1 Corinthians 15:26
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
I. THE NATURE OF THAT ENEMY. Consider —
1. The dissolution of the human frame. The body is a wonderful machine, which bears the mark of Divine wisdom and skill. If we look upon the Goths and Vandals as the enemies of society because they destroyed the ancient monuments of art, what must we think of death?
2. Death puts an end to all that is terrestrial. All schemes and thoughts that relate only to time are destroyed. As much, therefore, as the world is worth, so much is death to be considered as a formidable foe. Say, ye ambitious, ye lovers of wealth or pleasure, what will these things avail you when you are summoned to meet this last enemy?
3. It dissolves the tenderest ties of nature and affection. Death tears asunder husbands and wives, parents and children, etc. One part of the mortal compound is left by him to mourn while the other part is mingled with corruption. Death so mars the features that the most passionate admirers of beauty are constrained to say, "Bury my dead out of my sight." All the fruits of friendship are withered by his breath. Nor is there any union so closely formed but it will be cut asunder by this great enemy.
4. Its moral or eternal consequences (ver. 56). The death of the body is by no means the full infliction of the penalty of the Divine law. It is but a preparation; like knocking off the chains and fetters from a prisoner who is about to be led forth to the place of execution (Romans 6:23).
5. There are many properties of this enemy which give him the pre-eminence of terror.
(1) He is an inexorable enemy. Others may be bribed by riches, soothed by flatteries, moved by the tears and sorrows of a suppliant, or reconciled by a mediator; but not he.
(2) Death is an impartial enemy. Other enemies have particular grounds of quarrel; they do not oppose the whole of the species, but some individual, or individuals; but every one of the human race is the object of his enmity; his arrows will level all in the dust.
(3) Like other great monarchs he also has harbingers to herald his approach — pains, afflictions, diseases, etc.
(4) As these are his forerunners, so he has dreadful instruments for destruction — famine, pestilence, war, the lightning, and the earthquake. The air, the elements, food, etc., are often converted into instruments of death,
II. WHY HE IS CALLED THE "LAST ENEMY." To denote the completeness of the Redeemer's conquest: nothing remains after the last.
1. This is the last enemy of the Church of God in its collective capacity. Persecution shall cease, affliction be removed, fears and terrors of conscience quelled, temptations overcome, and Satan subdued: still the triumphs of death will remain; a large portion of what the Lord has redeemed will remain under His dominion; the bodies of believers will continue in the grave till the final consummation of all things.
2. He is the last enemy of every believer. The Christian obtains a hope of pardon; he goes on conquering one temptation after another, but he knows that, after all, his body must come under the power of this enemy, and remain for a season in his dark domain.
3. To other men what ought I to say of the last enemy? However long they have escaped his power, he will meet them at last, and they must conquer him or be defeated and lost for ever.
III. CHRIST HAS CONQUERED THIS ENEMY IN PART AND WILL ULTIMATELY DESTROY HIM. Note —
1. The degrees and stages by which Christ conquers death.
(1) By His incarnation and passion He purchased a right, in behalf of the human race, to conquer death. Power and right are two distinct things; and, among men, the former is frequently opposed to the latter. Christ, as God, had power to put down death; but it was necessary, in order that it might be put down fitly and properly, that such an expiation should be made as would remove the guilt on account of which mankind were doomed to die (Hebrews 2:10, 14, 15).
(2) Christ, by His Spirit, gives the earnest and the pledge of victory over the last enemy: He takes away the power of sin, which is the sting of death, and He communicates the principle of life. Whoever is enabled, through the Spirit, to lay hold of Jesus Christ by faith lays hold of Him who is the "resurrection and the life."
2. When these preparatory measures have taken place the empire of death shall be sapped to the foundation. It has, indeed, been a widely extended empire, founded on, or spreading over, the ruins of all other empires: it has comprehended within its domains all the seed of Adam: it has continued from age to age. But the final stroke will produce the entire overthrow of this wide and lasting dominion.Conclusion: "What is the proper improvement of this subject?
1. To raise our eyes in adoration and gratitude to the conqueror of death.
2. To elevate believers above the sorrows and afflictions of time! This enemy is the "last"; when he is destroyed, the field will be quite clear; the vast field of eternity will be free from every molestation.
(R. Hall, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.