Why are we afraid of death? It’s a natural part of life, is it not? We’re born, we grow old, we die. Of course, the Bible tells us it wasn’t always like that. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were free to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in peace and paradise and communion with God. Unfortunately, that all changed when they sinned, disobeyed what God commanded, ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and brought death into our world (Genesis 3). They were banished from Eden, and as the story goes, the world has been sinning and dying ever since.
“but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desires and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15; NIV
Sin separates us from God. Sin brings death—no way to avoid it. So that’s it then? We’re born, we sin, we die. The end. Sounds pretty depressing, doesn’t it?
It doesn’t have to be! Not for the believer! The gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ should restore any hope we may have lost in the Garden with Adam and Eve. In John 10:10, Jesus says that He has come so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. He tells Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26; NKJV). Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Then why do you fear death? God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). So be sound in this: that you are no longer enslaved to sin and its wages, that your mortal bodies may be dead to sin, but spiritually you are alive and well in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; NIV
What is physical death to the Christian believer? The Bible calls it sleep. Before Jesus goes to raise Lazarus from the dead, He tells His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11). When I was growing up, my mother used to say that death for Christians isn’t the same as for nonbelievers. When we die, it doesn’t hurt, we go in peace, it’s like falling asleep. Remembering that, my mind goes to 1 Corinthians 15:55; “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The scripture goes on to say that the sting of death is sin, but “thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). We have the victory over death through Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the grave so that we could have everlasting life. So again I ask, why are we afraid of death? When we die, we are merely just asleep until we are called to rise again.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
It was never God’s intention for any of us to perish, but that we all turn from sin and live a life dedicated to Christ (2 Peter 3:9). John 3:16 tells us that God loves His creation— He loves us so much—and through our belief in Jesus Christ, He’s provided us with a way out of the sentence of death and to eternal life, coming to the knowledge of the one true God and of Jesus Christ, the Savoir of the world (John 17:3). If we believe that, we should never have to fear death, not even the second death—being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15)—which, according to Matthew 25:41, was originally reserved for the devil and his angels anyway, not for us, and especially not for those of us who believe.
Let Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus be a warning to us. In life, the rich man lived a luxurious, gluttonous, and—though it doesn’t specifically state, we can only assume—sinful lifestyle, while Lazarus, though living in poverty and squalor, was humble and, we assume, righteous. When it came time for both of them to die, “the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried” (Luke 16:22; AMP). But the rich man woke up in hell, “where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:23; NIV). He begged Lazarus for a relief from his torture, and Abraham denied him. He asked for Lazarus to go and warn his brothers so they wouldn’t share his fate, and Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them,” basically saying that they have the scriptures, they have the teachings, they have the word of God to show them the way. And we do too. We have the Bible, we have Holy Spirit, we have the teachings of Jesus, we know that He is the at to the Father (John 14:6).
Before I was saved, I used to have nightmares reminiscent of the rich man’s demise. I would dream of being left being in the rapture, of deceased, unsaved loved ones coming back to drag me down to hell with them, of professing last minute confessions to sneak my way into heaven on the day of Judgement when it was too late. I’ve woken from those dreams in the middle of the night, terrified of the dark, of the dancing shadows on my walls, of the distant knocks and creaks throughout the house. I feared opening my bedroom door and seeing the devil face to face.
But then I felt the Holy Spirit’s drawing on my heart. I went to church one night and His drawing grew even stronger. I responded to His voice and rededicated my life to Christ. Since then I haven’t had a single nightmare about going to hell. I no longer fear waking up in the middle of the night. I can walk around the house while it’s pitch black and not be afraid. Now, Psalm 27:1 has more meaning to me. I have nothing to fear, not the devil, not hell, and certainly not death. Because Jesus Christ is the light of my life.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1; NKJV
And He can be yours as well. So why are you afraid of death? Is it because you’re not saved, like I was; you haven’t confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior; you don’t believe in your heart that He rose from the dead (Romans 10:9)? Is it because you’ve backslidden; you were saved, but at some point you’ve turned away from God, you’ve gone back to your old ways of living and thinking, and you fear it’s too late for you? Is it because you haven’t heeded the word of God; you’ve been selfish, thinking only of yourself and not of promoting God’s kingdom? Is it because you haven’t done His will, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you fear there’s not enough time left to get started? Maybe you just don’t want to die, and if that’s the case, I hope 1 Corinthians 15 and other scriptures like it will serve as assurance to you that death is not the end.
If you are one who is afraid of death, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what is the source of your fear. Maybe it’s one of the reasons listed above or something else. Ultimately, you want to rectify that fear. No Christian should fear death because of the promise we have in Jesus Christ. In fact, we should look forward to it, knowing that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43
Prayer of Salvation: Heavenly Father, you said in your word that sin brings death and separates us from you, but eternal life comes through Jesus Christ. Lord, please forgive us of all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We want to live a life dedicated to Christ, where we no longer fear death, but hope toward His resurrection. We confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He died on the cross for our sins, that He rose from the grave, conquering death, so we could be saved. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your gift of eternal life. Thank you for the promise that death is not the end. Now we can say with confidence that we do not fear death. Now we can say with confidence there is no sting. Our mind is clear, and we’re more determined to seek and do the work of your kingdom, living righteously and holy like you, to the day we meet in paradise. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.