Daily Encouragement: Year 2, Day 176

From Handbook to God’s Promises

PROTECTION FROM DEATH

The Death of Death
(1 Corinthians 15:50–58)

Some scholars assert that biblical “religion” began in the desert sands of the Sinai Peninsula with a nomadic tribe called the Israelites. They wrote laws, devised worship rituals, and won a homeland for themselves. They were greatly influenced by their neighbors, and their religious beliefs became a conglomeration of two thousand years of cultural evolution—further refined by a Jewish zealot named Jesus and His followers.

While this view is obviously contrary to the teaching of Scripture, it contains a sliver of truth. Some things were not as clearly understood in the Old Testament as they were after Jesus came—death being a prime example.

Death in the Old Testament was a mysterious and dreaded event, the grave a place of shadow and mystery. Death was personified and animated, given human-like characteristics, and seen as a lurking foe ready to devour the unwary and unprotected. Death was an ironic “shepherd,” guiding the living to the grave, to a future of decay (Ps. 49:14). The grave itself was the mouth of death (Ps. 69:15), swallowing its victims into a futureless netherworld. The grave never got its fill and was always hungry for more (Proverbs 27:20, 30:15–16; Isa. 5:14). Such images are enough to make one shudder!

While the idea of victory over death was hinted at in the Old Testament (e.g., Job 19:25–27; Dan. 12:2–3), it was not fully revealed until Christ came and conquered death and the grave through His resurrection. Given people’s fears about death, it is no wonder that Paul exulted when he quotes the prophet Hosea in teaching the Corinthians about the resurrection, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Rather than death being the “swallower,” Christ has swallowed up death in the victory of His resurrection. Christ was the “firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:20)—the first of many whose resurrection would defy death.

Christianity, based on Jesus and His teaching, has the clearest, most believable, most reassuring explanation of death of any religion in the world. Rather than fearing death, the Christian welcomes it! For “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), and death brings the believer “home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

God’s Promise:
He has defeated death, your greatest and last enemy.