The Questions Death Can’t Answer – Eliezer Gonzalez

Mar 31, 2015 3654

VictoryI love the poem by the English poet John Donne, which starts with the lines:

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,

For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow.

Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

In the rest of the poem, Donne mocks and belittles death and its presumed power over us.

I wonder if, when Donne wrote those words, he had the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 in mind. The Apostle mocks death with two questions that death cannot answer:

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?

– 1 Cor 15:55

Here is the reason why death cannot answer these questions – because Paul exclaims,

thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (v.57)

Death is silent before the victory of Christ. It cannot answer the questions. But Paul himself answers the questions that he has asked, and in so doing, he explains how the victory of Christ over death has been achieved. Paul writes,

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (v.56)

If you look at these words closely, you will see that here is the sequence in Paul’s mind:

Death – Sin – Law

Normally we would understand it the other way around, i.e.

Law – Sin – Death

In other words, we would understand that the law condemns us as sinners, the result of which is death. That is how the first Adam lost eternal life. But now Paul works backwards to show how Christ has undone our condemnation and travelled the road to victory. It is the same reasoning that Paul uses in Romans 5.

Paul envisages Christ as undoing all the works of death. First of all Christ defeated death. Secondly, Christ defeated death because he was perfectly sinless. And thirdly, because Christ was perfectly sinless, he fulfilled all the requirements of the law, so that the condemnation of the law had no claim on him whatsoever.

And here is the most wonderful thing: our Lord Christ Jesus has given us the victory! His total victory has been given to all who believe! What we could never do, he has done for us!

And on the Day of Resurrection, His ultimate victory will be fully realized in his gift to us of immortal, perfected resurrection bodies.

So today, there are no questions that death can ask of us for which we do not have the answer. Instead, death stands ashamed and silenced at the victory of Christ. Now the tables are turned. Now it is death who cannot answer the questions of the weakest, most humble believer!

Donne’s poem ends with these words,

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

The Apostle Paul, the poet John Donne, and all who believe in Jesus Christ await that day with joy.

– Eliezer Gonzalez

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