Farmville Enterprise April 24, 2019
“For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15: 16-26)
The apostle Paul wrote this as many of the people in Corinth were denying completely the concept of anyone’s bodily resurrection, not just that of Jesus. Some of the Jewish leaders, the Sadducees, taught that life after death did not exist. Paul realized how crucial it was to correct these false notions and spelled out for the Corinthians the centrality of Christ’s resurrection in the divine plan for us to gain access to and forgiveness from God. Without it, there would be no hope and no redemption. Without the resurrection, death would have the final word.
Paul’s message from 1 Corinthians 15 was so compelling that Charles Jennens used portions of it for Part Three of the text of George Frideric Handel’s renowned oratorio “Messiah,” which is entitled, “A Hymn of thanksgiving for the final overthrow of death.”
“’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57)
These words allude to several Old Testament passages. “He [The Lord Almighty] will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8) “’I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?’” (Hosea 13:14)
Our Easter celebration is supremely joyful because God is victorious over death. In Charles Wesley’s triumphant and majestic hymn “Christ the Lord is risen today” we sing, “Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia! Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia! Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia! Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!”