Death Swallowed Up (Young/Cyril)

Isaiah 25:7-8 is an awesome prophetic promise: “On this mountain he [Yahweh] will destroy the burial shroud, the shroud over all the peoples, the sheet covering all the nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove his people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken (CSB)”.

E. J. Young (d. 1968) wrote some great comments on these verses:

Isaiah uses the definite article with death to stress the fact that it is well known that death bas been a terror to mankind.  Hitherto, death itself had swallowed up all else.  As in Genesis 2:17 so here, the word ‘death’ includes all the evils which attend it.  When death is swallowed up, so also are all the miseries that it brings.  Furthermore, death is to be swallowed up forever; it will never again reappear. Paul’s interpretation is entirely true to the Old Testament: ‘death is swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor. 15:45b).  The book of Revelation brings out the meaning clearly: ‘there shall be no more death’ (Rev. 221:4b).  [Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 2 p. 196]

Here’s how Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444 AD) similarly reflected on Isaiah’s prophecy:

Death overcame our forefather Adam on account of his transgression and like a fierce wild animal it pounced on him and carried him off amid lamentation and loud wailing. Men wept and grieved because death ruled over all the earth. But all this came to an end with Christ. Striking down death, he rose up on the third day and became the way by which human nature would rid itself of corruption. He became the firstborn of the dead, and the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. [ACCS, Vol. X]

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002