June 6, 1944. The Nazis had overrun Europe and were threatening to conquer England. They seemed unstoppable, with a war machine producing unlimited tanks and planes and apparently unbeatable technology. But the Normandy landings turned the tide of the war, providing a beachhead for the Allied advance to Berlin, where the Germans finally surrendered and Hitler took his own life.
The war wasn’t officially over until September 2 of 1945, but the decisive battle was won by the brave soldiers who crossed the English channel, stormed the fortified coastline, and defeated their entrenched enemy.
Just as D-Day was the turning point of World War II, so Jesus’ death and resurrection were the turning point of history. At the moment that Jesus emerged from the tomb, he had conquered sin and death forever. 1 Corinthians 15 is about the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus to the Christian faith. If Jesus only died and did not rise again he was just an inspiring example: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
The infinite grace of our salvation in Christ is that we are united with him in his death, and we are also united with him in his resurrection (Romans 6:5). My old, enslaved, sinful self is nailed to the cross and sealed away in Jesus’ tomb. My new, forgiven, righteous, free self rose from the dead with Jesus.
Before Jesus, we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1):
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)
Jesus’ resurrection was the death blow to sin and death and Satan. As prophesied in Genesis 3:15, the serpent struck Jesus’ heel in the crucifixion, but in the resurrection Jesus crushed his head. Paul explains why this broke the power of death by destroying its central weapon:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-56)
People who still carry their sin should fear death, for the sting of death is sin. That is what will strike and eternally kill those who refuse to let Jesus take away their sin and its penalty. Death has a powerful weapon against the unforgiven. But that stinger has been removed, that power has been neutralized for those who have been forgiven and set free from their sin.
Jesus won the victory. His death covered our sins, and his resurrection conquered sin and death forever.