Pastor James J. Barker

Text: I CORINTHIANS 15:51-58


  1. Years ago JFK Jr. died and the newspapers were filled with endless stories about his death, his life, his famous family, their deaths, etc.
  2. Before that it pretty much the same for Joe Dimaggio, and before that Frank Sinatra, and before that Princess Diana, and John Lennon, and Elvis Presley, and on and on it goes. When famous people die it is big news.
  3. But every day people die. Someone’s mother, someone’s father, someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, someone’s neighbor.
  4. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychiatry, called death a painful riddle "for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably ever will be."
  5. His statement indicates his unbelief. For the Christian, death is no riddle.
  6. For those who have repented of their sins and trusted Christ, death has lost its sting (cf. vs. 55).
  7. We can shout together with the apostle Paul, "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs. 57).
  8. This victory is "through our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs. 57). You can only be victorious if you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.
    1. It is a fact that not all Christians will die. The apostle Paul says, "We shall not all sleep (die)" (vs. 51).
    2. Some might be thinking, "But the Bible says it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb.9:27). But it doesn’t say, "all men." There is in the Bible a basic principle that all men die, but there are exceptions.
    3. For example, in the book of Genesis we see the first genealogy – all the sons of Adam died (cf. Gen.5:8,11,14,17,20). But then, we see a break in this sad repetition (Gen.5:21-24; cf. Heb.11:5).
    4. Another well-known example is Elijah the prophet (II Kings 2:11-13).
    5. Also, the Bible teaches that there will be a generation alive on earth when Jesus returns and that generation will never die (cf. I Thess. 4:13-18). We could be that generation. I hope we are.
    6. This is what Paul means when he says, "We shall not all sleep" (vs.51).
    7. The Bible teaches that unsaved men instinctively have a fear of death and are in bondage to this fear (cf. Heb.2:14,15).
    8. If you are in bondage and if you have a fear of dying, the Bible says the Lord will "deliver" (Heb.2:15) you if you put your trust in Him.
    9. Our victory in Jesus is not only over death itself (vss.51-53), but over the sting of death.
    1. In the Bible, death is referred to as "the King of Terrors" (Job 18:5-21).
    2. But death holds no terror for those who are saved – "Death is swallowed up in victory" (vs. 54b; cf. Isa.25:8).
    3. For the Christian, the sting of death has been removed (vs. 55). The sting of death is sin (vs. 56). But those of us that are saved have had our sins forgiven and washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    4. It is the consciousness of unconfessed sin that makes men fear death. They know that their account with God has not been settled. The heavy burden of sin is wearing them down – it makes the thought of dying terrifying.
    5. There is a powerful scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him and explains how he was murdered by his brother. He complains to Hamlet that he was "cut off even in the blossoms of my sin, unhous’led, disappointed, unaneled, no reck’ning made, but sent to my account with all my imperfections on my head. O, horrible! O, horrible! O, horrible!"
    6. This is the sting of death – the heavy burden of unconfessed, and unforgiven sin.
    7. The great preacher Spurgeon described how this sting works on unrepentant sinners: "I might picture, O drunkard, when thy cups are drained, and when thy liquors shall no longer be sweet to thy taste, when worse than gall shall be thy dainties that thou drinkest, when within an hour the worms shall make a carnival upon thy flesh; I might picture thee as thou lookest back upon thy misspent life. And then, O swearer, methinks I see thee there with thine oaths echoing back by memory to thine own dismay. And thou man of lust and wickedness, thou who hast debauched and seduced others, I see thee there, and the sting of death to thee, how horrible, how dreadful! It shall not be that thou art groaning with pain, it shall not be that thou art racked with agony, it shall not be that thy heart and flesh faileth, but the sting, the sting shall be thy sin."
    8. "The strength of sin is the law" (vs. 56). The law condemns the sinner – the law says, "Thou shalt not steal…thou shalt not bear false witness…thou shalt not commit adultery." The law pronounces the doom of all who fail to obey God’s holy precepts.
    1. If there were no sin, there would be no death (Rom.5:12). "The wages of sin is death" (Rom.6:23).
    2. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek.18:4). But this is more than physical death – it refers to what the Bible calls "the second death" (Rev.20:6,14,15).
    3. When certain insects sting a person, they leave their stinger imbedded in the person’s flesh and then they die. When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, death lost its sting. Now we can say, "O Death, where is thy sting?"
    4. For those of us who are born again, "the second death hath no power" (Rev.20:6), the sting is gone for ever!
    5. M.R. DeHaan said: "It is because of sin that we dread death. To die and stand before God with sin upon us unatoned and unforgiven is a terrible prospect which causes fear and trembling in the heart of man. It will mean eternal damnation, and, therefore, death for unbelievers means the passing into the place of outer darkness and condemnation forever and ever. To face God at death without Christ our sinbearer, is an awful, terrible, fearful prospect."
    6. Dr. DeHaan then gives an interesting illustration. He used to keep bees: "One thing I learned was that a worker bee can sting only once in a lifetime. Its needle-sharp stinger is equipped with little barbs all along its sides like a porcupine quill, so that when the stinger is inserted it goes in to stay, and causes the death of the bee. The stinger of a bee, once it has entered the flesh, cannot be withdrawn, because of these barbs. The only way, therefore, that the bee can free itself is to tear away from the stinger, leaving it behind in the victim whom it has attacked. It is now a bee without a sting. It is harmless. It can buzz, but it cannot sting."
    7. Dr. DeHaan then goes on to describe how a bee stung one of his sons and then headed for his second son. The boy was terrified and Dr. DeHaan told him: "Listen, that bee cannot hurt you, it can only scare you."
    8. That is the way death is for the saint – it can try and scare us but it cannot hurt us because "Death is swallowed up in victory" (vs. 54b-57).
    9. In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that "absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (II Cor.5:8).


Have you gotten victory over the sting of death? One writer described death this way:
     Oh, what is this I cannot see,
     With icy hands taking hold of me?
     Oh, I am death, none can excel;
     I open the doors of heaven and hell.
     Oh, death, oh death, how can it be;
     That I must come and go with thee?
     Oh death, oh death, how can it be;
     I’m unprepared for eternity?
     Yes, I have come to get your soul,
     To leave your body and leave it cold,
     To drop the flesh off from the frame;
     The earth and worms both have their claim.

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