When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
Here’s death, and death is the great devourer of the human race. One-by- one, death swallows every one of us up. One writer says about death:
Gold cannot bribe it, wisdom cannot elude it, eloquence cannot charm it, greatness cannot awe it, power cannot resist it and tears cannot melt it. Death is everywhere; it has made the world a field of graves. (Adapted from Andrew Symington in “Precious Seed,” p. 215, Solid Ground, 2007)
Death is the great devourer of the human race, but here we’re being told that death itself will be swallowed up in victory.
Death and His Two Henchmen
Death, the old grim reaper, has two dreadful henchmen. One of Death’s henchman is called Sin, “the sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56). The other henchman is called Law, “the power of sin is the law” (15:56).
These three form a dark triumvirate—a triple tragedy. Law is the demand that we cannot meet. Sin is the stain that we cannot remove. Death is the outcome that we cannot avoid.
I’ve spoken with folks, and I’m sure you have too, who don’t care much about death: “I don’t know what you’re worried about. You live, you die. You make the best of it. And when you’re gone, you’re gone.”
They forget about Death’s henchmen. If death was simply the end of life, dying would not be a great problem. The sting of death is sin. The problem is dying in your sins. That’s the sting!
Why is dying in your sins a problem? Because of the law. God has called you to a life that you haven’t lived. God has given you commandments that you haven’t kept. God has work for you to do that you haven’t done.
Friends, this puts every one of us in a desperate position. We find ourselves swallowed up in a triple tragedy: A demand that we cannot meet, a stain that we cannot remove and an outcome that we cannot avoid—Law, Sin, and Death!
Now look up with me to Jesus Christ. Who is He? And what did He do? He is the Son of God, and He took our flesh. He has come to stand with us, and to act for us as our Redeemer.
What did He do?
Christ lived a perfect life that completely fulfilled the law of God.
Everything God calls a man or a woman to be, Christ was. Everything God calls a man or a woman to do, Christ did. Read through the Gospels and you will find this affirmed. He fulfilled the law. That deals with the first henchman.
Christ laid down His perfect life as a sacrifice for the sins of others.
He gave His life for people like you and me. At the cross, the sins of others were laid on Jesus. He had no sins of His own. He took the sins of others on Himself and came under a terrible curse.
Christ died for the ungodly—the people who have not fulfilled the law; those who know that they have many sins. He died for sins. That deals with the second henchman.
Christ went into death itself.
“Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit,” he said, and then he breathed his last (John 23:46). The eyes of Jesus closed in death. Death came into the experience of the Son of God. They took His body from the cross and laid it in a tomb.
On the third day, He rose from the dead. It was impossible for death to hold Him! He went into death, swept through it, and came out of it. Christ swallowed up death in victory!
Christ’s triumph will also be yours if you are in Him. Of course, if you are in Him, you will still die. Unless you are alive when Christ returns, you will go through death.
But if you are in Christ, death’s sting has gone for you. You will not die in your sins; you will die in the Lord. You will stand before God, not in the rags of your own half-hearted righteousness, but in the white robes of Jesus’ perfect righteousness.
Then, when Jesus comes in glory, you will come with Him and He will give you a resurrected body. Death will be swallowed up in victory for you. No wonder Paul says, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57).