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“Death has been swallowed up by a victory”

November 25, 2023
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Daily Scripture

2 Timothy 4:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

2 Timothy 4
5 But you, [Timothy], must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.
6 I’m already being poured out like a sacrifice to God, and the time of my death is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. 8 At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous [or just] judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He’s giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance.

1 Corinthians 15
50 This is what I’m saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood can’t inherit God’s kingdom. Something that rots can’t inherit something that doesn’t decay. 51 Listen, I’m telling you a secret: All of us won’t die, but we will all be changed— 52 in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the final trumpet. The trumpet will blast, and the dead will be raised with bodies that won’t decay, and we will be changed. 53 It’s necessary for this rotting body to be clothed with what can’t decay, and for the body that is dying to be clothed in what can’t die. 54 And when the rotting body has been clothed in what can’t decay, and the dying body has been clothed in what can’t die, then this statement in scripture will happen:
Death has been swallowed up by a victory [Isaiah 25:8]
55         Where is your victory, Death?
Where is your sting, Death? [Hosea 13:14]
(56 Death’s sting is sin, and the power of sin is the Law.) 57 Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 As a result of all this, my loved brothers and sisters, you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul knew his earthly life would soon end. The Roman emperor hoped killing him might stop others from becoming Christians; Paul was confident it wouldn’t. Scholar N. T. Wright said, “The picture we get… is of a man facing serious trouble and likely death…. He lives in the present world, Caesar’s world, as already a cheerful citizen of the world to come, Jesus’ world.” * Paul asked Christians in Corinth, who’d grown up in a skeptical Greek society, “How can some of you say, ‘There’s no resurrection of the dead’?” (1 Corinthians 15:12). He quoted Hosea 13:14, where the prophet used an ancient form called a “taunt song” to ask, “Where is your sting, Death?” “Paul’s perspective on death in the light of Christ’s resurrection is best captured by his citation of Isaiah 25:8 when writing to the Corinthians, ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’ (1 Corinthians 15:54)…. in the hospital Susan [near death] joined me in repeating [the words I speak every year at the close of the Easter sermon]: ‘I not only believe it; I’m counting on it.’ Paul was counting on it.” **

  • Hebrews 2:15 said by dying and rising again, Jesus “set free those who were held in slavery their entire lives by their fear of death.” That was clearly true for Paul. Has Jesus’ presence in your life set you free from the fear of death? In what ways is it liberating to surmount that fear? You may feel that you have only a relatively short time left to serve God in this life, or you may be looking forward to many decades of faithful service. Is your life’s direction such that you are confident that, whenever it ends, you can say, as Paul did, “I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)? If not, what “mid-course corrections” do you want to make so that Paul’s words can also be your personal testimony?
Prayer

O Jesus, you walked into the darkest, deepest place we face—into death itself—and then emerged, alive and victorious. Keep me on course to end this earthly life in faith and triumph, as Paul did. Amen.

GPS Insights

Dan Entwistle

Dan Entwistle

Dan Entwistle serves as a Managing Executive Director for Church of the Resurrection and has for many years. He first wrote this powerful reflection on 1 Corinthians 15 in September of 2011!

“We will all be changed.”

Paul is pointing us toward a great mystery of life that is found at the heart of the good news—this life is not our final destination. Like a child in the womb who cannot comprehend the life she has in store in the world beyond, this life of “flesh and blood” is not our final chapter. What we see, feel and taste in this life will certainly pass away and a mystery beyond this life will be unveiled.

Our bodies were simply not built to last. And, try as we might we will not ultimately be able to to stave off the deterioration of our flesh and bones. But, Paul says, even as our bodies will perish, God will welcome us home and we will be changed. The saying will come true, “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” When all is said and done, the perishability of our lives will be cloaked with the imperishable.

The fact that we will be changed at the final trumpet is connected to another truth that we find elsewhere in Paul’s writings and in the teachings of Jesus. The gospel isn’t fully contained by the promise that we will be changed one day. We find that we are continually being changed even in this life. We can experience God today, right now. And being cloaked in the imperishable qualities of God is are our calling this side of life too. So we find that we are drawn into this mystery even today. Knowing our final destiny will be with God helps shape our lives today.

Before moving on to your next activity today, consider taking a moment to stop in silence. Breathe deeply and experience the mystery of God even right now.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Wright, N. T., Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters: 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Hamilton, Adam, The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul (p. 217). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.