Pastor-teacher Don Hargrove
Faith Bible Church
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
This doctrine will also be available in note & audio format @ http://fbcweb.org/doctrines.html
DDR & FBC PRAYER LIST #541
DOCTRINE OF DEATH – Part 18:
VICTORY OVER THE GRIM REAPER
Preparation for Bible Class. There are three vital areas to understanding the unique nature of Christianity. The first is salvation. Pure Christianity is all about Jesus Christ doing ALL of the work of salvation and man receiving this monumental work by faith alone — the salvation that Christianity offers really is a gift (Eph 2:8-9). No one earns or deserves this gift. The second great issue is the spiritual life. Just as Christianity begins with the work of God so too it continues with the work of God. The spiritual life it is not about what the Christian does by his own power; rather, it is God working in and through the believer performing not only divine good works but God Himself also providing the very motivation to do these works (Philip 2:13). The third issue is spiritual maturity. In spiritual maturity the believer has both a broad and deep understanding of God, the Plan of God, and the various grace assets available to live consistently in the power of God (2 Cor 10:3-5). Only the mature believer has the doctrinal reservoir and dynamics to live in the grandest realities of Christianity. It is mature believer who has overcome the kosmos and enjoys the life above all one could ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).
Victory over the Grim Reaper. There is a particular preacher who is unique. He speaks as boldly today as he ever has. He has never been very popular even though the world is his congregation as he travels all over the world to every nook and cranny on the globe. This preacher actually speaks in every language. He visits the poor. He visits the rich. He preaches to people of every religion and even preaches to many of no religion. His sermon is always the same yet he is able to get reach the depths of the human soul and touch the emotions like no one else can. He is able to bring tears to eyes which seldom weep. He is able to grab his listeners in a way that will effect them forever. There is no heart that remains untouched and unmoved by the force of his appeals. His arguments have never been refuted. This preacher shatters life. This preacher disturbs the status quo. Most people hate him. Everybody listens to him. Every tombstone is his pulpit. Every newspaper prints his text. And one day you will be the subject of his sermon. He will stand at your graveside and preach to others. By now I am sure you have figured out who this preacher is — he is DEATH!
With every physical living thing that comes into the world there is a built in time fuse. We all have one. The moment we are born it is lit and begins to burn. Some fuses burn slowly and some very fast, but they all burn continuously nonetheless. Every birth signals the beginning of a countdown. Every countdown zeroes in on an exit. Some countdowns are long and some are short. ALL physical life really is just a process of dying. In spite of these inescapable facts the darkness in man’s soul enables him to shrug off the grand inevitable issue of death — even as his fuse continues to burn and the countdown to the grave continues. When the unbeliever does face the facts about physical death he realizes that human life at best is nothing more than a dead end street in a box under six feet of dirt or perhaps ashes in an urn or scattered at a favorite place. The box or the ashes is about all the unbeliever can look forward to from his human viewpoint (unaided reason, apart from the Word of God).
The day when the fuse burns out and a person reaches zero hour with reference to the body, then what? What after that? Then what happens to the soul? Is there hope? Is there an escape from doom? Is there something that has a greater power than death itself? What could be MORE POWERFUL THAN THE POWER OF DEATH? Is there Someone who has more power than the Grim Reaper? Is there an escape? Has anyone ever conquered death? Has anyone ever gone through death and come out the other side? Has anyone ever beat such a thing as death? Furthermore, if anyone has ever had power over death have they made it possible for you to have victory as wel? The answer to these questions lie in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You see there is only one Person in all of human history who had power over death and that was Jesus Christ,
Revelation 1:18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Yes, Someone has beaten death. Somebody has gone into the grave and come out the other side. There have been famous men, like the world-renowned apologist Gary Habbermas, who has spent his entire life studying the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He started out as a skeptic but the evidence was simply too overwhelming on the historicity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I just can’t hardly wait to take his course at SES. When I take this course I will be bringing in many of the things that I will learn into the DDRs). Jesus Christ really is the only hope of life beyond the grave. He Himself said, “because I live you will live also.” Christ beat death and make it possible for you and me to beat death as well — and not only to beat death but to escape into an eternal glorious life with Him. It was Jesus Christ and Him alone that turned the ultimate tragedy into the ultimate triumph. Jesus Christ and Him alone makes it possible for anyone to have victory in death. All a person needs to do is place his faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the Cross to be guaranteed triumph in death as well.
The believer who lives in doctrine does not fear death. He knows that death is the means of escape into the very presence of Jesus Christ — into the greatest possible joy he will ever experience. The doctrinal believer KNOWS that Christ made the way as the first fruits and that he will be following Him. Note Paul, the consummate theologian, logician, and Christ-centered believer, as he cries out victory over death as it relates to Christ’s resurrection. Paul makes it crystal clear that it is Christ’s resurrection that guarantees our resurrection and final victory over physical death,
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep
1 Corinthians 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, (1Co 15:23 NAS)
1 Corinthians 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Paul here gives us four aspects of the resurrection: the great transformation, the great triumphant, the great thanksgiving, and the great “therefore.” First there is the great transformation in verse fifty-four. Paul tells us here that we are going to be changed from our earthly corrupt state (i.e. sickness, disease, decay, deterioration through time, less hair, more aches and pain, et. al). Physically we are in the process of dying; in reality we live a dying life. We just keep on decaying until the clock runs out on our bodies and then they die. Paul looks at this corrupt state and in effect says ‘that’s O.K. because there is going to be a transformation that is going to take its place where you are going to become incorruptible . . . no more decay . . . no more dying. You are going to become immortal.’ Death shall be no more (cf. Rev 21:4, no more, pain, sickness, or death). God is going to take the corrupt you and reverse it and make you something you never were solely because you are in Christ. What a day that will be WHEN this perishable/corruption will have put on the imperishable/incorruption. This will happen WHEN you are resurrected at the Rapture.
The passage above tells us that death will still have a bit of sting to it until the day of resurrection. But there will come a day when the sting will be removed and death will die. You, that is your body, may die before the Rapture but death will not be able to hold it. It will be resurrected at the Rapture. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes back He is going to rip the shackles off of that old body and raise it to a new liberated glorified body. The salvation that Christ offers is not only for the soul but also for the body as well. Paul tells us that death is the last enemy to be destroyed and we wait for that day. The full statement of death being swallowed up in victory will be fulfilled at the Rapture. We can anticipate it through orientation to Bible doctrine. Note Paul’s anticipation, note his confidence, note his complete assurance, not his anticipation of victory. When Paul applies doctrine he projects himself into the future blessings that await him through those doctrines,
1 Corinthians 15:55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin [sin is what brings death], and the power of sin is the law [law reveals sin]; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Notice in the passage we have three enemies that want to slay us: the law, sin, and death. The law says you break me and you die. Sin says you commit me and you die. Death says you die! Because of our identification with Christ sin and the law have been taken care of by Christ, cf. Gal 3:13; Romans 6:14; 7:1-5. The last enemy Paul mentions here is death and Christ will someday take care of it as well. Christ is the only source of victory with reference to those three enemies: the death of Christ satisfied the law’s claims (Gal 3:13); it was the death of Christ that took care of the penalty of sin by paying for its price ; and Christ took care of death by dying – by going into the grave and coming out the other side in a resurrected body.
Note the power of Paul’s attitude due to orientation to Bible doctrine. Note his sense of present victory about a future event in anticipation of that event. Through doctrine Paul was able to enjoy now what would be his in the future. These doctrines had an enormous impact on Paul during his earthly life. Note the enormous capacity of Paul in his thanksgiving in verse 57, thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul knew where the source of his victory was only because he was oriented to Bible doctrine. He lived in the grand doctrinal realities of His awesome Lord and His matchless plan. He no longer feared death because he KNEW that Christ had conquered death. What is death for the Christian but a going to be with Christ? This we know with confidence only through Bible doctrine under the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. We are all headed for glory. We are all headed for a glorified body. All because of His grace — period! Note how practical these doctrines are. The Bible is not a collection of “Sweet Bye and Byes;” in fact it has a great deal of “Nasty Now and Nows.” All of the doctrines of the Bible are designed to orient us to Truth – e.g. Bible doctrine! God gives us the doctrines and then says in effect: now what are you going to do with them? Apply them and live confidently, victoriously, with certainty, or cast them aside and live in your own subjectivity, fear, and uncertainty? Note the very practical effect of doctrine not only in thanksgiving to God (57), but in our everyday lives,
1Corinthians 15:58, Therefore [based on these doctrines], my beloved brethren, be steadfast [you do not lose sight of your purpose], immovable [you do not get distracted or let the world push you around or out of the Plan of God], always abounding in the work of the Lord [doing way more than you could ever do on mere human power], knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord [not a second of anything you do in fellowship for the Lord is ever wasted].
Without orientation to Bible doctrine through the ministry of the Holy Spirit the above cannot be said of any believer. The believer who does not live in fellowship with God enlightened by Bible doctrine does not live with a sense of seriousness about these doctrines. The carnal doctrineless Christian lives as if Christ is never going to come — or much else in these doctrines really matter; thus, these Christians are anything but steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord and most of whatever they do is in vain and will be burned as wood, hay, and straw at the Bema Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5). We will all stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and be evaluated and that evaluation will be inextricably connected to the Bible doctrines He has given us in His Word. Let’s continue advancing in the intake and application of these truths increasingly become more steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord, 1 Cor 15:58. May there be more “therefores” in our lives.