise that Christ was raised from the dead? This should have been expected, since God the Son would not allow Himself to be mutilated by remaining with Christ in the grave. And so, let us examine this fact more carefully.

Please turn in your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Cor 15:12 (2X). We have here a passage which tells us the first reason why God raised Christ from the dead. Through this act of raising Christ from the dead God tells us that Christ, in His atonement for our sins, was successful. His atonement was complete, for if His atonement was not complete Christ would still be in the tomb continuing to pay for our sins. We read in 1Cor 15:12-21,

1Cor 15:12-21,  Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

And so, the first message from God through this act of raising Christ from the dead was to show that the atonement of Christ was complete. But there is more.

Š      Our Death and the Second Death (Gen 2:17, Matt 12:36, Rev 20:14-15, Rom 6:23, Eph 2:1)

What is the meaning of death? When we read in Gen 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” it seems to tell us that physical death is the penalty for sin. It is true that there existed no death prior to Adam’s sin. But is it true that physical death is the penalty for sin? For example, Adolph Hitler was responsible for the death of more than 40 million people during the Second World War. He committed suicide. Was that really the end of Adolph Hitler? The saints during the first century AD, tortured by the decree of Emperor Nero, suffered much more than Adolph Hitler. Is God a righteous Judge? Where then is the retribution for all those sins by a righteous Judge? Another example: On the Last Day the saints will be without dying transformed into their new glorified bodies. But all of them were sinners before God made them saints. Where then is the retribution for all those sins by a righteous Judge? The solution to all these questions rests in the existence of the second death.

God is a righteous Judge who will not pass by any sins. We read in Matt 12:36,

Matt 12:36, "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. Even sins as small as an idle word shall be judged individually.

Please turn in your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 20:14 (2X). The judgment of God on all the wicked is here revealed as a lake of fire. We read in Rev 20:14-15,

Rev 20:14-15,  And death and the grave were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

After the final judgment of God death and the grave will be cast into the lake of fire, which means that there will be no more escape into death or into the grave; but all the wicked who are not found in the book of life will be tormented in the lake of fire forever and ever. This judgment is called “the second death.” The true penalty for sin is the second death, the lake of fire, where also the beast and the false prophet are. If Christ would not have paid for all my sins, then I would also be cast into the lake of fire. When God says in Rom 6:23, “The wages of sin is death,” what is the death that God has in view as the wages of sin? No, it is not physical death, for the saints on the Last Day do not undergo physical death. At all other times in history the saints will endure physical death, but that is not the wages for sin, for if Christ has paid on the cross for the wages of sin then Christ would have been an unsuccessful Savior. No! Physical death is only a shadow of the real penalty for sin, which is the second death. And thus, when the Bible speaks of death, we need to investigate if God is now speaking of physical death, or of the second death. And besides this there is also spiritual death. When Adam sinned he died instantly, but this was only a spiritual death. We read in Eph 2:1,

Eph 2:1,  And you hath he quickened, (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins;

When God tells us that we are dead in trespasses and sins, it means that we are incapable to do anything good in the sight of God. In God’s eyes we cannot do anything good, as if we were dead. And so, where does that leave Christ when He atoned for our sins?

#3.      The Atonement of Christ (John 15:6, Isa 4:2, 11:1-2, Jer 23:5-6, 33:15-16, Zec 3:8-9)

Think of this now: God is a righteous Judge. God imputed our sins to the account of Christ. The word impute is Biblical, but the word impute is an accounting term. If Christ made the payment on behalf of our sins from His account then how much did He have to pay? It has to be equivalent to what I would have to pay if I would pay for my own sins. I would have to pay for an eternity in the lake of fire. That would not be too severe a payment, for I have insulted God and Christ more than half a million times in my life. It means that on behalf of me Christ would have to pay from His account the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. And this He would have to pay on behalf of me and of everyone whom He intended to save. Do we have Scriptural evidence for this? Indeed we do.

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel According to John, John 15:6 (2X). The Lord speaks here in a parable. It is the parable of Christ being the grape vine and we are the branches. Even though it is a parable, we can learn a great deal of truth from this parable. We read in John 15:6,

John 15:6,  If (a man) (anyone) abide not in me, he is cast forth as (a branch) (The Branch), and is withered; and (men) (they) gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

In your King James Bible you read, “If a man.” But literally the Greek text says, “If anyone,” for this principle does not apply to men only but to women also. Then you read in your King James Bible, “he is cast forth as a branch … and is cast into the fire,” and this is patently incorrect. Branches from the grape vine are not necessarily cast into “The fire”. Literally the Greek text says, “He is cast forth as The Branch.” What does that mean? The metaphor of The Branch has been used many times in the Bible. For example, let me read to you five passages from the Old Testament where the Branch or a Branch is portrayed, and where that Branch obviously refers to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isa 4:2, In that day shall the Branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.

Isa 11:1-2, And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2  And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

Jer 23:5-6, Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  6  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jer 33:15-16, In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16  In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.

Zec 3:8-9, Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.  9  For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

Without any question in all five passages the Branch refers to the Lord Jesus Christ who shall remove the iniquity of His elect in one day, referring to the day that Christ died on the cross on April 3 in the year AD 33. And so, when we put this information into John 15:6 this is what we understand:

John 15:6,  If anyone abide not in me, he is cast forth as The Branch (he is cast forth like Christ), and is withered (like Christ); and they gather them (the angels gather them), and cast them into the fire (of Hell), and they are burned.

And so, Christ did suffer the equivalent of an eternity in Hell on behalf of our sins. This He did while He suffered on behalf of our sins from Thursday evening in the Garden of Gethsemane until Friday afternoon at about 3 O’clock when He died on the cross.

Š      More on the Atonement of Christ (Heb 5:7, Luke 22:44, Acts 2:27, 2:31, Matt 27:45-46)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 5:7 (2X). This speaks of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane when He began to experience his sufferings for us. We read in Luke 22:44,

Luke 22:44, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” It was only now in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Lord Jesus knew what great sufferings He had to endure. He prayed fervently that this cup might pass from Him, if it coincided with the Father’s will. And then we read in Heb 5:7,

Heb 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

What is this verse saying? In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ prayed fervently, with strong crying and tears unto the Father who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard in what He feared. It means that the Father granted His request. Now think about that. Did the Father save Christ from dying on the cross? Absolutely not! Then what is this death that He saved Him from? It is the second death. The Father did not leave His Son in Hell. We read in Acts 2:27,

“Because thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

And again in Acts 2:31 we read, “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in Hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”

That word Hell is a translation from the Greek word “Hades”, which is equivalent to the Hebrew word “Sheol”, which can be translated as Hell or the grave. When the Bible speaks of human bodies, the grave is a possibility. But when the Bible speaks of human souls obviously the grave is not an option, for souls are spirits and they cannot be kept confined in the grave. Therefore Hell is the correct translation. The Father granted the request of Christ by not leaving his soul in Hell. And so, what does this tell us about the atonement of Christ? It tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ endured the equivalent of an eternity in Hell in His soul. Let God decide when He would say, “It is enough.” We cannot be the judge in matters concerning eternity. We cannot calculate with the number infinity, but God can. And when God declares that the payment of Christ was equivalent to an eternity in Hell in His soul, we have to believe it. Look at this fact from another point of view.

We read in Matt 27:45-46, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.  46  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He felt as if the Father had forsaken Him in Hell. But then a short time later, when He could see the end of the tunnel, He said, “It Is Finished.” What was finished? The sufferings in His soul were finished. He was still hanging on the cross. He was still suffering in His body, and bleeding from His head, and His hands, and his feet. Most of His blood was still in Him, for He was able to speak these things with a loud voice. But the sufferings in His soul were far more intense than the sufferings in His body, and that is why He could say, “It Is Finished.” The Father had saved Him from continual suffering in Hell.

And then He died. His human soul went to be with the Father in heaven, and His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. But His atonement was not finished. His humiliation continued until He rose from the tomb on Sunday morning.

Š      Why Is His Resurrection So Glorious? (Col 1:18, 13-14, Rev 1:5)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Colossians, Col 1:18 (2X). Perhaps you remember that every two weeks I proclaim from Rev 1:5 that Christ is the First Begotten of the Dead, and here in Colossians He is called the Firstborn from the Dead. We read in Col 1:18, 

Col 1:18  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Why is Christ called the Firstborn from the Dead? It is because He was the first one to emerge from the second death. That is why the resurrection of Christ was such a stupendous event. He descended into Satan’s territory, into the depths of Hell, and delivered His people from the power of Satan, and from the power of sin. We read in Col 1:13-14,

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”

You see, the forgiveness of sins is what it is all about. This is the Gospel, that God has forgiven us our sins. But what did it take for God to forgive us our sins? In Gen 3 when sin entered into the world through the sin of Adam and Eve, the whole world with all its inhabitants was delivered to Satan, because he had conquered it. Every one of us was born into a world of sin, a world without Christ, where we are strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. It was as if we were born in the bottomless pit, in the midst of Satan’s kingdom.

But since God is a God of love He decided to create a people for Himself on whom He could pour His love abundantly. And God decided to send His dear Son into Satan’s kingdom and not simply rescue His people, but redeem His special people from the power of sin and from the power of Satan. What does it mean to redeem? It means that God the Son, would humiliate Himself to become our Kinsman, our next of kin, and personally go into the depths of Hell, and take out His people whom He loved from everlasting past, and translate them into His glorious kingdom. This cost Him His life. But when Christ emerged from the depths of Hell by the power of God He could claim that He did it all according to the righteousness of God. And His prized possession is the forgiveness of sins, which He bestowed upon all those whom He wanted to save from sin and Satan. Are we grateful for this? Do we love Him who shed His love upon us so abundantly? Do we honor and glorify Him for all that He is and for His resurrection from the depths of Satan’s kingdom?

#4.      Today (1Cor 15:51-57, Luke 18:8, Rev 11:15, 1Thess 4:16, 1Cor 15:55-56, Psalm 2:1-3)

Today is Easter Sunday. Today we celebrate that Christ rose victoriously from Satan’s kingdom to take all His people into His own kingdom. Please turn again to 1Cor 15:51 (2X). And what we see then in this last end of the Gospel story is that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ gives us a picture of our resurrection on the Last Day. We read in 1Cor 15:51-57

51 ¶  Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Will all the saints have died before Christ comes again? This is a legitimate question, for the Lord

Jesus asked in Luke 18:8, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” The rhetorical answer is “No, not much.” Most of the saints shall have died, but not all, and most of the younger generation fails to step in their place.  1Cor 15:51 says that not all the saints shall have died before Christ comes again. There are some left. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed when Christ comes. It is the rapture on the Last Day. We read in the Revelation of Jesus Christ that in the end times there are seven trumpets. But only the last trumpet shall give a sound, in Rev 11:15. It is a sound which can be heard around the world, according to 1Thess 4:16, for it is the trump of God which announces that the end of the world and the rapture has arrived. And like as the resurrection of Christ struck fear in the soldiers who stood to watch, so the resurrection of the saints will strike fear in those who are not changed into glorified bodies. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. For then there will be no more death of the saints. All the saints shall be with Christ in the air, and so shall we forever be with the Lord.

Š      O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1Cor 15:55)

Now this is a blessing that is bestowed upon the saints only. What about all the others whom God has not raptured to be with Christ? The next verse addresses those people. They have been shouting all along, “We will not have this man to rule over us,” and would they now want to be counted among the saints? It is not without reason that God says in Psalm 2:1-3,

1  Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3  Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

O Yes. They have done away the Ten Commandments, and they have done away the principles of marriage as the bond between a husband and a wife, and they have done away the proper teaching of children in the schools. And so, will God forget all these violations of His laws? No, He will not forget. That is why we read in the next verse, in 1Cor 15:56,

56  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

The sting of death is the uncertainty of the future destiny of the unsaved, because of sin. But those who fear the Lord have been given this fear by the prompting of God the Holy Spirit. The fear of the Lord is a gift from the Lord. It is a gift unto salvation. And God will not forget those on whom He has bestowed His gifts of salvation. That is why we can say, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, it is a gift from God the Holy Spirit, but it is a gift which will only be given to those for whom Christ died. That is why we survived the attacks of Satan, and that is why we can be grateful for our victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN.                  Let us turn to the Lord in prayer