Death: Playing with a Wasp as with a Fly (Kuyper)

In 1893 Abraham Kuyper’s book In the Shadow of Death was published.  This book was, as the subtitle notes, a series of meditations for the sick-room and death-bed.  There are some very helpful meditations in this book!  One that sticks out for me is his discussion of Isaiah’s phrase, “Death, where is thy sting?” (Is. 25:8; cf. 1 Cor. 15:55).  Here’s an excerpt:

“It all depends therefore upon this: Whether, before death takes hold of you, you can break that sting of death.”

“If you can do that, you die as a Christian, as a child of God, as one redeemed.  Then you die like St. Paul, who betimes [in good time], before it was too late, had broken that sting of death, and now already long in advance, jubilant and laughing death in the face, exclaimed: ‘O death, where is thy sting?  You no longer have it.  And therefore you are no more to me the king of terror!'”

“Thus you realize, if once that sting, that poisonous sting of death is broken, then death has become something altogether different.  So long as a wasp has her sting, you flee from her; but when the sting is removed, you play with the wasp as with a fly.”

“Death without sting, without poisonous sting is a messenger of God,  who comes to fetch you away; who in the name of the Lord divests you of your body, admits you as a liberated soul through the gate of eternity, to be nearer to your God and Savior, than ever you were able to be here, and, without sorrow and without sin, to tarry in that spiritual separation, till the light dawns of the eternal morning, and Christ comes upon the clouds, and clothes you with a more glorious body, and deluges [drenches] you with everlasting glory.”

“Death with his sting is terrible.  Then you are gone.  Then in death there are bands of hell and of eternal torment.”

“But if death has lost his sting, then at once all terror is gone.”

Abraham Kuyper, In the Shadow of Death trans. J. H. De Vries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1929), 206-7.

Shane Lems

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