“DEATH: THE LAST GREAT ENEMY” — I Corinthians 15:26

Nov. 2, 2014 – All Saints Sunday Text: I Corinthians 15:26

Dear Friends in Christ,
Paul gets to the point in our text. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is not our friend. Death is not a celebration. Death is not natural. Death is punishment. Death is the horrendous separation of body and soul.
We can dress it up any way we want. We do it in our language – “She passed away.” “He has gone to the great beyond.” “At least they died together.” We do it in appearance. “Doesn’t he look good?” “Didn’t they do a nice job with the color of her face?” When my mom died we had a closed casket but before that the family could see her. Family thought I needed to see her. I didn’t need that. I saw her the day she died and what death and sin do to our mortal body. I’ve seen death up close and personal and no amount of makeup changes the devastating affects.
We talk of death, but today, All Saints Sunday, is to be a celebration. How can that be? How can death be so tough to deal with and yet we can belt out “For All the Saints” with a smile on our face and the hair on the back of our neck tingling? You know, because you are here. Christ Jesus makes the difference. Our Christian faith brings the joy. Heaven is our home. Let us see how we overcome . . .
Death is an enemy and it has friends. Child abuse, genocide, starvation, violence, oppression. Picture the scenes. A soldier rapes in the name of a cause. People are beheaded because of where they are born. We see abortion clinics where mother and precious child both are sucked up in a culture of death.
Look at death in some of our neighborhoods. The homeless shivering in the winter and sweating in the heat. Drug deals stealing youth and hope alike. Gunfire breaking the silence. The rise of suicides. Children cutting themselves.
Death is ruthless. It ambushes some and slowly sucks the life out of others. Unless Jesus returns you are another statistic at the local morgue waiting to happen.
American culture does not want to hear this story. We glamourize it. We see it so often on big screen and small screen that we become desensitized. We hide it from view and seldom talk about it because it makes so many uncomfortable. There is no greater law than a dead body. It pierces the heart and is an in-your-face reminder that you to will face this enemy.
We have hope. Oh do we have hope. Defeating the enemy because we believe in the resurrection of the body. The Apostle’s Creed directs us to that victory when we confess, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
We have concern for life after death – the interim state of the soul – but do we miss what has been called “life after life after death?” This is the Christian’s hope – the final day, the resurrection of the body, and the new creation of the heavens and earth.
In the Bible you will find our temporary state as we await, even in death, the return of Jesus. When He comes again He will fully and finally defeat death. Look at Jesus’ words: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
So what is the ultimate and final victory over death? The last day finds God not abandoning His creation but redeeming it. The last day resurrection brings back our bodies with all their senses and members. These bodies will not be subjected to disease and decay; we will be transformed like Jesus’s glorified body. Justice will prevail as all things are made right. You know the phrases – no more tears, no more hunger, no more thirst, no more pain, no more abuse, no more genocide, no more abortion, no more addiction. No more of death’s friends to wreak havoc on our bodies. And joyfully, wonderfully – no more death. Indeed, no more death!
All this happens when Jesus returns to earth. His return is the biblical answer to death. Our hope is the same as Martha when Lazarus died. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) Hope anticipates. Hope looks forward. Hope eagerly awaits. We simply are not prepared to die unless our hope is the true biblical hope, which is standing on its tiptoes watching and waiting for Jesus’ return.
How do we prepare to die? By proclaiming the victory over death that Jesus’s return brings. By taking the friends of death and turning them into defeated foes on the last day. By describing the glories of the resurrection. By reading the Scriptures and looking forward to the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ, and simply declaring what those words say to us.
In the meantime, those who live with this future hope are invited, called, and urged to bring glimpses, moments of that hope into this broken world. Paul ends the great resurrection chapter in Corinthians with these words: “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.” (1 Cor. 15:58) Whatever we do to combat that great enemy death and its wretched friends is not wasted. Our acts for the least of our world, care for all of God’s creation, defense of the oppressed and defenseless, contributions to feed and clothe others, and thousands of other acts of justice and beauty in opposition to the ugliness and injustice of this evil age are not in vain.
Join in this work of re-creation now. Be kingdom people who stand confident in the face of death and know your actions make a difference.
We are prepared to die and overcome the last great enemy death when we preach and hear God’s word. Confess the creed. Celebrate the resurrection each Sunday. “There breaks a yet more glorious day: The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia!”