1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
I. THE INTERROGATORY OF THE APOSTLE.
1. What is the sting of death?
(1) The sting of natural fear. The feeling is one common to all nations. Our very nature chills at the thought of it.
(2) But the manner of death is a part of the sting, and many consequently are afraid of their supports failing them in the last encounter — their mind's decay, their adversary's concentrated strength and malice.
(3) To the apostle, however, the sting of death lay in its retributive character. Hence, when men are afraid of death, it is not so much nature trembling at what she may have to suffer, as conscience affrighted at the penalties it feels to deserve. We call death the king of terrors, and that which makes him so, which makes his reign terrible, his night gloomy, his valley dark, is the implanted feeling of our nature that he is the commissioned magistrate of heaven come to reckon with us for our sins. "The wages of sin is death."
2. But our text assumes these wages to have been paid, and this king of terrors to have been disarmed. Now, this change in the moral aspect and attributes of death, whilst as an endured penalty it must remain, is effected by Christ —
(1) As the destroyer of death by the Cross. The lordship of death stands in this, that he is the executioner and instrument of the law of God which man has broken. But Christ satisfied, discharged, magnified this law, and thus vanquished the death which had its strange behests to do. And now this minister of justice lacks his authority. There is no judge to deliver us to the officer. "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." "Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died." "O death, where is now thy sting?"(2) As the Lord of the invisible world. "O grave, where is thy victory?" Seeing that beyond the third day the soul of Christ was not left in the grave, neither did His flesh see corruption? Yet not for Himself did Christ obtain this victory. It was rather in order to an exhibited demonstration of His sovereignty over the mansions of the dead, a comforting assurance to those who were about to walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death that they need fear no evil.
II. SEEING, THEN, WE HAVE SUCH A HOPE IN THE PROSPECT OF DEATH, "LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID."
1. It may be a part of the sting of death to think that thereby thine eyes must close eternally on the things of this present world; but if "blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, for they rest frown their labours, and their works do follow them," O death, where is that sting?
2. It may be a part of the sting of death to think of the friends you must leave behind you; but if, besides re-union with these friends, we are to have converse with the Redeemer, with angels, what becomes of that sting?
3. It may be a part of the sting of death that your children will be fatherless and your wife a widow; yet if He is faithful that promises, "Leave the fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in Me," then what becomes of that sting?
(D. Moore, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?