1 Corinthians 15:55
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Two types of feelings about death are expressed in these rhetorical questions by the apostle Paul – the feelings of those who have not received the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and also of those who have received Him as their Saviour by faith.
People’s general sentiment about death portrays it as something with a “sting” that results in “victory” over us. The allusion seems to be the venomous sting of a vicious reptile which leaves a man in agony and dying. The reality of death renders some unbelievers totally numb with fear. Even the boldest of men cowers and turns pale in the face of death.
However, the apostle Paul, being confident of the believers’ victory in Christ Jesus over sin and condemnation, “taunts” death. Christ has disarmed death of its sting, which He achieved by removing the guilt of our sins and thus breaking its power. When we come under the Lord’s saving grace, sin loses its dominion over us. When the wrath of God against the guilt of our sin is appeased, there remains no more accusation and condemnation against us. Therefore, our fear of death and hell is exchanged for a blessed hope of immortality and joy. Oh, how death is disarmed of its sting and we are enabled to triumph over it!
Paul already spoke of the certainty of our victory in Christ earlier in this chapter. In verses 20-22, Paul affirmed: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Likewise in Romans 5:14-15, Paul declared, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” By dying, Christ conquered death and spoiled the grave. Through faith in Him, believers become sharers in His triumph. He now gives us a blessed hope of resurrection and eternal life; thus the dread of death is driven away from our hearts. Instead of being gripped with fear of death, we are henceforth filled with hope of resurrection and everlasting life with Christ!