Facing the Fear of Death!!
Death is common. Death is a certainty. We are reminded of this every day. We may pass by a cemetery, read the obituaries, or stop along the road for a funeral procession. Consider how often death is mentioned in the Bible, approximately 370 times. Death (the absence of life) is used in three ways in the Bible: physical death wherein the body dies (Heb. 9:27), spiritual death wherein the soul dies (Eph. 2:1-2; Jas. 1:15), and the second death wherein the soul is separated from God for all eternity (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). Facing physical death is on the minds of many every day.
The fear of death is also common (Heb. 2:15). It is common to many because many love this life too much. It is common because death is an untraveled journey. Death is viewed as a lonely trip by many. Death separates us from those we love. Like looking straight into the sun, many do not want to look straight into the eye of death. Many do not like to talk about or think about death. For example, we speak of the “fear of the unknown.” Why fear? When we do not know about something, we fear it. However, we do not have to fear death. When we know what death is, we can better prepare for it. God’s word provides comfort, consolation and courage on the daily reality of death. Let us consider how the Bible speaks of death, and let us learn how we can better face death.
Death is a Sleep
from Toils, Trials and Tribulations
- “but when I sleep with my fathers, thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place” (Gen. 47:30).
- “And Jehovah said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (Deut. 31:16).
- “When thy days are fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Sam. 7:12).
- “Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders” (1 K. 1:21).
- “and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised” (Mt. 27:52).
- “These things spake he: and after this he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. The disciples therefore said unto him, Lord, if he is fallen asleep, he will recover. Now Jesus had spoken of his death: but they thought that he spake of taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus therefore said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (Jn. 11:11-14).
- “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Ac. 7:60).
- “For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption” (Ac. 13:36).
- “But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20; see vv.6,18).
- “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:14-15). (Note: The word “asleep” comes from the Greek work koimaomai. The Greeks used the word koimeterion from which we get the English word “cemetery.”)
Friends, sleep at the end the day is something greatly needed; it is planned for; it is precious; it is temporary. We should look forward to our sleep at the end of a hard day. In the same way, we should look forward with anticipation to our sleep in death at the end of life. Sleep is a symbol of rest, and death is a rest from the toils of this life (Rev. 14:13; 21:4). In the life to come, there will be no more death (Lk. 20:36), but in this life, we can look forward to our coming hour of rest.
Death is a Departure
from This Life to the Next
- “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried” (Lk. 16:22).
- “For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).
- “But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better:” (Phil. 1:23). (Note: Paul uses kataluo, loose down, in 2 Cor. 5:1 for the body, and he uses analuo, loose up, in Phil. 1:23 for the spirit. Solomon wrote: “and the dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it;” Eccl. 12:7; cf. Gen. 3:19).
- “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come” (2 Tim. 4:6). (Note: Paul uses analuo for the word “departure.”)
- “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead” (Jas.2:26).
- “knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle cometh swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me. Yea, I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my decease to call these things to remembrance” (2 Pet. 1:15). (Note: Peter uses the word exodos for “decease,” meaning “departure;” see also Lk. 9:31).
When we die, our spirit departs from our body, and it departs from this life. Death is a departure on a trip from one life to the next. Just as you would prepare to depart on a trip to a beautiful place (vacation spot, visit family and friends, etc.), so you can face death as preparing to depart to a beautiful place called heaven.
Death is a Reunion
with Righteous Loved-Ones
- “And Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years, and was gathered to his people” (Gen.25:8).
- “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven:” (Mt.8:11).
- “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess.4:16-18).
The righteous will be reunited with all the saints who have gone on before them. Have you ever prepared for a family reunion? Have you ever anticipated the joy of being with loved-ones; seeing them; talking with them? There is a similar anticipation in death. The righteous look forward to being reunited with fellow-Christians when they die. The righteous are comforted in this life knowing that when they die they will be in the company of the faithful.
Death Is a Union
with Christ in Heaven
- “Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go, ye know the way” (Jn.14:1-4).
- “we are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor.5:8).
- “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better:” (Phil.1:21,23).
The righteous will be united with Christ in heaven. In death, the righteous one simply changes residences. Remember, Paul said to die is GAIN! Have you ever prepared for a union with someone special? Maybe a union with a newborn baby, or a union with a new spouse in marriage? You look forward to that new relationship don’t you? Even so, in death, the faithful Christian will be in a better place with better company.
Death Is a Separation
for All Who Are Lost
- “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted, and thou art in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us” (Lk.16:23-26).
- “And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev.20:14-15).
- “But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev.21:8; cf. 2:11; 20:6).
The “second death” refers to eternal separation from all that is good. The “second death” is Hell, the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Hell is a place where there is no good company or good life possible. The light of God’s presence does not shine there (Mt. 22:13; 2 Thess.1:9). It is confinement to eternal punishment. It is this death, the “second death,” that we should fear at all cost. Jesus said, “but rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell” (Mt.10:28). You cannot live wrong and die right!
The next time you ponder the reality of death remember the words of the Psalmist, “Precious in the sight of Jehovah is the death of his saints” (Psa.116:15). Death is precious, not something to be feared. Like Balaam of old, you can say with confidence, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Num.23:10). And like Paul you can say with anticipation, “I am ready to die” (Ac.21:13). No, you certainly do not have to fear death. If you will just choose to have the right attitude and to live right, you can make a new friend out of an old enemy.