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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 The last enemy

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 18, 2023

25 For he must reign “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”  26 The last enemy to be done away with is death.

It’s usual for most of us to have a final goal in mind when we begin a task. When I begin to think about making supper for my family, I need to set aside some other things and focus just on that. The choice of what we’re having will dictate when I start the process, and then there will be many intermediate things to be taken care of, so that while the meat or dish is cooking I can cut up and arrange a phalanx of apple slices, a quiver of carrots, and so on.

When it came to Christ’s work on earth, the final goal was the resurrection, an act which also did away with death, the last enemy, “a conquered, beaten enemy brought to shame and public humiliation.”

The other enemies are of course the sinful flesh, sin in general in the world around us, and the power and designs of the devil. The effects of sin leave behind many pitfalls in the world, both in the human will and the physical world. But eternal life means the end of all those things.

We can categorize the blessings of heaven into positive and negative, where we understand that a negative blessing is simply the absence of a bad thing, such as sin. So the doing away with all of the evils of the created world are part of the victory of Christ, with the final goal being the last enemy done away with. That enemy, Paul reminds us, is death, “By nature proved an enemy to the flock.”

The very act of the risen Christ stepping out of the grave means that death’s power has been conquered. We might wonder: But Jesus is the Son of God! He can be released from the secret house of death, but I am weak, and more than that, I will be dead! How do I know that I will rise? Won’t death still have power over me? On earth, the answer is yes. There is no one on earth who has not been subject to death and the grave since the fall in the garden. But while death will win a victory over us in this life, it will not keep its hold. In the end, death will have no power over you. If Christ is released from death, then he stands at the door, so to speak, and holds it open for all of us. As Luther says: “We have a man who lost nothing through death and who did not leave as much as a little hair in the grave. Indeed, it was precisely through death that he drew all things to himself” so that we will come out of the grave when he calls us.

Death has only temporary powers here, as with hunger, temptation, grief, and other pains. Death will corrupt my flesh, grind my body into powder or burn it to ashes or leave it to ruin so that the smallest and weakest of worms will do with me whatever it pleases, but from whatever corruption, ashes, or dust I become, my body will step forward when Christ calls me to life once again. He will shatter the silence of sleep with his trumpet. He who made everything out of nothing to begin with (Genesis 1:1) can surely call me up once again from the grave, so neatly and thoughtfully planted as I will one day be thanks to the work of my children, buried alongside my bride next to the lovely, quiet cornfield where she already lies and our headstone already stands today.

As happy as we are that death is vanquished, that the cross is the lance that has defeated such an enemy, we also remember what that means for our souls as well as for our bodies. Death, after all, was the wages of our sin; the penalty for our transgressions. Death is the cruel and ghastly flooring of our shame and guilt. But with death removed, like the burned-out rafters and stones of a long-destroyed building, there is no shame left; no guilt to be carried, for there is nothing left behind when we emerge, risen from the grave. Do not think that you will even want to look down into you casket, or the tiny urn from which your body re-emerged in a little whirlwind in your Latter-day Easter. There will be nothing there as the earth is so rapidly and completely unmade, the elements melting in the heat of destruction (2 Peter 3:12), but you and I will lifted aloft rejoicing, borne aloft by angels, as Jesus says (Luke 16:22), to the arms of our heavenly Father and all our loved ones. Sin and the stain of sin will be gone, forever destroyed and forgotten even by God (Job 11:6). And we will live in his perfection and righteousness forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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