Rising to Secure Our Victory

1 Corinthians 15:23-26 “But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

When Jesus rose from the dead, he did not retire to some heavenly Club Med® to sit under the palm trees and sip piña coladas. As we confess in the creed, he sits at the right hand of the Father. As Paul indicates here, right now Jesus is up and running God’s kingdom, cleaning out the remaining riffraff, getting it ready to present to his Father perfect and peaceful, when both Father and Son can sit on their thrones and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Sometimes it seems as though the clean-up operation isn’t going so well. The spiritual enemies of the Church– the dominions, authorities, and powers that Paul mentions– seem to be doing a pretty good job of fighting back, even winning. False religions grow faster than Christianity. Christians are executed for their faith–some years as many as 100,000 of them. Basic Biblical teachings and morals are denied and contradicted inside the Christian churches, endangering the faith of millions. Circumstances in our own lives– disease, financial strain, broken relationships, unrelenting temptations– can lead us right to the edge of losing our faith. If Jesus is ruling, why doesn’t he just make it all stop? Why doesn’t he take control and end all the foolishness by force?

Then we remember that the operative word in Jesus’ rule has never been “force” or “power” but “love.” Jesus does not win followers at gun point. It is love, the love that carried our sins for us and died for them, that changes hearts and wins them to Jesus’ side. In his love he has chosen to make dear souls in every generation his own, and his love never fails to capture them. In order to build the kingdom he wants, then, love leads him to let this world go on until the full number of his people is included.

Under his loving direction, even the dirty work of his enemies is turned against them. When his people suffer it becomes the opportunity for powerful testimonies of faith and intense expressions of Christian love. I know that this is true, because many times my own family has been the beneficiary of both. In this way he lovingly strengthens the faithful and draws them closer to himself. He even attracts defectors from the enemy side, like the man Paul he used to write these words from his letter to the Christians in Corinth.

When Jesus’ love has snatched from Satan every soul he knows as his own, then his kingdom will be complete, and the end will come. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” This means, not merely that no more bodies will die. What we know as death will no longer exist, and we will see what Jesus already promises us now: that our victory is secure.

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