He will swallow up death in victory.
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust.
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
What a glorious light shines in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!
The prophet Isaiah saw it afar off, and he prophesied that the God of our salvation would swallow up death in victory. And he called upon those who dwell in the dust to awake and sing, because they shall arise from the dead and shall live.
The prophet Hosea, whose ministry was during one of the darkest and apparently most hopeless eras of the history of the old dispensation, was given to be the mouthpiece of Jehovah Himself, promising with a promise without repentance to ransom and redeem His people from death, and the grave, and proclaiming centuries beforehand, in language which the apostle Paul must have had in mind later, (according to the corrected translation): “O death, where are thy plagues? O grave; where is thy destruction?”
And the apostle Paul, having called attention to the fact that the resurrection of the body in the last day shall be the realization of the victory promised centuries before through Isaiah, concludes that glorious chapter on the resurrection of the body with the triumphant challenge, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
But all this glorious light of the sure promise of God and the triumphantly challenging shout of the apostle (and of the believers with him) concerning the glorious resurrection of the body in the last day, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality—does it not all radiate and shine forth in scintillating brilliance from that amazing, that astounding, that enemy-confounding wonder of the third day, when “death could not hold its prey,” when “He tore the bars away,” and “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes,” and when the disciples greeted one another with joyful shout, “The Lord is risen indeed”? And did not that resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ become forever after the central thrust in the preaching of the apostles and of the church? And is that not the reason why the apostle—and we with him—conclude this triumphant challenge with, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ“? (italics added)
O death, where are thy plagues? O death, where is thy sting?
There is no fundamental difference in the meaning of these two questions. In both of them death is personified and takes on the appearance of a mighty and fierce monster. And in both of them death is addressed and challenged in question form.
Death is the state resulting from our separation from God, the source of all life. It is a state of corruption. There are not various deaths, though we may distinguish various aspects of the one power of death: moral-spiritual death, physical-temporal death, and the everlasting death in the desolation of hell. And that one power of death operates in us from the beginning of our existence. In spiritual death we are born by nature; into physical corruption we are drawn down at the moment when we breathe our last; and the end of it all is everlasting desolation. And even as the Scripture here has in view the resurrection of the body, so it also has in view that physical aspect of death, the death of our body. That death is the complete dissolution of all our earthly existence; in death the organism of man’s body collapses. All that a man is and all that he has is taken away from him, completely ,lost, and his very name and place perishes. He becomes exposed as corruptible, weak, inglorious, mortal. No, in death a man is not annihilated, as though his existence ends.He dies; he passes through the experience of physical death—even though we may not be able to form a conception of that existence which continues in and through death. That death is the absolute end of all ourpresent existence. And the fearful, dreadful thing about that death is that it is the passage into eternal death. Man goes from death to death. Dying, he dies! And when he dies, it is only to await in Sheol the night of eternal desolation in hell, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
And the grave seals death; it signifies that there is no return. The grave represents destruction, and thus the victory of death. For in the grave the corruption and dissolution of the body are finished. A man becomes a heap of dust without form or meaning.
Mind you, that death is not a normal natural process! It is a violent intervention of God! Death is punishment; it is the wages of sin. It is the expression of God’s wrath and justice. God kills us!
Such is death! Awful, formidable, implacable enemy!
The Scripture in Hosea speaks of death’s plagues, in the plural. By this expression reference is made not only to the power of corruption and dissolution which takes over after the moment of physical death. But it refers to all the powers of death, all the various plagues, which lead me inevitably down to destruction. From the moment of my birth forward, death has its sword at my throat. I am born dying. And dying, I die—steadily, inevitably, from the cradle to the grave. Death with all its forces pursues me, surrounds me, plagues me, all my life long, until finally I succumb and fall into the destruction of the grave.
In Corinthians reference is made to the very same idea essentially, but in the singular: the apostle speaks of death’s sting. Death is a monstrous, poisonous beast with a poison sting, like that of a scorpion. That sting is the power to kill. Moreover, the principle of that sting, that power to kill, is defined: it is sin. Sin is the power which gives to death its poison and its plagues, which enables physical death to kill. Take sin away, and physical death certainly remains—and we must all pass through it—and it still looks to be the old dreadful enemy, corrupting us and being the gateway, through the grave, into hell and its everlasting desolation. But if sin is removed, the power of death to do any harm is gone! The reason lies partly in the fact that sin itself implies separation from God’s favor; it is itself death. And partly the reason lies in the fact that sin is legallythe sting of death. For death, remember, is wages, the wages of sin. We are surrendered to death’s power according to the justice of God, because of our guilt. For the strength of sin is the law, the law of God. And by the law here is meant not merely the outward code of Ten Commandments, but the living expression of the righteous will of God. That law demands obedience: “Thou shalt love Me with all thy heart and mind and soul and strength.” And that law promises life upon obedience; but it curses and surrenders to sin and corruption and death when we disobey. Hence, that law is sin’s strength. That law assigns, the sinner to the power of sin, so that he is a slave of sin and so that he can never be freed from that power of sin until he has met the righteous demand of God’s law.
Mighty, fearful enemy!
I know that death’s plagues shall overwhelm me, destroy my flesh, sweep me into the grave, and then into the darkness of hell. Whether I stand alone, or whether I call to my assistance all the armies of human might, death conquers! And I am afraid! Always in the midst of death, the fear of death holds me in bondage all my lifetime. And the monstrous, dreadful enemy mocks all my attempts to deny him and to escape him!
All through the ages of the old dispensation the word of promise sounded forth from Jehovah, the faithful covenant God. “Death shall be swallowed up in victory!” “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will set them free from death!”
And in the fullness of time that word of promise was realized, actualized, in Him Who is the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Realized it was through the death of Christ. His death was the death of death, because it took the guilt of sin away. Death may kill only those who are guilty. But the Son of God was born under the law in order that He might fully obey the law and might redeem them—all His own—that were under the law. The debt of guilt has been removed for all His people: for He bore the punishment of sin in the love of God in their stead!
And the victory was gained in His resurrection! He was raised for our justification. And when He was raised, He arose—as the representative and organic Head of all His own—in glory, in strength, in incorruptibleness, in immortality—with life that is victorious., life that is forever beyond the reach and the touch of death!
What glorious light shines in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! God hath spoken unto us in these last days by His Son!
And we have heard, and believed!
For that resurrection-life is already ours, having been applied to us by and through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have received a new life, the beginning of the resurrection-life of Christ. And that life is victorious! Death may touch all that is of the earth and of this corruptible, but it cannot possibly touch that new life in us! Moreover, we are begotten again unto a living hope, so that we look forward to the glory of the day when the trumpet of God shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
We have the victory! We still enter into physical death; but it cannot kill us; we pass right on into glory. We still enter into the grave; but it cannot hold us; in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ that grave will be deprived of its victory. We shall be raised—strong, glorious, incorruptible, immortal, spiritual, heavenly!
The saying that was written centuries ago shall come to pass: “Death is swallowed up in victory!”
And so, in the light of Christ’s resurrection we shout triumphantly, as more than conquerors: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Thanks be unto God! That can only be the end of it all.
For He giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
It is all of Him. He gave the Victor, the Lord from heaven. He accomplished the victory: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. He gave us to the Victor: in eternity by sovereign and free election, and in time through the gift of saving faith.
Thanks now, O God of our salvation!
Thanks to endless ages of glorious resurrection-life!
[Note. Our brother, the Rev. M. Schipper, is still unable to write for us. Since I last reported, it has been learned that Rev. Schipper must undergo multiple by-pass surgery before the previously planned surgery for an aneurysm can even be considered. As of this writing, the by-pass surgery is planned for March 23, D.V. We commend the brother and his loved ones to the loving care of our heavenly Father.—HCH]