Lord, we pray again today: make us glad in hope. Amen.
Text: First Corinthians 15:20-27
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.
The Father has given the world to the Son, and the Son has undertaken to save it. By His death and resurrection He overcame our enemies. But every single person who is to be saved He must deliver from the power of the defeated enemies. He continues to do this until the last day. Just as sickness and death are destroyed for someone who is ill, if a doctor who can completely heal him, takes him to the hospital and gives him the powerful medicine, in the same way sin and death are destroyed for the believers. But as that sick person must still feel the sickness for a time, which disappears only gradually, so Christians feel the effects of sin and death as long as they are in this earthly body. Now how does this happen? The devil’s dominion over my heart is truly broken, but the power of death in my body holds on and completely wins when it lays me in the grave! Death saps my power, so that I get weaker every day. Shouldn’t I be getting healthier and stronger? No, says the Apostle, that is completely right, for the last enemy to be destroyed is death. It must continue to work, harming the body, so that it shall still be used to humble you in this ever weaker vessel, so that your heart can die to the world, and so that finally by death “flesh and blood” become perfectly put away. Let death be powerful in your body. It was the same in Christ’s body, but Christ arose, and you shall arise with Him.
For every sincere Christian who knows death, it is an “enemy,” and I am glad that the Apostles call it such. For indeed I can look it boldly in the face, yes, rejoice at its coming, because it must serve to “ferry me to the land of the living.” But never can I hate anything more than death and in my inmost heart rebel against it, for it comes from hell and is the devil’s offspring and an enemy of everything that is from God. It shall be completely destroyed. “Christ has abolished it” (2Ti 1:10) and shall abolish it. When the new humanity of all saints is perfected, when the dead are raised and heaven and earth transformed, then the Son shall give back to the Father His scepter, when His saving work is fulfilled and everything is brought back to original innocence, but for us it will be far more glorious than it would have been otherwise. Through the Son, God is eternally All in all (1Cor. 15:28).
Let us also experience this, that we may understand it in heavenly clarity, merciful, faithful, almighty God, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
I am a branch in Thee, the Vine,
And hence the comfort borrow
That Thou wilt surely keep me Thine
Through fear and pain and sorrow;
And when I die, I die to Thee,
Thy precious death hath won for me
The life that never endeth.
Since Thou the pow’r of death didst rend,
In death Thou wilt not leave me;
Since Thou didst into heav’n ascend,
No fear of death shall grieve me.
For where Thou art, there shall I be
That I may ever live with Thee;
That is my hope when dying.
Hermann: When my last hour is close at hand L569:3-4 ELH 481:3-4 tr. C. Winkworth;
tune: Wenn mein Stündlein