O, Death! Where is Your Victory and Sting?
I’m going to die one day. This reality made my heart jolt one night. One day, I will no longer be here, and life under the sun will continue on.
I don’t want to die, I thought with perturbation.
I sobbed. I prayed. I dwelt on the day when my body will be laid in the earth and my head will rest beneath the soil.
I looked at my husband; I looked at my son. One day, I thought somberly, they will pass on from this life, too. All of my friends, my sister, my mother, my brothers, my family . . . they’ll no longer be here. Such realization first moved me with absolute fear, clutching on the current time I have tighter. Then I spiraled down in tears in a panic. I’ve never been hit with a panic attack before, but I was fairly certain that night was the first occurrence.
I ran to the bathroom to cry and pray like I never had before. I prayed for the people who wronged me, I prayed for and reflected on all the things I neglected to do and what I need to do better with the short time left. I prayed for everyone. I prayed for peace and comfort. I prayed for my heart to be quieted by this sobering thought and for my mind to be redirected by the truth and power of the resurrection to come.
Death holds no age limit and no specific way of taking people. Death comes for everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, gender, religion, age, and geographical location. It is impartial. The way by which one dies varies: murder, suicide, peacefully at an old age, stillbirth, abortion, infections and diseases, natural disasters, surgery gone wrong, car accident, cancer, asthma attack-the list is endless.
I understand why the Master of Life grieved when Eve and Adam ate from the prohibited tree, “What have you done?” (Genesis 3:13). We were not meant to experience death. The grave is antithetical to life. Because we’re not meant for death–Jesus came to bring about restoration and remove death’s hold. Here are three short facts to ponder about the resurrection of Christ to alleviate the fear of death (Hebrew 2:14,15):
Death was incapable of keeping its grip on Jesus (Acts 2:24b). It is written that death only belongs to those who sin, it is the sinner’s just wages (Romans 6:23); yet Christ could not be held in its grip because He was sinless (1 Peter 2:22). It had to take a sinless Person to bear the sins of the world in order to redeem and free them from it.
Jesus put an end to the agony and sting of death (Acts 2:24a; 1 Corinthians 15:56). That word “agony” comes from the Greek word ōdin which means “intolerable pain or anguish.” Because it was impossible for death to hold Jesus, He shattered its arms of power and made it powerless (Hebrews 2:14,15). He freed us from the fear of its permanent, painful hold. We can now joyfully shout and sing, “O Death, where is your victory; O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). We have such a victory thanks to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we’d still be dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17, 18). While the brutal crucifixion of the Messiah is unbearable to think about because it displayed His agony as the result of our sins, His death and burial would have been meaningless if He didn’t rise up from the grave. His resurrection serves as the proof, solidification, and declaration that He is the Son of God who came to save the world from sin and shatter death’s stronghold (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30, 31). Due to this, we are not dead in sin but alive in Christ, and our faith in that is not worthless but meaningful and full of eternal promises. Our entire faith is grounded in and made possible by the resurrection to come. Many Old Testament books, the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the epistles never stressed going to heaven–they stressed the joyful expectation of the resurrection to come.
Because of these three realities: We grieve differently (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14). While all grieve when we lose those dear to our hearts, our grief is coupled with the hope of the resurrection to come. And hope is not based on uncertainty and wishful thinking–it’s founded on certainty and trust on the promises of God, and we know His promises never fail. Jesus promised, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in Me will live, even if he dies” (John 11:25, NASB).
We live differently and walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:4). Our immersion in water (baptism) is us experiencing a taste of the Resurrection to come. Our rising from the watery grave to be united with the Risen Lord causes us to live in the light of the coming resurrection– and so we have a new way of living, thinking, speaking, and being. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We await death with the hope of the new world to come–“where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5), where sorrow, pain, and fear will no longer keep our hearts in bondage. Where life is eternal. Where justice and unity reigns forever. The “new heavens and new earth” will be the way God had intended it to be from the very beginning: of how heaven and earth interlocked, and God “walked around the Garden in the cool of the day” among His creation (Genesis 3:8). This coming Day is due to the resurrection of Jesus. That’s why the apostle Paul wrote, “I [want to] know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, 11).
Bowing my knees and heart with absolute praise and thankfulness that death holds no power, and the Messiah lives forevermore. O, death! Where, indeed, is your victory and sting? It has been swallowed up by the Lord’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:54; Isaiah 25:8a).