I Corinthians 15:50-58

Dr. Steve Viars September 12, 1992 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

- "And finally there is the painful riddle of death, for
   which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably
   ever will be"
- that sums up very well the view of many people towards this
   subject we've been studying
     - "the painful riddle of death, for which no remedy at
        all has been found, nor probably ever will be."

- that hopeless statement is from the pen of Sigmond Freud

- praise the Lord those words aren't true
- there is a remedy of death--and we've been studying it now
   the past several Sunday evenings together

- we're talking about the Resurrection
   - 1) the bodily resurrection of Savior that occurred three
        days after He died for the sins of the world
   - 2) the bodily resurrection of believers, which will take
         place when our Lord returns for His church.

- I invite you to turn again to I Cor. 15 where we'll take
  one more look at this important chapter of Scripture.
- So far in these studies we've talked about death
   - We've talked about the future of our bodies (that’s what
     the resurrections all about) and that of course assumes

- but the verses we're going to look at tonight take this
   subject "head on."
- Paul is saying that one of the best ways to test a person's
   faith in the resurrection is to examine his/her view of

- before we look specifically at these verses, I think
  there's some things we need to say just to show how
  important our subject is tonight.


  1. Americans in our day and age are particularly unprepared
     to handle the subject of death.

     - I'm going to mention some of our current day practices
       surrounding death and I want to saying clearly--I'm
       not criticizing these practices per say, but we need
       to see that these practices are probably making it
       more difficult for us to handle death.

    a. improved medical care.

        - Now you might say, "What's wrong with improved
          medical care?" There is a whole area of medical
          ethics that is involved in this discussion that I'm
          not going to delve into tonight.
            - I would like to talk about "heroic measures" a
               little later on in the measures."

        - the point here is - At the turn of the century,
          practically every young adult had lived through the
          death of at least one sibbling or close relative."

- that’s not true anymore today.  Probably a number of folks
  here tonight would say that they haven't gone through the
  death of someone close to them.
- my point is - that leaves many unprepared because they've
  never really had to personally face the issue.

b) Purposed detachment during the death process.
   - now again, I'm not criticizing these practices per say,
     but just think with me for a minute on this.
   - at the turn of the century, many people died at home,
     and the family support system was right there.

   - now I'm not arguing that we go back to that, but many
     folks have gone into the ditch on the other side.
       - they find all kinds of reasons not to visit friends
         and family members who are dying in the hospital.
       - they lie to the children about the whole process and
         say that grandpa is going on a "lone trip."

   - there's a purposed detachment that results in folks
     being unprepared to handle this subject.

c) Purposed detachment during the mourning process.
   - many people here can probably remember when a funeral
     was conducted at home.
   - it was perfectly natural for the body to be kept in the
     parlor of the family's until the burial.
   - now again, I'm not arguing that we go back to that.

   - but look what's often lost because we've changed.
      - Family members don't have the opportunity to minister
        to one another in their normal environment during
        this critical time.
      - what's especially bad is that many have gone way over
        to the other ditch where they don't take time to
        visit at the funeral home or attend the memorial

      - if you attend funerals today, you know they are very
        poorly attended compared to the past.

- Now, I'm not trying to strike up a debate about changing
   our memorial service procedures
     - my point is that we as Americans today are less and
       less prepared to handle the subject of death.

- in fact, you might be here tonight uncomfortable about the
   fact that we're discussing it so directly.
- that's bad for a number of reasons but let me ask you to
  hold your hand in I Cor. 15 and turn back to Eccles. 7:2.
   - this is a very unusual verse of Scripture that puts this
     topic in perspective.

- READ Eccles. 7:2 (develop)

2. Learning biblical truth about death makes us better
    prepared to handle life.

- another thing we need to say in an introductory way is

3. We must avoid two extremes concerning this subject:

  a. Believers who have a "stoical approach" to death.

     - We're not talking about believers becoming insensitive
       to the real struggles involved in this subject.
     - we're not talking about being "invincible towers of

     - Paul said in I Thess. 4:13 that we shouldn't "sorrow as
         others who have no hope," but there's still plenty
         of sorrow.
     - Job called death the "king of terrors." (I'm going to
        ask you in a minute why death has that reputation.)

     - I want you to know that I have prayed specifically
       about not coming off insensitive and uncaring the
       presentation of these verses.

- the other extreme:

  b. Believers who grieve like the unbelieving world.

     - yes we sorrow, but not like those who have "no hope."

     - The Bible is filled with instruction on this subject
       and there ought to be a marked difference between a
       believer's approach this subject and that of an

     - the Psalmist said - "Precious in the sight of the Lord
         is the death of His saints." (Psalm 116:15)
     - Paul said - "For to me to live is Christ, and to die
         is gain."

- one last thing I'd like us to do before moving into these
   verses is to interact with this question:

4. Job referred to death as the "king of terrors." What
   characteristics of death give it that "reputation?"


- with those thoughts in mind, let's move into our verses for
  tonight, I Cor. 15:50-58.  (READ)

- in these verses, Paul gives us three primary truths about
   the resurrection:

I. The Resurrection Involves A Transformation

    - one of the main ideas we need to factor into this
      discussion of death and dying is that:

    A. Flesh and blood (our physical bodies) are ill-suited
       for heaven.

       - now we're not saying that the physical body is evil.
       - there's nothing intrinsically wrong or intrinsically
          sinful about our bodies.

       - but it is ill-suited for our eternal futures.

       - it works out fine here on earth--but it won't fit
         what God has intended for us in heaven,
       - "flesh and blood" cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

- now we won't be able to benefit from this point unless we
  have the right view of our bodies.
- I don't want to go "overboard" here--we have to care for
   our bodies and be good stewards of our bodies.

- but we've got to be sure we're not overemphasizing the
    importance of our physical bodies.

- I think a good picture of what Paul's talking about here
   tonight is the person who's getting ready to go to a
   formal dinner.
     - he's been looking forward to this for weeks
     - the menu includes prime rib, baked potatoes, banana
         cream pie
     - a lot of his favorite friends are going to be there
     - its going to be great

- but he's been working outside all day and his clothes are
   dirty and he needs to get a shower and get his formal
   clothes on.
- now there would be something wrong with him if you went in
   his room a few minutes before the dinner's to start and he
   hasn't even started showering yet.
     - he's over in the corner, refusing to change, saying:
        "My clothes, my beautiful work clothes"
        "They've served me so well all day--I just can't
           stand to part with them"

- you'd say - "what's wrong with you"
    - we're talking steak, banana cream pie, all your friends
    - get you good clothes on
    - sure your work clothes served you well while you were
       working -- but THEY'RE ILL SUITED FOR THE BANQUET

- that's what Paul is saying about our physical bodies
- they work great on earth--but they're ill-suited for heaven

- that ought to balance off the terror of death
- death is necessary so we get some new clothes on--so we get
   the body our Lord has designed for us for life in heaven.

- we need to recognize that that’s not going to come easily,
   because we live in a world that places so much emphasis on
   the body.
    - Isn't that true?

    - Who's the most popular girl in school?
        - is it the one who's kindest to the other students?
        - the one who has the most respect for her parents
           and teachers?
        - is it the one who's got the best character?

    - no, the emphasis is on looks.

- what about for the guys?
   - is it the guy who has the best grades?
   - the one who loves God the most?
   - the one's who's inner man is most like Christ?

- no, it's the one who can slam the basketball the hardest.
    - the one who's got the biggest muscles.
    - the one who's got the best tan.

- that whole mentality can rub off on us.
    - and pretty soon we're standing in Wal-Mart buying
      shampoo saying "I use "preference by Loreal--cuz I'm
      worth it."
     (I use Shauve - $2 for a 50 gallon drum - cuz I'm cheap)

- people who have spent their whole lives just emphasizing
  their physical bodies are going to have a tremendous time with death.

- Paul says - we need a transformation, because our bodies
   are ill-suited for heaven.

- he goes on to say that this truth is so important that:

    B. Even believers who are alive at Christ's coming will
       be changed.

        - these verses are an interesting parallel to the
          verses in I Thes. 4 because they emphasize the
          opposite sides of the spectrum,

       - I thes. 4 addresses those who are concerned about
         those Christians who have already died.
           - Paul says - "they won't be left out - they'll be
             resurrected, too"

       - these verse are addressing those who are concerned
         about those Christians who are alive when Christ
           - Paul says - "They won't be left out either.
              This truth is so important that they too will
               be changed."

- Paul also tells us:

    C. This change is instantaneous

        - INPUT - What two ways does Paul emphasize this

            - "in a moment" - literally the word "atomos"
                 - the smallest conceivable particle, or in
                   this case, period of time.

           - in the twinkling of an eye - the part of our
             outward body that can move faster than any other

       - this issue is so important to our Lord, that
         when He appears, the change will be instantaneous.
- now I'd like to take a couple of diversions--we'll come
   back in a minute and finish discussing this point about
   how this transformation must take place--and some of the
   applications that naturally flow from it.
     - but there's a couple of questions that Christians have
       about this subject of death/our bodies that fit in
       here as naturally as anywhere else.
     - I'm thinking of the questions of organ donations and

- let's talk about organ donations first.
- I think some believers may be concerned about organ
   donations because of some negative effect that might have
   on their resurrected body.

   - these verses show that that’s not an issue.
   - there's going to be a transformation.

   - the bottom line is - there's nothing about this doctrine
     of the resurrection on any other doctrine that I'm aware
     of that would prohibit organ donations.

      - the only exception I know of to that would be an
        organ donation that would require the person's life
        to be taken in order for the donation to be
      - as I understand it--that's true of a heart donation.

      - If you have more questions about this, I would
        recommend that you read Dr. Ed Payne who has done
        extensive writing on the subject of medical ethics
          - or talk to one of the physicians here at the
            church or your personal physician
          - and of course we are always willing to talk to
            you about it as well.

- now the other side of what I'm saying is - there's nothing
   in the Scripture that would say a person would have to
   make an organ donation
     - My point here is that there's nothing about the
       doctrine of the resurrection that would prohibit it.

- for what its worth - I have decided that if there's
   anything from my body that can be useful to someone else
   after I've died -- I'm all for it.
    - but that’s a personal decision.

- Cremation is a different story.
   - all through the Bible, there is always the emphasis on
     the right care for the body.
   - the body's not well-suited for heaven - but it is to be
     cared for here on earth.

   - While the Bible doesn't come right out and speak to this
     issue, Cremation isn't consistent with the Scriptures
     teaching concerning proper care for our bodies.
   - now, I surely wouldn't get in a fight with an extended
      family member about this issue--but I thought I'd say a
      word while we're near this subject.
- If you'd like to do more study, I'd encourage you to get a
  book written by John Davis, "Cremation - Is it Christian?"
- Now, let's get back to our verses
- Paul's been saying - the resurrection involves a necessary

- then, in case we didn't get the point, Paul repeats it
   again in verse 53:

    D. This must happen

        - corruption must put on incorruption
        - mortality must put on immortality

- we must factor this into the way we view death
- overall point from these first 4 verses is -  our physical
    bodies, though they are well-suited for life on earth
      - are ill-suited for life in heaven
      - and especially because of the curse of sin, because
          these bodies are corruptible, and weak

        - THEY ABSOLUTELY MUST BE REPLACED - there must be a

     - that transformation can only take place if there is a

- one of the points we need to leave this study of the
   resurrection with is this -- All of us would be a lot
   better off if we would loosen our grasp on things that are
   ill-suited for heaven.

- I've been doing some reading in the popular literature just
   to learn what others in both the secular and religious
   world are saying about this subject.

- one article that especially interested me said this:
   "people with considerable resources may be at most risk
    for negative reactions to the loss of a loved one."

    - (let me ask you just to think about that for a minute)

    - Studies have shown that people who had considerable
       resources: (what they meant by that was:)
         - solid bank account
         - harmonious marriage
         - things in their life seemingly under control

            - often had more trouble handling thoughts of
              their own death or the death of someone close
              to them
             - they had more trouble handling death than
               those who didn't have those kind of resources.

- now let me ask you to think about that - To whatever degree
    that's true -- What might that be indicating?

      - see, there's nothing wrong with a solid bank account
          - a harmonious marriage
          - things seemingly under control

- but there's something wrong if I've made idols out of those

     - there's something wrong if I've set my affections on
        those things (as Paul said to the Colossians)
     - there's something wrong if the comforts of life have
        gotten in the way of the concerns of heaven.

- see, isn't this true - some believers are clenching on to
   the things of earth so tightly that God can't use them.

- It's like the small child that you left alone for just a
     - when you return, you find that somehow he's gotten
       a hold of a knife -- and he's playing with it.
     - thankfully he's holding it by the handle, but when you
       go to take it away
         - he's clenching onto it with all his might

         - though you know how dangerous that is - and how
           harmful it can be
             - he's just clenching on and you have to
               literally pry his fingers off the knife

- that's the picture that's Paul's painting here

- yes our physical bodies have served us well here on earth
    - even though they're tainted by sin--they are an amazing
        example of the wonder of God's creation

    - but they're ill-suited for heaven

    - the picture is of a believer who is facing death--
       grasping onto their body

         - I won't let go, I won't let go
         - and we have all these procedures now to sustain
            life a little longer and sustain life a little
         - I think one Christian doctor is right when he said
             - We need to ask "Are we prolonging life or are
                 we prolonging death"

- Overall point is - All of us would be a lot better off if
   we would loosen our grasp on things that are ill-suited
   for heaven.

- now we can surely develop this point broader than the
   subject of death and dying.
- A principle that helps us face death surely will help us
    face life.

    - see, isn't it true - Some folks are having trouble
      growing because they're grasping onto things that are
      ill-suited for heaven.

    - some of them are downright sinful things:
       - I must drink this, watch this, talk this way
       - I must wallow in my self-pity
       - I must have these kinds of friends

    - it would be good for us to go around the circle of life
      and ask - "Is this well suited for heaven?"
       - Am I grasping onto things that are not pleasing to
         the Lord.

     - hey, Satan has all kinds of options out there, doesn't
     - I heard of a new one this week I had never heard of

     - Do you know what a B.B.S. is? (bulletin board service)

         (Read mag. article)

- I've mentioned some sinful things - but I think we need to
      - It's possible to grasp onto some things that may be
         good in their place but have become so important to
         us that in our situation, they've become bad.

- I think that’s true of our children.
    - I was talking to Nancy this week about what its like to
      have a one of their sons studying for the ministry and
      to have their daughter heading for the mission field.

    - she said - if that's God's will for them, then I want
        them to do it.

- that's one of the lessons Paul wants us to learn from the
       - there has to be a transformation
       - this body is good in many ways--but we have to die
       - this body is ill-suited for heaven


- now the next thing Paul tells us in these verses is that:

II. The Resurrection Brings Triumph

    - Read 54-56

    - Paul says:
    A. Death is swallowed up

        - Paul is quoting here from the book of Isaiah and
          he's talking about the triumph that our Savior has
          had over death.
        - this ought to remind us of some of the greatest
            verses in Scripture

        - John 5:24 - believers are passed from death unto
        - John 8:51 - "If anyone keeps my Word, he shall
             never see death."
        - I John 3:14 - "We know that we have been passed out
             of death into life."

        - Romans 8:38 - "For I am persuaded that neither
death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor
depth, nor any other things, shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

- see, the Resurrection brings TRIUMPH

- that's so true that Paul in verse 55 Paul personifies
    death, and he speaks directly to it
- Death - where's your victory--where's your sting?

    B. It's sting has been taken away

        - as soon as Jesus Christ rose from the dead, death
            lost it's sting.
        - Romans 6:9 - Death hath no more dominion over Him
           - and because death has no more dominion over Him,
             death has no more dominion over us.

        - the sting was sin
            - knowing we'd have to pay for our sin
            - knowing we'd spend eternity separated from God

        - but sin was paid for with the blood of Christ and
           death has no more sting.

- think of the most ferocious creature and then imagine what
    that animal would be like if it were defanged, or
    declawed, and shrunk down to size.

- Kris and I took the girls to a circus this summer.
- We are amazed at the lions and the lion tamer.

- we were in a big stadium in Philadelphia
   - sitting in the balcony
   - the lions were in huge cages that had fence all around
   - but they were still awesome

   - I wouldn't have gone in that cage for anything in the

- but can you imagine what would have happened if the Lord
   miraculously took the sting out of that lion?
     - all of a sudden he's shrunk down to about 75 pounds
     - and his fangs and his claws are gone

     - he goes to let out one of those big roars and a little
          peep comes out (try one)
     - and then he goes to take a swipe with his claws but
         all he's got are these little soft mits.
     - and he goes to bear his fangs and they're all gone
        (make a toothless face)

- see, all of a sudden--he's not so ferocious.

- Paul says - that's true of death.
    - It's lost it's sting.

    - because of the death and resurrection of Christ, death
      has been declawed, defanged, defeated, and destroyed.
- Paul's point is - there ought to be a difference in the way
    Christians face this subject compared to those who don't
    know Christ.

- sure we sorrow, sure there's concerns
- but not like those who have no hope

- thats been one of the problems all along with the
    Corinthians.--there's no measurable difference between
    them and the unbelievers.
     - no difference in the way they get along - divisions
          all over the place.
     - no difference in the way they handle disagreements -
          they're running to court just like everybody else.
     - no difference in the way they use their bodies
     - no difference in the way they treat their spouses.

- Paul has been saying - there ought to be a measurable
   difference between you and folks who don't know Christ.
- surely one of the areas that difference ought to be most
    pronounced is in the way we handle death.

- the resurrection brings triumph--death has lost it's sting

- lastly, Paul says:

III. The Resurrection Should Lead To Thanksgiving

    - read verse 57

    - see, this doctrine of the resurrection ought to make us
      more thankful people.
    - we've got a decision to make.

    - when we face this subject, are we going to worry, fret,
      get depressed, and all the rest
    - or are we going to be thankful

    - when we're involved in a memorial service
       - when we drive by a funeral home
       - when we read the obituaries
       - when we're facing sickness

    - are we going to focus on our fears and doubts
    - or are we going to be thankful for the victory we have
        over death because of our Lord Jesus Christ?

- we've talked about a lot of applications from this doctrine
- I'll tell you--this is the first time I've systematically
    studied through these verses

- I'm hoping to apply the same ideas I've been suggesting to
    you --- that we develop our view of the resurrection
     - we tie more ropes to the boat as we said a couple of
       weeks ago

     - and then we derive the maximum benefit from this
       doctrine on a day to day basis that our desires.
     - in addition to all the applications we've already
        mentioned, verse 57 surely gives us one of the most
- we ought to become more thankful people
- because the doctrine of the resurrection, helps us put
   ourselves in the proper place, and put our Lord in the
   proper place.

       - here's what I mean

       - when we reflect on all the planning, power, purpose
         involved in the resurrection of believers -- it
         helps us put anything we've accomplished as humans
         in perspective.

       - some of us need that
      - some of us can get pretty "full of ourselves"

      - some of you work in professions where that could
        easily be a temptation.

        - I look at those big engines coming out of
          Caterpillar -- and think about all that must go
          into building something like that and say--that's

       - some of you work in medical fields and its
         absolutely amazing what God under common grace has
         allowed man to achieve.
           - it's amazing.

       - others work with computers and you can enter a list
         of figures in that machine and it calculates them

- point is - many here tonight work in fields where the human
   advancements and developments are impressive.

- but that has a "down-side"
- because if we're not careful, that can result in pride

- It can also result in self-sufficiency
    - there are many in our community who are so "full of
       themselves" that they think they don't need God
- You may be here tonight and you've lived that way your
    whole life

     The Lord wants the doctrine of the resurrection to
       help you put your own abilities/achievements in the
       right perspective
         - and then turn to Christ as Lord and Savior

- We're studying the resurrection of believers who have died
    - but the Bible also teaches about the resurrection of

- unbelievers don't just cease to exist
    - the Bible doesn't teach annihilationism

   - the resurrection of unbelievers will be the exact
      opposite of everything we've studied tonight


      - instead of everlasting life -- it will be everlasting
           death -- complete and absolute separation from God
      - instead of everlasting joy, it will be everlasting
      - instead of enjoying an eternal relationship with God
         because our sins have been paid for and forgiven,
         unbelievers will face an eternity of judgement
         because they must pay the price of sin themselves.

- see, this doctrine ought to shake people out of self-

- this doctrine can help believers in this area, too.
- some folks who call themselves believers are pretty full of
- and there's no time for God
   - no time for His Word
   - no time for His church
   - no time for His people
       - always dashing off to build this monument or that

- after studying this doctrine, the Lord would want us to
  list our greatest of accomplishments and then write over
    "You ain't seen nothing, yet."

- Studying the resurrection helps put us in our place.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video