“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘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 15:54-57 (NIV84)
I can remember being in my late teens wondering whether Christianity’s bold assertion to have victory over death could really be true. I had already experienced the death of a couple of people I knew. I remember going to my uncle’s funeral. I vividly remember going to the funeral home and not liking it at all. Today, I am a pastor in my 60s, and I still don’t like funeral homes. There is something wrong with them. Not them, but what is in them. I’ve known since I was little that death is not natural. Something in me refused to believe that death was natural. Now that I am a Christian, I understand why. People were never intended to die. God created us to be immortal, and we are. We were not created to die, but rather to live eternally. In our verses for today, Paul shared the most comforting words about our destiny. He said that in the end, death is not victorious. Rather, death itself is “swallowed up.” From our eyes of sight it is death that looks to be the swallower of life. But not so! Jesus defeated death by defeating what causes death, and that is sin. Old age does not cause death; sin does. Jesus bore all humanity’s sins on the cross; and therefore, by defeating sin He swallowed up death itself. He died the death we will never have to. For the believer, death has no sting.
Writing these words reminds me of Jesus’ words to Mary and Martha at the death of their brother. Jesus said to them, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even if he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in Me will NEVER DIE.” Because Jesus took the sting of death for us, when our physical bodies breathe their last, our eyes open in eternity. What we call death today is not really death for the believer in Jesus. It is more like an instant transition from one reality to the next. We move from our earthly reality to our heavenly reality. This is why Jesus could say to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.”
Today, find joy and peace in the most comforting aspect of the Christian faith. Death has truly been swallowed up in Christ’s victory!