Sunday, 15 September 2013
…or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). Romans 10:7
“Or” is tying this question to the previous one – “Who will ascend into heaven?” The corresponding verse in Deuteronomy 30 is verse 13. However, that says, “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’” Paul wasn’t changing Scripture by changing the thought from going over the sea to descending into the abyss. The intent is the same, but the point of reference is different.
The Hebrew people were at Horeb in the dry wilderness and they did not have the knowledge of the risen Lord. Moses was using an example which they could clearly understand in order to speak the language of faith. Paul is using the resurrection in the same way. The sea to the Hebrews was a great, impassable body; the death of man is being spoken of in this same manner.
However, as a connecting point between the two, the Greek word abysson is used for “abyss” by Paul. The same word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament when referring to the sea. For example, Job 41:31 uses abysson for “deep” when speaking about the great sea creature Leviathan. There it says this –
“He makes the deep boil like a pot; He makes the sea like a pot of ointment.”
The sea was perceived as the great deep in this way even at Moses’ time. At the giving of the Law, the third commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;…” Ex 20:4
The “water under the earth” is the sea. Passing over the sea then is comparable to descending into the abyss for all intents and purposes. And so Paul grasps this Old Testament similarity and uses the imagery to connect it with the work of Christ in the New when speaking of the seemingly impassible void of death. Searching for the commandment by a descent “into the abyss” then is explained “to bring Christ up from the dead.”
We don’t need to conduct such a search to find the knowledge God provides; it is obtainable in the work of Christ. He has descended into the abyss. To search for our faith-righteousness there, after His prevailing over it, would then be a denial of what has been fulfilled in Him. He has triumphed over it for us. As a resounding note of victory in this matter, Paul states this in 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 –
“‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’
‘O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?’
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Life application: Who needs to die in order to find out what is on the other side? Not the faithful Christian! Christ has already gone there and the word tells us of our final outcome. Stand fast in your faith and trust in the work of Christ. In Him, death is swallowed up in victory.
Glorious almighty God. I don’t need to question what lies on the other side of death. Christ has already gone there in my stead. Because of His work, there is no fear here. Your word tells where I am headed, what it will be like, and the glorious eternal nature of it. Such is the wondrous power of the resurrection of Christ. I have absolute assurance of the glory which lies ahead. Hallelujah and Amen.