Death, the Final Enemy
March 31, 2002 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 15:26
Resurrection of Christ
Our Final Foe
Resurrection Day: A Great Celebration
Please, if you would, take your Bibles and we're looking this morning at 1 Corinthians chapter 15, at one verse in particular, verse 26. For there it says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Resurrection Day, Easter, is a day of great celebration. And worldwide, as I just prayed, our brothers and sisters throughout the world are praising God for his great resurrection victory, they're giving thanks, that death has been destroyed.
Understand the Full Magnitude of Christ’s Accomplishment
But I don't think we can really praise God acceptably, we can really understand what Jesus has done for us, if we don't feel the full weight of the burden that we had apart from Christ. The weight of the bondage that we had in sin and fear of death. We won't understand what kind of victory he won for us if we don't see the strength of the foe that he conquered. And we won't rejoice properly until we see the plunder and spoils that he has won for us, “Because I live, you also will live.” And so that's our purpose today, to meditate on those things.
There is, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an already and a not yet aspect. Some of what we receive we already have, and we rejoice in that. But a good part of what we are to receive, we have not yet received, and so we're going to look at that today. We're going to see that death is an enemy. We're going to see that death is an enemy that has already been vanquished in some measure. And we're going to see that death is an enemy that has not yet fully been vanquished. And we're going to try to understand the significance of that.
Context: 1 Corinthians 15
Now, in 1 Corinthians 15:26, it comes in a context. And we really can't jump right into the middle and preach on just one verse without understanding the context of this verse. Paul is speaking to the Corinthians here concerning the resurrection from the dead, and he was dealing with issues there in Corinth, all kinds of issues. But one of them had to do with the resurrection. Some of them didn't believe in a resurrection. Some of them didn't think that there would be a resurrection, or they misunderstood the doctrine. And so Paul writes this extended 58-verse treatment of the resurrection from the dead. You wanna understand resurrection, you come first to 1 Corinthians chapter 15, it's a solid block of teaching on the resurrection from the dead.
And first, in verses 1 through 11, he establishes the historical and biblical or prophetic fact of the gospel that Christ has indeed been raised before many eyewitnesses. Look at verses 3 through 6, he says, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that 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.” Five hundred eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I dare say that's ample evidence in a court of law to prove anything. God has not left himself without a witness, but we had, at that point, at least alive during Paul's day, over 500 eyewitnesses of the resurrection.
And he says that he was raised according to the scriptures. So not only do we have the eyewitness accounts, but we also have the prophetic word, we have the ancient scriptures that testified very plainly that Jesus must rise from the dead. Psalm 16, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, a number of other places. And this was the focus of Jesus' teaching. When he appeared, they still didn't understand from the scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead, had to rise. And why had to rise, because scripture cannot be broken, and it's glorious.
And so he first, in verses 1 through 11, establishes the historical fact and the prophetic fact that Christ has been raised. And secondly, in verses 12 through 19, he shows that the resurrection from the dead is central to our gospel. It's not an add-on, it's not something extra, we can't throw it out as though it weren't important. He says in verses 13 and 14, “If there is 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.” You're lost if Jesus hasn't been raised from the dead. This is not an extra doctrinal frill, this is the center, at the very core of what we believe as Christians.
Thirdly, in verses 20 through 22, he shows a strong theological parallel between what happened to us in Adam and what has happened to us in Christ. He says in verse 22, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” And so we died in Adam, all of us, the whole human race, and so all who have faith in Christ are alive in him. He's our federal head, our representative. And so he shows the theological parallel there.
And then fourth, in verses 23 through 28, he shows that Christ's victory over death is not yet complete, and that's the focus of our study today. It's not complete yet, it's not finished, but it's going on as history unfolds. He's winning the victory in every generation. He's not satisfied with just one victory over death, he's gotta win it for 2,000 years and more. He's gotta keep winning the victory generation after generation. And so he's unfolding, and it says in verse 25, “He must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet.” And that's a progressive work, isn't it? It's not happening all at once, but it's unfolding before us.
Fifthly, in verses 24 through 28, he shows that the final destruction of death is part of God's overall plan to bring the whole universe under God's sovereign control. Everything in the end will come under God's feet. He will rule over all things. Look at verse 24 and 25, “Then the end will come when he hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all his enemies.” So when this work, this progressive unfolding work of the destruction of the enemies of God is finished, everything will be kind of wrapped up in a package by Christ and handed to the Father. He's gonna rule over it all.
Sixthly, he shows that life itself would be dramatically changed if there were no resurrection from the dead. He says, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” What difference does it make how we live? Why be moral people if when we die there's nothing else? Why suffer for Christ? Why be martyrs for him? Why live that kind of life? It makes no sense, if Christ has not been raised from the dead. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, let's just become hedonists like our neighbors. Let's eat and drink, eat as much as we want, drink as much as we want, do what feels good to us. If there is no resurrection from the dead, if there is no Judgment Day, then live however you want, whatever pleases you. Life would be radically changed if there were no resurrection.
Seventhly, in verses 35 through 49, he describes the mysteries of the actual mechanics of physical bodily resurrection. And it is a mystery. There's not a person in this room who understands this fully, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” Listen, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." Can you please tell me what a spiritual body is? A body like Jesus's that can walk through locked doors and through stone walls? Don't you believe that that stone was moved so Jesus could get out. He was already gone. He went right through the wall with his resurrection body. Can you explain that to me? What is a spiritual body? It's a mystery. But he says it's entirely different and yet somehow connected to what we had here on Earth, or else it couldn't really be called the resurrection, the mysteries of the mechanics of resurrection.
And then he says in the eighth section, verses 50 through 54, he proves that every single human being must have this transformation or they cannot enter eternity. You can't go just as you are, just as I am. You can't go that way. I would think you wouldn't want to. Those of you who are older know what I'm talking about. I want to be changed, I want to be transformed. I want a resurrection body. This body is not fit for eternity, is it? And so it says very plainly, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” We must go through death in order that we may be fitted for eternity.
And then ninth, he exalts in hymn form. Singing a hymn, he sings a celebration hymn over the victory that Christ has won through death. He says, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” This is like a taunt, isn't it? “Come on, death, show me what you got. You've got nothing left because Jesus has evacuated you of your power. Where, O death, is that victory that everybody fears? Where is that sting? It's gone. You're like a scorpion, and Jesus has plucked out that stinger and it's gone.” And so he's just rejoicing over that.
And then tenth, verse 58, he concludes with a ringing exhortation to work hard for Christ, because resurrection means that nothing we do for Jesus is in vain. Look again at verse 58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Isn't that wonderful? Everything you do for Jesus counts for eternity. It matters. And so stand firm, work hard, be diligent, and live that kind of life.
Death an Enemy
So there we have it, 1 Corinthians chapter 15, in 10 sections, showing that our belief, our faith in the resurrection of Jesus is at the very core of our Christianity. But now we wanna zero in specifically on this one verse, verse 26. Look at it again. It says there, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” And we're gonna see that death is an enemy, we're gonna see that death is an enemy that has already been destroyed, but we're also gonna see that death is an enemy that has not yet been fully vanquished.
Death Born an Enemy
Let's look at the first part, “Death is an enemy.” Death was born an enemy. What's death's mother and father? Was it not sin? Sin brought death into the world. It was sin that escorted death in this world. Through one man's sin, death entered the world. And so it says also in the book of James, “Sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” And so death's parentage, sin, makes death an enemy. Therefore death entered the world to steal and kill and destroy, very much like the Vikings a thousand years ago. If you were on a coastal town and you looked out and you saw the Vikings pulling up those shallow draft longboats up on your beach, you run for your lives. You're terrified, because they mean nothing but to plunder you, to kill whatever they can find that they don't need, and to take from you everything. They're here to plunder and to destroy, and so it is with death. Death is an enemy that comes to steal and kill and destroy.
Death a Universal Enemy
Secondly, death is a universal enemy. No nation is exempt. Bill led us in a beautiful, beautiful hymn, every tribe and language and people and nation singing praise. And why? Because every tribe and language and people and nation are subject to the scourge of death. There's nowhere you can go around the world where there's this one island of freedom from death. Everyone descended from Adam is subject to the scourge; death is a universal enemy.
And no class of people is exempt, it doesn't matter how much money you have, how wealthy or your position. It says in James that “The rich man fades away even while he goes about his business.” Even while he's en route to work, he's gone, he's dead. It doesn't matter what his position is. Death has no pity for the poor either. It's not like he feels sorry for them that says, “They're having a hard existence here, I'm not going to visit the house of the poor. I'll let them free from my scourge, but only after the wealthy.” No. No class of people is exempt.
No age of people either, it wants your heart torn out. Go to the children's hospital here in Duke, and you look at those little children connected to machines, striving to keep them alive. And maybe they'll survive and maybe they won't. But death has no pity on the young. Or you might think, conversely, well, here's an aged person who's gone through life and successfully, like a game of dodgeball has somehow managed to avoid death for decades, so maybe they have a secret, maybe they know how to beat death, how to defeat it. Douglas MacArthur, a courageous general, almost foolishly so, he would land on a beach just recently cleared from Japanese troops, and there would still be sniper bullets kicking up the sand around his feet and he wouldn't crouch. All of his advisors were around him and trying to pull on him, and he just didn't feel there was any bullet for him. And he never died on a battlefield. He went through World War I, World War II, and then the Korean War, and was never killed in battle. All those dangerous beaches never won. And then he stood up in front of Congress and said, “Old soldiers never,” what? “die. They merely fade away.” Was he right? No, he was wrong. Old soldiers die, too, it doesn't matter how courageous they are or how many medals they have. He's dead now. And so even the aged, they haven't found a secret, but they're under the scourge as well.
Death is a universal enemy, and no amount of virtue makes somebody exempt either. It doesn't matter how good a person you are. Who was the first person that died? It wasn't the first sinner. It wasn't Adam. It wasn't even the first murderer, Cain. Who was the first one that died? It was virtuous Abel, who opened up the grave for us. And so it doesn't really matter what your virtue is, death is a universal enemy.
Death a Vicious Enemy
Death is also a vicious enemy. Book of Nahum talks about the viciousness of the Assyrian Empire, the viciousness of Nineveh, the capital city, and all of the plunderings and the ruthless viciousness of their attacks. And this is what Nahum writes in Nahum 3:19, it says, “Everyone who hears news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?” Could that not be applied to death even better? Is not death endlessly cruel?
One of my favorite people from church history is Adoniram Judson, he was the first American missionary. He was working in Burma, went over early part of the 19th century, became a Baptist en route. He and his wife, Ann, they loved each other dearly, they went with a small mission group there to Burma and did incredible work. But it was a difficult area, and they had a little daughter, a frail little girl named Maria, a sweet little, little girl.
She never really took to life there in the jungle. She was going from one tropical fever to the next, and they were constantly concerned over her, and they prayed. And they had really consistently just given that little child up to God, Adoniram and Ann. And they prayed over it. And at one point, Adoniram had to go on some mission business, there was nothing for it, he had to go, but he was concerned that by the time he got back little Maria would be dead. And everyone knew about it. All the people in that area were praying for her, that she would survive.
And so he went and he was doing his business, and one day a ship captain brought him an envelope with a black seal on it, and the ship captain said, “I'm so sorry about the death of your little girl,” because he had heard all the stories and he'd been praying for that girl as well. Well, Adoniram Judson opened up that envelope and read inside the words, “Mrs. Judson is no more.” It wasn't the little girl, it was his wife, very suddenly taken with a tropical fever and died quickly. He went back and he was with his little daughter, and she died about a month later.
It was like a lance to his heart, the grief and the pain. He remarried a fellow, another missionary, named Sarah Boardman, and they had some time together, but it wasn't long before she died as well. Do you see the cruelty of death? It's not like, “Well, visit this one home and then you're free for a number of years.” Death will come back to the same home as often as the viciousness allows. Puritan theologian John Owen and his wife had 13 children. Only one lived past the age of 10, only one. She lived till she was 16 and then she died. Death is a vicious enemy.
Death a Mocking Enemy
Death is also a mocking enemy. Death stands to mock every earthly relationship, calls every earthly relationship temporary. Death also mocks every earthly accomplishment, every achievement. There's a story told by William Bennett in his book, Tales of Virtue. It's a story written by Leo Tolstoy. Basically, he's answering the question, “How much land does a man need?” Perhaps you've heard the story. There was this Russian farmer named Pahom, and no matter how much land he had, he always wanted more. He was very successful, so he kept having more money to buy more land. Then he heard that beyond the Ural mountains was this tribe called the Bashkirs, and they just wanted to trade over their whole region. And so basically they would give to you, for a thousand rubles, as much land as you could walk around in a day.
And so Pahom was excited about this because it was good farmland, and so he paid his thousand rubles and they put a stake on a hill and put his cap on it, and he began walking eastward. As soon as the sun came up, the day began, and he went. And he was walking eastward, and he's walking fast. And the farther that he went in the land, the better the soil got. And so he was enticed always to move farther and farther eastward. Finally, he realized that the day was more than a quarter passed, and he better start turning north and start to do the other legs of the rectangle. And so he starts turning north. By the time that lunchtime has passed, he's gone much farther than he ever imagined, but the land was beautiful and there was always one more hill, one more thing that he wanted to include, a river or a pond or something.
And then he realized he better start heading back, and so he made the legs too long, so he started heading westward. The sun was starting to get lower and lower, and he's in a race now. He puts in the third stake and he's gotta go straight back for that hill. He thinks he's got an idea where it is, comes up over the horizon, and sure enough, he hasn't missed, there's the hill where his cap is on top of the stake, but he is under tremendous duress because the sun is dipping quicker and quicker all the time.
The Bashkirs are around cheering him on, it's like the close to a marathon, and he's puffing and he's throwing off his coat and his face is red, and he gets up that one last hill and he flings himself for the finish line. And everyone cheers, he made it just as the orange ball dipped below the horizon. He won the race, and so they laughed and said, what a fine fellow, look at all of the land he's gotten, but they didn't notice that there was a little trickle of blood coming out of his mouth, and he's dead. The servant took the spade that he had been carrying with him all that journey and buried him six feet under and that's how much of Bashkir land that Pahom needed for his thousand rubles.
Death a Sudden Enemy
You see, death stands to mock all of your accomplishments, it doesn't matter how much land you encompass in a day, ultimately death stands as a mocker. And death finally is a sudden enemy, death comes unannounced, it comes suddenly with no warning, and it brings its vicious plundering hoard into your life when you least expect it.
Death an Enemy Already Destroyed
Christ Jesus Destroyed Death in His Miracles
That's the enemy that Jesus has overcome. Jesus has conquered the enemy, death is an enemy that has already been destroyed. Jesus Christ came to conquer death, he's our death conqueror. And he did it in his life. He did it while he lived. He did it through his miracles. One day he was coming to a town called Nain, and a widow was coming out and she had one son and he had just died. You can imagine the grief as there's no man to care for her anymore. And so Jesus comes up and he says to the woman, with tremendous tenderness, “Don't cry.” And then the people stand and they wait to see what Jesus will do. And then he speaks to the young man, and he says, “Get up,” and he sat up. I've said before at funerals, I don't know how Jesus behaves at a funeral, because he always breaks them up everywhere he goes. Whenever he comes to a funeral, he won't let it be a funeral anymore, and he does a miracle, he raises this widow's son in Nain and gives him back to her.
A chapter later, he comes to the house of Jairus, the little girl, and she's dead, they're crying, they're weeping. He says “Don't weep, she's not dead, she's only sleeping,” and he rouses her as well, and then certainly, you know the story of what he did for his friend Lazarus.
Jesus destroyed death in his miracles, he also destroyed death in his teachings. Listen to this one, John 8:51, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” That is a death-defying statement. If you keep Jesus' word, you will never see death. Just like he said at Lazarus' tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” That's a death-defying teaching, Jesus' amazing words, he claimed to have complete power over death. “No one takes my life from me, he said, but I lay it down freely. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back up again. This command I received from my Father, and by the way, because I live, you also will live.” Total power over death in his teachings, he claimed it.
Christ Jesus Destroyed Spiritual Death
Jesus also, while he lived, destroyed spiritual death by preaching the gospel. People heard the message and they were transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life. Jesus said in John chapter 5, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who has sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.” He's crossed over from death to life. And then he said in John 5:25, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. And all who hear will live.” What does that mean? He's able to destroy death just by hearing his voice and believing him, spiritual death.
Christ Jesus Destroyed Death at the Cross
Jesus also destroyed death more than anything at the cross. All other victories over death are small compared to this one. Spurgeon said, “These,” the resurrections that he did while he was there, “These are just preliminary skirmishes and mere foreshadowings of the grand victory by which death was overthrown. The real triumph was achieved at the cross.” What happened to the widow's son? Can you go talk to him and say, “What was it like?” Well, he's gone, he's dead. What about Jairus' daughter? She's dead too. Right? And what about Lazarus? Can you go talk to him? No, he's gone, these were just foreshadowings, not the true resurrection, but this was the genuine victory over death, won at the cross, because there is a death more severe, more serious than physical death, isn't there? It's death under the wrath and judgment of God.
And so Jesus Christ came to take your death penalty on himself, to drink the cup of wrath that you deserve for your sins. The wages of sin is death. He came to exhaust, to destroy your death by dying in your place on the cross, and to free you forever from fear of the second death, the lake of fire, which is hell. Jesus came to drink that for you, so you don't have to experience it. If you have faith in Christ, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. God will never demand from you what Jesus already paid in your place. So through faith in Christ, the death is destroyed at the cross.
Christ Jesus Destroyed Death at the Empty Tomb
But Jesus also destroyed death at the empty tomb. 2 Timothy 1:10, “Christ Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” I love what Spurgeon says here about the tomb. We imagine what would it be like to go visit that empty tomb? Do you remember how Jesus left it with linens, remember? And a grave head cloth that was folded up in a certain place, and all of that, Spurgeon says, he's getting it ready for you. It's like he's decorating your bedroom. He's transforming death this way.
Listen to what Spurgeon says, “When our great champion arose from his brief sleep of death and found himself in the withdrawing room of the grave, he quietly proceeded to put off the garments of the tomb. How leisurely he proceeded, he folded up the napkin and placed it by itself, that those who lose their friends might wipe their tears therewith; he took off the winding sheet and laid the grave clothes by themselves that they might be there when his saints come thither, so that the chamber might be well furnished and the bed ready sheeted and prepared for their rest.” Isn't that something? “The sepulchre is no longer therefore an empty vault, a dreary charnel, but a chamber of rest, a dormitory furnished and prepared, hung with the drapes with which Christ himself bequeathed. It is no more a damp, dark, dreary prison: Jesus has changed all of that!” He got the tomb ready for you. It's different now than it used to be, because Jesus has raised from the dead.
Christ Jesus Destroyed the Fear of Death
And Christ Jesus has destroyed, therefore, the fear of death. Hebrews 2:14 and 15, it says, “By his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” And I've said it before, I believe that there are some people, perhaps even in this room, who fear death and they shouldn't. And then there are others, perhaps in this room who do not fear death, and they should. It all has to do with whether you have faith in Christ or not. Because if you have faith in Christ, you need to fear death no more.
Listen to Spurgeon, he says, “Death, it is true, that thou art not yet destroyed, but our living redeemer has so changed thee that thou art no longer death, but something other than thy name. Saints die not now, but they are merely dissolved and depart. Death is the loosening of the cable that the ship may sail to the fair havens, death is the fiery chariot in which we ascend to God, it is the gentle voice of the great king who cometh into his banqueting hall and sayeth, ‘Friend, come up higher.’ Behold on eagle's wings, we mount, we fly far from this land of mist and cloud into the eternal serenity and brilliance of God's own house above. Yes, our Lord has abolished death. The sting of death is sin, and our great substitute has taken that sting away by his great sacrifice. Stingless, death abides among the people of God, but it so little harms them, that to them, it is not death to die.” Isn't that marvelous? Jesus has changed death forever.
Christ Jesus Destroyed the Fear of Death
And then finally, Christ Jesus daily destroys death for his saints. It says in verse 25, “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Jesus is not content with winning just one victory over death, He's gotta win 2,000 years of victory over death. Do you remember what happened when Stephen was being stoned to death? He was just about to die, and he looks up. And what does he see? He sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, ready to receive him. Death has lost its sting for Stephen, he's not afraid. He said, “Look, I see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, ready to receive me.” This only incited his killers more, and they finished the job. But he said, “Lord Jesus, don't lay this sin to their charge.” He's done with this world, he's ready to go up.
And so Jesus wins another victory over death in Stephen's case, and so it is that the testimony of saints in one generation after the other is that death is no longer death for them, but merely a portal, a doorway into eternity. Thomas Goodwin, when dying, said, “Ah, is this dying? How have I dreaded as an enemy, this smiling friend.” Oh, that's a transformation. William Preston said, “Blessed be God! Though I shall change my place, I shall not change my company.” I've been walking with Jesus all this time, I just get to walk with him more closely. I'll change my place. But not my company.
Charles Wesley on his deathbed said, “I shall be satisfied with thy likeness. Satisfied, satisfied.” Those were his final words. Satisfied. Adoniram Judson who suffered so greatly said, “I'm not tired of my work and neither am I tired of the world. Yet when Christ calls me home, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.” Do you think he's fearing death? Not at all. He's ready to go. And then William Everett for the last 25 minutes of his life, just said, “Glory, glory, glory.” For 25 minutes. How would you like to be in that room? Wouldn't you love to trade places? Death has changed because of Jesus, it's not what it used to be.
So in all of these ways, brothers and sisters, Christ has already destroyed death. By his miracles, by his teaching, by his spirit, he's brought us to a spiritual life, and our relationship with God is in no longer spiritual death. By the cross he has drunk your death penalty to the bottom, it's gone, and you will not suffer eternal death. And then by arranging the grave clothes, he's made your grave ready for you, not as a place of torment and suffering, but as a mere doorway into eternity.
Death an Enemy Not Yet Destroyed
In that way, death is already destroyed. How then is death not yet destroyed? It says again in verse 26, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” At a funeral service in Winona Lake, Indiana, the pastor said this, and it's so interesting, he said, “We are not in the land of the living, but we are in the land of the dying. But someday we shall be in land of the living.” Doesn't that turn the whole thing around. We think, we're in the land of the living, they've gone on, right? No we're in the land of those dying, for it is appointed unto men to die once and then comes judgment.
Christ’s Final Enemy Still
And so death still remains, still in the future for each person that listens to me, and for me too. But someday through faith in Christ, we shall be in the land of the living, and so Christ has a final enemy, and it's the final enemy, it's not finished yet. He's not done with his victory. Christ hated this enemy, didn't he? He snorted with anger as he approached Lazarus' tomb, and then what did he do right before he raised Lazarus from the dead? He wept. And why? Because you're gonna go through some suffering, you're gonna go through some pain, and he's not going to save you from it, you're going to have to go through it. And he's not distant. He's compassionate, he's weeping. Christ has not yet destroyed death, total victory over death has not yet happened. Death still has its sway over our bodies. Do you realize that Jesus could destroy death today, if he wanted to, he could take it away today, no more death, he could decree, finished. But he does not.
Why? Christ Uses Death
And why does he not? Spurgeon says, “Christ uses death to preach wisdom to his saints, day after day.” Death preaches wisdom to us, it speaks to us and it teaches us infinitely valuable lessons daily conforming us to Christ's image while we live, death protects us from an eternity in sin corrupted bodies, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Death the Final Foe, Not the Worst Foe
Death is the final foe, but death is not the worst foe, do you know what your worst foe is? It's not death. It is sin. Sin is your worst foe, the world, the flesh, and the devil, those enticements to sin. Those are your worst foes, but not death.
Death is Not Yet Destroyed: Be Faith-filled, Yet Realistic About Death
Verse 26 says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” What application can we make of this? First of all, death is not yet destroyed, be faith-filled and realistic about death, death is gonna continue to remain a factor as long as this world endures, beloved spouses will still be separated from one another; cherished parents will go on to be with the Lord, leaving us behind. Even precious children will be ripped from us, perhaps in an untimely way, death is gonna continue in this age.
Therefore, we need to let death make us wise. Psalm 90 verse 12 says, Teach us to number our days properly, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Can I speak perhaps to somebody who's never come to faith in Christ now? There is no greater wisdom than to come to Christ now today, come to faith in Christ, so that death can become a friend, a doorway into eternity, rather than a doorway into eternal judgment. Come to faith in Christ. Through simple faith in Christ, Jesus' blood will cover you of all your sins and eternal life will be yours.
But even for the Christian death is meant to make you wise. Number your days, don't put off to the future what you know you need to do today. If there's any repenting of sin, do it today while there's time, make the most of every day through your spiritual gifts and through doing the good works that God has ordained that you should walk in them. Repent of the sins that are plaguing you, throw aside every weight and run the race with endurance. And don't wait because death comes unannounced, and then your opportunity for service is over, so let death make you wise, and also let death be the final foe.
The final enemy, not today's enemy, if today is not your dying day, Spurgeon put it this way, death is meant to be the final enemy, “Brother don't dispute the appointed order, but let the last be the last. I've known a brother wanting to vanquish death long before he died, but brother, you do not want dying grace until your dying moments. A boat will only be needful when you reach the river. Ask instead for living grace, then glorify Christ thereby, then you shall have your dying grace when dying time comes, your enemy is going to be destroyed, but not today. There is a great host of enemies to be fought today: the world, the flesh, the devil. You must be content to let this one alone for a while, if you live well, you will die well!” So ask instead for living grace today, and when the time comes and your final enemy does present himself to you, then you'll have grace to vanquish as well.
Time is Short: Be Diligent Until Death
Time is short. Be diligent unto death. Verse 58 says, “Therefore, my brothers, 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.” Work hard for Jesus today, because time is short.
Victory is Certain: Be Triumphant Over Death
And finally victory is certain, be triumphant over death, celebrate today. Rejoice. Go home and get on your knees and say, thank you Jesus that death is different for me now, now that I'm a Christian. Triumph over death. And look forward to the day when you get to watch Death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire, gone forever. Because in heaven, Revelation 21, there is no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain. Rejoice.