Death, Where is Your Sting?

As we wrap up Easter week, though still just beginning the 40-day Easter season, I'm stuck on the lyrics from one worship song:

"Oh, Death, where is your sting?" (from Matt Maher's Christ is Risen)

Actually, death does sting. I've just come from the funeral of a dear young man, the teenaged son of friends with whom my husband and I have shared life for all of our 18-year marriage. Last summer I said goodbye to three other friends and family members, two suddenly and one after a long illness. 

I'm done with death, thank you very much. 

But Maher uses the phrase rhetorically, as the victorious melody suggests. He quotes 1 Corinthians 15:55. In the passage surrounding this verse, the apostle Paul is comforting his readers with the promise that Jesus is coming back, that His resurrection foretells our resurrection. If we are not raptured, we—"the dead in Christ," those who loved, followed, and trusted in Jesus—will be raised to life with new, indestructible, immortal bodies. At that moment, Paul says, quoting Isaiah 25:8, "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (v 53).

He then turns to Hosea 13:14 and repeats, "Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting?" (vv 54-55).

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law," he continues in verse 56. Those who die still under the law—that is, not enjoying the gift of grace embodied in Jesus' sacrificial death—will indeed feel a (permanent) sting. Death only "wins" over those who don't know Jesus. 

Paul concludes his encouragement with, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (v 57).

The hope of Easter, of the Resurrection, evokes several emotions in me. Perhaps you've felt similarly:

1. It comforts me: Of the four people I've lost in the past year, I know for sure that two of them loved Jesus. They are with him now, enjoying perfect peace and joy as they await the fulfillment of God's plan. "Christ is risen from the dead, we are one with him again, come awake, come awake, come and rise up from the grave!"

2. It saddens me. It's possible the other two loved Jesus as well, but I just don't know. I wasn't close enough to them, relationally or physically, to have those conversations. So I wonder, and fear for them, and pray that their faith was in Christ, not themselves. 

3. It inspires me. The helpless feeling of not knowing my loved ones' spiritual status, and eternal fate, really stinks. But I don't have to stay that way about those still living. I can share the good news of Jesus with them. The gospel is for everyone: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). We could easily substitute: for the churchgoer and the unchurched, for the gay and the straight, for every race and language group, for the adult and the child, for EVERYONE.
Let's be clear: death sucks. We grieve our separation from our loved ones. We will be struck by that grief in varying degrees for the rest of our lives. Those emotions are natural, expected, normal, and should not be avoided or denied. Rom 12:15 tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." 
But as we grieve, we can grieve with hope. The truth of Easter can comfort us, "so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). 
This song was performed at the funeral of our young friend very recently. I pray you can say through your tears that "it is well" with your soul because you and your loved one now gone kept your eyes on the One who rules the waves and winds. 

It Is Well (Bethel Music)

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Kelley Mathews (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) has written and edited for the Christian market for more than 20 years. Currently a writer for RightNow Media, she lives in North Texas with her husband and their four children. She has partnered with Sue Edwards to coauthor Mixed Ministry, Women’s Retreats, Leading Women Who Wound, Organic Ministry to Women, and 40 Questions about Women in Ministry. Find her books and blog at KelleyMathews.com.


  • Fort Worth Church

    Thank You for sharing your view point.

    I want to thank you for sharing the words that you posted here. Death is a reality and one that is difficult to deal with. Losing someone that you care for is typically a difficult transition to deal with. We praise God that he has given us His Holy Spirit who comforts us in times of need. Please stop by and be my guest at our church in Fort Worth when you are in Texas next. May God bless you.

  • nicki

    god is love

    • may the lord bless you to.and I love you and god is love.



      I love you and god is love and may the lord bless you to