The End Of The War: Death

An apology for the audio quality.  Due to technical difficulties, the audio from the Facebook Live-stream had to be used for this sermon podcast.  

Text: Philippians 1:19-26

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

At your baptisms, all of you entered a war. Yes, at your baptisms you were made children of God, given the Holy Spirit, and called into warfare against the sinful nature within you.

Now, some of you have been at war for a very, very, long time. And some of you are just beginning to get a taste of this war against your old Adam. Regardless of how long you have been at war with your sinful nature, though, one thing is for sure, and that is this, this war is a persistent fight. Yes, it is a persistent fight where you daily “beat back the forces of indwelling sin and win victories over the habits and practices of the old [Adam].”[1] It is a persistent fight that continues every single day of your life. It is a fight where you struggle to keep the faith and fight back the attacks of the world, the devil, and your sinful nature.

So, considering all of this, the obvious question is: When do we see the end of the war? When does this persistent battle stop? When will the white flag of surrender be waved? When will the attacks end? Dear friends, the answer is this, this war stops at death. Yes, the Christian’s war against the old Adam ends at death.

It is like this, death removes you and me “from the temptations, the troubles, turmoils, trials, and tribulations of this life. . . . death puts the believer in possession of his full inheritance of eternal life. . .”[2] This is why the Apostle Paul could say in our Epistle Reading, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” “Paul knows that he belongs to Christ. For him, to live means Christ, that is to constantly work with Christ, and to always be in his hand. Should he die then he still gets to be with Christ.”[3]

You see, being a Christian is having a life that is bound up with Jesus. Being a Christian, we are connected to Jesus by faith, and we live our lives being led by the Holy Spirit. And even though we have this persistent battle with the sinful old Adam, it cannot change the fact that we belong to Jesus. So this life that we live from the cradle to the grave is good because it is a life lived by faith in Jesus. This life that we live is good because we fight the old Adam and serve people around us by the Lord’s grace. However, when death comes upon us, something profound and amazing happens, the sinful nature no longer hinders us.[4] That is to say, when we are alive, we belong to Jesus and get to serve our neighbors in need (which is good); however, when we die, we will still belong to Jesus and are freed from the war within (which is good as well). Therefore, we technically cannot lose either way.

We must pause here a moment and back up, just to make sure that we are understanding this clearly.

When the shadow of death draws upon us, we acknowledge that it is not a good thing for the body and soul to be ripped apart. However, even though the body and soul are torn from each other in death, we know that our soul leaves this vale of tears and we enter into paradise with Jesus. And with Jesus we wait for the resurrection of our bodies. In other words, we are not left for dead, but the Lord takes us unto Himself, and the Lord promises us that we will be put back together again – we will someday have resurrected bodies, which is good.

And in this resurrection something even better happens, there will be no more death. Death will be gone for good – tears gone, crying gone, pain gone, fear gone, and sin… all gone. Yes, God will banish the pall of doom hanging over all people. He will banish death forever. Every sign of disgrace – gone.[5]

And so, in this earthly life, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and has given Himself to us. This is so very good; to live is Christ. And yet, to die is gain. Yes, when we die in Christ, it is even better because we still get to be with Christ but without the old Adam. So whether we live or die, it is good because Christ is good.

Practically speaking, it looks like this: while we live this life, we have been given the gift of the Lord’s Prayer to pray against the devil, the world, and especially our old Adam, which is good. However, when you die, it is even better! After death, you will no longer pray the Lord’s Prayer ever again against the old Adam. The reason why? At death, the old Adam stops clinging to you.  

Here is another circumstance to consider: while we live this life, we have been given the gift Absolution (the forgiveness of sins), which is good. However, when you die, it is even better! After death, you will no longer need to hear the Absolution ever again. At death, you will be with Jesus, which means that you will no longer have to fight the good fight against sin to finish the course.[6] At death, you will be done with the course of your earthly life – you will be done with the fight against sin. You will not need forgiveness, for after death, the old Adam will be no more. There will be no sin to confess.

Dear friends, when we die, the war with our old Adam – the sinful flesh - is over. At death, the reign of sin, death, and the old Adam are terminated. Death serves this purpose of putting an end to this old Adam that we may rise absolutely new.[7]

Think of it this way. You are God’s creation. He has created your inmost being, knitting you together in your mother’s womb.[8] And at the cross Jesus redeemed you, purchasing and winning you from all sins and death. And at the Last Day, the Holy Spirit will raise you and give you eternal life.[9] But what will not happen and what cannot happen is this, the Lord will not redeem or raise your old Adam! The old Adam was not the Lord’s creation to begin with, so the Lord has no interest in bringing the old Adam back to life again. Why would the Lord bring the corruption of our sinful old Adam back to life, when the devil and we were responsible for it in the first place?[10]

Dear Baptized Saints, the old Adam – the sinful nature – is buried in the wounds of Jesus. It is left for dead at death but we are not. We are given the promise of the resurrection where the old Adam is utterly destroyed, while we are given new bodies and life everlasting.[11]

The war against our old Adam ends at death. And so, we will endure by walking by the Spirit, turning outward to Jesus in faith, and constantly receiving the Word and Sacraments. We will also fight the good fight, executing the deeds of the old Adam in repentance and faith. And finally, we will rest in our baptisms for we have been buried deeply in the wounds of Jesus and promised the great resurrection.

This is the Christian’s war – a war that lasts only a little while. A war that has an end. A war where the radiant dawn of Jesus will fully come over the darkness of sin. A war where there is hope in captivity, victory in Jesus, and a future in eternity... without the old Adam.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] Jonathan Grothe, The Justification of the Ungodly: An Interpretation of Romans (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: 2012), 350.0
[2] Wendland, E. H., & Trapp, J. A. (1986). Sermon Studies on the Epistles (ILCW series A) (p. 322). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House.
[3] Bo Giertz, Unpublished Commentary on Philippians, tr. Bror Erickson.
[4] The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 2032.
[5] See Revelation 21:1-5 and Isaiah 25:8.
[6] See 2 Timothy 4:7.
[7] See the Apology of the Augsburg Confessions, VI:56.
[8] See Psalm 139:13.
[9] See the Small Catechism: The Apostles’ Creed.
[10] See the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, I:6.
[11] Ibid. 

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