1 Corinthians 15:26
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
There is an enemy before every one of us, and we are all advancing to encounter him; let each ask himself, In what spirit, in what strength, under whose banner, and with what hope?
I. I WILL MENTION THREE REASONS WHY DEATH SHOULD BE CALLED AN ENEMY. First, because of his probable antecedents. Secondly, because of his certain concomitants. And thirdly, because of his possible consequences. A brief word upon each.
1. The latest stage of earthly life is commonly a time of trial — a very valley of humiliation. The consciousness of reduced strength must be very trying to a man of vigour.
2. Still the antecedents of death are but probable; he himself may prevent them by an earlier stroke than is usual. But of the concomitants of death we cannot say even this. They are certain; they must be. And what are they? I will name but one — separation. Death is loneliness in its strongest sense.
3. I hasten to the consequences of death. I called the antecedents probable. I called the concomitants certain. I must call the consequences (blessed be God) only possible. Still that possibility is dreadful. I suppose a man to be pondering the old question — What shall be after death? What shall I be, and where? An anxious and (apart from the gospel) an indeterminable inquiry. Only there is something within me which seems to tell me that I shall be after death. Can I be quite sure that things done in the body will not influence or affect that future existence? Can I be quite sure that words which have done injury to others, and imaginations which have done injury to myself, may not, in some strange way, be bearing fruit in that state into which death shall usher me? And if all this be (as we are at this moment supposing it to be) less than certain, still is not the possibility serious enough? Does it not make me feel that "enemy" is the only name befitting him who is to introduce me into a condition, at the very worst, so mysterious and so critical?
II. WE THANK JESUS CHRIST FOR NOT REQUIRING US TO DO VIOLENCE TO NATURAL CONVICTIONS, BY CHANGING THE APPELLATION OF THAT TERRIFIC FOE, whom each one of us has inevitably to encounter. But we thank Him still more for having revealed to us one way of meeting and conquering this foe; yea, for words stronger far than any promise of resistance or of victory — "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death!"
1. The foundation is laid for the individual destruction of death, when a man heartily believes in Jesus Christ as his Saviour. A young man is alarmed by the first touch of serious illness — none so timid on this point — lest it should run on into that which is fatal. And the feeling lasts; which of us has got over it? But whenever in any particular instance a man turns heartily to Christ as his Saviour, then is the foundation laid, in his case, for that which St. Paul here calls the destruction or the abolition of death.
2. Again, we read at the end of this chapter, that "the sting of death is sin." And we must distinguish at all times between what is called the guilt of sin and what we all understand by the power of sin. It is sad that we should be obliged to do so. But, unhappily, all experience tells us — and we need the warning most of all for ourselves — that a person may take to himself the comforts of the gospel without knowing anything really of its living strength. Therefore I say that we must separate that first step towards the destruction of death — faith in the merits of Jesus Christ — from this second step, the habitual growing mastery over self and sin by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, given to all who ask for Him in the name of Jesus.
3. The next step carries us far onward; it is a death-bed cheered by the sense of a Saviour's presence. This is the result of the other two.
4. And yet, thus far, although death has been boldly encountered, and although, in one sense, he has been vanquished, yet to the end, in another sense, the victory has remained with him. The lifeless body has been left his prey; he has carried it off, he has triumphed over it, he has made it his very sport and trophy. Not till all the dead shall have been raised in newness of life can the Destroyer of death be said to have fulfilled His mission. Till then, death may have been overruled, may have been made tolerable, may have been even, in certain cases, converted into an instrument of blessing; as when the same apostle said, "I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better"; but never till then will death have been abolished and annihilated; never till then will the corruptible have put on incorruption, and mortality have been swallowed up of life.
Parallel VersesKJV: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.