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991-What are the Odds (Easter) 1 Corinthians 15 12-28

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What Are The Odds?
The resurrection of Christ clearly demonstrates our own hope for the future.[1]

1 Corinthians 15:12-28

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.”a Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. [2]

All the odds-makers agree that a man by the name of Lee Capps should for all in-tends and purposes be dead.  You might have heard of him a number of years ago.  Lee, who  didn’t know how to fly, took off in a private airplane with a friend who was a pilot.  But when they got up to cruising altitude, is friend – the pilot had a heart attack and died.  So Lee pushed his friend off the controls, grabbed the radio and cried out for help. An air traffic controller in Renton, WA heard his cry.  And he said, “Its your lucky day.  Not only am I an air traffic controller, but I’m a flight instructor on the side. Would you be interested in a few flying lessons?

Being otherwise unoccupied, Lee said,  “I’ll take whatever flying lessons you can give me.”  And so the air traffic controller started to explain some of the basic maneuvers of how to fly an airplane.  Then he said,  “Lee, I think, you know, you’re going to have to take a shot at landing this baby.  It’s your only hope…We’ve got to give this thing a try.”  So he talked Lee through his descent and helped him point the plane toward the runway.  Those who might have seen the news clips on the network news, witnessed… not the most graceful approach… He came in more like a drunk duck. He was all over the place.  And hit pretty hard.  But miraculously, Lee Capps walked away with only minor injuries. Afterwards, the press talked to the air traffic controller and said, “You know, just between us, did you really think you could talk that guy down and that he could walk away?  And the air traffic controller said,  “I knew that this one was a long shot.”

That day, Lee Capps defied all the odds. I don’t know if you’ve thought about it much, but there are a lot of people who, by profession, are odds-makers. People who figure out life insurance actuary tables…Owners and operators of casinos…, Stock brokers…Weather men…  Some people actually make their living by sorting out the sure shots. 

For example, there are people who can tell you mathematically that your car is 38 times more likely to get stolen if it’s a Corvette as opposed to being a Ford Escort Wagon.  And if you’re still driving a Ford Pinto, it is mathematically impossible for it to be stolen.  You don’t need to go out and buy the club. In fact,  You can leave your keys right in the ignition.  It’s statistically impossible for it to be stolen!

People can tell you mathematically that you’re 10 times more likely to get injured riding a bike than driving a car.  I thought this was interesting:  I read that the odds are greater that you will fall out of bed, hit your head, and die, than the chance that you will win the state lottery. So being as tight as I am, I figure that after my second strike, I’m going to start buying tickets.  But not until then!

Some people make their living by figuring out odds like these and they’re usually very accurate.  Yet the odds makers were wrong about Lee Capps.  He defied the odds.  It was very much the same way in Jesus’ day.  The odds-makers were wrong about whether or not He was going to come back from the grave, but he did. [3]

Illustration: Vance Havner

said, "The hope of dying is the only thing that keeps me alive."

In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul deals with this question in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The word gospel means good news. The good news is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides positive answers to the 3 most important questions about life after death.

1.  Is there life after death?

The answer is Yes. Jesus' resurrection proved it. Verses 35 contains the essence of the Christian's belief. The Old Testament had predicted that the Messiah was going to die. It said that he would be led like a sheep to the slaughter. Jesus' death was not an accidental death or even the death of a martyr. It was the deliberate death of a person who offered his life as a sacrifice.

God laid all of our sins upon him; he became our substitute on the cross.

Illustration: A woman wrote J. Vernon McGee

one time: She said… "Our preacher said that on Easter, Jesus just fainted on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?"

I love McGee’s answer:  He said, "Dear Sister, whip your preacher 39 times with heavy strokes. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for 6 hours. Run a spear through his heart. Embalm him. Put him in an airless tomb for 3 days. Then see what happens."

Jesus Christ died and was buried. He was then laid in a borrowed tomb. He was raised on the 3rd day according to the Scriptures. When you borrow something, you're just going to use it temporarily.  It’s not permanent thing… Otherwise, its stealing!  Jesus Christ came back. He strolled out of that tomb very much alive. When the women went to the tomb to anoint his body, they discovered the tomb was empty.

The angel said, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen just the way he said that he would."

Now, Paul says emphatically, "We know Jesus is alive because we have seen him." Peter saw him alive. He ate breakfast with him and had discussions with him. The 12 disciples saw him alive. They were in the Upper Room when suddenly Jesus appeared and said, "See the nail prints in my hands." He appeared to over 500 people at once and to the apostle James, who was beheaded for the belief that he was alive.

 Paul said, "Last of all, he appeared to me too." So the resurrection verifies that there is life after death.

Illustration: Walk the moon

Years ago, When I was in early elementary school, we used to have questions and discussions about whether man would ever make it to the moon. We said, "Well, it's so far away, and there's no oxygen on the moon. The gravitational pull is supposed to be that of the earth. How do we get there and get back into our atmosphere?"

Then on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the face of the moon. You know what…  We don't ask that question any more because the demonstration eliminates the discussion. Jesus Christ demonstrated that there is life after death.

In verse 12, Paul seems perplexed as to why people even asked the question. "If it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?"

 Now, we cannot prove that Jesus came back from the grave. We can't put our faith

in a test tube or show a video to provide evidence. Jesus won't come physically and preach from our pulpit so that we can see him visibly. But there is ample evidence to believe! We have the eyewitness testimony in Scripture. We have the testimony of millions of people whose lives have been changed by Christ over the centuries. We have the calendar and the church. We have the Holy Spirit convicting us in our hearts today that he's alive. We have The broken Roman Seal. This meant an investigation, an apprehension and automatic death for whoever did it...so obviously the Roman soldiers didn't break it.

The disciples? Well, they were in hiding, and I wouldn't put my money on that group being able to overpower a group of soldiers. We have the huge stone that was moved uphill. We're not talking about a small boulder here. This was a 3000-4000 pound massive hunk of mountain that was supposed to stay where they put it. It didn't. We have an empty tomb, and the disciples immediately proclaimed the resurrection right away IN Jerusalem where the resurrection happened! They would have been completely laughed out of town if the tomb wasn't empty. 

We have the testimony by the absence of the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb. This was a death penalty offense that would get you burned alive for leaving your post. Why would they disappear from the scene if they could simply produce the body and get off the hook?

We have the testimony of the resurrected Jesus who stayed in town for 40 days. He appeared to more than 500 people in all kinds of different places, times and circumstances. We have the testimony of the word of the angel who was outside of the empty tomb. Here are his exact words:

( Matthew 24:6) He isn't here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.  Come, see where his body was lying). That statement and corresponding evidence changed a frightened and hiding group of people into fearless witnesses who ended up dying for their belief in a risen Christ. [4]  So you have the option to examine the evidence and believe it… or to disbelieve it.

Houdini claimed that on the 50th anniversary of his death, he would come back from the dead.

So on that date, a group of his followers gathered around his grave in San Francisco, waiting for him to return. They waited and waited and waited. Then they went home. Jesus uniquely, singularly rose from the dead.

Lots of people make all sorts of claims, but our Hero, our Leader, our Lord Jesus Christ delivered. He came through. And HAD His offering not been acceptable, our Great High Priest would never have emerged from the tomb on Easter Sunday.… As the high priest, dressed in linen, went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat,  the people would wonder and wait. If the high priest was himself defiled… if the high priest was himself polluted by sin, he would be struck dead in the Holy of Holies BY GOD. (Which is why they always tied a rope around the High Priest’s ankle… to pull him out.  No one else was allowed to enter…But if he emerged, his linen garments sprinkled with blood, the people would know the offering “took.” They would know their sins were forgiven.

What about our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ?   Wrapped in linen, He was placed in the tomb. All of heaven wondered. All of history waited.  Did the offering take? Was His blood accepted? It WAS!  Because He emerged from the tomb on that glorious Resurrection Sunday, we know the offering did, indeed, it did take. Halleluiah! 

The Lamb’s blood… The offering was accepted. And we can know that we are forgiven.

Whether you’re talking to the skeptic on a campus, at work, or in your neighborhood, the issue is singular:   Did Jesus rise from the dead? If He did, He is unique in history. It validates His claim.  And it means our sins are forgiven. The entire argument hinges on this single issue of the Resurrection.[5]

What is life after death like? 

Have you ever wondered that question? I have performed over 100 funerals in my time and it has caused me to ponder several times… What is life after death really like?  In verse 20,   Paul teaches that Jesus demonstrated what life after death was like. "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep."  First fruit means an example of that which is to come. In other words, if you want to know what it's like to die and live again, look at Jesus' experience.

First, there was a separation from the body. Just before Jesus died, he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Jesus' body was buried in a tomb, but his spirit went to be with the Father.

He said to the thief on the cross, "This day you're going to be with me in paradise."

When we die, our spirits go immediately to be with God while our body goes to the grave. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Just as it's a hand that animates a puppet, so the spirit energizes a body.

When the spirit departs, the body is put aside like a lifeless puppet. We don't return to a number of other bodies like reincarnation teaches, and we don't go to a place where we're purged of our sin for years. We go directly to be with God when we die. There's a departure of the spirit from the body, then there is a resurrection of the body. After three days, Jesus returned to the tomb to the same body. He left the grave clothes behind. He showed them the scars in his hands and feet.

In John 5:28, Jesus said, "Now don't be amazed at this. But the time is coming when all that are in the grave will hear his voice and come out." If God has the power to make matter out of energy, and to make Adam out of the dust of the ground, then he has the power to recreate our decomposed bodies.

The Bible says, "Nothing is impossible with God."  When Jesus suggested that he was going to open up the tomb of Lazarus, Lazarus's sister Martha objected.  "Oh no. He's been dead 4 days. There's already a bad odor. His body's already beginning to decompose."

Jesus said, "Martha, you're going to see the glory of God."  He rolled the stone away, and he called out, "Lazarus, come forth." And this man who had been dead for four days came out of the grave. It doesn't matter if you've been dead 4 days or 4 decades

or 4 millennia. When Christ commands it, there will be a resurrection of the body. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says the Lord will come down from heaven with the spirits of those who have fallen asleep,  there will be a loud command, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Does anyone know what direction they bury you at the cemetery…[ I’m sure many of you older ones do.  ]  The believers of the early NT insisted and it is still practiced today that we bury people facing east because  from the words of Christ, they believed that He is going to return in the eastern sky. And When they come up out of the grave, they wanted to be facing Jesus!  Of course, we do a whole lot more in our cemeteries now…

Today with our carnal mindset, we want an airtight crypt and a watertight casket. I just want a box.  No lock…  I want to get out of there as fast as I can!

!!Illustration: Miracle of Birth

Now some of you skeptics may say, "Aw,  Come on Preacher, that's too fanciful to believe." Let me ask you a question: If you didn't know about conception and had never seen a birth, and I tried to describe it to you, would you believe it? A tiny, unseen little sperm-seed from a man is combined with a tiny, unseen little egg from a woman, and they form a cell, and those cells begin to multiply, and 9 months later,  out comes this baby with pumping arms and legs, and he starts to scream. You'd say, "No way. You've got to be kidding me."

This a miracle we observe over and over again, but we take it for granted because it is so common. It is no more difficult for God to raise the dead than it is for him to create life. Our resurrected body will be a physical one.

I learned something in Luke 24:38 this past week that I had never thought about prior to that moment. Jesus appeared in the Upper Room with the disciples, and they thought he was a ghost. "He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I, Myself. Touch me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. While they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ... ate it… in their presence."

Jesus ate after he rose from the dead. I never thought about eating in heaven. Can you imagine it?   We will no longer have to worry about fat grams and high blood pressure and cholesterol. There will be no need for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Medifast, or  Adkins in heaven. Halleluiah!

The Bible says we will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

1 Corinthians 15:35 reads: "Someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised?' With what kind of body will they come?"

How foolish. Jesus said God has demonstrated with plants what happens. You take a kernel of corn, and put it in the ground. It decomposes, (in other words, it dies) and in 2 weeks a green shoot comes up. It becomes a corn stalk and then produces an ear of corn. So now, take a petrified, body and put it in the ground. It decomposes,but one day, by the power of God,  it is going to come up a glorified body.

He says here,

it is sown a natural body;

it's going to be reaped a spiritual body.

It is sown a perishable body;

it's going to be raised an imperishable body.

It is sown a weak body;

it's going to be raised in power.

In verses 38-41, Paul says

 you just trust God.

He's able to create a body that will perfectly fit into its intended environment.

He created fish with scales so that they could survive under water.

He created birds with feathers so they could fly through the air.

He can re-create us with immortal bodies that will never perish, spoil, or fade.

? Is that so impossible for God?

In verse 52 Paul says,

"The dead will be raised imperishable,

and we shall be changed."

Now that's good news.

If you are 80 years old with arthritis and

a hearing aid,

you won't want to pick up where you left off.

Instead, you'll have a glorified body.

He says the perishable

will clothe itself with the imperishable

and

then

the saying that is written

will come true:

"Death will be swallowed up in victory." AMEN!!!

I picture a huge room filled with …just worship.

We will go into that room and worship the Lord.

We will sing "Amazing Grace."

We'll hear Jesus teach,

 

and we'll listen to Paul.

 

 

We'll hear the best singing groups in all of history perform.

We’ll listen to choirs of angels

that would put to shame any choir we have been a part of.

I also picture a room where you will be able to go and re-live any moment in history exactly as it transpired.

There won't be any revisionist history.

We will be able to see exactly what happened.

I picture a room where we can hear the Lord answering the tough questions that we've never been able to find answers to here.

I also picture an instructional room where you can learn how to do things you didn't have time to do on the earth.

Heaven is described as a city.

A city … is a place that is abuzz with activity.

In my Father's house there are many rooms,

many activities.

 

 

Listen, if Jesus fished after he arose from the dead,

I’m sure others should be able to play golf and

mess around on computers,

 and hike, and hunt…

and if it is heaven,

there must be something like the beach…

because I just know that God lives at the beach! J

Our bodies are going to be identifiable bodies.

Even though Jesus' body was changed somewhat,

he was recognized by the disciples when he wanted to be.

The Bible teaches us that once we are raised from the dead,

we will retain our personalities

and have fellowship with one another.

The Bible says we're going to sit down with

Abraham,

Isaac, and

Jacob.

If we're going to know those guys we've never met,

then we're going to be able to identify each other.

To me, that's one of the warmest tugs of heaven—to be able to be with people we've loved on earth,

to be reunited with no threat of disunity

or separation again.

3.  So, How can we obtain eternal life?

Well, Jesus purchased it.

If life after death were for sale,

 how much would you pay for it?

Its one of those things that \

If you have to ask,

you can’t afford it.

Well,

We can't afford eternal life.

However,

it is not for sale…

 You also cannot buy it. 

You don’t have the right currency!

Heaven is a dwelling place of God,

a place of perfection,

and we have forfeited our right to be there because of our sin.

The only purchase price acceptable

is

the blood of a perfect person,

and neither you or I qualify.

We can't earn it;

we don't deserve it.

The good news is that Jesus Christ stepped in to pay the debt for us.

When Jesus Christ died on that cross,

he paid our sin-debt in full.

So you can't earn it, friend….

 but you have to receive it.

I can think of

two reasons why you might refuse such a fantastic offer.

One is…

 your love for sin.

There is a sense in which eternal life doesn't cost you anything;

there is another sense in which it costs you everything.

We must confess him and be baptized as a line of demarcation,

saying,

"I'm leaving the old world behind,

and I'm going

into a new life with Christ."

You may be so

“in love”

with materialistic values or

 the party activities of this world that you can't give them up.

You may rationalize and make excuses, //

but the bottom line is

that you're too much

in-love with this world

to receive the hope of eternal life.

For you,

 

 death will be Taps,

 

not Reveille.

The second primary reason people to reject the offer of Christ

 is because of personal pride.

Maybe you have a keen mind,

and your greatest asset is your greatest liability.

There's plenty of good evidence

to verify the resurrection of Jesus,

but it can't be proven;

you just have to accept it

like a humble child.

Or maybe you've achieved a lot of status and money,

and you realize that you have to come to Christ like a pauper.

You find it hard to swallow your pride,

when you realize that your new discoveries and personal achievements

will not necessary to impress him.

If a man dies,

will he live again?

Yes.

Jesus proved it.

Jesus demonstrated it.

He purchased it for you.

It is up to you to receive it,

if you haven't already.

I love how Paul concluded his chapter on the resurrection saying,

I Corinthians 15:51

“Listen, I tell you a mystery:

We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash,

in the twinkling of an eye,

at the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound,

the dead will be raised imperishable,

and we will be changed.

For this perishable

must clothe itself with the imperishable

and the mortal must put on immortality,

then the saying

that is written will come true:

‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

Thanks be unto God

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:51

Robert L. Russell has been pulpit minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, since 1966.


This morning you have heard much of the evidence for the fact

of who Jesus Christ is…  

What are you going to do with this information?

If you reject the claims you have heard this morning you will probably do one of 2 things:

Either you will walk away scoffing in disbelief

and blatantly disregard the claims presented today.

Or

you will act as if nothing has been said. 

You will just play along with the crowd,

nod in acquiescence,

in total acceptance and agreement

but in your heart

you just don’t buy all of this.

My preference is that you would be like the first rather than the second. 

That you be either Hot or Cold,

but lukewarm is just nasty.

Those are the outcomes

 for not accepting the

claims of Christ.

If you chose to accept the claims of Christ,

then you will take

a totally different approach.

To be faced with the reality of who you are in the presence

of the Living God is a terrifying experience.

To realize that you are now in the presence of the very one who created you,

who holds the keys to life itself. 

In essence,

to be in the presence of the very one who has the ability

to not only snuff out your life but change all of eternity with just a Word

 from his mouth.

Do you know why, when the scriptures say,

Every Knee will bow and every tongue confess…… why knees bow and tongues confess?

Very simply this. 

Your legs turn into soft rubber and you can not stand. 

If you don’t fall to your knees on your own,

you will fall because of being in his presence. 

Your tongue will have no choice

but to sing praises in his presence,

because there is nothing else it can do.

 And it is this very God,

the God of all Creation

who absolutely adores you and

loves you and gives you full respect

as a person. 

You are not his

“play-thing.” 

You are given free-choice

to fully make the decision to love and adore him back.

But you must make that choice before it is taken away. 

You don’t know

 when he will return

and when the close of this time is cut off. 

Scripture says it will be in the blink of an eye,

 a flash in the sky.

And that will be it. 

You will not have another opportunity at that point to make up your mind. 

Any decision you have made concerning Christ must be made before his Return.

There are some in this room today

who need to make that decision.

I am not pressuring you to make a decision today,

But I am suggesting strongly to you

that I wouldn’t wait too long

since we don’t know when

the end of the age will occur.

It is a gamble that you might be willing to take,

I just wouldn’t!

What are the odds?

What if you are right and I am wrong?

What if there is no heaven/hell,

Or God in heaven,

Or Satan roaming the earth,

Or that the Bible is full of fanciful fairy tales?

What if?  ….

Simply this…

you are right and I am a fool.  

And when both of us die…

we just lay in a box and decompose.

But what if…

I am right and you are wrong?

And now You have

DISSED the Creator of the Universe,

the Lord of lords and King of kings,

the very Almighty, Sovereign God of all.

You have spit in His face

with your attitude and rejected his priceless gift

 that could never be attained because

 you are not good enough or worthy enough on your own…

His Law

 is that those who have rejected Him

are to be banished to the place

only set aside for Satan and his demons

and those who accept Him

come into the rest and joy of His presence.

You see, you can be wrong about so many things:

You can be wrong about a career

You can be wrong about what school to attend,

Even-- who you should marry,

If you should

or should not have children

If you should save for retirement

Buy that little 4-- banger car or go into debt and buy that expensive gas gussler.

But on this one thing…

If you are wrong about Christ … there is no way to recover from that

 ….once Christ comes back.

Today, I want to ask

those who are members here  at crcc a question….

I would like to ask for about 50 volunteers. 

Would you stand up as a volunteer. 

I need about 50 or 60

 of you from all over the room.

Would you please just stand where you are.  About 50 or 60 of you.

We are going to go into a time of prayer.

I want you volunteer to find 1 or 2 people around you

and ask them

if there is something you could pray for,

for the person sitting near you. 

Simply ask the person…

“Is there anything I could take to the Lord right now.”

Maybe you are sitting there

in the pew

 and you have made a decision today about following Christ

and you are giving your life to Him.

Maybe you want to recommit your life to Christ today. 

You have been a believer for a long time,

but you want to make a new start.

Maybe you just want to sit and pray by yourself…

and that’s  fine too. 

On the screen in a couple of minutes

will be some of the prayer requests that were collected earlier.

Take time to pray for the needs that will scroll on the screen.

In a few minutes

I will close our time in prayer. 

If you have made a decision for Christ,

I am going to stay up her in the front,

and I would love it

if you would come up and share with me

so that we can help you with your new found trust in the Savior.

Volunteers

please prepare to pray for the people around you.

(Music)

Pray.


----

[1] Bob Russell, (PT) Resurrection Promises.

a Psalm 8:6

[2]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Co 15:12-28). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3] Easter sermon | Bill Hybels

[4] Source: J.I. Packer quoted in God's Outrageous Claims by Lee Strobel, pp. 170-171.

[5]Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson's Application Commentary (1087). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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