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WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? - 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? - 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

By Ted Schroder,
www.tedschroder.com
April 30, 2017

St. Paul has been arguing that the main thing about the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead. He cites as evidence that Christ appeared to hundreds of his followers after his resurrection. He notes that some people do not believe in a resurrection from the dead for anyone let alone Christ. If this were so then it would nullify the Christian faith and would leave no hope for those who had died in Christ. But, and it is an emphatic 'but' that contradicts those who would deny the resurrection, he goes on to say, Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, and there are consequences to that fact of history. Christ is fulfilling God's future purpose of salvation. His resurrection inaugurates a sequence of events in history.

There is more for Christ to do that has consequences for each one of us and the whole of creation. Christ is described as the "first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." The first fruits were the first sheaf of the harvest which was brought to the temple and offered to God. The first fruits were a sign of the harvest to come. What was true for Christ would be true for those who follow him. Jesus is the forerunner of all those who have died in Christ and will die in the future. His resurrection is the pledge, guarantee and proof of the resurrection of all who die in the faith of Christ. Just as death came to all the human race through Adam, so the resurrection from the dead come to all who are in Christ. All human beings face the reality of death in their lives and those of their loved ones, both physical mortality and spiritual deadness. The problem of all humanity is that we live in a state of separation from God, for the wages of sin is death. But through faith in the risen Christ we are born again into a life which knows no enduring death but instead eternal life. "In Christ all will be made alive."We are given the abundant life that Christ brings to all who are in him.

Paul goes on to lay out a future scenario for each one of us. First of all, Christ was raised as a forerunner of all those who belong to him. We will be raised when he comes again. He comes for each one of us. "I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3). "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Thess.4:16).

"Then the end will come." The "end" (Gk. telos) is the consummation of all things, the climax of salvation, to which everything is destined to lead up. Christ will hand over his kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all other claims to power. He will reign and all those who oppose him will be defeated. All forces of evil will surrender to his authority

Who are these enemies whose powers and authorities he will destroy? Revelation 6 describes them as the four deadly horsemen of war, crime, famine and plague. They represent all that opposes the life of Christ. Jesus warned us that there would be wars and rumors of wars and we see civil and military conflict afflicting so many parts of the world from Syria to Somalia. The devil makes men slay one another in gang warfare, violence, anger and vendettas. When natural calamities occur on top of social unrest there is hunger and malnutrition. Political systems can cause markets to collapse and scarcity of food. Plagues, diseases, cancers, drug dependency and viruses can attack the vulnerable and ignorant. When one disease is conquered another arises to take its place. During the fourteenth century bubonic plague wiped out a third of Europe's population in a decade. Ten million were slaughtered in World War I. Between 1918 and 1920 the influenza virus killed 50 to 100 million people.

These are outward enemies of which we can be victims. What about our inward enemies which originate in ourselves? Jesus said, "For from within, out of men's hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly" (Mark 7:21-22).

St. Paul is telling us that all this will one day come to an end. All these will be destroyed. Their power to afflict God's people will be finally be taken away. "For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death." "Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14). . "Death will be robbed of all its power. At present no man can resist the touch of death. Then death will be able to touch no man." (Leon Morris)

God the Father has given to the Son unlimited sovereignty over all creation. Christ has died for all people, and he has risen from the dead. He will return again and subdue all the enemies of God. The climax of his work will come when he offers up the kingdom to the Father who is the source of all things.

Christ became man so that he might accomplish this work of salvation. He took upon himself the role of a servant Savior so that God may be all in all. That is, that God may have the complete supremacy in all of creation: celestial and terrestrial, visible and invisible, temporal and eternal, physical and spiritual. In that way the order of universe will be restored and renewed. "All things will be brought back to God." (Calvin) All people will acknowledge the sovereignty of God. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen." (Romans 11:36) God will be all in all: "I shall be their satisfaction, I shall be all that men honorably desire -- life, health, and nourishment, and plenty, and glory, and honor, and peace, and all good things.... He shall be the end of our desires who shall be seen without end, loved without cloy, praised without weariness. This outgoing of affection, this employment, shall certainly be, like eternal life itself, common to all." (St. Augustine, The City of God)

"The Son has been entrusted with a mission on behalf of his Father, whose sovereignty has been challenged and at least to some extent usurped by rebellious powers. It is for him to reclaim this sovereignty by overcoming the powers, overthrowing his enemies, and recovering the submission of creation as a whole. This mission he will in due course execute, death being the last adversary to hold out, and when it is completed he will hand the government of the universe back to his Father." (C.K. Barrett)

What view do you have of the future? How does it compare with this scenario? Who are the enemies of your soul? What takes away your peace and tranquility as you worry about tomorrow? Is it fear of failure, poverty, disease, insecurity, grief at the loss of loved ones, loneliness, helplessness, or abandonment? All our enemies will have their power over us destroyed. We have been delivered, saved from their influence by what Christ has done for us. Everything has been put under the feet of Christ. He reigns over all. As Corrie ten Boom used to say, "Jesus is Victor."

How can we live into this reality? We cannot in our own strength but God has given us his Spirit to live in us. "Once the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead lives within you he will, by that same Spirit, bring your whole being new strength and vitality' (Rom. 8:11, JBP). "If the Spirit of God, who raised up Jesus from the dead, lives in you, he will make your dying bodies live again after you die, by means of this same Holy Spirit living within you" (Rom.8:11, LB). Pray to be filled with the Spirit. Pray that, in your life, God may be all in all, that you will find in him all true happiness, all true goodness, all true wholeness, all true peace.

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