Death, Where Is Your Sting?
Sin & Its Effects
We all know we will end up dead. Because of sin’s entrance into the world, every human dies, every human suffers, animals suffer, tsunamis sweep cities and villages away, volcanoes destroy whole regions, AIDS and malaria and cancer and heart disease kill millions of people old and young, and droughts and famines cause millions to starve.
Because of sin, we also hurt ourselves and others. Because of sin, others hurt us. This is why we experience condemnation, guilt, shame, despair, pain, and filth.
Our Hope–God Endures
We collapse under the weight of this destruction. Only God could endure all this. And that’s exactly what God did in Jesus—who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorned its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God. That’s the world’s one hope, and that hope is fulfilled in the resurrection.
If we don’t pin our hope for redemption on Christ, then we are left to our own feeble strategies to fight back at death and guilt. Here’s an example.
Death, Where is Your Bling?
A strategy for dealing with death is seen in the newest piece of art by the British artist Damien Hirst. A few years ago, he unveiled his masterpiece—a diamond-encrusted platinum cast of a human skull priced at $98 million. The skull, cast from a 35-year-old 18th-century European male, is coated with 8,601 diamonds, including a large pink diamond worth more than $8 million in the center of its forehead.
His explanation of his work is fascinating: “I hope this work gives people hope—uplifting, take your breath away…. It shows we are not going to live for ever. But it also has a feeling of victory over death.” Unfortunately, that’s the only hope some have for dealing with death—a feeling of victory over death.
What We Need
We don’t need diamond-encrusted skulls that give the feeling of overcoming death. We need substitutionary atonement and real victory over death. What we need is not myth or feeling; we need sin and death overcome. That’s why Romans 4:25 is so important: “Jesus Christ was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
He is risen! Because of the death and resurrection of Christ and your faith in him, you are declared pure, righteous, saved, blameless, holy, forgiven, and without condemnation. These are all words God uses in Scripture for those who are in Christ. This good news relates all the way down to your anxiety, the memories of specific sins, your fears and insecurities, the shame you feel because of what’s been done to you, the sinful impulses that seem to control you.
We don’t need the feeling of overcoming death. We need substitutionary atonement and real victory over death.
Because of the resurrection, we have the hope of heaven and being with Christ, and “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
The resurrection is why Paul taunts death in 1 Corinthians 15. He does it much like a child would do to his bullies when his father is behind him and he feels secure in his father’s protection: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
In the cross, God turned his wrath away from you and toward Christ. In the resurrection, God turns your eyes away from your sins and directs them to Christ. Our sins hurled him to the ground and trampled him, but God delivered Christ and made him alive. He has conquered the tyrants of sin and death. Christ is too strong for them. He overpowers them and he takes sin and sorrow captive and rules over them for all eternity. Because there is no condemnation, you can have a clear conscience—loves replaces darkness, joy replaces despair, and peace replaces fear.