Oh Death, Where is Your Sting?

Have you ever noticed how often the Bible speaks of future events as if they’ve already happened?

One of my favourite examples of this are the couple of verses sometimes called ‘The Golden Chain of Salvation’ – Rom 8:29-30. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

It lays out the basic steps in the process of someone’s salvation: predestined, called, and justified. Now there are a few steps missing from the list – conversion and sanctification being the most notable.

But what’s obvious to anyone with their eyes open is that none of us are yet glorified. And yet Paul speaks in the same past tense as he used for called and justified.

Why would this be so? My thinking is that whenever God decides that something will be so, then it is guaranteed to happen. Therefore, if God has predestined, called and justified a person, it’s only a matter of time (and a matter of dying, of course) before that person is finally glorified.

A similar principle applies to some other Scriptures, ones that speak of future events as if they are current, not just historical. And here I’m thinking of a passage we looked at on Sunday from 1Cor 15.

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?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ [1Cor 15:54-57].

Death is still a future enemy that we will all have to face. It still has victory over us. It certainly still has a sting. To be sure, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is evidence that death has been defeated. But it is not yet swallowed up in victory. So we still face death every day.

And yet Paul says, in the present tense, … who gives us the victory. You can almost hear the mockery in Paul’s voice. “Do your worst, death! Come on, throw everything you’ve got at me. I’m not afraid of you.”

And why is he not afraid? Because death is not the end. Death doesn’t have the final answer.

For those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ – I hope and pray that is you – there is nothing that death can do to defeat the plans and purposes of God for us. For the Lord has guaranteed that we too will defeat death by the resurrection of our bodies one day.

So we too can mock death. We too can get about our godly business without fear of rejection, opposition, persecution, or death.

For He holds us secure in His hands. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand [John 10:27-29].

For death to have the victory over us, it would need to snatch us out of two hands; Jesus’ and the Father’s. Not gonna happen! Death, you have no victory over us.

Therefore, how should we respond? Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain [1Cor 15:58].

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