The Victory of Death

Berry Kercheville

Last week, I watched my mother of nearly 92 years take her final breaths. I could not help but be struck by the initial ugliness of the moment. I was reminded of the early years when she was young, strong, and vibrant. Now she was withered, her body weak, fragile, and wasted. Unconscious, she struggled for each final breath until something inside said, “That’s enough; it is finished.” Then stillness. For every person who experiences that moment, we instinctively know there is a difference. She isn’t there any more. It is now only a shell, only a faint reminder of what was. We wish we could see the angels carry her away ever so gently. But we only see it by faith and fondly consider the coming reunion.

Obviously, at such a moment, regardless of the mental preparation for this final event, all emotions are released and the tears flow uncontrollably. Inside me there is a scream, “No, no, no!” Then a brief calm, but the breakdown returns again and again until there is no strength left to sob. Our minds cannot grasp it. Mentally we know it, but emotionally it is beyond us. It is too eternal; it is too infinite for the physical mind to understand. It is knowing, but not really knowing.

In the Garden of Eden, after man sinned, God fulfilled a promise: “in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” That was a tragic day. We hate to hear those words, but they are actually words that reflect the grace of God. How awful it would have been if he had allowed us to live forever in a fallen state. Better that we were released from it.

Then there is Satan. That is who I think of next. He is a hateful murderer. As Jesus said, a murderer from the beginning. It is amazing that such a being exists, void of all goodness, to do nothing with himself except to destroy. Every day he murders and rejoices in the death of the wicked. Ah Satan, but this time you lose; this time, you are the one who mourns. You lost this battle, and the day will soon come when you are banished forever.

“But when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought 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?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

You lose Satan! I can’t help but scream it out, “You lose Satan. You lose.” Then I look back at her face, cold and still. That’s when finally the sweetness of victory floods through me. This is why he went to the cross. This is why he died. This is why he made that wonderful plan before time began. Our Lord did not want us to see this moment as the end, but the beginning, so that we would not sorrow as others who have no hope. Isaiah, records the Lord’s feelings about man’s helplessness in sin:

“He saw that there was no man, and was appalled that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation and his righteousness upheld him” (Isa. 59:16).

Yes, even God was appalled to see the ugliness of man’s end. And when there was no one to intercede, he bared the strength of his own arm and brought salvation. God on a cross, crushing the head of the Serpent, and saving every man and woman from the ugliness of that awful moment.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. You lose Satan. We win.

berrykerch@gmail.com