Sometimes in Christian funerals, we hear mourners say, “He lost the battle to cancer (or whatever other disease or condition), but he fought bravely.” While this is a fact, the truth is more like, “Though he lost his life to cancer, he won the victory over death through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Victory, in the Old Testament, is the act of defeating an enemy or opponent in battle. It is the same in the New Testament except that the enemy is not flesh and blood as it often was in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the enemy defeated is death.
Death visited humankind with the disobedience of Adam. God the Creator had told Adam and Eve, in effect, “The day you disobey, death will be part of your life experience”. Both physical death, and spiritual death, which is separation from a loving relationship with God. Death became the hated and feared enemy of man. God too treats death as an enemy to battle with.
It was the death and resurrection of Jesus that was the decisive battle that defeated death. Jesus became the first to be raised from the dead to live forever. When Jesus returns, all who believe in Jesus will be raised to life, and believers living during his return, will have their bodies transformed into spiritual bodies(1 Cor 15:51-52), and be taken up to meet him in the air, to join thousands of other followers who had died in Christ before his return .
1 Cor 15:54, 55 states: “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.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’”
1 Cor 15:57 states: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Old Testament death was pictured as a huge greedy mouth swallowing the dead but the picture St Paul conjured is of death itself being swallowed up by the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because God raised Christ, he will also in time, raise all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. Death is already defeated but the consummation of this victory awaits Jesus return. Death, the enemy most feared by the human race: both rich and poor, educated and illiterate, powerful and lowly, will finally be eradicated and destroyed once for all when Jesus returns. Death will be swallowed forever never to re-appear. Thanks be to God for the finished work of Christ.
This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.