Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Easter, or better stated, Resurrection Sunday, is the most Scripturally significant celebration of the Christian faith. The Bible describes Easter’s significance when it says, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain… If Christ be not raised, …ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:14; 17)
Everything that a Christian believes rests on the Bible’s declaration that Christ arose.
However, understanding the eternal importance of this holiday is sometimes clouded by the temporal frills of the celebration. An Easter bunny, chocolate eggs, and colorful baskets, all can have their place, but we must be careful not to conflate the extras with the essentials.
In 1 Corinthians 15:54 we find a helpful statement that provides a summary of the essential understandings of the resurrection of Christ. The Apostle Paul pens the words, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
First, the phrase mentions “death.” Before we can adequately appreciate the life that is offered through the resurrection of Christ, we must understand some things about death. Romans 6 declares that “The wages of sin is death.” The word “death” in that verse describes eternal separation from God in hell. Death is the result of sin which has been a part of the human condition since the days of Adam. (Genesis 3)
Romans 5:12 refers to Adam and summarizes death’s relationship to sin when it says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Jesus, the second Adam, came to the earth to “give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Through His sinless life, substitutionary death, and resurrection He has conquered death and offers forgiveness for sin. He therefore offers salvation from the consequences of sin. His resurrection presents to the world, eternal life in Him.
Second, 1 Corinthians 15:54 mentions that death is “swallowed up.” Occasionally people ask me, “What was Jesus doing for three days and three nights in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea? While the Bible doesn’t say specifically, my answer is, “He was swallowing up death.”
Matthew 12:40 parallels Jesus’ time in the tomb with Jonah’s time in the belly of the whale. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Just as Jonah was “swallowed up” by the whale, so did Jesus “swallow up” death.
Third, consider the “victory” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:54.
There are no more victorious words in Scripture than the words “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:6)
This victory over death, Christ’s resurrection, is what makes the “everlasting life” in John 3:16 possible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Conclusion: The fact that “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54) is why the Christian is to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
Because He is risen, our gospel-focused labor is not vain or empty. Because He has risen, our preaching is not vain in the Lord. Because He has risen, death has been swallowed up and the victory of eternal life is offered to every sinner. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved...” (Acts 16:31)