Hope and Peace, 1 Corinthians 15.55

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

I Corinthians 15.55 KJV

I was thinking about this verse today because I think that I often forget what it really means to have eternal life. Paul exhorted us in Colossians 3 to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts  [1]” and often we forget what exactly peace is. Certainly, it is not an absence of trouble. Christ himself wished his disciples peace when he left them [2]. This certainly is not an absence of trouble, for the peace he wished was a peace when Christ himself would leave this earth, shattering the disciples immediate hope for an immediate foundation of the Kingdom of God. This is not peace in the sense that there would be no wars, nor is it peace in a sense of personal well being, for certainly they were in tumult. No, the peace of Christ is rather more akin to serenity than this common perception of peace. It is the ability to, no matter what may happen, rest upon the shoulders of an omnipotent and unchanging God.

God is our fortress, our rock, and our strong deliverer [3]. This is to mean that no matter what may happen, we may draw upon the infinite strength of an unchanging God. When we do this in perfection, the troubles of this world become light and momentary and we can rest as Paul fully did in the strength of him who is sovereign over all things [4].

Ultimately we, as Christians, hold dear the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. This is our ultimate peace, the hope that no matter what harm may befall our mortal, temporal selves, it is our souls that shall live on forever. No matter how big our troubles may be, they can never be as large as the infinite time that lies before us, they can never overcome the infinite God that we serve, and even if death itself comes to us, we can know that the one who has saved us has become the firstborn from the dead, and that death hath no dominion over him [5]. And because we partake in this resurrection in Christ, we can truly say as John Donne wrote, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die” [6]. Death itself is the culmination of all our hope in that through death, we shall endure only a short sleep, and after that minor pause between this life and the next we shall find ourselves with the Lord, our saviour, forever free from any form of the shattered dominion of sin. Through Christ, death itself has been transformed from that which is our fear, into our freedom from this imperfect life. Death shall truly die, its sting shall become our joy, and its defeat shall be our final reality.

[1] Colossians 3.15a
[2] John 14.27
[3] Psalms 18.2, 140.7
[4] 2 Corinthians 4.17 NIV84
[5] Colossians 1.18, Romans 6.9, KJV
[6] John Donne, Holy Sonnet X, 13-14

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