The Death of Death
Last Sunday during the Lord’s Supper, I made the simple observation that one of the ways to appreciate the cross more fully is to ponder its effects. Then we pondered together the awesome truth that at the cross, Jesus completely disarmed Satan, both physically and spiritually.
To be more specific, Satan’s greatest physical weapon is death, and his greatest spiritual weapon is unforgiven sin. Death destroys our body, and unforgiven sin can destroy our soul. And Jesus wrenched both right out of Satan’s hands in His death and resurrection. But He didn’t do it quite how we would expect. Here’s how it works…
In Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, John Piper points out that if Jesus had wanted to remove Satan’s deadly influence from this world, He could have done it with one command: “Go to hell.” But instead, He chose a different route to destroy Satan:
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… Heb 2:14How did He destroy the devil? By submitting Himself to Satan’s most powerful physical weapon—death—and then destroying it from the inside out. The picture that comes to my mind (WARNING: It’s not very sacred, and it’s also kind of gross…) is from the movie Men in Black, when Tommy Lee Jones entices the huge alien bug to eat him, finds his weapon somewhere in there, and then blows the thing to gooey bits from the inside out.
It’s not like Jesus proved He was stronger than death by being immortal—i.e., never dying. Jesus was not like a soldier who moved behind enemy lines without getting caught. Instead, he went right to the enemy general, gave Himself up, got locked away in a POW camp, and then blew holes in the walls of every cell in the whole compound. Now every single soldier who gets taken captive can just walk right out through the holes left by the Man who went there before him.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15:20)But wait... there's more. The resurrection also defeated Satan’s most powerful spiritual weapon: sin.
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. 1 Cor 15:54-57Ever notice that, in the opinion of most people these days, the only thing you need to do to get to heaven is die?! That’s not what Paul thinks. He believes death has a massive stinger called "sin" which will make death a door to hell instead of heaven… if not for Jesus.
If it weren’t for Jesus, the worst part about dying would be that now we have to start paying for all the sins we committed when we were alive. Once death comes, Satan would sting us with our sin and carry us straight to hell forever. That’s what “the power of sin is the law” means. God’s law says that the penalty for sin is eternal death (Rom 6:23).
But Jesus broke the power of sin by fulfilling the demand of the law: He died for sin. And then He removed the sting of death—sin—by securing our full justification so that no accusation of sin could ever be brought against His people again.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Col 2:13-15Isn’t that good news?! The gospel tells us that Satan’s two major weapons are gone: 1) death is not the end; we will rise again; 2) our sin will not be used to condemn us.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.(“In Christ Alone,” by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend)
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