Be An Industrious Church
          1 Corinthians 15:50-58
          By Paul Robison

Here is poem written around 700 A.D., which I have modified some:
 
"The day of resurrection—Earth, tell it out abroad!
[This] Passover of gladness—[God's goodness ever laud!]
From death to life eternal, [from mortal to immortality;]
Our Christ has brought us over with hymns of victory!
Now let the [saints] be joyful; let [heaven] her songs begin!
Let [all those 'round God's throne sing] triumph, [the redeemed who are] therein!
Let [all hosts forever] their notes of gladness blend
For Christ the Lord has risen, and our joy shall have no end!" (modified John of Damascus)
 
We've been looking at the great chapter about the resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15.  We've seen how it is essential to the Gospel, we've heard Paul swing the sword of truth as he explained the awful consequences and upheld the glorious truths, we've heard Paul debate using argument after argument to prove its reality. And Paul concludes in verse 58 that since the resurrection is true, then Christians should be steadfast and immovable in their beliefs and industrious in their actions to serve God and to honor Christ.  This sermon's theme is: Be an industrious church!  Paul wraps up this longest chapter in Corinthians with four actions to challenge us.
 
First of all, Paul wants us to realize in impossibility! Let's read verse 50: "Now I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption."  Paul says that it is impossible for our human nature to live in heaven!  It is impossible for this body of corruption to exist in a new dimension of incorruption! Remember, the Corinthian brethren that the body was evil, and they feared having a raised human body.  But we have already seen how Paul used a horticultural argument, and an environmental argument, a transformational argument, and a scriptural argument to show us that our resurrected bodies will not be our human bodies!  They are going to be transformed so that they will be like Jesus' immortal glorious body!  In fact, remember how Paul describes these transformed as incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual (v. 42-43)!  Realize an impossibility!  How wonderful it is to know that we will not have to wrestle with the sins of the flesh in heaven because the flesh will be no more!  The flesh will be surpassed by something better that will be in the image of Christ (v. 49)!  And did you notice the verb—“inherit”?  Heaven will be God's gift to those who are obedient and faithful!  And then did you notice that the nature of this inheritance is incorruption?  This reminds us of Peter's words in 1 Peter 1:4 where Peter describes all Christians' inheritance as "incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."  Someone put it this way: "We are going to live on and on [in a place that endures forever and ever.]  We shall outlast all the suns and stars of space.  We shall live [eternally] beyond the reach of sin and death in a tumult of joy indescribable, unspeakable, and full of glory" (Philips)!  Human beings won't live in heaven; only transformed beings will live in that never ending glorious new dimension.  In Revelation 21:1-3, the inspired apostle John writes: "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  And there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying: 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and shall be His people."  Now listen, since there will be a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, there will have to be a new body fitted for new environment as well (just as we saw before in v. 39).  Realize in impossibility!  Be an industrious church!
 
Next, understand a mystery!  Let's read verses 51-52: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."  Paul explains what is going to happen in the future. The what of the mystery comes first: not all of us are going die (for Christians, death is called just a temporary sleep); some will be alive when Christ returns.  All of us, however, will have our human bodies changed or transformed.  Let's look at Hebrews 1:10-12: "You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands."  But now notice what is going to happen to those heavens.  "They will perish, but You will remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed."  Jesus is going to change the heavens, but He will remain the same!  That word for "change" is Hebrews is the same word that we find regarding our resurrected bodies.  They also will be changed!  Note also that our text says ALL shall be changed.  There is no special group involved in a rapture in Paul's expression.  The how of the mystery comes next: in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.  The transformation of our bodies will not be a long and drawn out process.  In fact, the word of moment is "atomo" from which we get our word "atom".  The word atom literally means “something that cannot be cut”.  Paul uses it here to show a division of time that cannot be cut; it will happen suddenly and instantaneously!  In the twinkling of an eye or in a split second! Understand the mystery!  The when of this mystery is considered next: at the last trumpet.  This verse just underscores what is stated in other verses as well.  Let's look at Matthew 24:31 where Jesus says: "And He [Jesus] will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."  Paul himself also paints a similar picture in 1 Thess. 4:16-17: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord."  When God's trumpet sounds, all the righteous will be transformed, both those resurrected from the dead as well as those who are alive.  And they won't spend any more time on this earth; both groups will be transformed and united in the air to live with God forever in heaven!  Paul finishes with a recap of the mystery: the dead saints will be raised incorruptible and then those still alive at Jesus' return will be changed as well!  Just as that lowly caterpillar which changes into a beautiful butterfly over time, we to shall be changed to have a body which is more glorious, and our transformation will take place is split second!  This revelation from Paul is the true wisdom of God!  Isn't this good news that others we know and love need to hear so that they can have hope at the grave?  Understand the mystery!  Be an industrious church!
 
Next, comprehend a necessity!  Note verse 53: "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."  Paul uses a parallelism here, which means he states the same idea twice.  Why would anyone want to state the same idea twice?  For emphasis and to underscore the certainly that we must be changed!  In fact, Paul is going to state how this transformation has been prophesied in the next few verses.  In other words, God has decreed and affirmed that this is going to happen!  You have God's word on it, and God will not lie nor has ever broken His promise, that your earthy body will be transformed into a glorious, powerful, spiritual body like Christ's!  Comprehend a necessity! Notice the verb in this passage; it's the words "must put on".  "Must" means that it is a necessity.  If an elder were to call me and say, "Paul, you must get to the Pharr funeral home; there has been an awful tragedy!"   That means I'd better not dilly-dally around, nor continue to work at the office, nor start making photocopies.  It is necessary and imperative that I get to the funeral home post haste to offer comfort to a family in crisis.  This is just the flip side of realize an impossibility.  If human beings cannot inherit heaven, then of necessity, it is imperative that that our human nature be changed.  What's corruptible must become incorruptible, and what mortal must become immortal!  "John Jay was a delegate at that first continental congress.  At a very young age, Jay was one of the smartest and most respected lawyers in the colonies.  In the early history of U.S. government, Jay was responsible for single-handedly averting a war with England through his diplomacy.  It seemed that everything Jay touched turned to success.  Then in May 1802, after 28 years of marriage, his wife Sarah became very ill.  As her condition worsened and her death was near, John and their children gathered at her bedside.  When death came, the famous and powerful father felt weak and defeated.  With his children by his side, he turned to the Bible for strength and began reading.  Just guess what passage he read?  It's the one we're reading today.  When he closed the Bible, with tears in his eyes, he spoke to his children and assured them from God’s word of the promised reunion they all would have in that great day with their beloved Sarah” (Rennau).  Only the Bible's promises can bring true peace to our souls!  Comprehend a necessity!  Be an industrious church!
 
Next, rejoice in Christ's victories!  Let's read verses 54-58: "So when the corruptible has put on incorruption, and this moral has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'  'O death, were is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?'  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."  Death certainly has a sting to it.  The word "sting" is also used in connection with bees and scorpions.  With the death of one of my most cherished college teachers this past week, I once again experienced the pain death brings.  But when the day of transformation comes (and note again it's "when" not "if"), one of God's prophecies found in Isaiah 25:8 is going to be fulfilled and made a reality: "Death is swallowed up in victory!"  To swallow up is to do away with completely (Johnson)!  "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice, and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29). "Victory at last! Victory indeed! Victory forever" (Philips)!  Rejoice in Christ's victory over death!  Christ also is victorious over Hades.  One commentator thought the resurrected dead would be taunting: "O Death, where is your sting?" because they have transformed, and death will no longer will have a hold on them.  And then those who are still alive and transformed will taunt: "O Hades, where is your victory?" because they will escape having to endure the place of dead (Philips).  Revelation 20:14-15 affirms: "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the fire."  Rejoice in Christ's victory over Hades!  Next, Christ has been victorious over the law, and we can share in that victory today!  "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.   But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Law (referring to the old covenant), sin, and death are the terrible trio that have ensnared mankind from the Garden of Eden.  Jesus' death, however, has brought a new covenant and provided mankind victory over sin and death.  Notice what Paul writes in Romans 8:1-6: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Rejoice in Christ's victory over the law, sin, and death! Someone has noted that "the Christian life is characteristically a life of victory" (Morris).  But there is still one further victory seen in verse 58: “… always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."  "The word 'abounding' carries the idea of exceeding the requirements, of overflowing or overdoing.... Because God has so abundantly overdone Himself for us who deserve nothing from Him, we should determine to overdo ourselves in service to Him, to whom we owe everything" (MacAuthur).  Err on the side of doing more for the Lord, not less.  And when do the work of the Lord, that work will not be useless because we have already seen how God is going to reward us in the end! So this is victory over emptiness.  Most people spend their whole lives dedicating their labor to activities, and sporting events, and organizations, and to a thousand other things that don't really matter all that much.  Jesus has challenged us to help others get to heaven; now there's labor that can make an eternal difference!  When you work for Christ by spreading His teachings, edifying His people, saving His lost sheep, and bearing persecution for His name, you know that you too are going to share in Christ's ultimate triumph!  Rejoice in Christ's victory over emptiness!  " But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"  Rejoice in all of Christ's victories!  Be an industrious church!
 
There a theological school in Chicago that hosts a picnic each year and invites a popular lecturer to speak.  One professor came and spent 2 1/2 hours attempting to prove that the resurrection of Jesus was a lie.  He quoted liberal books and scholars to prove his point and then asked for questions.  An older man spoke up, "Dr. So and so," he asks, taking an apple out of his sack and beginning to eat it, "I have a simple question." Cruch, cruch!  "I haven’t read any of those books you talked about." Munch, munch!  "I can’t recite the Scriptures in Greek."  Crunch, crunch!  "I don’t know anything about those philosophers named Neibuhr and Heidegger."  Munch, munch!  Then he held up the core of his eaten apple for a moment.  "All I want to know is this: This apple I just ate, was it bitter or sweet?"  The professor paused and then responded, "I cannot possibly answer that question, I haven’t tasted your apple, sir."  The old man dropped the apple core into his sack and said, "Neither have you tasted my Jesus!"  The audience of over 1,000 erupted into applause and cheers, and the professor left the platform (McGraw).  We can't make it into heaven as we are now, but God is going to change that.  If He's transformed our lives when we became Christians, a transformed resurrected body perfectly suited for a new dimension of existence is going to be no problem for Him as well!  Rejoice in Christ's victories over death, over Hades, over the law, and over a life of emptiness!  After all that He's done and is going to do for us, let's be an industrious church for Him!
 
Let's pray: “Father, we thank You for the great chapter and for the truth that our bodies will be changed and take on immortality!  Help us to live looking forward to that day of transformation.  Thank You for the great hope that You have given us: a new earth, a new heaven, a new Jerusalem, and a new body!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
 
God wants to give you victory through Jesus! Won't you look beyond the moment to that day when we'll see King Jesus on the clouds and hear that final trumpet call!  Will that be a moment of fear or a moment of joy for you?  Will you share in the condemnations or in the victories that Jesus, the righteous Judge, will pronounce?  Will you be part of the goats or the sheep?  Make Jesus your Lord by being immersed into His name to be forgiven, then labor each day doing the Lord's work, and you will rejoice in the victory!  Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  “Let [all hosts forever] their notes of gladness blend for Christ the Lord has risen, and our joy shall have no end!”  Taste that sweet victory which Jesus offers!