“‘He shall swallow up death in victory, and wipe away tears from all faces.’ (Isaiah 25:8) Death is here represented to us under the word victory, as a combatant, as one that we are to fight withal, a captain.
And then here is the victory of him, Christ overcomes him, and overcomes him gloriously. It is not only a conquest, but a swallowing of him up.
Usually God useth all sorts of enemies in their own kind. He causeth them that spoil to be spoiled, them that swallow up to be swallowed up. So death the great swallower shall be swallowed up.
Beloved, death is the great king of kings, and the emperor of emperors, the great captain and ruling king of the world; for no king 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 subdueth young and old, poor and rich. He levels sceptres 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 governeth 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 (Rom. 5:19).
Sin let in death. It opened the door. Death is no creature of God’s making. 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 armeth death. The weapon that death fights with, and causeth 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 bringeth a sting of itself, and puts 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 Rev. 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 followeth 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.
Death depriveth 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.
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 keepeth 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, give,’ Prov. 30:15, and yet is never satisfied, 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. Because sin brought in death, our Saviour 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. 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” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet And Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 2:471–472.
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