"I'M JUST DYING TO GO TO HEAVEN!"
TEXT: I Cor. 15:1-58
INTRO:The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in human history! It has touched everything in this life, and in the life to come. Even when cultures have attempted to stamp out the reality of Christ's resurrection they have failed.
ILLUS:The Russian word for Sunday, woskersicnye, means resurrection. Every communist, every atheist, must speak of the resurrection when referring to the first day of the week! -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
Isn't it interesting when Communism in the former Soviet Union was officially "atheistic" every week they spoke the word "resurrection" for each Sunday!
The two greatest holidays in the world are Christmas and Easter, Christ's birth and resurrection. Even if cultures of the world have attempted to change the meaning of these two holidays to Santa Claus and a bunny rabbit they still spring from Jesus, and most know this.
Take away the resurrection and you destroy Christianity! Does it really make a difference? YES! There is a huge difference between those who die believing in Jesus Christ and those who don't.
ILLUS:I have talked to doctors and nurses who have held the hands of dying people, and they say that there is as much difference between the death of a Christian and a non-Christian as there is between heaven and hell. -- Billy Graham (1918- ) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 2305.
Both in life and in death we will face Jesus' resurrection ... if Christ lives in us now, so will His resurrection power.
PROP. SENT: There is only one religious figure in history that has risen from the dead ... no other religion has a living founder, unless it is a new religion today. Jesus Christ is God's son, and it is His death and resurrection that makes possible our eternal life.
I. PRIORITY OF THE RESURRECTION 15:1-19
A. Central To Faith! 15:1-11
1. The Gospel IS the resurrection of Christ!
a. Paul reminds the Corinthians that this is the essence of the Gospel, that when they believed it was on the basis of Christ's resurrection.
b. If this were not so then they believed in vain!
2. Paul bases Christ's death and resurrection on the Scriptures as well as on the testimony of many people who witnessed the living Jesus after His death on the cross.
a. The first witness is the Scriptures, many Old Testament passages prophesied Christ death and resurrection!
b. Then there were the disciples, and even at one time more than 500 brothers at one moment saw the resurrected Christ.
c. Jesus did not hide the reality of His resurrection.
3. It is important to note that the story of Jesus' resurrection was based on many witnesses, it was not a myth made up by a few people!
ILLUS:There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three. -- Billy Graham (1918- ) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 9700.
a. Hundreds of people saw Jesus after His resurrection, over a period of weeks!
b. There are plenty of secular sources besides the Bible and Christian writings of the first century that speak of Christ's resurrection, including a first century Jewish historian named Josephus.
c. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is well attested to in history.
4. This is the central theme for Christianity ... IF Jesus did NOT rise from the dead then everything we believe is meaningless!
a. It is the core of Christianity.
b. There is no hope of life after death if Jesus did not rise again .... especially since there is NO other religion in the world that claims to have their founder still alive, every other religion in the world has a dead founder in a grave somewhere ... only Christianity has an empty tomb for its founder!
5. Even Paul had seen the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, and this was many years after Jesus' death.
B. Clear Focus 15:12-19
1. Some of the people in the Corinthian Church were saying that there was no resurrection from the dead ... that when we die that is it, no more life anywhere.
a. Paul tells them that this is ridiculous!
b. If that were true then even Jesus didn't rise from the dead, BUT He did!
2. If Christ has not risen then all those in the Church were still in their sins like everyone else in the world, and there was literally no hope for anyone!
a. Life would be nothing more than animal life ... we are born, eat a lot of food, live a lot of painful things, and then die --- and none of it has any significance in the scheme of the universe IF Christ did not rise again!
b. In fact, if those who said there is no resurrection were right then living the Christian life only makes us pitiful.
3. HOW UNTRUE are those voices! The reality is that Christ DID rise again!
a. Why anyone would even want to embrace "emptiness" is beyond understanding.
b. Thank God Jesus rose again ... our lives have meaning, when we approach death's door it won't be the end, only a transition from one life to another.
c. Jesus Christ's resurrection gives meaning to life, we are moving toward life, not away from it.
4. They had the greatest message mankind has ever received, Jesus is alive and will quicken alive all those who believe in Him and live for Him.
ILLUS:On the Easter just before he died, D. William Sangster painfully printed a short note to his daughter. A deeply spiritual Methodist, he had been spearheading a renewal movement in the British Isles after World War II. Then his ministry, except for prayer, was ended by a disease which progressively paralyzed his body, even his vocal chords. But the last Resurrection Sunday he spent on earth, still able to move his fingers, he wrote: "How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!' Far worse, to have a voice and not want to shout." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 167.
II. PERSON OF THE RESURRECTION 15:20-34
A. Christ the Firstfruit 15:20-28
1. Christ is the firstfruits of all those who will be resurrected.
a. But didn't Christ raise people from the dead before His own resurrection? Yes ... but they were only temporarily raised back to life, they died again, they did not receive their permanent resurrected bodies ... but Christ did, He is the first to do so.
b. Paul says that if only in this life we have hope in Christ that we are to be pitied.
c. There is much more to living than just the life we live in this physical body now.
2. What we do in this life has impact however on our next life ... if we are to live in Heaven with God we MUST have Christ's life in us when we die.
a. This is what it means to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior.
b. Our faith in Christ is what gives us the hope for eternal life ... because Jesus defeated death we too can defeat death by having Christ living in us.
3. At the moment of death the life of Jesus Christ will quicken our souls, though our body dies for the time being, our spirit goes to be with Christ immediately, awaiting the day when the trumpet of God will sound and the dead in Christ will rise again, their bodies restored to a permanent existence and our souls reunited with them so we can live forever with Christ in a resurrected body much like His.
a. We are saved now by Christ, and He will keep us at the moment of death, and in the future He will restore our bodies to an eternal body.
b. Every Christian at death will experience LIFE ... in Christ we can never die!
ILLUS:Earth recedes, heaven opens. I've been through the gates! Don't call me back ... if this is death, it's sweet. Dwight! Irene! I see the children's faces. [Dwight and Irene were his dead grandchildren.] -- Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 2437.
4. This has been the constant hope of all Christians at all times.
B. Cynicism & Futility! 15:29-34
1. Paul now challenges the cynics in the Church, those who denied a resurrection from the dead:
a. He asks them what the point of suffering for Christ is all about if there is no after life?
b. He asks them why they bother to get baptized for dead relatives (Paul is not supporting this practice, just referencing to it) if there is no after life, wouldn't that just be pointless?
c. It is ridiculous to give this life a significant meaning if there is nothing to look forward to after death!
2. Even today, rather than turn to Christ for hope for a future life mankind is trying to invent their own type of immortality!
ILLUS:Number of deceased people frozen in hopes of someday being brought back to life: 50
Price for these services, including storage: $120,000
Price for freezing and storing only the head of the client: $41,000 -- Health, 1-2/93. "To Verify," Leadership.
a. How ironic that man is trying to find a way to live after death ... God has already made this possible.
b. Man freezes your body or your head for later transplant on someone else's body ... even then you will still die again, and again, and again!!! Jesus will restore you forever!!!
c. With Jesus, you die once ... then live forever ... and in a body that will not be prone to sickness or weakness again.
d. Whose system would you rather have, God's or man's?
III. POWER OF THE RESURRECTION! 15:35-58
A. Contrast To Flesh 15:35-57
1. So how can we be raised again if our bodies decay in the ground, how is it possible?
a. First, our new body will not be anything like our old one, it will be quite different.
b. Yes, this body will decay, but God will raise up something from it completely different ... is this possible?
2. Paul tells us how this is not only possible, but why it is reasonable!
a. A seed is a very basic life form, only after it is planted in the ground to die as a seed does it spring forth to a new life above ground!
b. AND, the life that comes from the plain brown seed is NOTHING like the small hard shell that went into the ground!
c. If the seed is not buried, it does not bring forth the new life within it!
d. This is Paul's logic here ... though we die and are buried and our bodies decay, it does not end our life, in fact, the new life that will come from this death will be quite remarkable, just like the plain brown seed that gives life to a tall plant that is green and looks nothing like the seed that it came from. Indeed the new life is so much greater than the old seed!
3. Paul uses natural arguments here to support their faith in the resurrection, it is stamped all through creation!
a. Every winter when everything dies off ... do you notice that NO one panics that all life will cease on the earth because we will run out of food!
b. Of course NOT! WHY? Because we ALL KNOW that in Spring life will return to the earth and with this another harvest.
c. Could you imagine the panic that would hit a person if they never knew anything about seasons!!!? Once everything started dying, and the days got shorter and shorter they would surely lose all hope and fear would grip them ... BUT THIS DOESN'T happen because we all know that there is LIFE after DEATH, it is only a temporary condition ... and so is our death physically!
4. All life forms go through death in order to give life ... it is stamped in the universe ... even with the death of stars giving birth to newer suns.
a. We all know that the new life is always very different from the seed that started it!
b. We can see this transformation in creation.
ILLUS:What the caterpillar calls the end, God calls a butterfly. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 149.
5. The resurrection should not be a shocking truth, God stamped it into everything He has ever made!
6. So we DON'T NEED to FEAR death! If that was the end of our life permanently we could be fearful, but since it is not we can have peace even when faced with death!
a. Life doesn't end at the grave, we go on!
b. The sting of death is gone, Jesus Christ took that for us in His death on the cross ... Satan's poison of death no longer has power to destroy us!
ILLUS:A little boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon. Suddenly out of nowhere a bumblebee flew in the car window. Since the little boy was deathly allergic to bee stings, he became petrified. But the father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it. But as soon as he let it go, the young son became frantic once again as it buzzed by the little boy. His father saw his panic-stricken face. Once again the father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his hand. There still stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. "Do you see this?" he said. "You don't need to be afraid anymore. I've taken the sting for you." And this is the message of Easter. We do not need to be afraid of death anymore. Christ faced death for us. And by His victory, we are saved from sin. Christ has taken the sting! First Corinthians 15:55 asks: "Where, oh death, is your sting?" Christ has taken the stinger for us. He has risen! Fear is gone. New life is ours. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 167.
7. Paul clearly teaches that one day God will sound His trumpet, this will be the time when our old bodies will be raised to a new body, one like Christ's that cannot be destroyed.
a. The dead in Christ will rise first!
b. And for all those who are alive at the time of the trumpet of God, we will be instantly changed from this old form of body to the new one that the dead in Christ will get ... so we will all be eternally the same with Christ.
c. Like the plain brown seed that goes in the ground, this old body isn't much to look at, nor is it that complicated ... but the new body will be marvelous and we can hardly believe what it will be like ... much like the life that springs from that plain seed, it is huge, green, in the case of flowers it gives off great lush colors ... something not even imagined when you see only the seed if you didn't know what that seed was capable of.
8. For Christians death is not the terror that it is to unbelievers ... it is not the end of life, in many ways it is the entrance to an even greater life!
9. Imagine the baby in the womb ... for 9 months it lives in an environment of darkness where all its needs are met, it has no knowledge of what is coming ... then one day it is violently thrust out of this safe lush place ... it must think its life is ending ... BUT WOW! ... it emerges into light, sounds, a huge world far bigger than what it knew before ... what it could never have known in the womb in its very limited life there it now discovers a much greater life and freedom. As was our coming from the womb ... so will be our coming from the tomb! -- birthed into an even great light, God's light and a greater freedom than we could ever imagine!
B. Concrete Foundation 15:58
1. In light of the resurrection of Christ Paul says, "Therefore, my dear 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."
a. We are not living life in vain now ... and we won't die in vain either!
b. Life has significance not only for the here and now, but for eternity too!
2. It is the very foundation of our faith, and it is the foundation of all our hopes in Christ.
3. Our life should reflect this foundation, our confidence even when facing death is firmly rooted in Christ and His resurrection life.
ILLUS:Alfred Lord Tennyson expressed his belief in the resurrection in his poem, "Crossing the Bar." He gave instructions that it was to appear in every book of his poems that should ever be published, and always at the end of the book. He wanted all who read his works to see this assertion of faith in the face of death. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
4. We live on the threshold of LIFE, not death ... in Christ "we live and move and have our being." ( Acts 17:28)
a. We are just dying to get to heaven in Christ!
b. Do you know the resurrected Lord? Have you accepted His gift of new life? You CAN know His peace, even when facing death.
CONCLUSION: Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ there is no hope or faith! Christianity rises or falls on Christ's resurrection from the dead -- it is the core of the Gospel. Because Christ rose from the dead all those who belong to Him will also rise again ... with a new body much stronger and different than this one. Is Christ alive in you?