The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. –1 Corinthians 15:26
The Sunday School teacher gave two strikingly opposite descriptions of two men. One man’s name was Goliath. He was a Philistine. He was a tremendously terrifying warrior—the best of the best among the army of the Philistines. He was a mountain of a man. His armor was impressive. He possessed an arrogant confidence. This is the guy all the kids love to think about and the one we indirectly encourage many of them to be like.
However, the teacher moved to describe another “man.” This other man’s name was David. He was the son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah. He was a shepherd boy, the youngest of his brothers. He was armed with only a slingshot and a few stones. Yet, he also exhibited a confidence, a vibrantly humble and dependent confidence in “the living God” (1 Sam. 17:26). He was fearlessly confident in Yahweh (v. 37). He was a Savior. He was not the savior Israel wanted, but he was the savior Israel needed.
Similarly, we all face a gigantic enemy. His name is Death. In the words of Jeremiah, “For death has come through our windows, has entered our palaces, to kill off the children–no longer to be outside! And the young men–no longer on the streets!” (Jer. 9:21). Death haunts every human. Regardless of race, language, culture, time, gender, or worldview, death relentlessly pursues us all. We can do nothing to control it. We can do nothing to avoid it.
Despite the various rungs on the ladder of life on which we all stand—some higher, some lower—death crushes the ladder itself and we all lie together in the rubble of death’s blow. In his book on the death and resurrection of Jesus, Captivated, Thabiti Anyabwile writes, “We deserve death because of our sin, but we hate it because of life.”
Death is a valiant enemy, one that for thousands of years has destroyed even the strongest and most noble of mankind. Death does not discriminate. The 90 year-old woman dies warm in her bed and the 10 year-old child dies cold in the street. And much like Israel, we all stand before this dark enemy with sheer dread. Who among us will go out to face this conquering devil?
Enter: Jesus. Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary. Like David, he was born in Judah, in Bethlehem. He was a carpenter, an ordinary guy. He was not wealthy and in his adulthood had no place to call home. Yet, there was something unique about this ordinary Judean. Jesus was the Son of God. He carried with him divine authority. And he showed himself to be the long-awaited Messiah. However, he was not the Messiah, not the Savior Israel or we want, but he is exactly the kind of Savior we need. Indeed, he is the only Savior.
Jesus is the greater David who conquers the enemies of his people. He is the hero we wouldn’t expect, but just the hero we need. He is called the one “who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Jesus conquered death once for all, but he did so by succumbing to death itself. Death forever died the day Jesus died. Through suffering, Jesus ensured suffering’s eternal defeat. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later he delivered death a blow far greater than death itself gives. In Christ alone we see death’s demise and the restoration of all things.
Therefore, in the death and resurrection of Jesus we see both life and death. Jesus grants us what death takes and grants death what it so loves to give. The only true and lasting hope in the face of death is the hope we find in Jesus, the greater David who died not only to give his people life, but to destroy death. As Anyabwile puts it, “Though we see people still dying, a time fast approaches when the experience of death will be done away with.”
So, as you see death and face death, do so with real sorrow and real joy. Real Christlike sorrow because we hate that which robs life (John 11:35). Real Christ-empowered joy because by his death and resurrection, Jesus achieved eternal victory over death. Death, my friends, is done.
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 Corinthians 15:54-55)
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).