RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
4-19-73 12:00 noon
We follow the theme of the week, "The Great Doctrines of the Faith": Monday, The Reality of God; Tuesday, The Incarnation of Christ, the Word; yesterday, The Remission of Sins, the atonement for our souls; tomorrow, The Triumphant, Glorious Second Coming of Our Lord; and today, His Victorious Resurrection. The reading of the Scripture is in the resurrection chapter, the fifteenth of 1 Corinthians:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die – all – even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
[1 Corinthians 15:19-22]
That’s why a child is saved. All of us have that sentence of death, we are born into it because of the fall of our federal head, Adam [Genesis 3:1-6]. But Christ, the second Adam, saves us all, and when a little child dies the child is saved [1 Corinthians 15:22]. Well, why are any of us lost then? Because we personally sin, and we must repent of our sins, and we must ask God to forgive our sins, and we must trust Jesus for our sins [Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9-10]. If a man dies in unforgiven sins, he’s lost. But he is not lost because of Adam’s sin, original sin, the sin of depravity in which all of us are conceived; but we are judged and we die for our sins [Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23].
As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive –
all of us –
But every one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming,
Then the end comes, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and authority and power.
For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.
And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
[1 Corinthians 15:22-26]
Our last enemy, death.
You know, it is a marvelous thing to see what the genius of man has been able to achieve. Victory over the elements: we irrigate deserts, we air condition vast blocks and buildings, acres of them. We have conquered disease. Such an awesome thing as pneumonia; when I was a boy and a youth pastor, a teenager, beginning my ministry, if anyone had pneumonia, for the most part, I prepared for a funeral service. Polio – oh, the devastating waste of that awesome disease! Most of these are conquered. When a man dies, now, for the most part, he’ll die of his heart wearing out, or his arteries getting hard. But there is one enemy, the last enemy, death [1 Corinthians 15:26]. There has been no approach to a victory by the genius of man over death, he reigns now as universal king. The ninetieth Psalm said, "We spend our lives as a tale that is told" [Psalm 90:9]; that is, you know the end from the beginning. I know the end of every life. It is all the same, all alike: the rich and the poor, the king and the peasant, the beggar, the prince, I know exactly how all of it shall end. You do too.
The procession of death constantly passes before us. When I was in Baylor, our illustrious president, Samuel Palmer Brooks, died. I stood at the head of the casket in the newly completed Waco Hall, and because of my own choice I stood there all day long. I so admired that great laymen for Christ and all day long I watched that procession pass by, in honor and memory of the great president. I’ve been watching that procession ever since; that was forty-two years ago. I’ve never seen it abate or wane, looking at the procession in the presence of death.
First, the white horseman in his vigor with his bow; then the red horseman with his sword to slay; then the black horseman with his balances; and finally the pale horseman with his scythe [Revelation 6:2-8]. In Chicago Gallery, the Art Gallery of Chicago, I saw a picture one time; it was a race track, and there was one horse and a rider who was furiously making the round; he was the pale horseman with his hood, and his skeletal face, and a scythe in his hand. He always wins; he has no competitor. The picture was entitled "The Race of Death." There’s nobody with him, there’s nobody to compete; he’s alone; he always wins. A man could say, "But I’m going to climb over these mountains and escape," or, "I’m going to build me a high wall and protect myself; I’m going to flee and he never touch me." No, he always wins – Climb the highest mountain, scale the highest wall, reach to the farthest ends of the earth – the procession of death.
The great monuments of the earth are for the most part reared, and they exhibit man’s inability to do other than just to memorialize the dead. There’s not a schoolboy but that knows the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The pyramids, what are they? They are tombs of the dead. Another great Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. What is a mausoleum? The king’s name was Mausolus; he was the king, the sovereign of the country of Caria and when he died, his wife built that glorious mausoleum for the burial of her husband. When you go around the world and look at it, there those monuments are. The great churches in Rome are supposed to be built over gravesites; St. Peter’s over the grave of Peter; St. Paul over the grave of Paul. Hadrian’s Tomb, in memory and honor of the great Roman Caesar; the Appian way, tombs of those ancient Romans; the Taj Mahal in India, built by Shah Jahan in memory of a wife that he loved – the most beautiful building, I think, in the world – somebody has called it "a teardrop of love"; the tombs of the emperors in Nara, Japan, those great monuments to the dead. If you have ever been to Paris, you could not help but be guided to the Church of the Unbelieved where Napoleon is buried. You’d never visit England without looking at Westminster Abbey, where the great of England are buried. These tombs and tombs, and monuments and monuments, they cover the face of the earth.
But there was one tomb that I visited that was empty. My first visit to Jerusalem was in 1950. I was with Dr. McCall, the executive secretary of our Southern Baptist Convention, and we were making a trip around the world. And against the protocol, we crossed over from Israel into the Jordanian sector, the Arab sector. And we told our Arab guide that Sunday morning, "Would you come for us at five o’clock and take us to the Garden Tomb?" And in that tomb – there were no visitors in those days, so soon after the war. No matter where you walked you walked under a gun sight, looking right into a gun barrel. In those days, there being few visitors, we had the entire garden to ourselves. One of us sat at the head and the other sat at the foot, and we read in our Greek New Testaments the twenty-eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, "He is not here; He is risen [Matthew 28:6]. He goes before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him" [Matthew 28:7], the empty tomb.
And that empty tomb has an incomparable, immeasurable, illimitable, indescribable, meaningful victory for us. It turned their joy, their sorrow into joy [Matthew 28:8]; it turned their defeat into victory; and it brought to us the infinite promise of God, that in our day and in our time we also shall know what it is to be raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. I can hardly conceive of that wonder, that marvel. In all of my reading I have never read anything that astonished me more than this passage out of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He said, "If I had my choice of living to the rapture and being translated, transformed, immortalized in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sounding of a trump [1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], if I had my choice of living to the rapture or dying and being raised from the dead, I would choose to die; in order that," said the great Spurgeon, "I might experience what my Lord experienced when the power of the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead" [Romans 1:4]. I don’t know why, somehow I never had thought of that, nor had I ever heard of that, nor had I ever read such a thing. You know to look forward to the rapture, to go without dying, what an incomparable victory! Yet that great preacher said, "I’d rather die, that I might have the experience of the resurrection from the dead."
Look at it, as the apostle writes it here in the passage I just read. If I just change – now I’m not saying that I’m correct in this, I’m just pointing out to you that if I can change just a little of the punctuation – which of course is from the editor – if I can just change a little of the punctuation, I want you to look what Paul has written:
We are all in Christ, going to be made alive, all of us.
We all are going to die, that is right; if the Lord tarries His coming, we all shall die.
But in Christ, we shall all be raised, all of us, all of us.
[1 Corinthians 15:22]
Then he says, "But every one of us in his own tagma" [1 Corinthians 15:23]. That’s an interesting word, "But each one of us in his own tagma." The word tagma means "series," or "procession," or "troop movement," or "order." The imagery of the word tagma is the procession of an army passing by, and they pass by in troops, in groups, in series. They don’t pass by in one big gob; the imagery of the word is, "they pass by in orders, in ranks." And you can translate that word tagma in any one of those words: order, rank, series, troop, procession. So, Paul says, "All of us are going to be made alive in Christ, we are going to be raised from the dead; but each one of us in his own tagma" [1 Corinthians 15:22-23], in the series to which he belongs, we belong, you belong.
Then he names them, "First, Christ," He was the first one. The first one to be immortalized from the dead, raised from the dead, is our Lord. "First, Christ. Second, the firstfruits" [1 Corinthians 15:23], that is the little band that was raised after His resurrection in Jerusalem. And they appeared to many in Jerusalem, that little band of saints who were raised after Christ’s resurrection [Matthew 27:52-53], an earnest, a harbinger of the great fullness of the harvest that was yet to come. You see that word, "firstfruits," is following a typology in the Old Testament: for the Passover [Exodus 12:1-28, 43-; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1-8], was followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Exodus 12:15-20, 13:3-10; Leviticus 23:6-8; Numbers 28:17-25; Deuteronomy 16:3-8], and on the day after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, the priest was to take a sheaf, the firstfruits – a sheaf – and wave it before the Lord [Leviticus 23:10-11]. It was a harbinger, a promise, an earnest of the harvest that was yet to come. So the firstfruits, Christ first, second the firstfruits; the little band that was raised from the dead when Christ was raised; third, "they that are Christ’s at His coming" [1 Corinthians 15:23], that is when the dead in Christ shall rise, when all of the saints of the ages past shall hear the voice of the archangel, shall be awakened by the trumpet of the Lord, and shall be raised at the coming of Christ [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. And fourth, "then the end ones," that troop refers to those who shall be raised, who have been killed, slain, martyred in the days of the tribulation [Revelation 7:14]. "The end ones," when Christ comes, the dead are raised and the living are raptured [1 Corinthians 15:24, 51-57].
Somebody came to me at the first of this week and said, "What happens to those people who are converted in the days of the terrible tribulation?" Why, they also shall have a resurrection; God will not forget those who have laid down their lives as they die under the awful onslaughts of the beast. And those who do not have his mark can’t buy, can’t sell, can’t live – they are martyred by the uncounted thousands – what of them? [Revelation 13:15-17]. God does not forget them; they are the "end ones" [1 Corinthians 15:24]. They shall have their resurrection when the Lord comes openly and visibly, when He intervenes in human history; that will be their resurrection [1 Corinthians 15:24, 51-57]. Each one in his order, his tagma, his troop: Christ first; that little group around Christ – raised after His resurrection – the firstfruits; the sheaf, the earnest of the harvest yet to come; then they that are Christ’s at His coming, and that will include all of us if He delays beyond the hour of our death, that will be our troop when we are raised to meet the Lord in the air; and finally, "the end ones," those that shall be raised at the end of the tribulation [1 Corinthians 15:22-24]. Then He shall deliver up the kingdom to God the Father [1 Corinthians 15:24], and that last enemy, death, shall be destroyed forever [1 Corinthians 15:26]. And death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire [Revelation 20:14]; and God’s children, His own redeemed, shall rejoice in His presence, world without end, age upon age, an eternity in which to love and serve God. Ah! Blessed be the name of the Lord, who hath wrought for us such incomparable victory.
And our Lord, in that sweet persuasion that Christ will do all that He has promised, even above all that we ask or think [Ephesians 3:20], may we live our lives in daily victory and endless rejoicing, in His dear name, amen.
RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
I. Death the end of every trail
A. Man has conquered his enemies – except death(Psalm 90:9)
B. Procession of death constantly passes before us
1. Samuel Palmer Brooks
2. The four horsemen of Revelation (Revelation 6:2-8)
3. Chicago Art Gallery picture "The Race of Death"
C. Through the centuries, the world’s greatest monuments are to death
1. One tomb I have visited that was empty – Garden Tomb(Matthew 28:5-7)
2. That empty tomb has incomparable victory for us
II. The meaning and message of that resurrection morning
A. Turned their sorrow into joy
1. Spurgeon – rather die in order that he experience of resurrection from the dead
B. Destroyed death forever
1. Because He lives, we shall live also (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)
2. We will be raised in the series to which we belong
a. First, Christ
b. Second, the firstfruits(Matthew 27:52-53)
c. Third, they that are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:23)
d. Fourth, the end ones (Revelation 6:9)