When sin and death seem victorious

After my daughters saw The Beauty and the Beast for the first time, they watched it on repeat over and over again, as is typical of a four- and two-year-old. Every time they watched it, they were absolutely terrified of the Beast. I reminded them that they knew the end of the story so they didn’t have to be scared, not realizing until the words were out of my mouth that I was sharing with them a spiritual truth. As believers in Christ, even when it looks like evil is winning, we don’t have to fear. We know the end of the story.

This Easter, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we will likely read verses like 1 Corinthians 15:54b-55: “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” We will sing songs about sin and death being defeated, declaring the victory of Christ. But doesn’t it sometimes feel like sin and death are the victorious ones? Sin and death are headlining the world’s news. The brokenness we experience sometimes feels overwhelming. Just in my own family, there have been two deaths in the past three months. And in my own heart, sin seems more triumphant more than I would care to admit. When it feels like sin and death are victorious, we must look back and we must look forward. This Easter, we will remember what Jesus has already accomplished for us and expectantly celebrate the end of the story, even though we are still in the middle of it.

We sing songs about the victory of Christ over Satan, sin, and death, yet still experience the weight and pain of it is because we live in the “already, but not yet.” Daniel Dunlap at Ligonier Ministries describes this as “the tension between the benefits of redemption already experienced in this life and those benefits which await us at the consummation.” The “already, but not yet” is both the tension and the promise we live in.

When it feels like sin and death are victorious, we must look back to the work of Christ. We look back to Jesus on the cross, declaring, “It is finished.” Though we fall utterly short of God’s perfection and our sin earned us death, God sent Jesus to live the perfect life and to die in our place. He became our substitute in life and death; He lived the perfect life we couldn’t; and died the sinner’s death we deserved. Because of the historical and literal life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can have certainty that sin and death have already been defeated. Romans 6:9-10 assures us: “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” Jesus was indeed victorious and, as John Piper notes, “the decisive battle against sin and Satan and sickness and death has been fought and won by the King in his death and resurrection.” Death has no power over Jesus, and if we are in Christ, it holds no power over us. His atoning work for sin and death is finished.

But this reality we live in is not yet here in full. We still live in a world marred by sin and we experience the grief of loss. Yet we anticipate the day when sin and death will be abolished completely and forever, the consummation of the work that Jesus has already finished on the cross. We wait expectantly for the end of the story when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” We await to experience the victory of Jesus in full and to one day hear the words from the One seated on the throne: “Behold, I am making all things new…It is done!” (Revelation 21:4-6)
We live in the tension of the “already, but not yet,” but when sin and death appear victorious, we don’t need to fear because we know the end of the story. We know that Jesus was already victorious over sin, Satan, and grave, and He will bring that victory to complete and total fulfillment. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Come, Lord Jesus!

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