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The Death of Death’s Sting

• Greg Boyd

In this Easter message we delve into how the Resurrection brings freedom from the accusations of the principalities and powers through the power of self-sacrificial love. We also look at how the Resurrection brings freedom from the fear of death and our mindset of scarcity in order to live a life that is truly sacrificial. The way to get our best life is to stop trying to get our best life now, but to live out of the abundant generosity given to us through the Resurrection.

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This Easter message dives into how the Resurrection disarmed the principalities and powers through the power of self-sacrificial love. Greg begins this sermon by looking at the focus scriptures mentioned above and noting how they point to the defeat of death itself in the Resurrection. The power that Satan had was disarmed through the death that Satan actually orchestrated. The powers and principalities could not understand a love motivation so they didn’t understand what Jesus was doing in the world. They only knew they could kill Jesus and their violence backfired on them and made a public spectacle of those powers (Colossians 2:15). Greg terms this, Divine Aikido, using the power of evil back on itself.

After a broad overview of the power of the Resurrection Greg took some time to unpack the meaning of “and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15). This passage was looked at in tandem with 1 John 4:18 which notes that “perfect love casts out fear”. Taken together we can see that since the Resurrection is the perfect example of love and perfect love casts out fear then the Resurrection is the most powerful force to drive out fear, particularly our fear of death.

The remainder of the message was focused on how the interdisciplinary work of psychology and theology have created an enhanced awareness of how much of life is affected by our anxiety of death. Greg highlights the work of Richard Beck and his book Slavery of Death where Beck notes that we are always aware on some level of our mortality, which brings about a scarcity mindset. We are constantly aware that the clock is ticking towards our death and this can suck the joy out of life. Most people live as if there is no life after death and so we scramble around to get everything we can get out of life.

This mindset of scarcity has significant ramifications for our daily life as everything ends up being a competition with others and we live as self-centered people. A scarcity mindset dulls our capacity to care about others and have compassion for others. We lose our ability to live with outrageous generosity. We end up rationing and hoarding even though there is enough. Greg shared the example of the rationing of toilet paper in his home growing up and then went on to explain how this mindset of scarcity can have detrimental affects on our relationships when we believe that there is only one person that can complete us in relationship. We end up seeking out this mythical person without regards for those currently in our life because we live as if this life is all that we have.

Beck also argues that this scarcity mindset is behind and at the root of all violence in the world. This is the reason such a small amount of Christians live out Jesus’ call to nonviolence. Perfect love casts out fear BUT fear can also cast out our ability to love. It is only when we learn to stop clinging to this life that we can live out perfect love. In this light one can also see how all sin simply comes from our anxiety surrounding our fear of death.

In the face of all this, we see in the Resurrection of Jesus that there is no scarcity in Christ. Paul noted that “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54) and the power of the Resurrection is that it reveals the lie of Satan and allows us to see the abundance in Christ. We learn through the Resurrection that the way to get our best life now is not through grabbing, holding and hoarding, but through giving, loving, serving and dying for others. We are not in a hurry because we are in Christ and will live forever with Him.

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Topics: Fear, Power, Resurrection

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Focus Scripture:

  • Heb 2:14-15, 1 Cor 15:54-55

    Hebrews 2:14-15

    14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.

    1 Corinthians 15:54-55

    54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

    “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

    55 “Where, O death, is your victory?

    Where, O death, is your sting?”

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8 thoughts on “The Death of Death’s Sting

  1. Dave Pritchard says:

    Brilliant message!

    During the sermon Greg of course mentions the work of “Richard Beck” whose “Experimental Theology” website is always buzzing proactively with intriguing topics and discussion. In relation to the subject though, I just wanted to comment here on two other very important “Becks” that are often cited in Richard’s work –

    Ernest Becker (1924 – 1974) was a Jewish-American cultural anthropologist and writer & Howards S. Becker – (born April 18, 1928) is an American sociologist who has made major contributions to the sociology of deviance, art and music.

    Ernest’s seminal work was his Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Denial of Death” from 1974. An awesome informative read on the subject! He essentially elaborates on the social and psychological implications of various “immorality projects” that people create or become part of, in order to give an ultimate meaning to their lives. The habitual striving for significance in the grand scheme of things often masks ones own mortality, which then gives rise to a whole host of evils involving the self and society in general. Becker came to believe that an individuals character is essentially formed around this process and that this denial is a necessary component of functioning in the world, and that this “character-armor” masks and obscures genuine self-knowledge.

    Howard’s work on the other hand, deals basically with the subject of “Deviance” and “Labeling Theory” where objects or people are often labeled “evil”, “deviant” or “heretical” through the process of “social group infraction” wherein those characteristics are subsumed by the isolated party when the “rules” are broken. He states –

    “Even though no one else discovers the nonconformity or enforces the rules against it, the individual who has committed the impropriety may himself act as the enforcer. He may brand himself as “deviant” because of what he has done and punish himself in one way or another for his behavior.”

    All three men though I would say, are not juridically tied to the Biblical concept of a “personal devil”. The manifestation of “Evil” in its various guises is something either “Causa sui” – something generated from within the self or more nominally, just a “SCR” – a social construction of reality. The idea of an actual spiritual entity or “Satan” reeking havoc on men’s hearts, disrupting and destroying God’s creation and inadvertently orchestrating The Crucifixion, would not necessarily play into the essentialities of their world views. Although Richard is a strong vocal supporter and advocate for the Christus Victor position, he ultimately doesn’t clutch tightly to that foundational aspect of “Spiritual Warfare”.

    But truly and effectively moving from a “Scarcity Mindset” to an “Abundance Mindset” as Greg awesomely pointed out, requires the sacrificial love & power of The Cross (especially in community) to beak the yoke of sin and ultimately the fear of death that binds us to “this” world.

  2. Dave Pritchard says:

    “immortality projects” & “to break the yoke”
    Amongst other embarrassing spelling errors! Lovely iPad2 on the train – Ha!

  3. Peter says:

    It is noted from Greg’s description of Beck’s ‘Scarcity Mindset’ view that he (Greg) associates this with the Heb 2:15 quotation referring to ‘all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage’. However, from Dave’s writings above, it may appear that Beck’s view is more of a sociological view/construct based on the symptoms (fear of death) rather than dealing with the cause.

    In Rom 5:16 and 17 we have,

    “…..For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation…….because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man…….”

    The thrust from this and other scriptures is that the fear of death is not necessarily the fear of death, as such, but the fear of judgement following death. In an effort to avoid judgement (but not death), the Universalist would die happy knowing that ultimately he was not going to suffer judgement (depending on which view he took) and similarly the annihilationist would not fear death knowing that eternal punishment would not be eternal. But these latter two constructs reflect more on man’s (favourable) interpretation of scripture to placate in his own mind, judgement and the second death as not being final.

    I raise this issue as I don’t recall hearing the word ‘judgement’ in the message. However, it was through the Cross that Jesus bore the judgement of our sins to extinction such that upon receiving the gift of forgiveness we are justified from the penalty, pollution and guilt of our sins. This being the case, Satan has nothing that he can accuse believers of, as the believer sees himself in Christ on the Cross with the penalty for his sins fully satisfied. As quoted in the Extended Summary, 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.”

    So a ‘Scarcity Mindset’ or any similar fear abberation should not exist in the mind or life of a believer, but he or she should be totally liberated from the fear of death and of judgement to serve the Father from a loving and grateful heart.

  4. Lindy Combs says:

    Hello Saints,

    The spot on 23:00 is where Greg started to really hit my last nerve. I have reached nearly age 70 after some decades of abuse in childhood, 40 years in a cult church, living as robotic as you can imagine, and lots of marital abuse…four “marriages”.

    I finally started to understand, in 2008, the cause and effect in my entire life. Now I am aware, and not robotic…I am baffled at what Greg preached.

    I am stuck on an island in Washington state…miss WHC so very much!

    I am still wanting a real relationship with God glorified.


    Much love,
    Lindy Combs

  5. Lindy Combs says:

    I would very much have appreciated seeing, experiencing the worship music at the end. Couldn’t that have been allowed?

    ~ Lindy

  6. M85 says:

    Nice message. Thanks

  7. kevin says:

    On “legal indebtedness”, i was taught that it was God to whom i owed the debt; not satan. whats up with that?

  8. Dave Pritchard says:


    Hebrews 9:11-24 lays it all out very clearly! Especially in verses 14 & 15 –

    “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit [offered Himself without blemish to God,] cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

    “Heauton prosēnenken amōmon tō Theō” – in the Greek – “Offered himself without Blemish to God”. So unless there was some kind of private secret deal up there that none of knows about, I’d say it means what it says!


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