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HYMN 36 Death Must Give Way

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Norwegian text: Døden må vike

1 Corinthians 15:15-18

Text: Svein Ellingsen (1929-2020) Tune: Conrad Baden (1908-1989),

Svein Ellingsen

1. Death will give way to the might of God’s kingdom.

You that were dead are now Lord and our stay,

Christ, you are king and are standing beside us

Here as we suffer attacks ev’ry day.

2. When we feel weak and our fears overcome us

We can go forward with hope every hour.

Life’s resurrection in Easter’s bright morning

Shows us the wonder in baptism’s pow’r.

3. Life, even death, has been utterly altered

We see the rainbow in baptism’s spring.

Faith has been giv’n us, God’s kingdom will triumph.

Darkness, which bound us, has lost its sharp sting.

4. God’s promise stands when our future is threatened,

Nothing can wrest us away from God’s arm.

Someday our Lord will take back his creation,

Earth will be freed from all hurt and all harm.

5. Death will give way to the might of God’s kingdom.

Hidden in earth the new seedlings now lie.

Hail, resurrection, the sign we will conquer,

Hail, resurrection, the light as we die.

Tr. Gracia Grindal 2019, Copyright Svein Ellingsen 1975


In times of epidemic, the fear of death from some invisible force, like the corona virus or

bacteria during the bubonic plague, causes people rightly to panic. Daniel Defoe’s A

Journal of the Plague Year in 1665 shows behaviors almost exactly like we are

experiencing now. The effects of the bacteria, however, were much more drastic than

what we are seeing: people dropping dead in the street, houses being locked up so the

people inside died for lack of water and food, huge burial grounds in the city as people

who could fled to the country.

Often, Defoe writes, he would hear people in the streets crying out in repentance, I have

been a thief, God have mercy. Up against death, they knew they had nothing except the

promise of God in Christ. Ultimately, it is all we have. “Death will give way to the pow’r

of God’s kingdom.”

When Svein Ellingsen died on Palm Sunday, the corona virus had shut down

everything in Norway. The fear of sickness and death spread through the land.

Fortunately for the family, his wife, son and daughter were able to be at his bedside

in the rest home where he died.

At the funeral, such as it was, his son Eystein spoke movingly about his father’s last

days. To the thirty at the service in Stokken church in Saltrød in Arendal, sitting in

the pews two meters apart, he noted that Svein had planned his funeral down to the

last detail: the texts, the hymns, the speakers, etc. Without a doubt it would have

been a national event, packed with people wanting to give their last respects to their

national poet.

Among the hymns people referenced when they spoke of his death was this one.

Svein had the idea of the hymn in mind for some time. It was 1975. He was at a

committee meeting in Oslo for liturgy and hymns. As they all were leaving, Svein elected

to remain in the Indremisjon hotel in Oslo. He essentially locked himself in the room

until it was done some twenty-four hours later. He always marked it as one of his keepers

as a text.

Two bishops writing in his memory in Vårt Land noted that the second stanza spoke to

the Easter victory as well as the corona time we are enduring. “When we feel weak and

our fears overcome us/We can go forward with hope every hour./Life’s resurrection in

Easter’s bright morning/Shows us the wonder in baptism’s pow’r.”

Svein marked his birthday as the day of his baptism. In it he understood he had died and

risen in Christ. That death, for him, was the big one. His own death, as per this hymn,

would bring him into the light. Thus he could die in confidence, believing in the promise

of the rainbow shining out of the baptismal water. We can rest in that promise, no matter



The composer of the tune Conrad Baden was an organist, composer and teacher at

Norway’s Music High School. He wrote several tunes for the current Norwegian hymnal.

He served as organist at Stromsø church and Ris church in Oslo.


Salmer i Majorstua church

Christiane Rothfuchs

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