“He will swallow up death in victory;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces”
(Isaiah 25:8 KJV)
Death is here represented to us under the word victory, as a combatant, as one that we are to fight with, a Captain.
And then here is the victory of him, Christ overcomes death, and overcomes him gloriously. It is not only a conquest, but a swallowing up of death.
Usually God uses all sorts of enemies in their own kind. He causes them that spoil, to be spoiled; them that swallow up, to be swallowed up. So Death, the great swallower, shall be swallowed up.
There is even no king which hath such dominion as Death hath; it spreads its government and victory over all nations.
He is equal, though a tyrant. As a tyrant spares none, he is equal in this, he subdues young and old, poor and rich. He levels scepters and spades together, he levels all.
There is no difference between the dust of an emperor and the meanest man, he is a tyrant that governs over all. And so there is this equity in him, he spares none.
He hath continued from the beginning of the world to this time; but he is a tyrant brought in by ourselves (Romans 5:12). Sin let in Death, it opened the door. Satan brought in sin and sin brought in death; so that we be accessory ourselves to the powerful stroke of this prevailing tyrant.
And therefore sin is called the cause of death. Sin brought in death and arms death; the weapon that death fights with and causes great terror, it is sin. The cause is armed with the power of the wrath of God for sin, the fear of hell and damnation; so that wrath, and hell, and damnation, arming sin, it brings a sting of itself and outs a venom into death. All cares, and fears, and sorrows, and sicknesses are less and petty deaths, harbingers to death itself.
But the attendants that follow this great king are worst of all, as (Revelation 6:8) I saw, a pale horse, and death upon it, and after him comes hell. What were death, if it were not for the Pit and Dungeon that follows it? So that death is attended with hell, and hell with eternity.
Therefore here is a strange kind of prevailing. There is no victory where there is no enemy, and therefore death must needs be an enemy, yea it is the worst enemy, and the last enemy. It deprives us of all comfort, pleasure, communion with one another in this life, callings, or whatsoever else is comfortable. The grave is the house of oblivion. “Death is terrible of itself, even to nature,” as Augustine says.
Now this death is swallowed up by Christ
O death where is thy sting,
O grave where is thy victory?
(1 Corinthians 15:55).
Death is the greatest swallower, and yet it is swallowed up by Christ; death hath swallowed up all, and when it hath swallowed up, it keeps them. It keeps the dust of kings, subjects great and small, to the general day of judgment, when death shall be swallowed up of itself.
It is therefore of the nature of those that Solomon speaks of that cry, “Give and give,” and yet is never satisfied (Proverbs 30:15)—like the grave—yet this death is swallowed up in victory.
But how cometh death to be swallowed up? Christ will swallow up death in victory, for himself and his. First of all, because sin brought in death, our Savior Christ became sin, a sacrifice to his Father’s justice for sin.
He was made sin for us, he was made a curse for us, to take away the curse due to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). And sin being taken away, what hath death to do with us, and hell, and damnation, the attendants on death? Nothing at all.
—Richard Sibbes, The Glorious Feast of the Gospel (available at Blue Letter Bible)