Then the End Comes (I Corinthians 15:22-26)
Topic: The Mission: Until I Come Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:22–15:26
Then Comes the End
I Corinthians 15:22-26
(One Mission: Until He Comes)
August 6th, 2017
I. What Do You Believe About “The End”?
Okay, I don't think this will be a hard question for you, but I'm going to ask it anyway. Ready? “How much time did you spend last week thinking about the end of the universe?” And by “end” I mean the 'grande finale'. Listen to a blurb from the BBC about this very topic:
Don't panic, but our planet is doomed. It's just going to take a while. Roughly 6 billion years from now, the Earth will probably be vaporized when the dying Sun expands into a red giant and engulfs our planet. But the Earth is just one planet in the solar system, the Sun is just one of hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxy, and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. What's in store for all of that? How does the universe end? Science has outlined four ways that our universe could meet its doom. They're called the Big Freeze, the Big Crunch, the Big Change and the Big Rip.
Now, I would argue we also can't forget the 'big assumption'. Did you notice the big assumption behind these projections? Along with other smaller assumptions, the 'big assumption' is that there is not something bigger than and over the universe, something or someone who might just intervene before the sun expands or the universe implodes.
Of course, that point specifically could not even be answered by science. But there are other ways of knowing. One of those ways is what we call revelation. When the Creator of the universe speaks, that's revelation. He reveals himself to us.
And as Christians, we believe the Creator God has spoken in times past, and continues to speak to us today through these writings we call the Bible. Let's open our Bibles to our main passage, to I Corinthians 15:22-26, and see what the universe's Creator says about it's end.
II. The Passage: "At His Coming" (15:22-26)
Listen to what the Apostle Paul, writing around 53 or 54AD, tells the followers of Jesus in the Greek city of Corinth about the end of the universe.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every 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. (I Corinthians 15:22-26)
Now, even though I only read five verses, there is so much packed into every one of Paul's statements here. This is like a really dense chocolate cake...of truth.
So in order to not get overwhelmed, let's do this. Since we're looking at five verses this morning, let me try to summarize each of these verse and give you five truths about “the end”. Sound good? Okay, here they are. Looking back at verse 22 we learn that...
1. In Spite of My Fleshly Father, My Heavenly Brother Will Raise Me Up (v. 22)
One of the most helpful things we could know when it comes to studying this passage is something about the context of Paul's words. All of I Corinthians 15 is about one main subject: the resurrection of the dead. Apparently, there were some knuckle-heads in this church who were denying that in “the end” God would raise the dead back to life. It's a concept that the OT touches on, and Jesus talked about explicitly.
But in verse 22, Paul goes all the way back to Adam to prove that point. Because of Adam, our first father, we die both spiritually and physically. But Jesus is a second 'Adam'. He is the first 'new' human. So because of him, because He alone brings us back to the Father and makes us children of God, we can live both spiritually and physically...forever.
Now, to be clear, this verse is not teaching that just as every single person dies, so too, will every single person be raised to fullness of life with God. Notice that small, repeated preposition: “in”. All of us are born “in Adam”. He is our fleshly father. But not everyone is “in Christ”. We can be, but not everyone is. We'll talk more about that coming up.
But look at how the next verse builds on this. In verse 23 we learn that...
2. Assurance of His Resurrection Reassures Me of Mine (v. 23)
Look at verse 23 again. Paul reminds them: But each in his own order [that is, each is raised in his own order]: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Now, if you look back at verse 20 of this chapter, we find where Paul first uses this terms “firstfruits”. He declares, But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Notice what Paul is emphasizing here. He is disproving the misguided idea that there will be no resurrection in the future by pointing to THE most important resurrection of the past. The very fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, that his once rotting body was actually raised, is our greatest source of confidence that we too can be and will be raised in “the end”.
Our hope beyond death, our hope of eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth, that hope is firmly founded on the historical reality of Jesus' resurrection. Like the first basket full of produce from a soon-to-be harvest field, Jesus' victory gives us a taste of what can be ours. But Paul continues in verse 24. There we learn that...
3. The Human King Will Finally Bring Everything Back to the Heavenly King (v. 24)
Listen one more time to what Paul tells us about the risen Jesus. Look at v. 24 again...
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
Notice how Paul is giving a simply summary about the sequence of these key events at the end of the universe: Jesus has already been raised. This will be followed by (v. 23) His “coming”. Then just as God raised Jesus (He literally brought Him back from the dead), He will also raise our bodies to life. And after that, as we see in verse 24, we discover “then comes the end”.
But look at how Paul described the climax of all things. “The end” is when Jesus “delivers the kingdom to God the Father”. Now clearly this verse raises a couple of key questions. What kingdom does Paul have in mind here? And why does Jesus deliver this kingdom of God (isn't Jesus the “King of kings” according to the book of the Revelation?)?
Well, some other verses can help us out here. Remember what Jesus said about his authority...And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18) But earlier in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus explained, All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)
And picking up the main theme of I Corinthians 15, Paul told the Ephesians this about Jesus:
[God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:20, 21)
So clearly as One who has been invested with all authority, One exalted to the highest position in all creation, Jesus Christ has a kingdom. But maybe a famous Christmas passage can help us fill out this idea. Listen to the familiar words of Luke 1:30-33...
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Now at first, this seems to contradict what Paul told us in I Corinthians 15:24. Doesn't the angel reveal that, “of his kingdom there will be no end”? So which is it? Does Jesus have an everlasting kingdom, or in the end, does He deliver it over to God? Well...the answer is “yes”. Both of those things are true.
Remember what Luke's account told us about Jesus. He is “Son of the Most High”. But at the same time, God will give “him the throne of his father David”. So Jesus is the Son of God, and the son of David. Now remember, the OT teaches us that the son of David, the Messiah, would be the king over all nations, the greatest human king. But at the same time, the only reason there was a king over Israel was because, according to I Samuel 8:7, the people had rejected God as their king.
So what was and is the Messiah's ultimate mission? To use authority to bring every inch of creation back under the authority of God. The human king will finally bring everything back to the heavenly king! But Jesus is both fully human and fully God. And so, as God the Son, He will reign with God the Father as God. That's why Paul says what he says in verse 28...
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:28)
But look at how Paul expands on this in the next verse. In verse 25 we learn that...
4. Our 'Now' is About the Extension of His Kingdom (v. 25)
Look again at what Paul goes on to tell us about Christ's kingdom in verse 25...For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
Now we heard about some of those enemies in verse 24. Remember what it said? It said Jesus will deliver the kingdom to his Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. What does that mean? It means that every rival human system and every rival spiritual system, every human rebel and every spiritual rebel, will be brought down because by the “King of kings”.
This was God's promise to the Messiah from the OT in Psalm 110:1 (the most quoted OT verse in the NT): The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Jesus Christ already has the victory. When He sufferd and died on the cross, and then burst from the grave on the third day, His victory was secure. His kingdom was secure above every other other rule and authority and power. But in His grace, God has delayed the full implementation of that victory. Why? Because we are/were counted as enemies of God.
So what will happen in “the end” should bring clarity to what is happening right now. Our 'now' is like an open door, an invitation to peace with God. Jesus reigns. He is Lord of all. And He is currently extending his kingdom. In face, for the last 2000 years, He has been turning rebel hearts from sin and self, and bringing them into His kingdom. And that will take place until “the end”, until He fully implements his reign as King.
But wait, there's one more verse, verse 26. We see in that final verse that...
5. The King Will Make Sure My End is Not The End (v. 26)
Now at first, it may seem like all this talk about conquest and the kingdom is a 'rabbit trail' from the main topic of this chapter. Do you remember the main point of I Corinthians 15? Yes, it's all about the reality of future resurrection. But listen again to verse 26. Listen to how it ties all of this together. Paul declares, The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Do you hear what Paul is saying? He is saying, “How can you believe there is no future resurrection? If Jesus is Lord, then even death will fully and finally be destroyed.”
Think about that. Think about how death, without exception (save one), has ravaged our planet and our lives. All of us have lost loved ones. Our planet lives under the shadow of death. We are so often driven by the fear of death. But Paul reminds us about the Good News. The kindgom of Jesus has defeated and will fully vanquish the domain of death.
This is why Paul closes the chapter with these words (speaking of that future resurrection):
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:54, 55)
So when it comes to your death, if your hope is fully in Jesus, who He is and what He's done, then you can be sure that your end will not be the end.
III. Do You “Belong”?
At the outset of our study this morning, I asked you a question. Do you remember what it was? I asked, “How much time did you spend last week thinking about the end of the universe?” I'm guessing for most of us, the answer is zero--zero hours, minutes, and seconds.
But if the speculations of science are our only reference point, then there is no urgency, there is no relevance when it comes your life. Six billion years? Who cares?
But, if “the end of the universe” is about the return of Jesus, and God's gift of resurrection, and the full implementation of Christ's conquest and His kindgom...over every single one of His enemies...then how could “the end” not be relevant to you? How could you not feel a sense of urgency?
As I said a minute ago, what will happen in “the end” should bring clarity to what is happening right now. And what is happening right now is that God is inviting you to lay down your arms and surrender. God is merciful and gracious. He invites people like us, who try to sit on the throne of our lives, who try to 'play god', over our little me-centered universe...He invites people like us to enjoy His victory. He offers us pardon. He offers us peace.
Through Jesus, God offers you new life now, and beyond death's door, resurrection life...forever. How can you have the assurance of these things? You simply need to belong to Jesus Christ through faith. Remember what verse 24 said? Those who will know resurrection life in God's presence are those who belong to Christ.
All of us long to belong, don't we? The message of Jesus is that that longing will only fully be satisfied when we belong to God through Jesus. And to do that, we are called to turn and trust: to remorsefully turn from a me-centered orientation and trust that Jesus is Lord, and that He did everything we needed Him to do, to pay the debt for our sins and to bring us to God.
For some of us this is an encouragement and a reminder of what is ours. For others here this morning, this is an announcement of what could be yours. Either way, I believe God has shown us this morning that one of the best things in the whole universe is taking time to think about it's end..and yours.
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