Dr. Ed Young - The Death of Death
I looked today at Easter in a new way because I've come to a realization that I am terminally ill. But you also are terminally ill, everybody here. We just don't know how long the term will be. In light of that, Easter has new meaning for you, and for me, and for our loved ones whose gone on before us. And we wonder where are they? What is going on? Are they yet still alive, and what does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with it? And we come here on this Easter morning, and we know that all over the world, millions and millions of people are gathering for worship, and the worship leader stands up, and says "Christ is risen," and that is a response of faith. The leader responds with a word of faith, the worshiping congregation responds with an affirmation of faith.
And so, we are come here today to do exactly that on this Easter, and therefore, it has new significance. So, as we are looking at the Scripture of truth, I hope we'll continue to respond in that same way. When I make my profession, you respond, "Christ has risen, amen". We're going to look at what I believe, without a lot of argument, is the greatest chapter in the Bible. Think about it, of all the truth of God in this book, is there one chapter that seems to be above all others? Someone might debate Romans 8, someone might look at a Psalm, someone might think theologically of Genesis and other passages, but far as I'm concerned, 1 Corinthians chapter 15 is the greatest word of truth.
And let me tell you what that chapter is all about. It's Christ is risen. That's the whole theme of the chapter. Let's look at it, and we're gonna look at it carefully, because everybody needs to have the knowledge of this chapter and the understanding of this chapter in the repertoire of your life. So, when death comes to you, or death comes to a loved one, we can turn here and we can get divine sense out of what we perceive as the nonsense of death. So, look at it, it begins with the gospel.
Paul says, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel, that's good news which I preached to you, which you received and for which also you stand, by which also you are saved if you hold fast the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance". What is the most important thing? Here it is, this is first importance. He said, "I gave you this truth. Christ died on the cross for your sin. He was buried, he rose again on the third day". He said, "By this truth, you receive this truth, you received Christ, by this truth you stand, and by this truth you know your eternal destiny," it's all wrapped up here in the gospel, right in the beginning.
The whole theme of 1 Corinthians 15 is Christ is risen, and then Paul follows up so logically. He's a great apologist. He follows up, and people asked, "Well, you know, how do you know? How do you know this Jesus of Nazareth, buried did indeed rise from the dead? How do you know that"? And Paul then begins a little sample of the evidence that we have. That's the following verses. He talks about those who gave witness, who had firsthand experience. They knew he was crucified, that he died, and they saw then he was alive. And he goes on to say once over 500 people were present, who affirm the truth, that he was dead and now he indeed lives again.
And this is just a little sample, ladies and gentlemen, of the validity of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You look, there is empirical evidence, there is biblical evidence, there is extra biblical evidence, there is circumstantial evidence, there's a testimony of family and friends, and the testimony of enemies that verify this truth. So, I'll tell you something, there is no other historical fact in all of antiquity that has been challenged more than the validity of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. And there has been no historical fact that has stood strong, and clean, and accurate as the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You see, Christ is risen and there is plenty of evidence to that truth, and this is what Paul alludes to. And then, as there would be today, not only the church at Corinth, it was a Roman community there at Corinth, and they had many doubts, many questions. They were steeped Aristotle, and Socrates, and Plato, and you Euripides, and they had a lot of questions. And then Paul goes on to say, "Well, what if this is not true? What if God did not raise Jesus? What does that mean"?
And he has seven big ifs. He said if Christ is not raised from the dead, all the Apostles are liars. If Christ is not raised from the dead, all this business about Christ in Church, and Christianity is silly, and foolishness, and then he goes on. If Christ was not raised from the dead, he goes on, and on, and on. If he were not dead, if he were not raised, on and on again, and let's just boil it down. Let's look at it and summarize it, so we can understand it. When someone dies, what happens after death? There's not a lot of choices we have out there. Not a lot of ideas about it. Some would say nothing. When you die, zip, nothing. And you hear at graves, "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust". That's not biblical, that's platonic. You go back to nothing. That's the view some people have.
Some say there's reincarnation. If you lived a good life, you'll come back as a great white shark. If you lived a bad life, you might be a roach and, you know, I don't know where this came from, some ancient Eastern mythology or legend, maybe somebody's mother-in-law died and some weeks later, they walk into the jungle and they saw an orangutan causing all this trouble, and they said, "Well, maybe she's come back". So, I don't know, but reincarnation. Others believe in absorption. In other words, when you die, it's like taking a drop of water and putting that drop, that's you, back into the lake, and it's absorbed into the water.
Others say, like the Hindus do, that when you die, you go and you become a kind of mist, and the intangible part of you, it goes back into the great holy other, whatever that means in the universe. That's beyond understanding, some kind of gnosticism, or mysticism, some believe that. Others believe we'll become ghosts. Oh, yeah, the Native American Indians says, "We saw the ghost going through the trees at night". That's the choices that we have. Nothing, reincarnation, we go back as a drop of ocean, we absorb, or we become ghosts. Ah, but Christ is risen from the dead, that changes the whole arena. And this is what Paul is saying here. He's saying but this is not true.
We have validity of it and all the ifs this did not happen are not true, because he begins in the 20th verse of 1 Corinthians 15. He just says very simply and plainly his thesis. "For we know Christ has been raised from the dead". Christ is risen. Then he tells us a little bit about it. He said you know who Christ is? He's the first fruits of those who are dead, those who are asleep. In other words, all of these were farmers. They had an agricultural background, and they knew when the harvest came in, there would be fruit that would come up first, the first plumb, the first corn would come. They would say when these firstfruits came into harvest, what did you know?
There's more fruit coming after it. And he's saying that Jesus Christ came back from the dead. He is the first, he is the prototype, he's leading out for all of us who die in Christ. We will be the fruit that follows him. He is leading the way. Jesus said in John 14, "If I live you shall live also". Whoa, what does this Easter mean to me? It means if we're in Christ, because Christ conquered the grave, we too will conquer the grave, he just led out in this victory. And then he talks about the first Adam and the second Adam. He said the first Adam, we all died, what happened?
Adam said I want to run my life. I want to be the Commander in Chief of my life. He died, he moved away from God. But the second Adam, and the last Adam is Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ. The first Adam ended up in death in the flesh, the second Adam, Jesus, ended up in life in the Spirit, and he says the second Adam has come. And then he does a very remarkable thing. In verse 23, he said, "For each in his own order, Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are in Christ coming, then comes the end. And when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power," and then he goes on and talks about there'll come a time in which Jesus will take all of us, those who've died before us, those who are alive, and the second coming of Christ, and he'll hand it all over to the Father.
He has the priorities set up in life, but some of us say, "You know, I'm going to run my own life". Maybe you have bumped into what they call an adult Dr. Zeus. It's a story of a caterpillar named Stripe. And Stripe, in this story, he sees a column, a pillar going up, and on that pillar are just hundreds and thousands of caterpillars, who all climbing to get to the top of the pillar. And they're just crawling over each other, pushing their way, and bullying, and they're going up, and Stripe the caterpillar comes, and says, "What is this all about"? They said, "We don't know, but everybody's tryin' to get to the top".
Stripe said, "I don't want to miss out on anything," so he he jumps in there, he starts climbing, he's strong, he's astute, he throws some down, he negotiates with others. He steps in the face of others, and Stripe begins to climb. A week, two weeks, three weeks, a year goes by until Stripe, with all of that ability, and passion, and strength, and intelligence, he gets right to the top. Until finally, he sees and looks at the top, and he says, "There's nothing up here". Somebody says, "Shh, don't tell anybody". And Stripe looks around at all over the world, there are these pillars that are going up, and there are caterpillars climbing to the top. He sees hundreds and hundreds of 'em, all over the world, and Stripe said, "This is kind of silly. You mean everybody is fighting to get the top, and here I am, finally at the top, and and there's nothing here".
And a voice says, "Oh, yes, there's something there. You are where everybody else wants to be". Stripe said, "But there's nothing". He said, "It doesn't matter, you are at the top where everybody else wants to be". Ladies and gentlemen, if you are scrambling to get to the top in whatever that may be for you, it may be economically, it may be in vocation, it may be socially, it may be in any area of life. Go and talk with those who have already reached what you think is a top. Ask them, "Boy, did you find meaning up here? Did you find purpose up here? Man, is your life really coming together? You have reached the top".
And if they're honest with you, they'll tell you it's not what is reported to be. I've reach the top, it was nothing to me. You see folks, God evaluates life and purpose. You and I have one life to live. Only what we've done for God in Christ will last. Everything else is wood, hay, and stubble. There's a story of the emperor the Holy Roman Empire, Carl, and he died. And Carl went to the door of heaven, and knocked on the door of heaven, and the voice said, "Who is out there"? He said, "It is Carl, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, King of Austria, King of X, King of Y, King of Z". The voice said, "We've never heard of you". And he goes back and waits a while, he knocks on the door again. They said, "Who is that"? He said, "It is Carl, the King of Austria, the King of the Holy Roman Empire". He said, "We've never heard of you".
Oh, he waits a long time, and he goes back to the door, and he knocks rather timidly, and the voice said, "Who is that"? He said, "It's Carl". "Carl, we've heard of you". And the door of heaven opens, and says, "Jesus wants to ask you why should I let you in my heaven"? Folks, we can have all the earthly ranks that you want, but God measures things with different dimensions. You see, Christ is risen, and then following this there are questions. If I handed out little cards to everybody here and said, "You know, on this Easter, ask some question about the resurrection," and I can guarantee you, most of the questions that we'd ask as a worshiping congregation are summed up and asked in the questions that Paul gives to us right here in our Scripture in seeking to proclaim this truth.
Look at verse 35, "But someone will say how are the dead raised, and with what kind of body do they come"? You know, we sit here, "Well, you're talkin' about the resurrection, a long time ago. Jesus died, he was crucified, and God raised him from the dead. We've got evidence that that is true, that is overwhelming evidence, and the Bible teaches us that because he lives, we too shall live if we're in Christ. But, you know, I've got some more questions. I don't understand how this resurrection works". That's exactly what they asked in Corinth. You know how Paul answered it? He says that you're fools. That's the dumbest, most foolish question I've ever heard. He said there is evidence of the resurrection everywhere you go.
Don't you know that you sow a seed, and it dies, and then it comes to life? He said there's no life without death preceding it. There has to be a death before there can be a life. We see that everywhere, ladies and gentlemen, everywhere we go. You plant a seed, the seed dies, and the seed comes to life. Whether it's watermelon, whether it's turnips, whatever it might be, everything, every tree, every bush we see in this world, death preceded it and it introduced that to life. So, he's saying you ask about the resurrection? So, have you ever heard of caterpillars? How do they become butterflies? There's death involved. So, he says evidence of the resurrection, it's not strange.
You see, every passion, desire you and I have, God has fulfilled it. We have a passion for food, guess what? Food's available, we have a passion for water, guess what? Water is available. Every drive and passion we have, there is an answer for that, and the Bible says God has put eternity in our hearts, and because it's there, we know the answer is found. Through death, there's always new life, and there's always resurrection. You say Christ is risen, and then the next question, "Well, what kind of bodies will we have"?
And Paul says there are all kinda bodies in this world. There's the flesh of fish, there's the flesh of humans, there's the flesh of birds, there's the flesh of animals. He said there are celestial bodies, the sun, the moon, the stars. There are terrestrial bodies we have in this life. He said all bodies are appropriate, and he said you don't bury something and expect that identical thing to come out. There is death and then there's a resurrection of a new body. And the prototype of that is the resurrected body of Jesus Christ.
And then he goes on to say something that's very profound. Death is not natural. You go to a secular psychotherapist, and your worried, and you're fearful about death, or you wanna know how to tell your children, so you just tell 'em it's natural. Everything that's born dies. Don't believe that lie. Death is not natural. Bus stop, man waiting for the bus he, gets on the bus. Nothing unusual about that, is it? Just a natural event. Bus stop, a giraffe gets on the bus.
Now that's not natural. The idea that death is natural is thrown out the window as we look at the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter. It is not natural. We have to understand something about what death is. By the way, you know the best preparation for death is prayer? Oh yeah, when we genuinely go to God in prayer, we shut out everything else. We say, "Lord, it's not what I want, not what I desire, I don't even know exactly how to pray in this situation. I'm leaving all up to you," and we get quiet, and we empty, and we just let him do the praying for us.
According to Romans 8, he knows how to pray. He goes over there where we are, and knows how to verse that prayer. You know why I have prayers? Do you know why our prayers are not answered? It's because it's our prayers, not his. And so, we see the beautiful promise of life after this life, tremendous truth. We celebrate Christ is risen, and then we go and look closely at death, closely at death. We have the idea that here we are, getting older, we're deteriorating, we're slowing, and I see people, "Oh, I'm not what I used to be, you know".
I just think that's the sickest kind of conversation you can have. I don't want to hear any of that. That is numskull kind of reiki, the idea I'm getting old and the body of death is about to catch up with me. That's not Christianity. Christianity says yes, this old, earthly body is slowing down, is deteriorating, but what is coming? There is that resurrection new body that's coming, and that new body is coming. It's going to kill this old body, because that new body will be our heavenly body. It'll be able to take care of the capacity and the environment of heaven.
What does Paul say? He said this perishable body, it becomes imperishable getting ready for heaven. This mortal body, that's gonna fade away, it becomes an immortal body. This body that is weak in this world, it becomes a body that is strong forever. This body that is limited in scope now has a body that has unlimited scope. That's our resurrection body. That is what we'll have in heaven. Listen, we have the idea when we die, we go down, it gets dark, and we go the door of heaven.
You know the door of heaven is light? And that light is so bright that we could not go into heaven with this old body, this fleshly body that we have. We would have to have a resurrection body and then we can go into the light. If we tried to enter with this old body, let me tell you, we'd be blinded. The light is too bright. We couldn't hear the glory and the music of heaven, we couldn't participate. So, we have, Paul says, this earthly body, but he said, we'll be given a resurrection body.
Now, the beauty of that, the best way to understand it is birth. You're in your mother's womb, comfortable, you have everything you want. You're attached, it's warm, it's cozy, you're there, you're at peace. You have no need. You're in your mother's womb, my goodness. And then, about nine months, something starts happening. There's some activity, and suddenly, you as a baby now in the womb of your mother, having trouble to breathe, and then there is this pressure on you that squeezes you, and takes you and pushes through that opening, and you are thrust into the light, and then they cut you off, that which attaches to your mother, and now you're on your own in the light when you've known only darkness, that's birth.
Death is the same way. We're in this life, we think we have this, we know this, we're experiencing this, and then darkness comes, and we go and say, "Oh, my goodness," but we step out of this life into a life that is beyond human explanation. Christ is risen and that's the promise we have on Easter. What do you think it's going to cost for you and me to get to heaven? What's it gonna cost? What do you think the price would be? It's already been paid in full. And this old, earthly body the Lord in Christ will give us our resurrected body that's prepared to live in heaven forever, and forever.
And, by the way, you know where we'll live? In a new heaven and a new earth. This old earth, the old heavens, the old ionosphere, the stratosphere will all be destroyed. There'll be a new being, and the only way we can live here is with our resurrected body, not our earthly body, our resurrected body. Well, I don't wanna play harps all day. You won't, you'll be growing, there will be freshness every morning. There'll be creativity every morning. There'll be a dynamic every morning. It will be out of this world. Christ is risen.