Online Text Sermon - The End of All Things, 1 Corinthians ch.15 vv.24-28
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The End of All Things|
|Text||1 Corinthians ch.15 vv.24-28|
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"Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15, 24-28).
1. What Is Meant By 'The End'
2. The Four Last Things To Happen
3. Christ's Work Before The End
The Apostle Paul, here in this famous chapter, deals with the subject of the resurrection. The resurrection, of course, is the word we use to describe what happens to the body when God brings it back from a state of death. The resurrection then, which the apostle speaks about here, is the resurrection of the body.
The chapter can be conveniently divided into two. In the first part of this chapter, the Apostle Paul speaks of the resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ our Lord. He does so because there had been some unbelieving teaching which had influenced these Corinthian Christians. Some teachers had entered in among them, who denied that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead. This, of course, is a very common heresy and one which is to be found extensively in the modern world. There are many divinity professors in our universities and seminaries in the world today - and in this country in particular - who teach theology and train young men for the ministry, but they don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They regard that as a myth. A myth, in a technical sense, is something which is good for faith but which has no basis in real history, believing, because it is good to believe, but we are not to accept it as being real history.
The Apostle Paul was familiar with that point of view and in the early part of this chapter he shows how dangerous it is by reasoning very carefully and logically, that if Jesus Christ has not been raised from the dead, then everything in the Christian faith collapses and is in vain. If Christ is not raised from the dead, then the preaching of the apostles was false, the Bible is false; we have no hope; we are still in our sins and those who have died in Christ have perished. That would be the logical outcome if Christ had not been raised from the dead. In other words, Paul is showing that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is all-important to our faith, hope and salvation.
In the second part of this chapter, he goes on to a related theme, namely the resurrection of Christians. He begins to do that at verse thirty-five, which is the point at which I stopped the reading. Therefore, the resurrection of believers is dependent upon the resurrection of Christ. We shall be raised because He was raised. He is the firstfruits of those who are now asleep in Him: that is to say dead Christians. At the end of the world a change will come. My concern today is not just with the resurrection but also with 'the end'. You see his reference to 'the end' in verse twenty-four at least. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" (text).
1. WHAT IS MEANT BY 'THE END'
The first point I wish to make, dear friends, is this: that as the people of God, we must keep in mind continually, the end. That's why the Apostle Paul brings this subject to our attention. We need ever to keep our mind upon the end. You see that that's mentioned right here in verse twenty-four. Let me read it to you once again, "Then cometh the end." I need to explain to you what is meant by 'the end'. There have been two views as to what the Apostle Paul refers to when he speaks here about 'the end'.
i) A FALSE VIEW OF 'THE END'
Many who belong to the Plymouth Brethren, many American fundamentalists, take this view of 'the end': they understand the Apostle Paul to be speaking here about the end of the resurrection. They do so because they have a remarkably different view of the resurrection from that which you and I are familiar with. They call themselves pre-millennians or pre-millennialists or pre-millenarians. The pre-millennial view is this: as the history of the world goes on, one day Jesus Christ will come and then all Christians will rise from the dead, not the unbelievers, just the Christians. Then they teach that Christ will reign and rule on earth for a thousand years. At the end of the thousand years there will be a second resurrection in which the wicked will be raised, then the Judgement and so forth. The pre-millennial idea about the resurrection is that there will be two stages to the resurrection. At the beginning there will be the resurrection of the righteous, then the thousand years of the millennium and then after that the resurrection of the wicked. When they refer to the end here in verse twenty-four, they have in mind the end of the resurrection. That is a false view and a wrong view.
They get the idea from the book of Revelation, chapter twenty, where John speaks about the first resurrection and the second resurrection. They interpret that in the way I have just explained, but they do so incorrectly. What John means in Revelation 20, when he speaks about the first and second resurrection is this: The first resurrection is the resurrection of the soul - that happens at conversion or the new birth. The second resurrection is the resurrection of the body at the end of the world. They make a mistake in dividing up the resurrection into two different parts.
ii) THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF 'THE END'
I now give you the second interpretation of the word 'the end', as we have it here in this verse twenty-four. By the word 'the end', the Apostle Paul means the end of time, the end of history: as we often say, the end of the world. Our concern here is with the end of the world, and the point that I bring to you my dear friends is, as Christians and as believers we must daily live in anticipation of the end of the world. It should be often in our thoughts and the reason for saying so is very clear. There are two tremendous blessings attached to thinking often about the end. The first blessing is that we do not become too caught up with the things of this present age. When people forget the end they get swallowed up in the present life and they think too much of the trivial things of this present life. However, when the things of today are seen in the light of the end then we see things in their proper and biblical proportions.
Another reason why we should remember the end is to remind ourselves that now in this life we should be working for Christ, because at the end when He comes He will bestow rich rewards on men and women; He will abundantly bless and abundantly reward all those who in this life at this time have served Him. It is as we remember the end of all things and the glory of His coming, that we shall be stirred up to be steadfast and unmovable and always abounding in His service. So I say, the apostle tells us that the Christian must always have in mind 'the end'.
2. THE FOUR LAST THINGS TO HAPPEN
I want to go on then from there, to say that at the end of the world, which is what he refers to, four great things will happen. The four last things will happen at the end of the world and these will be matters of titanic importance for the whole universe.
i) THE GENERAL RESURRECTION
The first thing that will happen will be what we call the general resurrection. At the end of the world, there will be one resurrection of the righteous and of the unrighteous. I am not going to start to prove that, but if you want a text, I'll give you a text for it to study at home - John 5, 28-29, where Jesus speaks about one resurrection of the righteous and of the wicked. That is the proof text where Jesus says, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." So there is one resurrection at the end of the world, of righteous and unrighteous. That means that when our Lord comes, and when the end of time has come, all graves shall be opened and all dead persons will rise from the dead. Many of them, of course, will have decomposed in their bodies. Many of them, of course, will have been at the bottom of the sea. Many of them will have been eaten of beasts and all that is left is the dust and nothing more. However, nothing is lost to the unbeliever or to the believer. God knows where each particle of dust belongs and He will bring their bodies together. Every single human body that ever has been in this world will be brought together. The soul, whether in heaven or in hell, will come to dwell again in that body. Each individual person throughout all the ages, in every generation of mankind, will rise from the dead. That's the first thing: the general resurrection.
ii) THE GENERAL JUDGEMENT
The second thing that will happen is the general judgement. There is a personal judgement as soon as we die. If I die today or tomorrow then what will happen is my soul will immediately go before God for judgement. Depending on whether I have been a Christian, or not, my soul will immediately go to heaven or hell: what we call the intermediate state of heaven or hell, until the resurrection. That's a private judgement between my soul and God. I am talking not about that but about the general judgement. At the end of history, there will be a general judgement; all mankind will meet in one place. This will be the only occasion in the whole history of the world in which all the human family will meet - not only the human family but also angels will meet. All angels, all devils, all of mankind, every rational creature that God ever made will for the first and the last time meet together in the great day of general judgement. The Judge is none other than our blessed and holy Saviour, Jesus Christ. He will then give to you and to me, to angels, to devils, to all mankind, exactly what we deserve; except that in the case of believers we shall have eternal glory, not because of what we deserve but only because of what He has merited for us. For His sake, we shall have eternal life and the good deeds done for His glory will be rewarded abundantly by Him. That is the second event in the judgement in the day when the end shall come.
iii) HEAVEN AND HELL
The third and fourth things, of course, are heaven and hell. These are the great four last things - resurrection, judgement, heaven and hell. Heaven and hell, of course, are eternal states. There will be evil angels in hell even as there will be wicked men there. There will be good angels in heaven even as there will be godly men and women there. The highest privilege of all will be given to the church of Jesus Christ. It is not angels in the end who will be highest in the order of glory. It is a great wonder and a great mystery that God does not ordain that angels should be married to Christ, as to the Bridegroom. It is God's good pleasure that fallen sinners, whom He has chosen in Christ and brought to salvation, form the church which is His bride. "The daughter of the King all glorious is within; And with embroideries of gold her garments wrought have been" (Metrical Psalm 45, 13). The highest place in the heavenly kingdom will be the church. God raises poor sinners to become His very bride: the bride of Jesus Christ.
In the light of this one of the great Puritans made a simple statement which is well worth remembering: "He who rides to be crowned will not mind a rainy day." People of this world, in other words, are often put out by little things: by the rain, by inconveniences. They grumble for want of this and for want of that; but you and I who are riding through this world to be crowned by Christ and to sit with Him on His throne at the end when the end comes so we must not much mind a rainy day. We must not much care for the slight and trivial inconveniences of this life but we must ever keep in mind these great end things.
3. CHRIST'S WORK BEFORE THE END
The apostle mentioning 'the end' comes now to speak about the work which Christ is now doing before 'the end' comes. Having mentioned 'the end', our Lord, secondly, is telling us what it is that our blessed Saviour is now doing before the end comes. You see he is looking at a related question. We may say to him, "O dear Paul, what is our Lord Jesus Christ doing now before the end comes. What is His work? What is His labour and His ministry?" Well, the apostle begins now to tell us. Let me read again from verse twenty-four. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (text).
If time permitted, I could easily show you that in verses twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven and twenty-eight there is a recurring expression. Almost in the same words, sometimes with a little variation however, the apostle uses the same expression with the same general meaning in reference to what it is that our Lord and Saviour is doing now in heaven. You can see it is all summed up in this expression, "putting down": you get it in verse twenty-four. He shall have "put down", or if you like "put under his feet", or "destroyed" is another word here; "put all things under him", and so on. Again and again in those four or five verses - put down, put down, put down, put under, under his feet. That summarises very clearly, what it is that Jesus is now doing as He sits upon His throne at the right hand of God. His present work - not the whole of it certainly but one great aspect of it - is to slowly, gradually subdue all enemies to Himself: all power and all authority.
My friends, this teaches us that the Lord Jesus Christ is now exercising a universal kingship. I must explain that Christ is King in three different senses. It is helpful to us to understand the different aspects of Christ's kingly reign and rule.
CHRIST: KING OVER ALL THINGS
Christ as God is Lord of all things. What we are talking about here is Christ as man: Christ as one of us. You understand that Christ is one person but that He has two natures: He is the God man. What I refer to now is not speaking of Christ as God absolutely but speaking of Christ as the Mediator: as the Lord Who died for us and was raised from the dead in His resurrection. I am speaking of His Lordship and Kingship, as He is one of us: our Elder Brother. As our Elder Brother, our Lord is now reigning at the right hand of God and He is gradually and progressively subduing all His and our enemies to Himself. Of course, He could do it all in a moment were it His pleasure to do so. He has but to snap His fingers and the whole universe would collapse because all authority, rule and power is His - but that is not His intention. That is not His will and His pleasure. His pleasure is slowly, progressively, gradually to subdue all the kingdoms of this world and all enemies to Himself and His people unto Himself. You see at verse twenty-four we are told that that is what He is doing: "When he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." As man, or the God-Man, Jesus Christ has a twofold Kingship. I said there were three forms in which Christ rules; I have given you one. The first one is that as God, of course, He is King over all things.
CHRIST: KING OVER HIS CHURCH
Now, as man, He has a twofold Kingship. He has a Kingship over the church, which is His body. Here our Lord reigns and rules through His Word and sacraments. He reigns over His own people in grace. He gives them light and knowledge and spirituality; and He changes their character progressively through the sanctifying influences of His Word. Through preaching and teaching of the truth, He sanctifies His people through His effectual call as it goes out through the world and the nations. Men, women, and children are being called into the obedience of the faith. That is His spiritual rule over His church. He refers to this in talking to Peter about the keys: "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16, 19). What is meant by 'keys' is the power to open and the power to shut. The power to open is the preaching of the Gospel: that sinners may, through faith, enter in. The power to shut is to say, "No, you cannot be a member of a church because of unworthiness for this reason or that." Therefore, the opening or the shutting refers to the keys. It is Christ Who is ultimately the head of the church in a spiritual reign, rule, and Kingship.
CHRIST: KING OVER THE NATIONS
The third aspect of this, or if you want to use another numeration, the second type of Kingship that Christ has, is a universal Kingship over the nations. It is best explained like this: in Great Britain there are two kings or two monarchs. We don't have a king at the moment, we have Her Majesty the Queen. There are two monarchs in Britain; there is Her Majesty but there is also Jesus Christ. Not only is Her Majesty the monarch of this nation but Jesus Christ in a higher sense still, is Monarch of this nation. I am sure Her Majesty would be the very first one to acknowledge that, were she to be confronted with the subject. I'm sure she appreciates this very much.
Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Then He said, "All authority in heaven and in earth is given unto Me." Christ therefore, is Lord of all. It was for the defence of this very principle that the Covenanters died three hundred and so many years ago. You know the very famous statement that Andrew Melville made to one of the Stuart kings, James Vl of Scotland. He was an autocratic king who believed in the divine right of kings, which means the divine right to rule wrongly. He was withstood to his face by the great and godly Andrew Melville who plucked him by the sleeve and said, "Sire", he said, "you are only God's silly vassal in Christ's kingdom. There are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland. One is king James," he said, "but the other is King Jesus. Our allegiance is first of all to Him and only secondly to thee." Now that is true Christianity. It's strong speaking but it is the view which we are to have. No authority in earth, whether it be in the state or in the church, has the right to compete with or to defy the authority of Christ. Whether it be secular government as in China, Sudan or Indonesia where Christians suffer because they acknowledge Christ to be above all - or whether it be in churches when General Assemblies or Synods or Church Councils claim to have the authority to command people to do things which are not according to Christ's Word - then our duty is always to disobey, whatever the consequences. We are never to obey anyone under any circumstances where they require us to defile our conscience by defying Christ or disobeying His absolute sovereignty over our conscience and over our life, even if we have to die for it as many Christians do and are doing and have done. We must, because He is Lord over all. This is what He is presently doing in the world. As you and I are living our brief life here below in Britain today, Jesus Christ is progressively over the centuries subduing the nations.
You can almost see the outlines of this when you look back in history. The Roman Empire became overwhelmed by the Gospel in the year 312. Then we had the evangelisation of the North European countries; slowly they were subdued. Hungary was subdued to some extent by the Gospel in the year 1000. As you come into the more recent times, you see America: 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers went over there in the Mayflower. Gradually America became Christianised. In 1788, Australia was discovered and began to be colonised. Immediately missionaries went there. In the later 18th century you get William Carey and the great Baptist missionary movement to India and Burma. Slowly, slowly the nations have been brought under the influence of the Gospel. If you were to look back two hundred years, places like Korea would be in midnight darkness. One hundred and twenty years ago there were only ten Christians in the whole of Korea, now there are millions upon millions working in one hundred and sixty-two countries - setting up churches everywhere. You see Christ is subduing the nation. He is calling His elect to Himself and He is also slowly crushing all those who are unwilling to submit to Him.
THE LAST ENEMY
Thirdly, in particular, Christ has one enemy described here as the last enemy. That is mentioned in verse twenty-six. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. My friends, we need to know that there are other enemies besides death. Of course, death is not the only enemy. I have mentioned hostile governments are an enemy, as are immoral forms of teaching and false philosophies; all these are the enemies of the Christian. The evolutionary theory is a great enemy of Christ and of the Gospel. Liberalism, Barthianism, Bultmannism, Roman Catholicism and all other corruptions of Christianity are enemies of Christ. As time goes on, He will deal with them all.
The devil will be dealt with in the end. We are very clear from the book of Revelation that the destiny of the devil is that Christ will lay hold upon him in the Day of Judgement and He will cast him into the lake burning with fire and brimstone and there he will boil in unquenchable fire forever. Every wicked man and wicked woman, every wicked boy and girl who has not received Christ but rejected the truth of the Gospel, they also will boil in fire and roast in everlasting burning in hell in the end. On the other hand, more happily, everyone who has believed in Jesus and loved His glorious name, they in the Judgement Day will be awarded the right to enter into paradise and to eat from the Tree of Life. He will wipe away all tears from off our faces. There shall be no more sadness but sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Now the last enemy of all is death. Of course it is, because death is the enemy of the Christian still. How difficult it is to know that we no longer have that dear friend; he has gone to another place. How difficult for us to be informed that the brother or the sister, the husband or the wife who shared our life with us is now shorn away by death. We are left bereft of such a beloved companion in this life. So death is the last enemy but here is the comfort we have: in the end when our Lord returns He will deal with every enemy and the very last enemy is death. Death itself shall cease to exist and the people of God will enter in to the heavenly kingdom where there is no dying. We shall never know sickness, pain, temptation, or problems of any kind for there the people of God shall be with the Lord Himself. He will feed them and He will lead them to everlasting fountains of water.
My friends, Jesus is preparing all of these things right now. Let us therefore live for His glory so that when He comes again He may find us busy doing the work of the Lord. He will reward all such with the glories of heaven and the glories of God which His Word speaks about so abundantly, from one end to the other.
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