God Will Swallow up Death Forever
“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken” (v. 8).- Isaiah 25
Plato may be the most famous Western philosopher of all time, and his writings exert a strong influence to this day. In one of his dialogues, the Phaedo, Socrates asks the poignant question, “Must not all things at last be swallowed up in death?”
Although we do not agree with Plato’s view of an inherently indestructible soul (for the soul would dissolve if God were not to sustain it) or his idea that our souls preexisted our bodies, both of which Socrates cites in answering his question, we note that everyone wrestles with this issue. Rich and poor, king and peasant, man and woman—all must confront the finality of death. Despite the blessings of modern medicine, no one gets out of this world alive. Death and decay seem to swallow everything in their path.
Yet death will not finally swallow up all things. Instead, as today’s passage proves, death itself will finally be swallowed up (Isa. 25:7–8). God Himself will envelop the “covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations” (v. 7). This, Isaiah prophesies, will be done on “this mountain”—Mount Zion, where Jerusalem sits (v. 6). Moreover, it will be done for “all peoples.” It will not be the Jews alone who benefit, but individuals from every tribe and tongue. In that day, the Lord will wipe the tears from every eye of His elect, an image of tenderness that points to Him as the supreme comforter (v. 8). Also, He will take away the reproach of His people, vindicating them in their salvation (vv. 8–9). To the faithful old covenant believers who so often suffered for their faith, this was good news indeed, as it meant that all those who shamed them would themselves be shamed. That meant that Moab would be “trampled down” (v. 10). Moab, an ancient enemy of Israel, is here used to represent all of the enemies of God’s people. As the faithful remnant was vindicated, the unfaithful would be cast down.
Of course, given the placement of this passage in his book, Isaiah foresaw that this would happen after the exile. Today, we know that the defeat of death has been accomplished, even though we still await the last day, when death will be fully and finally swallowed, never to return. Hundreds of years after the exile, our Savior dealt the fatal blow to death itself as He passed from life to death on a cross raised on Zion and then from death to life in His resurrection (Rom. 6:9). Death could not swallow up the Christ. He defeated it, bringing the hope of life back to the world.
Paul tells us that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26) because he recognizes that death continues to plague creation even though Christ dealt it a mortal blow by His own death and resurrection. Death still inflicts pain upon us and our world; nevertheless, we will not have to fight death forever. Moreover, if we are in Christ, we need not fear death should we die before Christ returns. In Him we are alive and will have victory over death and its effects.
Passages for Further Study