This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
He Trampled over Death by Death
God’s word paints a picture of a future when death will be swallowed up in Christ’s victory on the cross, and where believers will live eternally with him. Lord, hasten the day! Be heartened to hope in what’s to come by reading the following Scriptures with commentary from the ESV Study Bible.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus does not merely say that he will bring about the resurrection or that he will be the cause of the resurrection (both of which are true), but something much stronger: I am the resurrection and the life. Resurrection from the dead and genuine eternal life in fellowship with God are so closely tied to Jesus that they are embodied in him and can be found only in relationship to him. Therefore “believes in me” implies personal trust in Christ. The preposition translated “in” (Gk. eis) is striking, for eis ordinarily means “into,” giving the sense that genuine faith in Christ in a sense brings people “into” Christ, so that they rest in and become united with Christ. (This same expression is found in John 3:16, 18, 36; John 6:35; John 7:38; John 12:44, 46; John 14:12; 1 John 5:10.) The “I am” statement here represents a claim to deity.
“Lives” refers to those who have spiritual life now (see note on John 3:36). Those who believe shall never die, in that they will ultimately triumph over death.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
“Believe in God” is translated as an imperative (or command), but the Greek could also be rendered as a statement, “You believe in God.” The imperative is probably better in light of the previous sentence. What troubles the disciples is Jesus’ imminent departure (see John 13:36). “Believe,” in keeping with Old Testament usage (e.g., Isa. 28:16), denotes personal, relational trust.
In light of the context (Jesus going to the Father; John 13:1, 3; John 14:28), it is best to understand “my Father’s house” as referring to heaven. In keeping with this image, the many rooms (or “dwelling places,” Gk. monē) are places to live within that large house. The translation “rooms” is not meant to convey the idea of small spaces, but only to keep consistency in the metaphor of heaven as God’s “house.” In a similar passage, Jesus speaks of his followers being received into the “eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9; cf. 1 Cor. 2:9).
1 Corinthians 15:26—27, 54–57
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.
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?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
When believers are finally resurrected from the dead, the destruction of death will be complete.
1 Corinthians 15:49–52
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
Paul’s contrast between “natural” and “spiritual” is a contrast between that which is temporally alive and that which has an eternal existence with God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14–3:3). Starting from Genesis 2:7, Paul explains that God created Adam from the dust and animated him with breath. Christ, however, is the last Adam, and his resurrection gave him a spiritual and therefore imperishable body (cf. Phil. 3:21). By “spiritual body” Paul does not mean an immaterial body but a body animated and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Corruptible bodies (flesh and blood) cannot inherit the kingdom. Hence, the need for resurrection. Christians who are alive at the time of the resurrection will be transformed so that their bodies become spiritual and immortal like the bodies of those who are resurrected from the dead. (See 1 Thess. 4:13–18.)
It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
The crucial thing for Paul is not life or death. It is maintaining his faithful witness to Christ. “Or by death” indicates that Paul hopes to honor Christ even in the way he eventually dies. Paul’s life is not a matter of seeking his own comfort or advancement. It is all about seeking the advancement of Christ’s kingdom: to live is tantamount to serving Christ. In fact, to die should be seen as gain, because it would mean that Paul would be freed from his trouble-filled life on earth to rejoice in Christ’s presence.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
“Transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” echoes Philippians 2:5–11. Those who follow Christ’s example of service will share in his vindication and glory as well. Perfection will come only at the resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:11–12; 1 Cor. 15:12–28). “To subject all things to himself” is messianic language drawn from the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 8:6; Ps. 110:1).
2 Timothy 1:8–10
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
These verses summarize the gospel for which God’s servants suffer. They are a reminder of the power of God on whom Christians rely. Paul’s exalted language suggests he is also arguing that such a glorious message is worthy of their suffering. Paul contrasts works, which do not save, with God’s purpose and grace, which brings life. In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul often describes both God the Father and God the Son as Saviors of their people (cf. 1 Tim. 1:1; 1 Tim. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:10; Titus 1:3–4; Titus 2:10; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:4, 6).
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
A human Savior was necessary, because human beings (children) are in need of a propitiatory sacrifice and a sympathetic high priest (Heb. 2:17–18). Jesus was fully human, as the “children” are and as the high priest had to be (see Heb. 5:1–2). Jesus’ death, by cleansing his followers of sin, destroys the death grip of the devil (cf. 1 John 3:8) and gives hope and deliverance to those who were in slavery to the fear of death.
Satan’s power is not absolute, but is under the control of God, who ultimately rules over life and death (Deut. 32:39; Job 2:6; Ps. 90:3; Ps. 139:16; Rev. 1:18). Nevertheless, Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44), and he does have power to harm people to some extent (cf. Mark 5:2–5; Luke 13:16). The verse at least means Satan has power to work in the realm of death, and to incite people into sin that leads to death (cf. Rom. 6:16, 23). However, the emphasis of the verse is not on Satan’s power but on Christ’s triumph over Satan and over death.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
He will swallow up death forever, defeating the swallowing power of death (cf. Isa. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:54; Rev. 21:4). This is a promise that at some future time God’s people will no longer be subject to death but will live forever. “the reproach of his people.” The appearance that they have been abandoned by God (cf. Deut. 28:37; Ps. 44:13–16; Ps. 69:9–12; Ps. 74:9–11, 22–23; Ps. 79:1–5; Isa. 43:28; Ps. 51:7; Jer. 15:15; Ezek. 5:14–17; Ezek. 36:6–7).
No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
Isaiah uses images from his age to paint a magnificent poetic picture to describe the joys of the world to come. Christians differ over whether to read this as (1) an idealized description of restored Jerusalem (leading into eternal joys), (2) an intermediate “millennial” state, or (3) the eternal state itself. Certainly the expression “new heavens and a new earth” would seem to suggest the eternal state (because of Rev. 21:1). On the other hand, the mention of people dying, even at an advanced age, as well as the presence of the sinner (Isa. 65:20), seem to suggest this is not the eternal state. To argue for a millennial state (which is not explicit here), one would have to understand the millennial state to include both death and unbelief among unbelievers during the millennial period. However, the mention of the animals (Isa. 65:25) evokes Isaiah 11:6–9, which is part of an oracle describing the messianic era (see note on Isa. 11:10). Hence (and in view of the larger context of Isa. 40–66) some interpreters read these verses as describing an idealized future for Jerusalem—not simply as a restored city but as the center of the world, in which all manner of people know and delight in God and live at peace with each other (as Isa. 2:2–4; Isa. 9:6–7; Isa. 11:1–10). Under such circumstances, human community and piety flourish. At the same time, the description goes far beyond anything that the world has ever seen, inviting the believing reader to yearn for more and to play his or her role as the story unfolds to its glorious end (cf. Isa. 2:5).
All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
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