“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.”
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory!
And the saying to which the apostle refers must be found in two prophetic utterances. The first, that which Isaiah declared in Isaiah 25:7, 8: “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces . . .” The second, that which Hosea declared in Hosea 13:14: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues (or, where are thy plagues?); O grave, I will be thy destruction (or, where is thy destruction?): repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”
Summing it all up, the apostle declares:
Death is swallowed up in victory!
Not only does the apostle exuberantly rejoice in the victory, but also in the truth that this victory is the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose as indicated in the prophecy.
But at the same time, a victor’s song of triumph!
What a fitting conclusion to that great chapter on the subject of the resurrection!
Triumph, a complete victory, we have in the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Victory over death!
A mighty enemy!
The apostle mentions death and the grave. But we know that for those who are not in Christ, another must be added; namely, hell.
A great triad of destruction!
A sequence that ends in eternal desolation for all those who are apart from Christ!
That the apostle does not mention hell, is undoubtedly due to the fact that he is speaking to the children of God. For them the conclusion is not hell, but everlasting glory.
But death and the grave are still a serious reality!
The last enemy that must be destroyed is death. And with it the power of the grave that silently, but efficaciously works, disintegrating our flesh until it returns to the dust from whence it came.”
A power not to be sneered at!
Taking hold upon every man that is born of a woman. Rich and poor, young and old, strong and weak, righteous and wicked,—all are required to face this enemy.
An enemy whose power can also be understood. For the apostle explains.
The sting of death is sin! Sin, like a deadly scorpion in whose tail is a stinger, which if it strikes you, will give you a fatal blow. Sin gives to death its power. Take sin away, and death has no power. Take sin away, and death is only a servant.
And the strength of sin is the law! The law here must be understood in its principal sense. Not particularly the ten words, ” Thou shalt not!” but the one word: “Thou shalt!” Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and mind and strength. The law which demands positive and strict obedience. The law which blesses you when you keep it, and curses you when you disobey. “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Gal. 3:10)
And so there is an unbreakable chain—the law, sin, guilt, corruption, death, and the grave.
Sum it all up: Death and Grave!
Indeed, a mighty, invincible enemy!
Against whom you cannot stand alone!
But against whom you do not stand alone, when you are in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Our Lord Jesus Christ!
He is the Victor, Who gives us a glorious victory!
And be sure to notice His Names. In them you have the indication of a complete Mediator. He is Jesus, Jehovah, Who saves His people from their sins. He is Christ, Anointed One, that is, appointed and qualified to restore us again into the favor of God; as God’s Prophet, revealing unto us all the counsel of God; as God’s Priest, bringing in His own body the sacrifice that atones for our sins, with the satisfaction of which He can intercede for us with the Father; as our Lord, claiming us as His precious possession, and ruling over us in such a way that His law is written in our hearts, and bringing us victoriously into His heavenly kingdom.
He it was Who was sent of the Father into the world to assume our nature, to take upon Him our sin and guilt, and to walk the way of the cross in our stead. He it was Who gave Himself willingly unto the death of the cross, the accursed death, in order to satisfy there for our sin and guilt before the tribunal of God. He it was Who was forsaken of God, in order that we might never be forsaken of Him. He it was Who died our death, in order that He might forever break its power, which could destroy us. He it was Who entered the grave, not only to destroy its power, but to make it a passageway to eternal glory for all His own.
The risen and living Redeemer!
He is Victor!
He fulfilled all the demands of the law of God for us, so perfectly that we stand in the judgment of God as those who had never sinned.
Wherefore God also raised Him from the dead, unto which He was delivered because of our offenses, but Who was raised because of our justification. Not only did He remove sin, the sting of death; but He also destroyed sin’s power, by fulfilling all the law, walking in perfect obedience. “Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God.” This is what He said, and this is what He did.
So death and the grave, though they are still realities for the children of God, are nevertheless our passage way to glory. Hence, we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (II Cor. 5:1)
As a mighty hunter standing with his foot upon the prey and exclaiming in loud and audible tones his triumph in the hunt, so the Lord stands as it were with His foot upon the enemy of death, grave, and hell, exclaiming in triumphant tones His victory over our enemy.
And the apostle takes up the refrain, and wants us to sin it with him.
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
You have none, for you have been completely overcome. The law is fulfilled. Sin and death have been overcome. Death and the grave are now become only servants that must rid us of the last vestige of carnal nature, and become the lighted pathway that must lead to everlasting glory.
Thanks be unto God!
For it is He that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
O, indeed, it is through our Lord Jesus Christ!
But our Lord Jesus Christ is also from Him!
So our victory is from God, Who gave His only begotten Son, Who became our Lord Jesus Christ!
Indeed, God was in Christ reconciling us unto Himself, not imputing our trespasses unto us; but instead imputing His righteousness unto us, after He had imputed our guilt unto Him.
In His eternal love and mercy, in His sovereign grace, He gave Christ to and for us, and incorporated us into Christ. So He makes us to become partakers of all Christ’s benefits. By grace through faith, which is His gift to us, we are united to Christ, and enter into Christ’s victory.
According to this faith, we also now stand, when the time comes to enter into the sphere of death and stand before the open grave, not with tears of sorrow, but with tears of joy and gladness—exclaiming over against death and the grave, “Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory!”
When we stand in the midst of death and witness the departure of our dear ones, who die in the Lord, we do not weep and howl as those who have no hope; yea, rather, we make confession of our faith, and sing from the heart praise and thanksgiving unto God.
Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
It is this faith that overcomes the world. It is this faith that triumphs over death and the grave. It is this faith that causes our thanks to rise unto God. It is this faith whereby we remain steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
And that faith is rooted and founded in the everlasting gospel.
In Christ Jesus, our Lord, we are more than conquerors!
Thanks be unto God!