Sermon Manuscript . . .
How the Future Affects You Today
1 Corinthians 15:20-34
How many of you have seen a film sequel? Rocky (8), Star Wars (12), SpiderMan (7), Avengers (4)–when the first movie is good, then there’ll be a second. Sometimes it will be just as quality as the first, or better. But always, it is very much like the first. It is the same with the resurrection of Jesus. Turn to 1 Corinthians 15 and follow in your ouline.
If Christ was raised, we will be raised. What is the big deal with a resurrection? If true, you’ll live forever in a perfect body in blessing, or live forever in a body that will never die in living torment. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, God has already reminded you, if you believe in the resurrection of Christ, you must also believe in our coming resurrection. The resurrection is a coming sequel that will be awesome. But the resurrection is not merely a future fact to hope in, but a promise that will change the way you live today.
If Easter is true, then it changes everything. Getting married changes your lifestyle forever. Having children changes your lifestyle forever. Getting a cat ruins your lifestyle forever! In chapter 15 verses 20 to 34, God motivates you with four key truths that show you how that future will affect you today.
#1 The Resurrection is GUARANTEED
Read verse 20, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” Paul starts with “But now”, which is a strong emphatic contrast to what Paul just pounded his readers with. Paul just told us in verses 12 to 19 all the consequences of not believing in a bodily resurrection. “But now” Paul affirms Christ has been raised—(and still is) proving that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees ours.
He proves it by telling you here–Jesus is the first fruits. “What are first fruits? you ask. Think about it. It’s exactly what you think it is. Before a harvest could be picked–according to Leviticus 23, each Jewish family would take about two quarts worth of the very first and best of their crop/grain and offered it in thanks to God. It was offered before the main harvesting and was a guarantee that the rest of the harvest was coming.
Do you see the picture Paul is giving you? Jesus was the first to be raised bodily (never to die again) and He is also the guarantee of your coming resurrection. Because Jesus is the first fruits, He is your promise that the rest of you (the crop) will follow. Like dandelions in sring–if there’s one, there’ll be more.
And God tells us at end of verse 20, Jesus is the first fruits of those who are asleep–Jesus is the promise of resurrection for those Christians who’ve already died. What happens to a Christian after death? Second Corinthians 5:8 says, “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” I like being at home—it’s so good. Paul said in Philippians 1:23, he’s hard pressed, having a strong desire, a lust, “to depart and be with Christ.”
When a Christian dies, our immaterial spirit goes immediately to be with Jesus, but our physical remains await recomposition and resurrection. Jesus is going to take that old body of yours and remake it into a new, perfect, sinless, spiritual body. Our individuality and personality will survive, and on the basis of what the Bible tells us about the future, we’ll appear similar to what we looked like in this life. Some of you will say, “Bummer!” You ask, “What will I look like after I am resurrected? Will I look like when I was at my best–my college years, my wedding day, when I became a Christian?” I don’t know when, but I know God will not disappoint you or me.
It’s guaranteed. Look at verses 21 to 22, “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” What’s Paul’s point here? If you’re related to Adam through natural birth (which everyone is), then because of his disobedience (his sin), you will die. But, if you’re related to Jesus through second birth (only Christians), then because of Christ’s obedience, you’ll be resurrected. It’s a guarantee.
If one man, the very first human being, Adam, could affect the destiny of every person born–then another man, the 100% God and 100% man Jesus, can affect the destiny of everyone born again. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees ours. But don’t miss the warning of verse 22. Resurrection to new life, Heaven, and eternal life only comes to those who are, verse 22, “in Christ.” Are you? Being a Christian is a relationship, not a routine or religion. Do you have a relationship? Are you “in Christ?” If you are, then your future is secure.
And if you have that guarantee, then step out in faith. The Christian life is like a roller Coaster ride–you can’t die. It can be wild. It will have ups and downs, cause you to scream, and you may want to get off–but you can’t die, and in Jesus, your future is secure. So step out and do something awesome for Christ. Stop watching in the Church and serve. Stop hiding in the world and share. The future resurrection affects your every day today–go for it. You can’t die. Not only is the resurrection a guarantee, but . . .
#2 Each one has their Own Resurrection, in Order
Read verse 23, “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” When Paul says each in his own order, it literally means each in his own group or rank–pointing to the fact there will be different groups resurrected at different times. When ans with whom will you be resurrected? Now we don’t know when the Lord will come to raise and rapture His people, and physically rule this planet. We don’t know the time, generation or moment–but we do know the order, which is referred to here.
Verse 23 starts with Christ’s resurrection, the first fruits–Christ was made bodily alive three days after His death. Then after that, the rest of us who belong to Jesus will be resurrected at His second coming. There are more than two resurrections, but only two that effect everyone in this room–A or B?
A Will be the resurrection of the CHURCH
This is those of us who have come to saving faith in Christ, from Pentecost to the rapture. First Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”
B Will be the resurrection of the UNRIGHTEOUS
The unsaved from all time will be physically raised to damnation and eternal punishment at the end of Christ’s thousand year reign. John 5:28 to 29, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth. Those who did the good to a resurrection of Life and those who committed evil to a resurrection of judgment.”
Wow–that sounds like good people go to Heaven and evil people go to Hell. Is that true? Yes and no. People with Christ-transformed hearts can live good and people without changed hearts can’t (they live bad). But the only one who can change a heart is Christ. The only one who can make anyone acceptable to God is Christ.
Which group will you be in–A or B? You’re not in the resurrection of Life because you walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, believed in God, attended church, signed a card or lived in a Christian home. You’ll be raised to eternal life only if you know Jesus. You’re safe only if you’re “in Christ”–are you? “But,” you ask, “Chris–does it matter?” Yes, just look at . . .
#3 The Resurrection promises a great FUTURE
Look at verse 24, “Then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.” The word “then” (beginning of verse 24) means after this, implying an interval between Jesus coming and the end. The Kingdom is when Christ rules this earth for 1,000 years. It will be during this Kingdom period when Jesus will restore everything as God originally designed it to be.
Verse 24, at the end (literally the completion), sin will be no more, and God will reign supremely without enemy or challenge–for Christ will turn over the restored world to His Father, who sent Him to recover it in the first place. The future looks great, because Jesus Christ will permanently conquer every enemy of God. Every contending ruler, authority and power will be forever abolished, never again to oppose God, to deceive, to mislead or threaten His people–or corrupt any of His creation. The ultimate environmental champion is Christ–not now, but later. Shoot Bambi, burn a log, walk on the grass–Christ will remake the world later.
All of this will occur during the 1,000-year Kingdom, and finish at its end. Look at verse 25, “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” Are you seeing this? This picture should pump you up! In ancient times, kings were always enthroned above their subjects, so when others bowed before them, they were under/below that sovereign’s feet. When a king would conquer an enemy, he would literally put his foot on the neck of the conquered leader, symbolizing his enemy’s total subjection—”until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”
Guys, you know what this is like–when your football team makes an incredible stick that wins the game, you’re pumped. If you love the Lakers, and LeBron James stuffs it from the key to win the game, you’re gonna be jazzed. Jesus is telling us–our team wins. All the stuff that makes this life tough, unbearable, and painful is all conquered by our King. He sticks the enemies of God and stuffs them forever away. We win. Aren’t you pumped?
Do you feel beaten, run down, discouraged today? Just remember, at the end of the game, in our certain future–Christians alone will be the unquestioned winners. Smile! The Bible says in verse 24, during the Kingdom, no open rebellion will be tolerated–but there will still be rebelliousness in the hearts of many who chose not to follow Christ, even though Christ is physically present. Jesus will rule with a rod of iron for 1,000 years, because His enemies will not submit to Him willingly.
At last, Satan is released for a brief time to lead a final insurrection against God. Then Satan, and all who rebelled with him, will be banished to Hell to suffer eternally in the Lake of Fire. In our future, there’ll be no more opposition to God–Jesus will do away with all of His enemies. What’s the las enemy?
Read verse 26, “The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” Jesus broke the power of Satan and death on the cross. But both will not be permanently abolished until the end of the Millennium. No more death! The victory was won at Calvary, but the eternal peace and righteousness the victory guarantees will not be completed until the enemies who were conquered are also banished and abolished.
What does all this mean? When Jesus took the assignment of salvation from His Father, Christ came to Earth as a baby, lived and grew up as a man among men. He taught, preached and did miraculous works. He died for sin, was buried in a tomb, rose from the dead and ascended to His Father, where He now intercedes for those who are His. When He returns, He’ll fight, conquer, rule, judge–and then, as His last work on the Fathers behalf, He will judge and forever subdue all the enemies of God, re-create the Earth and Heavens and finally deliver the Kingdom to God the Father.
God will be in control then, as God’s control will be obvious to all. But we know God is in control now. Really? Sure–look at verse 27. “For He’s put all things in subjection under His feet.” You mean everyone is under the rule of Christ? No, not everyone. Read on . . . “But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.” God the Father will not be subject to Christ, for it’s the Father who gave the rule and authority to the Son.
From the time of His incarnation, until the time when Jesus presents the Kingdom to the Father, Christ has functioned in the role of a perfect Servant. But when that final work is accomplished, Christ will assume His former full glorious place in the perfect harmony of the Trinity. Look at verse 28, “And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.”
After Jesus conquers all enemies, and restores all things as they were meant to be, as the Eternal Son and Head of the Church, He will reign with the Father in trinitarian glory, subject to the Trinity within God’s perfect plan. Since God is in control, and He is—then His promise of a perfect future is a guarantee. Verse 28, Christ will cause everyone opposed to Him to come under His authority and under His Word. And if you know Him, you’ll desire to submit to Him. All true Christians want to be His servant, his slave, and follow Him. So how should we live in light of our future?
#4 The Resurrection demands we PURSUE THREE PRIORITIES
God calls us to make three major changes.
Look at verse 29, “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?” This is a tough verse to interpret at first. But if Paul is using the term baptized in a normal sense, then those who are baptized here probably is describing those who had been fruitful witnesses when they were alive as Christians. But now that they are dead, their lives are still a testimony to the power of God in salvation. Faithful believers had died, but their lives were still impacting others to turn to Christ because of their amazing Christlike example.
So Paul asks here–if there’s no resurrection, why are people coming to Christ from the testimony of those who’ve died? Why try to share, why seek to share the good news with others who need Christ? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are many current Christians being baptized (or becoming Christians) because of the testimony of those who have died?
If there’s a resurrection, and there is life after death, then we should be sharing Christ like crazy and living in such a way to be attractive and winsome. Laugh more, complain less, live contentedly, smile, give, love, show trust–in order to attract people by our lives and our lips to Christ. There is no need for this life to depress you, when your future is so bright.
Christian, if you believe you will live forever with Christ in heavenly bliss and all who reject Christ will live forever in hellish torment, then you cannot remain silent. Christ commanded each of you to make disciples. Silence is sinful, shyness is selfishness–share the Gospel. The resurrection demands we speak of our future life with Christ. Who needs to hear this truth from you? Secondly, the resurrection demands we prioritize . . .
Look at verses 30 to 32, “Why are we also in danger every hour? 31I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” If the dead are not raised, then like everyone else today, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
Paul gets really pointed here. If this life is all there is, then why sacrifice for anyone or anything. If this life is all there is, then why be in danger every hour from Roman persecution, with no security in the future. Paul protests–why die to self daily, if death ends it all. If you deny the resurrection, then you destroy all motives for Christian service. What human motives could Paul possibly have for fighting either literal wild beasts or a beast of a crowd in Ephesus, where he was writing this letter to the Corinthians? None! If this is it, then let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
Get all you can, live for your pleasures, drink up every experience, and listen to Elsa—“Let it go!” If this life is the best there is, we’d better claw and fight for the best toys, cars, jobs, vacations, comfort, entertainment, homes–for once we die, it is all over. But reality is–this life is the best it will ever be for the non-Christian, and this life is the worst it will ever be for the genuine Christian. This life is the only Hell a Christian will ever know and this life is the only Heaven a non-Christian will ever know.
And for the Christian, the Bible says what we do now with this short slice of time called life (a vapor) really does count for all eternity. Are you making life count? God declares here, in light of the guaranteed resurrection, serving is worth the sacrifice–even facing opposition, plus worth giving up time, possessions, energy, and your all.
Nothing I could ask you in this body, or through this church for the lost world, will demand you put your life on the line. Yet God says the resurrection should motivate us to do that as well. In a persecuted country, the choice is made for you, and you quickly discover who’s genuine and who’s phony, by observing who puts their life on the line for Christ. In our country, in our church, you show your commitment by the way you serve. Can anyone tell? And last, the resurrection demands we pursue . . .
Third GODLINESS and GROWTH
Look at verses 33 to 34, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ 34Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” If there’s no resurrection, then why live holy? If this is all there is, why try to live godly? You shouldn’t. But if there is a resurrection, the Word of God says in verses 33 to 34, you should repent of sinning and grow in maturity (knowing God).
Plus Paul adds, stay away from anyone who teaches there is no resurrection. Listen, “bad company corrupts good morals” is not here to teach your children to stay away from unsaved people. “Bad company corrupts good morals” is a reference to Christians who live hypocritically and who teach error. The Word of God says in verse 33, if you hang around Christians who teach and live error, you’ll be corrupted. If you don’t confront sin in the lives of Christians around you, you will be contaminated by their sin.
If you hang around any Christian who is in continual, unrepentant sin–whether obvious sin like adultery, embezzlement, overt deceit, fornication . . . or subtle sin like gossip, criticism, slander, lack of faithfulness, greed, or pride. If you don’t confront it or get away from them, it will corrupt you. Bad company corrupts your walk with God–period. And the bad company here is not the non-Christian. These are professing believers–not drug dealers, evil lawyers, porn stars, or prostitutes. Beware Christian!
Some Christians have no knowledge of God or His Word, though they claim to be Bible-believing saints (verse 34). And without a hope in the resurrection and the accountability it brings of having to face God one day and give an answer for our lives, there’s no incentive to grow or live godly. If behavior has no reward or condemnation, then it’s uncontrollable. Since the resurrection is true, God commands us in verse 34 to be sober minded and stop sinning.
In other words, live godly and grow up. Live according to the truth of the Word of God, not the traditions of Church-ianity. The Word of God says, minister your spiritual gift–tradition says, just attend church. The Word of God says, pursue living the truth–tradition says, hearing it is enough. So . . .
TAKE THIS HOME TODAY, friends!
Live in light of the truth of the resurrection. It’s guaranteed by Jesus and it’s coming soon. Christ will, in the future, make this world a perfect place. Christ will make you perfect, with a perfect eternal body, so you can live forever without sin, without pain, without weariness, without aging in absolute joy!
Give yourself to grow deeper in your knowledge of Christ at a Bible-teaching church.
If you are not growing more like Christ, then you are not in a stale place–you’re in a dangerous place as a believer.
If Christ has changed your heart, then you will want to be His servant for His glory with the people of God.
If you’re His slave, then you will serve Him in the Church.
If you believe you will be resurrected, then give yourself to share the Gospel, the good news, with those who have not yet submitted to Christ–they need to know, they need to hear from you.
If they don’t exchange all that they are for all that He is . . . If they don’t turn from their sin and depend in faith on Christ . . . If they don’t believe Christ is God, who lived as a perfect man and offered Himself on the cross as our substitute and died for sin, then rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures, then they will spend eternity in an everlasting body, but in forever torment in Hell, where they will exist in eternal agony for rebelling against their Creator, for going their own way and for opposing His will.
And if you are without Christ today, then cry out to God right now, and ask Him to open your heart and give you the faith to believe, and repentance to turn from your sin, and transform you from the inside out—giving you a new heart now and forever. He offers you abundant life now and eternal life forever. Cry out right now. Let’s pray.