Scripture Readings

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Suggested Hymns

"Nearer My God to Thee"     Hymn 473
"Balm in Gilead"                    Hymn 475


1 Corinthians 15:55-57

A. Introduction

1. Sometimes, out of the darkness of our sorrow in the face of death, we find ourselves asking:

a. "Is there anything logical about death? Why do we die? Is death just a tragic waste?"

b. The apostle Paul tells us that death is the means whereby we shed our bodies of corruption in order to receive bodies which are not subject to decay,

c. When man sinned, his body became subject to disease, pain, decay, and the ravages of time,

d. God did not intend that man should live forever in such a body.

(1) Suppose man could not die, but was fated to live forever in a body which grew ever older, weaker, and more painful, an eternal victim of disease and corruption?
(2) So, while death is an enemy, God causes even this enemy to serve us for our good.
(3) In this sense, therefore, death is a blessed release, offering the anticipation of a resurrected body that is incorruptible and immortal.

2. The great problem with human life, for those of us who remain, is our ability to see only one side of it.

a. In a sense we see the underside of life.

(1) Truly, we "see through a glass darkly," and we "know in part." But in the midst of these human questions and doubts, we hear this promise buried in the ancient Book of Ecclesiastes, "[God] hath made everything beautiful in his time" Ecclesiastes 3:11.

B. God's own time and His own way.

1. God gives us the perspective to see things as they truly are, and as He intended them to be.

a. This principle operates in nature.

(1)Consider the seed as an example. A seed looks dry and ugly and dead shriveled and lifeless.
(2)Could you imagine a person giving a packet of flower seeds in memory of a departed loved one or friend?
(3)And yet, the seed contains within itself all the beauty of the flower. In the orderly processes of nature, the seed puts forth the shoot, the shoot becomes the plant, the plant bears the bud, and the bud breaks open into glorious blossom.

b. "God makes all things beautiful in his time."

2. Notice also the beauty in the cycle of our seasons.

a. We naturally enjoy the beauty of springtime, as all nature seems to throb with returning life.

b. In summer, the fields are golden with their ripening grain.

(1) Then the season moves on to autumn. The trees turn to scarlet and gold, and we bow our heads in humble thanksgiving for the harvest of the earth.
(2) But then winter comes, with the glistening magic of icicles and snow.

c. Each part of the year has its own beauty how can we compare them?

(1) We can only agree that "God makes all things beautiful in his time."

d. The same principle can be seen in human life.

(1) Which of the ages of mankind is most beautiful?
(2) We think of the dimpled smile of the tiny babe in its helplessness and innocence.
(3) Then there is the school girl with her hair in pigtails and braces on her teeth, running down the walk to meet her dad.
(4) Or the young man dressed in his academic cap and gown.
(5) Then the time moves on to motherhood and fatherhood and to the busy years of building a home and family.
(6) Finally the wrinkles of old age appear the face is creased with lines drawn there by love. Every age seems to offer a greater beauty than the age before. '"God makes all things beautiful in his time."

e. But then, one day long ago, an ugly cross was raised on the outskirts of an ancient city.

(1) Upon that instrument of torture was nailed the mangled body of a young Galilean prophet who had been stripped and beaten.
(2) A crown of thorn branches was crushed down upon His head and a sarcastic inscription placed above Him: "This is the King of the Jews."
(3) Could anything change such a picture into a thing of beauty?
(4) Yet three days later His tomb was empty! God made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus who was crucified.
(5) Today, lives are devoted in humble and loving service in the name of this same Jesus. Even His cross has become a thing of beauty to us. "God makes all things beautiful in his time."

C. "Oh grave, where is thy victory?

1. In the face of this, we can grasp something of the challenge of Paul's words in 1 Cor. 15:55.

a. Where is the sting of death?

b. It is the terror of the person who approaches God unforgiven of his sins. It is the fearful anticipation of an unknown and mysterious future.

c. What is the victory of the grave? It is the eternal claim upon the soul unsurrendered to God the hopeless, endless imprisonment in a Christian eternity.

(1) Apart from God, death is indeed a fearful state; there is an awesome finality about it.

d. But, thank God, Paul does not leave us there.

(1) To learn the secret of his courage and the courage and strength of every child of God, we must consider these words: 1 Cor. 15: 57.
(2) Paul anticipated death not with a morbid desire to escape from life, but realizing its inevitability (for the Scriptures declare that "it is appointed unto man once to die").
(3) Paul delighted in the fact that Christ had removed from death all the fearful and chilling aspects which once accompanied it.
(4) He came back from death not only to tell us that there is more beyond, but to promise us: "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:2, 3.

D. Conclusion

1. Certainly every living Christian anticipates the return of Christ.

2. This is the abiding hope of the New Testament.

3. But our human bodies grow tired and weak.

4. Jesus comes for His children also in death. And there, in the presence of God, they will no longer "see through a glass darkly," and they will no longer "know in part."

5. The mysteries of life which perplex us are revealed to them. If they could speak to us today, no doubt they would echo the words of Paul: 1 Cor. 15:58.