Death. It’s a popular subject in literature. Death is a universal theme because everyone experiences it in every culture. Death becomes part of literature, art, and film. How death is portrayed may often signify the character of the person dying. In Bollywood, an evil person may be killed in a blaze of gunfire or some other horrible death. When a good person dies, you may seem them lying in bed with a candle next to them that slowly goes out. When the candle dies, the person does too. Sometimes a baby is born at the exact time someone dies because that emphasized their belief in reincarnation. In the US, death may appear as a friend for a good person. Sometimes, the good person may not even realize that they’ve died until after a while of talking with death. Usually, though, death is portrayed as a grim reaper, harvesting people whose time it is to die: a macabre being, but not really good or evil.
I guess you could call the Grim Reaper just another working stiff, doing his job. Paul recognized death as the ultimate enemy for the world. Death took us away from a relationship with God, until Jesus came. When Jesus died, and then rose again, He conquered the power of death and has allowed us to have an eternal fellowship with God. No longer would we be separated – we would be with God eternally. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
This passage is in the middle of what our heavenly bodies would be like. Paul noted that they wouldn’t be like our earthly bodies, they would be made of immortal or imperishable substance. What I really like about this passage is that Paul confronts death with the ultimate example of trash talk – and death can’t answer because Paul is right. For the Christian, death has no victory, death has not sting. We have victory over the sting of death and the power of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We won’t die so much as be changed. When our life on this earth is over, we take off the perishable part of our nature and put on the imperishable. Paul taught this in the midst of the discussion about the resurrection. Perhaps the Corinthians were dealing with questions about what happens to a person who dies in such a way that the body isn’t recognizable. Paul’s message reminds us that the moment of death brings our imperishable bodies. What happens before, during, or after death makes no difference.
There is a message of hope in this battle with death that’s overwhelming. Death, for the Christian, is no longer an enemy to be feared, it’s a toothless pup deserving to be jeered. As Paul wrote this, he left the Corinthians with a challenge: keep working for the Lord. It’s a challenge that is true today. The Corinthians may have feared death at the hands of the government for proclaiming the gospel. We often fear the reactions of people around us, or we won’t leave our comfort zones to travel to other areas of the world to share the good news of Jesus. The concern that something may happen if you are proclaiming God’s love in other areas is real, but there should be no fear if we’re working in the will of God. The only thing we have to fear, death, has been defeated. So we can continue in our work, we can continue witnessing and sharing the love of God, knowing that whatever may happen, our work has not been in vain.
Thank You Lord Jesus for Your death and resurrection. You defeated that last enemy, death, and have given me Your power to do Your work. Help me to proclaim Your grace boldly knowing that my work for You is not in vain.