1 Corinthians 15:24-26
November 22nd & 23rd, 2008
We have said these words, confessed these words many times. “And He will Come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead…… and later “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead”. These words often said in rote fashion week after week, really do say a lot. They speak an event, a transformation that has no earthly parallels. An event so all encompassing, the planets, the stars will be transformed as Jesus turns inside out, renews, starts again with a new heaven and new earth. John writes in Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….”. On this Christ the King Sunday we celebrate and look with awe at a Savior who does not come to us this time in a lowly manger, he doesn’t come paying for our sins on a cross, but rather he comes “delivering the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” (1 Cor. 15:24). Hebrews 9:28 says “….he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
Sometimes people picture the second coming it as a divine trial, but it is in fact more of sentencing, a public statement of what already exists. Whereas sheep and goats were once together, now he separates them out (believers and unbelievers). Notice that the sheep and the goats mentioned in todays gospel reading are not answering questions, but speak only when a bit confused “When did we see you hungry?” (Matthew 25:37). Jesus does the talking, Jesus does the saving, Jesus does the delivering, Jesus does the reigning. He does the sentencing and this is a good thing.
This evening/morning we get a chance to hear the impact Jesus reign has on our lives. It is a reign that culminates in him placing all his enemies under his feet, but it is a reign that has already begun. This reign of Jesus dispels doubts. The Corinthian congregation had their doubts about a real live resurrection. They hung around the Greeks, and the Greeks like many moderns didn’t believe in a literal resurrection. One author writes about our world today by saying “that while most don’t reject the resurrection as a teaching, up to 2/3rds of Americans do not believe that we will have physical bodies after the resurrection. That is a permanent return to a physical existence in a physical universe.” To the Corinthians and to many the physical resurrection and return of Christ sounded preposterous, against common sense, something we do not see, something we do not experience. Yet Christ reigns to Dispel doubts. Paul writes earlier to the Corinthian congregation that if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and so is our faith…If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:12-15). The physical resurrection and the physical return of Christ is essential for faith and life.
Jesus also reigns to gather his flock. In our Old Testament reading we see that he is in the business of searching out his sheep, his scattered sheep. Our church sign this week said “Here is the perfect church for those who aren’t .” Jesus reigns to gather up those who have wondered away, tried things their own way, starved themselves from the Word. It says in Ezekiel he will feed them with good pasture, seek the lost, bring back the strayed and bind up the injured, and even strengthen the weak. Jesus reigns to do something no one else would do, to do things that no one else can do. He reigns to be our good shepherd, to forgive our sins, and to give us hope and peace forevermore.
Jesus also reigns to bring to put all his enemies under his feet. Who are these enemies? Well we know what the last one is death itself. But there is also the devil, a roaring lion, who seeks someone to devour. This side of Christ’s coming, he still is active, trying to lure us from Christ and his gifts. He is the great accuser trying to put in our face what we have done wrong. The devil is the author of darkness, but he is not going to win in the end. Even now his power meets his match in the risen Savior.
Jesus also will come and deal with the sin that dwells within us. Paul writes in Romans 7 describes the struggle that he faces with sin. He knows what is right, but sin is right there with him. The good that I would do, I don’t….. For a whole chapter he talks about the human dilemma we all face until the day we die. Even as people redeemed in Christ, there are things that tempt us, there are struggles, that will not be fully loosed until the day Christ comes again. Another enemy destroyed is the sin tat dwells with us.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death itself. The wages of sin is death, and everyone will receive these wages.. Death while obviously a reality for everyone is not natural. The pain surrounding death, while universal is not what God intended. Death and all the things that lead up to it are all enemies. It is not part of God’s original plan, but this enemy will be stomped on by the Savior. Death has met its match already through Jesus, and it will really meet its match when he comes again, so that all vestiges of it will go aside.
Christ is King, and Christ Reigns. That folks is a very good thing. Amen.