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Taunting the King of Terrors

Taunting the King of Terrors

1 Corinthians 15:54— “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?”

In last Sunday’s sermon, I selected an extended portion of Robert Candlish’s remarkable exposition on 1 Corinthians 15 entitled Life in a Risen Savior. I’ve edited some of Candlish’s wording, but the message is essentially the same as what he wrote in his book.

I’m including this portion in today’s Life Together for your meditation and enjoyment. Listen to Candlish describe how Paul the Apostle taunts and sneers at death—may we be emboldened to face the King of Terrors with the joyful assurance that for believers in Jesus, “it is not death to die.”

“Death, in this world, is the great devourer. He swallows up all living things. He has an insatiable stomach. No refined taste, no delicacy of palate has death.

Indiscriminately, promiscuously, one equally with another, death’s voracious appetite swallows up all. He is a ruthless, pitiless monster of prey.

Neither man nor woman will his horrid appetite spare. The tender baby; the fair youth; the lovely young lady; the strong man in his prime; the veteran, tough and scarred; the feeble cripple, tottering under the weight of years—all alike come to death. He swallows up them all.

Hungry and greedy, he prowls in all streets and lanes; in all highways and bypaths; in every city, village, hamlet; throughout all houses. He has servants by the hundred who are eagerly catering for him—diseases, a multitude which no man can number; accidents that no one can prevent; wars, plagues, pestilences; poverty and famine; lusts, passions, sins crimes—vast troops of soldiers who incessantly do his pleasure!

And with all this death never gets gorged; he craves for more. Like the devil whom he serves, he goes about seeking whom he may devour.

Bribes, entreaties, tears alike fail to move him from his purpose. Beauty has no charm—love has no spell—to mitigate death’s rage. His cruel fang pierces the loveliest form and chills the warmest heart.

Power has no weapon to resist his onset. Wealth has no protection against his rancor. Wisdom cannot confound his wiles.

None are humble enough to be overlooked and pitied by death. None are good enough to be reverenced and spared. None are high enough to have the right to make death stand at bay.

The king of terrors, formidable to all, is himself afraid of none. He seizes and swallows up the whole family of man.

Yes! Even when there stood before him One over whom he had no power—One who could say, “No man takes my life from me… The prince of the world has nothing in me” —even when the Son of the highest, “the Holy One of God,” “the man Christ Jesus,” “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners” stood before him—and when that Holy One on the cross, giving himself a ransom for many, bowed his head and yielded up his spirit— Death! had you no shame, no scruple, no fear, when you had to deal with him? Was there no misgiving, no relenting, when to the long list of your victims, his name, the name of Jesus, was to be added, and your mouth was opened to swallow up him?

Truly, death, that was your choicest morsel! The daintiest and rarest delicacy you ever tried to swallow. But he was your bane, your poison, your ruin! His death was the death of you, O death! He could not be held by you. You could not digest that bloody prey—that bleeding Lamb of God—as ravenous as you are. You could not keep him in your bowels any more than that great fish of old could keep Jonah in his belly.The Lord spoke to you, O death, as he did to that fish, and compelled you to vomit out his Holy One before he could see corruption.

That was your first disgorging, O death! But you know it is not your last! On that great morning that is about to dawn, when the last trump is to sound, what an emptying of your foul stomach awaits you, you gross and wormy feeder upon carcasses!

“Give up!” will be the word—and it is the voice of your Conqueror, O death! The conqueror of him who has the power over you. Give up my slumbering saints as you were forced to give me up! They are mine—members of my body, of my flesh, and of my bones. They are a part of me. I and they are one. While you keep them swallowed up, you keep me. But I cannot be held of you—nor can these my members!”

—Robert Candlish, Life in a Risen Savior (1863, 1977 reprint, Minneapolis: James & Klock Christian Publishing), pp. 251-254.

For believers, there will be no death in death. The stinger will be gone. Death cannot poison us and destroy us. It will be like a cobra that strikes at us with fearful force, a force so fearful we faint unconscious—but then we hear a trumpet blast—we awake to find that the venom was not there—the poison was gone—death has lost its sting.

We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us!

Pastor David Sunday