1 Cor 15:50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yesterday morning, we buried the body of my wife. In the afternoon, a very large crowd came together to praise God for His grace in the life of Sheryl McArdle. Sheryl had discussed her desires for this Thanksgiving Service with me many months ago. Lots of worship singing. We honoured that desire as nearly 700 people just avoided lifting the roofs off the Deep Creek buildings! We also agreed that I would give the address.
God’s grace to enable me to preach yesterday, and the peace He gave me as I rose to speak, will always be treasured by myself – I can assure you it would have been impossible for me to minister without being carried on ‘eagles wings.’ You can listen to the message here. Here’s the transcription – not quite word-for word:
“Death is confronting. Very confronting.
That’s why there is often such a massive effort expended on sanitising it; dismissing it; seeking to fill up our lives and minds with anything and everything to push back the harsh reality of death.
But death comes. Like an intruder in the night. Unwanted; out of order.
We rightly cry out against it. That’s what I felt like doing last Tuesday night.
Something is wrong in our world. Terribly wrong.
Does God care??
Friends, not only does God care; God has dealt death THE death blow.
God Himself has intervened. Himself! In the Person of the Lord Jesus – the God-Man. The Lord Jesus Christ – the centre of Sheryl’s life –ever since she trusted in Jesus as her Lord and Saviour over 30 years ago.
But perhaps you might be thinking, “How did God deal death THE death blow?” I mean Sheryl’s body did stop last Tuesday.
The Apostle Paul not only answers this question, but provides immeasurable comfort for all you are trusting in Jesus – in this last part of 1 Corinthians 15.
Paul states clearly and boldly that those who are living in earthly, natural bodies now (like himself) cannot inherit the KOG or eternal life as they are.
Paul is NOT denying that physical bodies will be in the New Heaven & New Earth.
Paul uses the expression ‘flesh and blood‘ to describe human nature as it is now – in all of its frailty; in its perishability – as we have witnessed over many years with Sheryl, and most certainly on Tuesday night.
To inherit God’s final Kingdom – there needs to be total transformation. Body and spirit.
Sheryl’s inner person began a process of transformation when she trusted in the LJ three decades ago. Sheryl simply responded in her whole person – not just intellectual assent – to the truth of John 3:16:
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And that inner transformation was made complete last Tuesday night as Jesus welcomed her into His very presence. Sheryl is with the Lord in blissful, ecstatic joy. More alive than ever. Conscious. Interacting with others in heaven.
And as good as that is, the Lord still has more in store for her.
What grace! What fantastic love!
The outer – the body – also requires transformation so that we can inhabit; live in the New Heaven and New Earth – which will be a very physical existence! And that transformation of her broken body will happen at the resurrection – when Jesus returns.
Christians don’t grieve without hope. At earthly death, we are in fact alive in the very presence of the Lord.
At Jesus’ Second Coming, the body in the grave is resurrected and transformed. The torn tent of Sheryl’s body will one day be transformed when the Lord Jesus returns. And He will. Paul says to the Philippian Christians in fact that believers’ bodies will be transformed so that “they will be like Jesus’ glorious body.”
That’s a great package, isn ‘t it? That is God’s love for His broken world; for broken people. It has been made possible thru Jesus – His death and resurrection.
But like any gift, you need to receive it.
Paul says, ‘Listen up. I’m going to tell you a mystery.’ A divine truth that had not previously been disclosed.
Listen up. In the twinkling of an eye, (flash), the last trumpet will sound –
Sheryl requested a trumpet for today’s service. As good as Jason is, the last trumpet will be something very special!
The trumpet will announce a thundering note of victory – “the Lord Jesus has returned.” And transformation will be complete for EVERY follower of Jesus – whether they are alive, or their body is in the grave.
When the Lord Jesus returns He will bring this world with its terrible sicknesses; its rebellion against the love of God; with its death – to an end.
Everyone will be judged. The living and the dead. There will be a setting right.
And ALL who are trusting in Jesus – described here by Paul as ‘brothers and sisters‘ will inherit the KOG in its fullness.
Sheryl will be there. Exploring all of its delights!
Why? Because Jesus died for her sins. And rose again for her, conquering sin, and death.
And because Sheryl accepted this free gift of salvation – in repentance and faith. And she continued to trust in Jesus – right to the end of this life.
Is that your personal experience? Your personal testimony?
Sheryl knew the tent of her body was getting ripped apart. But she could face the destruction of her body with resolute confidence.
This was not something which she psyched herself up about. Not something she dreamed up.
It was a rock solid confidence based on the authority of God’s Word. Attested by the resurrection of Jesus.
So the Apostle Paul puts it this way:
“53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.””
Radical transformation. Death itself will be swallowed up – ie. completely done away with.
Death – that disgusting intruder – that destroyer – will be gone forever.
Why? Because of Jesus and what He has done in His death and resurrection.
Without Jesus, death has a terrible sting. The word ‘sting’ was used in Paul’s day to describe the deadly stinger of a scorpion.
Without Jesus, we will stand before God with all of our sin exposed.
With Jesus – our sin is completely removed. That’s what Jesus achieved on the Cross.
Without Jesus. With Jesus. Jesus makes all the difference – not only in this world but in the world to come.
For the Christian – for Sheryl – for all – who are trusting in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life – the sting of death has been removed.
Oh yes, followers of Jesus end up with deadly tears in the tent of their bodies – like all people.
But earthly death for the Christian simply prepares the person for being clothed with a glorious body that will NEVER be impacted by disease, or evil.
Yes, with Sheryl’s temporary passing there is deep grief. Such a special person will be missed very deeply. BUT, Christians do not grieve without hope.
We have ROCK SOLID confidence in the future – because of a ROCK SOLID confidence in Jesus – demonstrated to all by His resurrection.
Salvation is freely available to all who come in simple childlike faith.
Friends, the Lord Jesus will return and when He does, He will usher in the New Heaven & New Earth. Existence in the New Heaven & New Earth will not be boring! It will be fun filled, creative, stimulating days without end. It is the most fantastic prospect.
The pain and deep, deep grief that death brings will be gone forever!
It is wonderful to have such a huge crowd here this afternoon celebrating the grace of God in Sheryl’s life. I know that Sheryl’s deep desire would be that EVERYONE here this day would be trusting in the One – the only One – who has conquered sin, death and the grave.
The One whom death could not hold down. The One who is risen. The One whom would have welcomed Sheryl with open arms last Tuesday night.”