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God's Final Purpose in the Resurrection (1 Corinthians Sermon 60)

God's Final Purpose in the Resurrection (1 Corinthians Sermon 60)

August 30, 2020 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Return of Christ, Resurrection

Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. The main subject of the sermon is God's purpose in the resurrection. 



So go ahead and take your Bibles, if you would, and open up to 1 Corinthians chapter 15, and we'll look this morning at the verses that you just heard read: verses 20-28, and as we look around in our world situation today, it is easy to feel based on many current events that things are just spinning out of control. You can feel that like we're all of us on a big bus that's hit a patch of black ice and the thing is starting to spin and we're moving toward a precipice, and as we look at this, it's easy to feel that things are off plan, but they're not, they're not. Our sovereign God is still seated on his throne, and he reigns over mighty nations, the rise and fall of mighty nations, and the Scripture reveals that he oversees the birth of mountain goats, and even the death of sparrows are not insignificant to God. There's nothing too big or too small for the sovereign plan of God, and we need to meditate on that. Events are unfolding on planet Earth, just as God has ordained exactly according to plan. And I'm well aware of the sufferings that are going on in the human race. I'm aware of the deadly hurricane that just hit the Gulf, hurricane Laura, and I'm aware of the effect that it's had on lives of people down there, and I'm aware of the fiery riots in Wisconsin, and as much as I can, as any of us can understand the roots of that.

As I read history I know that other generations have gone through far worse things than this. Far worse than this, as I read the book of Revelation, and especially chapters 8 and 9, and we look ahead to what that says, I think nothing like those events have ever happened on planet Earth, the level of ecological disaster described in the bull judgments and the trumpet judgments, nothing like that's ever happened, so I believe they have yet to occur. And so the tribulations that will come on planet Earth will be as such we have never been seen at any moment in history, and yet all of this is under the sovereign power and control and in the plan of God. It's good for us to picture God seated on his throne far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and that there is nothing that has moved him off of his sovereign plan, but he is reigning. And we also need to understand that all of this evil, all of this suffering has come because Adam made a deadly choice in the Garden of Eden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, seeking in some way an education, knowledge.

And so we've had 6000 years in redemptive history of an education and in evil, and that is part of God's plan, that the trespass might increase, that we might see more and more of what evil is really like, and that we might in the end be perfectly conformed to our Savior, perfectly like Christ, who loved righteousness and hated wickedness. And when all is said and done, we are going to be in heaven, free from all wickedness, free from all evil, and we will hate it like God does. And I'm looking forward to that. So this is part of the education. Everything is on schedule, but it's still a great deal of suffering. We need to look in our hearts and in our minds by faith to the infinitely good, infinitely patient, infinitely powerful, infinitely wise, almighty God, and understand that he has a plan for a world to come, in which there is no more death, mourning, crying or pain. And we need to fill our minds and hearts with that, and so today, as we continue our study in 1 Corinthians 15, as we look more at the text and understand the truths of God's plan for resurrection, we should stand in awe of this incredible plan and of a God who has the power to bring it about. And we're gonna start with this concept of first fruits.

I. Christ Has Been Resurrected as Firstfruits

Now, I want you to know, just in terms of the verses that have been read, these are weighty theological words that we're looking at, there's at least four major, weighty theological topics and we will not really be able to do justice to all of them this morning, but we're gonna start with this concept of first fruits. Christ has been resurrected as first fruits. Now, let's look at the context, Paul is writing to the church that he helped plant in Corinth, the Corinthian Christians who would come out of paganism. They had been saved by believing the gospel, and it seems according to verse 12, that some of them were saying that there is no such thing as a bodily resurrection from the dead, that resurrection is impossible. Look at Verse 12, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” So there were some, we don't know how many or how influential they were, but there were some that were saying, resurrection from the dead is impossible, so he begins the chapter by reminding them of the gospel that they heard from the beginning, the gospel that he preached, that he received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried then he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. And so he reminds them of that gospel, he doesn't cite the scriptural prophecies of death and resurrection, but he certainly did it when he preached the gospel to them, and he does it in other places. The scriptural support for all of that is the greatest evidence that there is that resurrection is not only possible, but it's part of God's plan, according to the Scriptures. And then moves on to the clear evidence of eyewitnesses, the appeared to people who saw him in the body after he was dead, and those eyewitnesses were speaking their testimony to the people, that were there at the time, and those eyewitnesses numbered 500, overwhelming evidence, eyewitness evidence that Christ has risen from the dead. Then Paul makes absolutely explicit how essential Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead is to Christianity, to Christian theology. It absolutely matters whether this actually happened or not, does that in verses 12-19. So if resurrection from the dead is a philosophical, a spiritual, a physical- we would say: a scientific impossibility, then not even Christ has been raised from the dead. And if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then look at all the ramifications: first, our preaching to you is worthless. It's vanity. And so is your faith. We ourselves have been exposed as false witnesses because we testified to you that we saw Christ raise from the dead in his resurrection body. So we're liars. Your faith is futile, and you're still in your sins, you're still under the wrath of God and under judgment, it's like Jesus never happened, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are actually truly, finally lost. You'll never see them again; they're gone forever. And then he says of himself: we who have suffered greatly for the gospel, who have been pounded from pillar to post every city, we are of all people to be pitied. I traded in a good career for this, and Paul, in his own mind, was believing the promises of God, rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. But none of that is true if Christ's not been raised from the dead. But Paul then makes- this was all last week, Paul makes his triumphant assertion in verse 20, look at it, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Christ has been raised from the dead. We can't say it enough. So there's no emotion I can put it in my voice or on my face right now, that equals the significance of that statement, and I would say whatever you're going through, that fact is greater than anything you're going through. The fact that Christ has been raised from the dead swamps in glory any trial you're going through at all, as a matter of fact, Paul says that the trials and the sufferings that we're going through aren't even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. So Christ rose from the dead. Light shattered the darkness of the tomb. I love what it says in John 1:4-5, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” So that light will never be extinguished.

"The fact that Christ has been raised from the dead swamps in glory any trial you're going through at all."

Now, some Corinthians may have granted that Christ rose from the dead without moving one bit from their position that there is no resurrection of the dead. They would say, “Yes, he is different, he's the only begotten Son of God, he's unique. But for the rest of us, mortals, when we die, that's it. When we die, that's it, Christ is the exception, we are the rule, we're gonna die, for us ordinary sinners, and when we die our existence will come to an end.” So Paul has to extend Christ's resurrection out to us, and He does that by means of this expression: firstfruits, the firstfruits from the dead. But before we unpack firstfruits, let's just look at the teachings of Jesus himself, while he was alive, while he was ministering, he made repeated promises to his people that he would raise them out of their tombs. He said it again and again. There are so many verses that teach this. One example is John 6:39-40, there Jesus says, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” So John 6, he actually says it four times, “I will raise them up at the last day.” Then again right before raising, or resuscitating we could say, Lazarus from the grave Jesus said to Martha, John 11:23-26, he said, “‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘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.’” And then he said very plainly in John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.” So he wins this great victory and the spoils he gives to his people, he gives to us. So it is- you should think of it as inconceivable that Christ would physically rise from the dead just for his own benefit and not give to his people the fruits of that victory. The very reason he came to earth was to save us from our sins. As the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now, I believe that salvation is comprehensive from everything that sin has done to us and to our world, he's gonna save us from all of it, it's not a partial salvation from sin. Now, we know that death is the consequence of sin. As it says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If in the end, death wins, death is victorious over Christ's people, and we remain forever in our tombs then sin and death finally triumphed. They were finally victorious. We were not saved at all, and that cannot be. It cannot be.

So Paul makes this point plainly in 1 Corinthians 15, with his teaching of Christ as the firstfruits. Let's try to understand that. Look again at Verse 20, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Now, this concept of firstfruits would have been very familiar to the Jews, it was a big part of them, agrarian society, and they were commanded in the Law of Moses that when the harvest time came, when it was time to begin to bring in the harvest, they would give the firstfruits of their harvest as a sacrificial offering to God. Leviticus 23:10, “When you reap the harvest, then bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.” it was their way of acknowledging that everything that they own belong to God. Paul says in Romans 11, “If the parts offered is holy, then the whole batch [the whole amount] is holy.” So it's a humbling thing for us to realize everything we have comes from God, really could give it all to God, but it's important that we give that firstfruits to him first, that's what the word first means, he gets the first portion of it. And so the whole thing is holy to the Lord, it is sanctified but that first part belonged to God.

Now, Paul calls Christ the firstfruits, it implies that there's a vast harvest that's yet to come. Christ is just the beginning. He's just the firstfruits of a vast harvest of resurrected bodies that are going to come, and Paul calls him the firstfruits of those that sleep, those that sleep. Sleep here clearly refers to physical death in the light of Christ's power for resurrection, physical death in light of Christ's absolute power; he says, “I hold the keys of hell and death.” Christ is in charge. So since Christ has the power to raise any person from the dead, any to Christ, any dead person is in about the same condition as a sleeping person would be for us. Do you understand it was no more difficult for Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead after four days than Jairus' daughter after a few hours? If you were to say, “Jesus, of all the resurrection you did, which was the hardest?” It would be like, “None of them, none of them are difficult. With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” And so he would frequently use this expression concerning Jairus' daughter, “She is not dead, only sleeping.” she's asleep, he used it with Lazarus before they went back to raise him from the dead, “Lazarus, our friend, has fallen asleep.” and they misunderstood, they're always misunderstanding Jesus. Well, if he has fallen asleep, he'll be fine. And he said, Lazarus is dead. And for your sake I'm glad- he's very plain, but he says, “Lazarus has fallen asleep.” So with Christ, the firstfruits of those who sleep, he is the first to be raised from the dead with a vast number of all of his believers to follow.

Now, when we say first, is he really the first in the sequence? Is he the first to be raised from the dead? Well, I would have to say in a beautiful theological way, yes and no, yes and no. In the Old Testament, there are three accounts of the dead being raised, one in connection with Elijah and two in connection with Elisha. So there were three in the Old Testament. Christ himself raised three from the dead. So up to the point of Christ's resurrection, six people were raised from the dead, I've already mentioned two of them, of course, Jairus' daughter, and Lazarus on the fourth day, and then there's the widow at Nain, and there's that funeral procession, and Jesus raises her son from the dead. So definitely there was, what I call, a resuscitation but they weren't resurrected in this sense, they didn't receive the resurrection body that Christ has now, that will be described later in this chapter, they didn't get that. They weren't delivered forever from death, never to die again, they were resuscitated back in the same pattern of life that they had before, we would have to say minus the fever or the illness that brought them to the grave, so they were restored to healthy physical life and resumed their path to the grave, and they're all dead now. All six of them and any that were raised in the apostolic era, they're all dead now. No one, as a matter of fact, no one in the universe has a resurrection body except Jesus. He's the only one.

And so Christ is not only firstfruits but he's also, as it says in Colossians, first born from the dead. First born from the dead. Colossians 1:18, it says of Christ, “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” He is set apart, is unique, so firstborn, there means first in rank in preeminence and authority and in the position in the family of God, he’s unique. And so Paul openly states in Colossians the reason that God willed that Christ should receive his glorious resurrection body long before anyone else was that he might have the supremacy. Do you see what Paul has to do here? He has to explain to these Corinthians, why do we not see any resurrection going on at all? Christ has been raised, it's preached, “Okay, we accept it. Now you're saying, we're gonna be raised, but I don't see any evidence of it. I've been at a lot of Christian funerals. I see no evidence.” Well, there's this gap between Christ and the rest of the harvest, so that he might have the preeminence.

Now, all those Christians who have died for 2000 years, the other Scriptures tell us what happened to them. They are absent from the body, present with the Lord. They are the spirits of the righteous made perfect. So their spirits, their souls, their minds are perfected. What I would call partially glorified, but glorification is not finished yet. They don't have their resurrection bodies, for those they are waiting, they're waiting for the rest of the elect to be saved, and they're not gonna get their resurrection bodies till the end. So Paul completely refutes any concept that Christ alone will be raised from the dead. Rather, he is the firstfruits within innumerable harvest from every tribe, language, people, and nation yet to come.

Now, next we get to the weighty theology of federal headship. Told you there's a lot of heavy things we have to walk through here, but we need to understand the concept, the theological concept of federal headship, look at verses 21-22. "For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." This is the vital theological concept of federal headship. You don't need to know the phrase federal headship in order to be a Christian, but you do need to understand the concept. You need to understand, what does it mean? Federal means representative; we were represented by our head, by our first, our preeminent one, Christ. We're represented. That's the concept. So the idea here is that one man stood in the place of a huge group of people and represented them with certain significant outcomes. Alright? So federal means representative, one man representing the whole group. Paul asserts here in passing briefly what he clearly develops carefully in Romans 5:12-21, the idea of our headship in Adam, our federal headship in Adam. There it represents that Adam... Or it says, Adam represented the entire human race at the Garden of Eden, especially at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam had been warned clearly by God in Genesis 2:17, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day when you eat of it, you will surely die.” Wages of sin is death, the link between sin and death is made there in the warning before Adam fell into sin, he's warned. Now, when Adam subsequently reached out his hand and took that forbidden fruit and ate it, he was acting on behalf of all of his progeny. He was acting on behalf of the entire human race. All of his unborn descendants sinned in Adam and thus came under the physical death penalty. All of us died. We sinned and we died in Adam, death came through a man. Romans 5:12, puts it this way, "Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all men because all sinned." Now, that last phrase in Romans 5:12, "because all sinned." is the doctrine of original sin. That's what it is. We all sinned in Adam. So, we're seen in Adam as sinners because he represented us, every single human being represented- Adam represented at the tree, and the consequences of that federal headship is that every single human being dies, because we are descended from Adam, that's the link. That includes infants who never committed a sin that Adam did by hearing and understanding a command and violating it, but they still died because they were human, because in Adam, they sinned positionally. Now, you may be saying, as I've heard said many, many times before, "That's not fair. What did I do? If I had been there, I would have done differently. I would have lasted much longer than Adam did, I mean he made it one week." I wouldn't know how long he made it; we have no idea. But you would have done better. Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't. But in the providence of God and the wisdom of God, that was the man, Adam, and that's what he did, and he represented...

But here's the thing: that same principle of federal headship that condemns us to die also saves us to live forever. It's the same principle. It's the similarity that Paul raises in both Romans 5 and also 1 Corinthians. Look at verses 21-22, "For since death came through a man, and then also the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die so in Christ all will be made alive." Now, Paul states the same principle also in Romans 5, saying, "It works to make us righteous." We are righteous in our federal head, Adam’s single act of rebellion at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, made us all sinners, positionally. Christ's obedience makes us all righteous, and we will be raised from the dead based on that righteousness. Romans 5:19, "For just as through the disobedience of the one man, that many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man, the many will be made " Here's a beautiful word, "righteous." You are, if you're a Christian, righteous in your head, Jesus, in Christ, you are righteous. So by federal headship with Adam, we all sinned and we all die, so also by federal headship with Christ, we are all made righteous and all will be raised from the dead, made alive forever.

"Adam’s single act of rebellion at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, made us all sinners, positionally. Christ's obedience makes us all righteous, and we will be raised from the dead based on that righteousness."

Now, I need to say a word about the word, all, all. And I think it's worth doing this, 'cause if you look in Verse 27, he has to do the same thing when concerning what's gonna be in subjection to Jesus. All things will be in subjection to Jesus, oh, wait a minute, not God. God is excepted from all; he's not included in the, “all.” So Paul has to work on his "all’s," we all kinda need to work on our "all." So, what do we mean here? Well, there's a difference between Adam and Christ. Adam represents biologically, physically all human beings, so biologically, physically, all humans die. So the all represents the entire human race. But the all that Jesus represents are all the elect, all those that will be raised from the dead in Christ, all those that will eventually come to Christ, lots of different ways to say it. We could say it's similar; they both represented those whom they represented, completely. Adam represented all of his progeny; Jesus represented all of the children given to him before the foundation of the world; so this moves us away from universalism. We're not saying hell will be empty, we're not saying everyone will be raised in resurrection glory, no, all believers, all Christians, all those who have faith in Christ.

II. Christ Will Resurrect Christians When He Comes

Now, second main point, Christ will resurrect Christians when he comes. So when will all this happen? What's the time table for this? The necessary consequence here is that all Christians will in the end be physically bodily raised from the dead, but when? Look at verse 23, "Each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then when he comes, those who belong to him." So each gets resurrected in his own turn, Christ gets it first, to be preeminent, as we said, then, those who belong to Christ, he will raise from the dead. Now, I just wanted to stop and just let's meditate on the word belong. Those who belong to him, isn't that beautiful? Just stop and ponder that with me, just see how sweet that is. If you're a Christian you belong to Jesus, you belong to him. John 6:37, "All that the Father gives me will come to me." The elect are a love gift from the Father to the Son, here they are yours, they're yours. Or again, Jesus says in the good shepherd teaching, John 10:3-4, "He calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." They are his own sheep. He knows them by name. And then Paul says in the same book, we're studying 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "You are not your own, you were bought at a price." That's powerful, isn't it? You have been bought by Jesus, he owns you if you're a Christian. So here's the thing, move over to the bride image, there was a bride price paid by Jesus, and the price was his own blood shed on the cross. He bought us, he bought us with his own blood, and he will not allow his blood bought bride to stay dead, unable to respond to his love, unable to walk with him in the new heaven and new earth. He will not let her stay dead. I love the hymn, “The Church's One Foundation”: “The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. She is his new creation by water and the word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride, and with his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.” he will not allow her to stay in the tomb. Now, when will this happen? Well, it comes- it happens when he comes, it comes at the second coming of Christ. Look at verse 22-23, "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn, Christ the firstfruits, then when he comes, those who belong to him." Now the Greek word there is, parousia. Parousia, the parousia, the coming of Christ. There's a lot of New Testament theology on the coming, the second coming of Christ, Christ will return. He will come back. And so the consistent teaching on the timing of the resurrection is that's when it happens, it happens when he comes, it happens at the second coming of Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, the clearest rapture teaching teaches this very, very plainly, look at these verses, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him, according to the Lord's own word. We tell you that we who are still alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord," that's parousia. "Who are left to the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with a voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage one another with these words." That's all about the timing. It's when the dead in Christ will rise at the parousia, at the second coming of Christ. So, until then, death is the final enemy. We're gonna talk about that in just a moment. But that's the timing of the resurrection. There's a lot more complexity on this that some people bring in, but I got rid of it out of the sermon, the sermon's already too long. If you wanna know more of those complexities on timings, come and talk to me and I can confuse you as much as you'd like to be confused.

III. Christ Will Progressively Subdue All His Enemies

Third, Christ will progressively subdue all His enemies. Look at verses 24-28, "Then the end will come when he hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power, for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he has put everything under his feet." Now, when it says that everything has been put under him it is clear this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ, “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” If I can just tell you, this text, these five verses just get really infinite and ever-expanding until they swallow up your imagination and everything you can possibly think, and so there's no way we can plumb the depths of the significance of all of these words here today, God willing we’ll have more opportunities when I resume preaching in 1 Corinthians, but let's try to understand.

First and foremost, there is a plan for all of this, there is a plan going on here, that's how I began the sermon, everything's according to plan. And you may ask, "Okay, I get it. All of Christ's people will be physically raised from the dead, it's not happening now because Christ is the firstfruits and there's a long gap giving him preeminence, and we're gonna get our resurrection bodies at the second coming. What is he doing in the meantime?" Well, he is reigning at the right hand of God and is subduing, progressively subduing his enemies. That's what he's doing. And in this way, he is building himself a kingdom, that's a summary of what Paul says here. God has an amazing plan. Where are we heading? We're heading to the unification, the harmonization of all things, everything in the universe will be unified, everything in the universe will be harmonized under one head, and that one head is God and we could say God enthroned. Under the throne of God, so that everything is in subjection to his throne, not rebelling against his kingly authority anymore, he's not giving up the throne, that's not happening. We don't want it to happen. Everything's being brought in harmony under this one head, Ephesians 1:9-10 teaches the same thing. I think is Ephesians 1:10, one of the great underestimated verses, just meditate on it. Ephesians 1:9-10 says, "He has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment." Okay, what is it? What is the plan? "To bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." So that's it. Sin had, as I've said... I've used this analogy many times before, had a fragmentation grenade effect on the universe, everything got blown apart because of sin; things that were meant to be together have been blown apart. So start with vertical fellowship with God, that was the first most significant thing that got blown apart, and then horizontally fellowship with one another.

Now, the horizontal hit first, when Adam and Eve ate from the fruit, their eyes are open and they realized that they were naked and they made fig leaves to cover themselves because they were not one like they should have been, one as husband and wife any longer but felt ashamed with each other, and then that broken horizontal human relationship has spread to all human relationships. So Titus 3:3 says, "We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." Do you not see evidence of that just- I would say every single day? “We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." Broken horizontal, because of sin. That's why, but then more significantly is the vertical, they were estranged from God, so when God came and they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the cool of the day, Adam hid himself, he didn't wanna have time with God, he didn't wanna be together with God, running away from God, not wanting to have time with him. “So the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ And he answered, ‘I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’” fragmentation, brokenness, and then man was estranged from nature, estranged from the planet, from the ground. This was the curse, Genesis 3:17, "Cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil, you will eat of it all the days of your life, and it will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field." So, we are in an adversarial relationship with our environment as we wrestle with the ground to eat and survive, it's fighting us, there's a curse, thorns and all that. Romans 8:20-22 makes this plan as well, "The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of him who subjected it in hope, that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." By the way, that's resurrection. I teach a resurrected earth where I really believe this earth is gonna be resurrected, same but different. Radically different. So that's awesome, that's awesome. "But the creation is groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." And we see this in all of the horrors of natural disasters, Hurricane Laura, that's part of it. We should not imagine, "It's got nothing to do with any of this." No, it's part of it. Earthquakes, landslides, tornadoes, all of these things, famines, all of this, it's terrible. So, God in Christ is reconciling all of these fragments and bringing them back together into perfect unity. In the future he's gonna hand over the kingdom to God, look at verse 24, "Then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father." In the meantime, he is progressively advancing that kingdom by one victory after another. He is reigning at the right hand of God and subduing his enemies.

Now, it says that he is advancing and subduing all rule, authority and power. Now, what does this mean? I think this refers first and foremost to demonic, satanic power that is controlling the unfolding events of human history. Satan is the power behind all of these human thrones that do evil, and there are archangels and different levels of angels that fell into rebellion with him, and they're called rulers and authorities and powers. The clearest teaching on this is Ephesians 6:12, where it says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." So they're invisible spiritual powers, and they are fighting Christ's kingdom, they're opposing what he's doing. I believe that they have puppets, and they are puppet masters, and the puppets are human rulers, people who have positions of authority who are not redeemed, they're not seeking to use their governmental position like Daniel did for the glory of God. They're not seeking that, but they are rebels against God and they use their power to hinder the gospel in part or to make life miserable for other human beings, and so I think it extends to that, the final end of that will be the Antichrist and all of his sub-rulers who will dominate the entire planet in the name of pure wickedness, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 says, “that day [the end] will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of sin or the man of lawlessness,” called in 1 John: the Antichrist, “is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or worship, so he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” he will be blasphemously ruling, as a human being, over all the nations of the Earth. We're not there yet. Before that though, there are individual rulers, presidents, kings, Prime Ministers, rulers of communist parties in various countries who have been given power, and they have the ability to make decisions that shape and mold people's lives, but because they're not born again, because they're not redeemed, they are really serving Satan. As Jesus said to some of his enemies, “you're of your father, the devil.” and so they use their power wrongly to hinder, in part, to hinder the spread of the Gospel, now Satan claimed to be running the world, and in some sense he is. In Luke 4:5-6, “Satan took Jesus up to a high mountain, to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, and he said to him, ‘I will give you all the authority and splendor, for it has been given to me and I can give it to anyone I want to.’” Now, isn't it wonderful to know in actuality, God is sovereignly controlling all of that, so Satan has his little puppets and they do Satan's will, unbeknownst, many of them are atheists or whatever, they don't believe in Satan, but he's manipulating them, but God is overruling all of it, isn't that awesome? And so what's happened is, Jesus is at the right hand of God and is controlling this ebb and flow of history, so that the elect can get saved, they can hear the gospel, and they can cross over, they can be rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the beloved Son. And this is going on literally, dear friends, every single day, and Satan just keeps losing, he just keeps losing and losing and losing and losing.

Paul is quoting Psalm 110, Psalm 110:1-2, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Psalm 110:2, “The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” That's awesome. Psalm 110, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” That is an inter-Trinitarian conversation, overheard by King David, who then told us about it and wrote it down in Psalm 110, isn't that beautiful? By the Spirit, he heard what the Father said to the Son, the Lord the first Lord. In your English Bible, if you read in Psalm 110, will be all caps, LORD, Yahweh, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, said to David's Lord, the Messiah, Jesus, “Sit at my right hand until I make all your enemies a footstool for your feet.” It's awesome. Now, what does that mean, footstool for your feet? You remember in the book of Joshua, after they won an initial battle against a bunch of kings, and the kings weren't dead yet, and he had them all lay down, and he told his commanders, sub-commanders and all that, come and put your feet on their necks, just put your feet on the necks of your enemies. It's total subjection, a complete victory for Christ over his enemies. “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” I love what it says about us, in Romans 16:20, listen to this, it's a great verse, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” How do you like to put your foot on Satan's neck? But this is a powerful image here: it's of complete victory. So Jesus is at the right hand of God, he is reigning at the right hand of God and is winning in hidden spiritual battles while the earth appears to be going to chaos, but it isn't, and he's winning the elect individually with countless stories that we'll learn about in heaven.

And we'll find out how Christ's enemies were subdued one after the other, and he is reigning at the right hand of God and he's subduing, and he is, I love this, plundering Satan's house. You remember when Jesus was driving out demons? He's driving out demons, and he just does it like with a word. Remember legion, the demoniac of the gatherings, remember this guy who is like naked howling at the moon and breaking chains, so that nobody even was in that region anymore because of this guy? And there are legion of demons, 6000 or more demons inside this man. In Matthew's account, Jesus drove them out with one word, “Go,” they're gone. That's power. And what is happening, or what ended up happening is Jesus' enemies said, it's by Beelzebub, by the prince of demons that he's driving out demons, he's the king demon, Jesus is, and Jesus refutes them and this is what he says, Luke 11:20-22, “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed guards his own house, his possessions are safe, but when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.” You Christian friends, you are the spoils, you're the plunder. Jesus defeated Satan, in your case, defeated demons that were assigned to make you miserable and tempt you and make you sin; he defeated them, conquered them and rescued you from the dominion of darkness. And now you're plunder: you've been rescued from Satan's kingdom, and now you're part of Christ’s kingdom. Now, no, you can't see this with your eyes, where it's going on, he's at the right hand of God and is winning victory after victory after victory, reigning, subduing his enemies, and that's what's happening. And so all of these enemies are being defeated progressively.

Alright, I'm gonna skip all this, let's go ahead to the last enemy, verse 26, “The last enemy to be defeated [or destroyed] is death.” verse 26, “The last enemy.” Now, this is one of the bitterest and yet most hopeful verses in this whole topic, and Jesus is not gonna destroy or defeat death until the end. Well, what that means is, his people will have to go through it. Will have to walk through it. If the Lord doesn't return in our lifetime, we're not part of that mysterious final generation, we will die, and that process will be painful, and not only for us, but for our loved ones or reverse: we will watch Christian loved ones die. I really believe this is why Jesus wept before Lazarus' tomb, he knew very well, he was about to resuscitate Lazarus, but he knew his people for 20 centuries and more would go through the sorrows and the bitterness and the pain of death, Christ could end death, could have ended it that day. He could end it now. But he will not do it. He's waiting, and so we have to walk through the gauntlet of sorrow and tears, we do grieve but just not like those who have no hope. And so Christian funerals are painful, people that we love, there are wonderful, beautiful people are removed from our lives and we don't see them again in this world, and all of the sweetness and the gifts and the blessings that flow to us through those people, we will not get them again in this world, and we grieve. Those people are in a better place and would not appreciate being brought back here, and how selfish for us that our present miserable lives are made a little bit better because they came back and walk some more with us, what it does tell me is, enjoy the time you have with Christian people while you have it, you don't know how long you have.

And so the last enemy will be defeated and it will. Jesus is going to throw death into the lake of fire, that is the death of death. And then Revelation 21:4, He will wipe every tear from their eyes. And there'll be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain for the old order of things. That's now has passed away. So those days are coming. 

IV. Christ Will Finally Present A Universe in Total Submission to God

Now, finally, fourth point, which I will not develop at all, just read the headings. So I told you this, this sermon swallowed me alive, and it would have been much longer than it already is, but there's just a lot to cover. Look at verse 28, “Then when he has done this, the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” This is the final version of the perfect harmony of heaven, when everything is harmonized under the throne of God, all opposition will have been subdued, all of Christ’s elect enemies, elect enemies as we once were, will have been converted and they'll be there celebrating his victory. All of Christ’s non-elect enemies will be in the lake of fire, receiving the just punishment for their sins, death itself, as I just said, will have been destroyed, then the creation will have been made perfect in total harmony with the people of God and with the plan of God, and it will be magnificent and beautiful. More next time, God willing.

V. Applications

So applications, first, live a holy life in preparation. Peter calls that new world that's coming the home of righteousness, you're going to a world of perfect holiness, that should motivate you to purify yourself from all wickedness. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure. Get rid of things that defile that have no place in that beautiful, perfect holy world.

Secondly, understand that the present miseries, the present disharmony and violence and suffering came about as a result of Adam's sin, and is part of God's plan that we would hate evil and sin the way he does. We Christians have an explanation for what's happening, many of these other forces in our society, they just have rage, they have no plan, no explanation, no understanding of the heart, just rage, but Christians have an explanation of why it's happening and a remedy and what to do in the meantime, we just need to live up to it and just understand.

Thirdly, look forward with great hope to the perfect unity and harmony of all things in heaven. We're gonna be with brothers and sisters from every tribe, language, people, and nation, in perfect Trinitarian level unity with each other. And that's something to look forward to.

Fourthly, understand the significance of death as the final enemy. Death is here, we're gonna walk through it, we're going to have to grieve with those who grieve, we ourselves might have to go through the dishonoring, painful process of dying, and it is. We'll talk more about that, God willing in the future. Just understand that, and understand that doesn't mean Christ doesn't love you. It doesn't mean that he's not walking with you through it. Death is the final enemy; he'll destroy it. In the meantime, he will be with us when we pass through the waters.

And then finally, to each of you individually, make certain that you yourselves are born again, that you have received from Christ the forgiveness of sins, that you yourself will be among those he raises out of the tomb by calling you by name. All you need do is believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and God raised him from the dead. And call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved. Close with me in prayer.

Lord, thank you for the time that we've had to study today. It's been rich and it's been full. There's a lot to understand in these verses, thank you for Paul walking the Corinthians so many years ago through deep, rich, full theology. And Lord, I pray that you would please strengthen each of us to understand your word, to take in the things that we've learned today. And to be able to explain these truths to people who surround us in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, at the coffee shops, who just seem bewildered and who have no answer, help us with gentleness and with love to point to Christ crucified and resurrected as the answer in Jesus’ name, amen.

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