This is Part 3 covering the Scriptural background for the lyrics of the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. You can read part 1 at this link and part 2 at this link.

The third verse of the song goes like this:

“O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free, Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory o’er the grave.”

Thou Rod of Jesse

Jesus isn’t often refereed to as the “rod of Jesse,” but the reference comes from Isaiah 11:1–2 and is referenced by Paul in Romans 15:12.

The idea is that someone will come from Jesse, being a descendant of Jesse, and this person will save “His own” from “Satan’s tyranny,” from hell and the grave.

Satan’s Tyranny

Although Satan isn’t the all-powerful god he would like us to believe he is, he does have great power over the earth since the fall and is even described as the king and ruler of this world in its fallen state.

However, part of Jesus’ coming is to bring about the release of “prisoners” subjected to sin and death brought about by the deception of Satan.

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Acts 10:38

Victory o’er the grave

Every year I live, I experience more death from those around me. However, through the Gospel of Jesus, death has a very different position in my life.

What use to be considered “the end” is now really just the transition from this life and into the next.

Death is still difficult, painful and sad, as we weren’t originally created to experience it, but it no longer has the final word which causes the situation to be felt very differently.

Paul puts it this way in 1 Thessalonians 4:13:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Paul is explaining the Gospel resurrection to the church of Thessalonica about how believing in the life to come with Jesus causes us to grieve differently than people who believe that death is truly the end.

And this conquering of death’s finishing work is exactly what Jesus came to do.

The prophet Hosea wrote this about how we will one day relate to death:

“I [God] shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.”

Hosea 13:14

This verse is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 as Paul explains that this conquering of death has be completed through the Gospel.

That we no longer fear death because we know that eternal life meets us on the other side – and this also causes a new outlook of death as we look at those we love who have already made that journey.

What brings all of these ideas to a close is how Jesus ultimately will one-day handle death:

“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”

Revelation 20:14

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

One day, Jesus will return and not just make death a simple passing between now and eternity – but He will remove it altogether.

Jesus will essentially kill death.

He’s already removed it’s sting by taking away it’s final word,
And one day He will put it in the lake of fire to remove it completely from our lives.

Like I mentioned before, each verse in this song brings us to an “already but not yet” situation.

Jesus has started the process of redemption,
Removing death’s sting,
But redemption is still in process,
Death still exists.

And so, as we celebrate the good work God has already done,
We’re also called to remember and mourn the state the world is still in.

But we mourn in hope.
We mourn in expectation.

That God has started the work,
And that He will complete it.

O Come, Thou Key Of David (Behind The Lyrics, Part 4)
O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of Might (Behind The Lyrics, Part 2)

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