“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ” 1 Cor. 15:54
One of the great messianic promises of the Old Covenant which is realized under the New Covenant is emphasized by the apostle as he is moved by the Spirit to encourage and admonish the Corinthian brethren.
He hearkens the hearts of the Corinthians back to the words of the messianic prophet of the Old Covenant, Isaiah. This quote by Paul is found in the twenty-fifth chapter of Isaiah. “He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.” (Isa. 25:8 NAS) The chronology of this portion of the scroll of Isaiah is important to consider. In the preceding chapters of thirteen through twenty-three, Isaiah in the Spirit lists a series of oracles or burdens (as in burdens for sins) of primarily other nations (Judah is included twice in Isa. 14:1-14 & 17:4-11) that must reap that which they have sown. Chapter twenty-four brings a picture of the encompassing judgment of God upon the entire earth and of the rebellious heavenly host (Isa. 24:21). The term earth shows up 18 times in this chapter alone! Chapter 24 closes with the picture of heavenly Jerusalem and Mount Zion in glory: “Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and His glory will be before His elders.” (Isa. 24:23 NAS) This verse is very similar to the pictures given John in the book of Revelation (Rev. 7:10-17; 11:15-17; 21:23) Chapter twenty-five follows as the song of thanksgiving of the redeemed and faithful as represented through Isaiah in appreciation of God’s victory over all His enemies. The prophet presents the LORD as faithful in executing His plans and delivering on His promises (25:1), faithful to protect His redeemed with a reference to the Gentiles being included (25:2-5), and faithful in providing for His people. (25:6-10a) It is in this latter section from which Paul’s citation of Isaiah is found in our text above and which we seek to expound upon. Isaiah states in verse six “the LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;” this is a reference back to Mount Zion as mentioned at the close of chapter twenty-four. The book of Hebrews clarifies for us that the church, by faith, has come to Christ in heavenly Jerusalem and spiritual Mount Zion. So what’s this lavish banquet prepared for all peoples? The banquet shared now by all Christians in celebration of God’s victory over all His enemies, including death, would be the Lord’s supper. The purpose of the Lord’s supper is to remind us that death no longer is master over us through the overwhelming victory of Christ conquering death! There’s more brethren, there’s more. Let’s consider verse seven of Isaiah twenty-five. “And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations.” The veil in the New Testament is defined as the flesh (Heb. 10:20) or fleshly mindedness (2 Cor. 3:13-18). It’s worth remembering that only those that have first turned to the Lord in their immersion into Christ have been “circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in immersion” (Col. 2:11, 12a) Once in Christ, the process of spiritually appraising properly New Covenant truths and in particular, the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ, begins. Jesus on the throne reminds again that He lives forever, having swallowed up death in victory, to make intercession for us! Isaiah 25:8 is referenced above so let’s jump to verse nine which emphasizes the result all the faithful have long awaited: “And it will be said in that day, ‘Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.’ ” That day was Jesus’ ascension to the throne. By faith we enjoy the fruits of salvation Isaiah could only longingly look toward. But our salvation is not complete. That’s why Paul, through the Spirit, wrote describing the saints as those “being saved” (literal translation of 1 Cor. 15:3) What remains in the plan of God is the final judgment upon the earth when death will be swallowed up and His victorious people are dressed in the glorious body of the imperishable and immortal risen Christ.