Death is the only certainty of life in this world. Yet death is a defeated enemy. In almost taunting words, Scripture declares, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” and “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55, 57).
Let’s do an autopsy of death and see how it met its demise through the victorious death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Back at the beginning, God warned Adam and Eve: “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). They ate, so they died. But how, since their hearts didn’t stop beating?
Death is more than losing your pulse. It is the demise of everything desirable, commendable and valuable. Death from sin includes:
- Alienation and isolation — death of relationships;
- Selfishness — death of love;
- Aimlessness — death of purpose;
- Disease — death of physical health;
- Dysfunction — death of emotional health;
- Fear — death of hope;
- Guilt — death of peace;
- Shame — death of self-worth;
- Pain — death of comfort;
- Sorrow — death of joy;
- Pollution — death of planetary health;
- Bondage — death of freedom.
All of this involved the death of Adam’s original creation in the image of God. Sin’s inherent dysfunction destroys and dehumanizes people and their communities — including the community of the saved, the church.
Picture Adam and Eve crouching in the bushes, hiding from God. Their relationship with the Lifegiver had died. Moreover, their relationship with each other was ruined, since they were fighting, blaming each other. All the problems we suffer in relationships today have roots in our death in Adam.
So something terrible happened to us in Adam — sin leading to death. The good news is that something wonderful happened to us in Christ — He conquered death and brought us life.
Our Victorious Lifegiver
For humanity’s various lifesaving agencies, from police to paramedics to firefighters, death is always a defeat. But uniquely, the death of Jesus was a victory. “Only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb. 2:14–15, NLT).
Christ’s mission on Earth was to defeat the devil, disable his kingdom and ultimately destroy him: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Christ’s death was the culmination of a lifelong series of victories over the devil, beginning with His birth in surviving the murderous insecurity of King Herod.
Following baptism, Jesus emerged from the water to conquer the tempter in the wilderness. He launched His messianic ministry in His hometown, proclaiming Himself as liberator of a world in satanic bondage. Longtime neighbors weren’t impressed, and neither was the national religious establishment. Jesus declared: “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). They scoffed. “We’ve never been enslaved to anyone” — forgetting their Exodus from bondage in Egypt and eventual captivity in Babylon.
Although Satan-inspired religious leaders refused to accept their Messiah, many of society’s outcasts welcomed Him. The poor and oppressed received Him gladly, thus defeating the devil’s attempt to shut down Christ’s ministry. By word and deed He confronted the evil powers, defeating them at every turn.
One amazing defeat of the devil took place outside the mountain town of Nain. With His entourage of the curious and the committed, Jesus encountered a funeral procession. A few seconds with the victorious liberator turned the death march into a parade of life.
Jesus never lost a battle with the devil. His own death on the cross, apparently a crushing defeat, was actually His strategic masterstroke of ultimate victory. With His dying breath He triumphantly proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). After resting on the Sabbath to memorialize His finished work, Christ burst forth from the grave, fulfilling His promise: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The earth quaked and His enemies quivered in the dust. Jesus soared through the skies to receive His Father’s welcome and acceptance on our behalf.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Christ declared (John 14:6, NKJ). “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In our victorious new Adam comes the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) that sin through death had taken away after old Adam’s rebellion.
So it is that Jesus defeated the devil and “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). He also conquered every aspect of death that expresses itself in sinful and dysfunctional behavior.
To summarize: Christ’s victory for us means life in place of death — not only eternal but abundant, not just to experience but to share.