Victory over Death

victory over death (3)

c) 1 Cor 15:53–55: Jewish people in Paul’s era would have recognized the concept of being clothed with immortality.

According to a Jewish apocryphal book called 1 Enoch (ca. first century BC–first century AD):

The righteous and elect shall be saved on that day, and they shall never thence forward see the face of the sinners and unrighteous. And the Lord of Spirits will abide over them, and with the Son of Man [Dan 7:13–14] shall they eat and lie down and rise up forever and ever.

And the righteous and elect shall have risen from the earth, and ceased to be of downcast countenance. And they shall have been clothed with garments of glory, and these shall be the garments of life from the Lord of Spirits: and your garments shall not grow old, nor your glory pass away before the Lord of Spirits.[1]

Similarly, in 2 Enoch 22:8–10, the Lord told the angel Michael to remove Enoch’s earthly apparel and clothe him with garments of God’s glory. This transfigured Enoch into the appearance of one of the Lord’s “glorious ones.”[2]

Thus, to “be clothed imperishable” means to be remade into the likeness of Christ,[3] receiving the same inheritance which God gave to him (Rom 8:28–30; Gal 3:26–29; Phil 3:20–21).[4]

The second Adam shall irrevocably demolish the fetters of decay and death affixed by the first Adam (Rom 5:12–21; Rom 8:18–23; 1 Cor 15:35–49).[5]

This passage contains the only prophecy not yet fulfilled which Paul cites in his letters. In 1 Cor 15:54–55, the apostle appeared to fuse the Greek translations of Isa 25:8 and Hos 13:14 and to substitute “victory” (nikē) for “penalty” (dikē) in the latter verse.[6]

Thus, he converted these two Old Testament (OT) passages into a taunt of death.[7]

On the other hand, a 3rd century AD compilation of four versions of the Greek OT indicates that some translations of Hos 13:14 closely resemble what Paul wrote.[8] He may have utilized one of those, rather than taking liberty with the Hebrew text.

Due to Jesus’s resurrection, he has forever vanquished the alien, destructive power of death. It “was swallowed up in victory.”  In Christ, death has more than met its match (John 5:24–29; Acts 2:22–36; Rom 8:1–11).[9]

Jesus has already set the end in motion. Although we live in the “now” rather than in the “not yet,” ultimately death remains powerless over believers.[10]

Paul closed this chapter by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brothers [and sisters], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58).[11]

As C. S. Lewis preached:

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it…

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.[12]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read 1 Cor 15:53–55.  How does the promise of victory over death equip you with the hope and courage to carry on in the face of difficulties? Why does the way we treat others matter?

 

 

 

 

Go to The New Holy City

 

[Related posts include Dead in Adam but Alive in Christ (1 Cor 15:20–23); Perishable Flesh and Blood (1 Cor 15:50); We Shall Be Changed (1 Cor 15:51–52); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Christ’s Resurrected Body (Luke 24:31, 35–44); Satan Addresses the Heavenly Council (Zech 3:1–5); Passed from Death into Life (John 5:24–27); A Second Resurrection (John 5:28–29); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Creation’s Eager Expectation (Rom 8:19); Subjected to Futility (Rom 8:20); Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption (Rom 8:21–22); Clothed with Christ (Gal 3:26–27); Adopted as Sons (Eph 1:5–6); Minds on Earthly Things (Phil 3:17–19); Citizens of Heaven (Phil 3:20); Glorified Bodies (Phil 3:21); Greek Translation of the Old Testament; and Ancient Literature]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 10: The Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22–24)]

 

[1]R. H. Charles, trans., “Book of Enoch,” in APOT (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 62:13–6, 125, https://archive.org/stream/cu31924067146773#page/n239/mode/2up.

[2]W. R. Morfill, trans., The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (2 Enoch) (Oxford: Clarendon, 1896), 22:8–9, 28, https://archive.org/stream/bookofsecretsofe00morf#page/28/mode/2up.

[3] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 888.

[4] Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 832.

[5] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 888.

[6] Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, 310.

[7] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 888.

[8]Origen, Hexapla, (ed. Frederick Field; Oxford: Clarendon, 1875), 2: 962 (Hos 13:14), https://archive.org/stream/origenhexapla02unknuoft#page/962/mode/2up.

[9] Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 833.

[10] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev, Ed., 890.

[11] In Koine Greek, the masculine plural term “brothers” can apply to either men or a group of mixed gender.

[12]C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” Theology, November 1941; 8 June 1942, The Weight of Glory, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, Http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf.