“O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING? ...” (1ST COR. 15:55)
The thoughts of death have terrified me with such horrors that I have had no desire to talk to it. It has heretofore appeared as a terrible monster most willing and anxious to devour me at the least provocation. I have seen it as an adder ready to pounce upon me and to insert the deadly poisonous venom in the sting of death. These horrifying experiences have caused me to cry aloud for mercy. I have viewed it as my greatest enemy. Of course, I have for many years tried to shun the thoughts of it and was far from wanting to talk to it. Lately, I have thought differently about it. I have been given a hope that some day I can gladly talk to it realizing that it is not as powerful as it has appeared. I have anticipated saying to it when my journey comes to an end here, “O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?”
I have stood by the bedside of loved ones and watched them slip from time into eternity. I have been amazed as the frown of death was changed into a smile of life. I have watched troubled expressions turn into a peaceful calm. I heard the dying groans of one person cease and the same voice utter the sweetest words that could be imagined as she drew in the last breath of natural life. I have of late wondered if they were having their last talk with death by asking it, “O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?”
I do not wish death to answer when I talk to it because I believe its power shall have been subdued and it cannot answer when I shall be privileged to talk to it. I do not expect the dead to answer because we read in Eccles. 9:5 that the dead know not anything. I want the answers to come from God through His saints. As I begin to meditate upon this subject that has so terrified me before, this question comes to mind: O DEATH HAVE NOT I TALKED TO YOU IN THE PAST?
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, in 2nd Cor. 1:10 “Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust he will yet deliver us.” Paul talked of a past deliverance from a GREAT DEATH. He must have been acquainted with it. He met it face to face when sin revived as a result of the law being indelibly written in his heart by the operation of the Holy Spirit. He confirms in Romans 7:9 that once he was alive without the law but when the commandment came the result was the revival of sin which slew him. Using Paul’s words to express it - plainly affirmed, “I DIED.” I feel that he suffered the sting of death to such an extent that he lost his life. His soul fainted in him. The pangs of death got hold of him and he experienced the great sting of it. I conclude that the infusion of the Spirit of Eternal Life brought death to him.
We read in Ezekiel 18:4, “soul that sinneth, IT SHALL DIE” Paul experienced the death of his sinful soul when his soul was eternalized by the infusion of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. We note that, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to DELIVER THEIR SOUL FROM DEATH, and to keep them ALIVE in famine.” (Psalms 33:18-19) David said, “He restoreth my soul.” Have not I talked to death when I found it to be powerless to destroy my soul even though my soul had been killed? I am persuaded that the death experienced in regeneration had the greatest sting of any experience that I shall ever again have with death. Have I not talked to it daily as I have been delivered from its clutches and sting by the grace of God? Paul said, “I die daily.” (lst Cor. 15:31) I wonder if I have talked to it each time in my deliverance. The next question relative to death is, O DEATH, WHAT IS THY STING?
Let us listen to Paul as he testifies, “The STING of death is SIN” (1st Cor. 15:56) If sin be the sting of death I first tasted its sting when I was convinced that I was a sinner. When I was convinced I was chief of sinners I experienced its greatest sting. When I was brought into the captivity of sin and realized I was imprisoned in it I suffered its awful sting. Sin is that which kills, for the wages of sin is death. James affirms in his epistle, “**Sin, when it is finished bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15) My next question that I shall seek for an answer is, O DEATH, WHAT IS THE STRENGTH OF THY STING?
Paul answers this question by saying, “The strength of sin is the law.” (1st Cor. 15:56) Then, death cannot have dominion over any other ones than those who are under the law. Paul concludes in the next verse, “But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Death then can be swallowed up in victory. Read the Scriptures and you will find that death does not have dominion over those for whom Christ died. Death cannot conquer those for whom He accomplished the law. The victory of Christ over death is given to all those who were chosen in Him. Paul wrote to “The beloved of God, called to be saints” these comforting words in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are NOT UNDER THE LAW, BUT UNDER GRACE.” If we are not under the law then sin cannot reign over us. If sin cannot reign over us we have eternal life and can never die. If we have eternal life we have passed from death unto life and shall never perish 15:56) If sin be the sting of death I first in eternal death. In this sense we cannot sin because we are born of God and His seed remaineth in us. See I John 3:9. Sin does not reign in those who are born of God. The carnality or sin that dwells in us serves the law of sin which is that flesh of ours not yet having experienced the quickening of the Holy Spirit. Our minds and hearts have experienced this quickening, but we are awaiting the quickening of our mortal bodies by this eternalizing Spirit. The next question in our talk with death is, O DEATH WHAT ART THOU?
We find that the first mention of death in the Bible was a fore-warning of consequence placed upon Adam and Eve for partaking of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. It was declared they should lose their freedom. Death was a penalty for the transgression of the law, and is the wages of sin, as has already been shown. Death is passed upon all men for all have sinned according to Romans 5:12. Death is the cessation of natural life. I feel that when Adam and Eve partook of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil they became as God in the sense of knowing good and evil as the Scriptures bear us record. Read Genesis 3:22-24. Since that time the TREE OF LIFE has been so hedged in and even the TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL that man has been dependent upon God’s grace to partake of either.
Man ceased to have his freedom in the garden and the high privileges of all the things pertaining to God and godliness was taken from his reach. Death is a separation from something, or things, which the subject was before in possession of. The last phase of death is explained in Ecclesiastes 12:7: - “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” It is referred to in the Scriptures as, “Giving up the ghost” in Acts 5:10. In other places it is termed a sleep, a departure, a going the way of all the earth, a dissolving the earthly house of this tabernacle, and a being absent from the body and present with the Lord; as well as, sleeping in Jesus. The next question we shall pursue is, O DEATH, HOW DIDST THOU EFFECT ME WHEN I FIRST DIED?
Paul catalogued DEATH among the ALL THINGS that work together for good as noted in the 8th chapter of Romans from the 28th verse to the conclusion of the chapter. I maintain that the death experienced by Paul spoken of in the 7th chapter of Romans, 9th verse, was a blessing in disguise. Surely Paul was made somewhat better by having experienced it. If you compare Romans 7:9 with Romans 7:17 you will find a changed “I”. After he had experienced this death and the resurrection from it he said, “It is no more I that do it but SIN THAT DWELLETH IN ME.” There is a great deal of difference in sin dwelling in a person than SIN REIGNING. Paul did not serve sin any longer even tho it dwelleth in him. It was no longer the reigning influence of his life. The death that I died in my experience many years ago was the tool used in God’s hands to cause me to hate sin and its consequences. Before experiencing this death and the entrance of the divine law, I rejoiced in things sinful, and was the servant of sin. Afterwards, the best of my own self righteousness is filthy and sinful to me. Death killed me to the love of self and confidence in the flesh.
My next question: O DEATH, HOW DOTH GOD CONSIDER THEE RELATIVE TO SAINTS? God answers through the Psalmist, “PRECIOUS in the sight of the Lord IS THE DEATH OF HIS SAINTS.” (Psalms 116:15) Our Lord considers death of great value to those whom He hath set apart to lavish His mercy upon. It is used in the sanctifying process. The term, SAINTS, mean sanctified ones. They were set apart from all eternity by God. They were sanctified in Christ Jesus. They are sanctified by the blood of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and by all the graces contained in the new covenant. Even this first death experienced in regeneration is precious in His sight. It was awful for us to experience but I trust that I have been given to thank God for it many times. I feel that I now see how valuable it was in separating me from self confidence and yearning desire to please my carnal nature. The death I die each and every day of my life is being shown to me a thing ordained for my good instead of being against me. I can look back and see the value of the death experienced thus far; but, I cannot see the death I am experiencing today so precious. I may be given to see it tomorrow. Of course, the final phase of death will be precious. This final separation from all things natural, carnal, material, and timely will be of great benefit to the saints of God. Surely it will be precious to the Lord when all the saints whom He loves so dearly shall have been separated from time by death, and shall have been gathered together in Heaven with Him. The next question: OH DEATH, WHAT SHALL I CALL THEE WHEN I SHALL HAVE FINISHED MY COURSE?
Paul talked much of death in his epistles. He talked of the horrors of it and the need of sinners to be delivered from it. He talked about it as a judgment of God upon those who followed after the flesh. He thanked God for having delivered him from it. He rendered praise unto Him for constant deliverances. He trusted Him for future deliverances. When he had finished his course and came face-to-face with the death of his natural body he had a different attitude toward this phase of it. Read II Timothy 4:6-8 and you will find that he was ready for it. He did not term this phase as death but rather “MY DEPARTURE”. When he had finished his course he was READY TO BE OFFERED. I do not believe he was ready before then even though he termed it as more to be desired than dwelling in his earthly house. I firmly believe Paul welcomed this departure. When we are so thoroughly convinced of the frailties of our earthly house and the imprisonment that it proves to be, I feel, we shall rather desire this departure from this earth into Heaven. When I come to the end of my course here I trust by the grace of God through the Merits of Jesus Christ to term death my departure. When I shall reach the end of the way of all men and my departure is at hand, I trust I shall talk to death victoriously. I shall talk to it of its benefits. I shall term it many things beautiful and precious.
I shall say, O DEATH, INSTEAD OF A STING THOU ART A RELIEF. No more physical pains to torment me. No more suffering of conscience shall make me so despondent. No more sins shall hamper or frustrate thoughts, acts, and words that my pure mind and heart would have me think, say, and do. There shall be no more separations from loved ones. There shall be no more weakness of body to become weaker and weaker as natural life wanes. My eyes shall no longer need glasses. My ears shall not become duller of hearing. My dwelling place shall no longer be in a body subject to death. I anticipate saying to it, O DEATH, INSTEAD OF DREADING YOU, I WELCOME YOU. YOU ARE MANY THINGS WONDERFUL TO ME.
Instead of the end, you are the beginning. You are the passageway from earth to Heaven. Instead of the wall, you are the doorway. You are the dressing room where mortality shall be clothed with immortality. You are the anesthetic God uses to condition one for the major operations necessary for all the saints of God to be properly adapted to live eternally in Heaven with the Lord and all of His angels.
I have enjoyed my talk with death but have not depended upon death to answer any of the questions. I fondly anticipate talking with it when my time here ceases. May God bless these thoughts to your comfort and edification.
Signs of the Times
Volume 160, No. 10