1Co 15:55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. Death is the last and greatest enemy of the Christian. We also know that it isn’t physical death that is our worst enemy but spiritual death. This is the second death which is eternal separation from God.
For the lost this comes at physical death. Up until we die even the lost have some common grace; they can experience some common blessings of life and goodness from God. Certainly they all have the opportunity to come to Christ for salvation; so there is hope in their lives if there is nothing else. But once they die physically all hope is gone. They are cast from the Lord’s presence into the eternal misery that being separated from the Source of all life and happiness brings. In a word this is Hell.
The above verses tell us that victory over this death comes through the Lord Jesus Christ. Since sin’s punishment is spiritual death, then it is through the forgiveness of sin that we escape the second death. So we might say that death is that last enemy that we all must face. For the Christian the sting of death has been removed because death will merely usher us into our final reward. But for the lost death will sweep them into the eternal judgment of God. We will be saved through it; the lost will be destroyed in it.
All this is illustrated in the Old Testament when the Children of Israel came to the Jordan River before crossing over into Canaan. There is a reason why the Jordan is a type of death and that Canaan is referred to as the Promised Land. It was that final obstacle they had to face before they could enter into their rest. So Canaan is a type of Heaven for the saint.
The problem for them was that the Jordan was at flood stage and they could not just wade through it. To do so would have meant to be swept away into death and they would not inherit the land. Many see sin and the death it brings as something we can face in human strength. By our good works we can wade across God’s judgment and face him on our merit and all will be well. But the Bible teaches just the opposite. For any sinner to approach the Holy God apart from Jesus is certain death.
The good news illustrated in Joshua is that the Lord provided a way for his people to cross safely. As soon as the feet of the priests carrying the Ark touched the waters of Jordan the waters parted and they crossed over on dry ground. Absolutely no water touched them; they didn’t have to suffer any of the judgment of sin because the priests had already been touched by it.
The Ark speaks of the place where the High Priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice to remove the wrath of God against sinners. It was here and here alone in which Israel found forgiveness of their covenant sins. And so the Ark of the Covenant illustrates Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. He bore the wrath of God so that sinners might find forgiveness in Him. Consider Heb 2:9, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” As soon as his foot touched death, so to speak, we read that the veil in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. A way of access had been provided.
Now through faith we can find peace with God and live with him forever. And the good news doesn’t stop there. We aren’t left with a little to do, a few sins to atone for because Christ has done everything necessary for our forgiveness. It isn’t a cooperative effort; we have no part in our salvation because God must receive all the glory. That to me is the significance of the dry ground. They didn’t have to wade through shallow water nor did they have to plod through thick mud. Christ’s atonement saves us to the uttermost. There is nothing left for us to do because there was never anything we could do to please a holy God. Jesus alone is our salvation. He alone has paid the price for every sin that separates us from God. This is grace, praise the Lord!