1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (NKJV)
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 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. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
Last week we remarked that as Christians we are called to be a people anchored and rooted in the past. Today we learn that we are not only to be anchored in the past, we are to anticipate the future. Christianity does not proclaim that what we see now is all that ever shall be. Rather, we are called in faith to look to the future, the day when Christ shall return in glory and triumph over the last of His enemies – death. And when He triumphs over death this shall be glorious news for us – for we shall rise from the dead. Even as Christ rose from the grave bodily ever to live and reign as King, so we shall rise from the dead to rule beside Him, vice-regents over all creation. Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead.
It is Jesus Himself who has taught us to live – not only anchored in the past but eager for the future. After all, for the joy set before Him He endured the cross despising the shame. Jesus lived, sacrificed, bled, and died in hope. He died anticipating God’s faithfulness to Him and that the grave would not be victorious over Him. And He held out this same promise to us – now verified by his own resurrection. Jesus declared, “…the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear [the Son of Man’s] voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn 5:28-29).
So what does the hope of the resurrection mean for us? It means that no matter the trials we endure now, no matter the suffering and hardship that we may be called to endure as Christ’s disciples or as humans living in a fallen world, we live in hope. These sufferings, as Paul explains in Romans 8, “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption in to the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope…” (8:18-24a). In which hope? In hope of the resurrection.
So we can count it all joy, my brethren, when we encounter various trials; we can rejoice to the extent that we share Christ’s sufferings; for we know that if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. Praise God for the hope of the resurrection.
But often we fail to live in hope, fail to live in anticipation of the future, in anticipation of the resurrection. Instead we focus on the suffering in the here and now. We forget the goal. So let us kneel and confess our need for His grace. We’ll have a time of silent confession following which I’ll pray on behalf of the congregation.
Not only do we forget the past, we also forget the future that you have promised. We get overwhelmed by the pressures of life, stunned by the sufferings we face. And so we doubt your goodness, we doubt your faithfulness, we doubt your Word. Forgive us, O Lord, for our sin is ever before us. We know that we are weak. But we praise you that you are strong! And that you have given us the firstruits of the Spirit. We pray that by Your Spirit you would continue to work within us and empower us to live in hope. Empower us both to remember the past and to ancitipate the future – through Christ our Lord. AMEN.