Are you in fear of death? Perhaps all of us do to some degree. Yet, no matter if you fear it or not, it is coming to each of us sooner or later. This is why so many work hard to prepare for their family. This is why others take out life insurance. Yet some don’t prepare for their eventual departure whatsoever.
Fear of death shows a lack of faith and understanding of what death means to a Christian. Physically, death’s definition remains a mystery. The medical community still questions the immediate point when life leaves our body. Once thought to be when the heart stops pumping and later tied to brain function, recent medical discoveries show it is less than simple to determine. The Bible tells us exactly when a person is dead. James said, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
The origin of death is traceable to the first chapters of the Bible where Adam and Eve transgressed God’s law regarding the fruit of the tree in the midst of the Garden. He said they would surely die. Paul added, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The writer makes clear that death is a fact common to us all, a happening that must be faced because of our sins.
Even Christ, in assuming the body of a human, suffered death for sin (not His own sin but for ours). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who though fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14, 15).
Christ’s death was like ours, yet he overcame physical death to set the precedent and the means for us to overcome the second death, referred to in Revelation, which is spiritual death.
Lest we think it is impossible to face death without fear, the Bible gives us examples of men who calmly and righteously watched the moment approach with all godliness of attitude and action. In the Old Testament, David stands as such an example. The account of impending departure from this life is recorded in 1 Kings 2:1-11. David did not fear death. He said to his son, Solomon, “I go the way of all the earth. . . ,” possibly quoting the Death words of Joshua, who is recorded to have said, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; . . .”
As David’s words indicated a calm acceptance of what he understood happens to all men, it is supported by God’s own words. In Gen. 3:19, God said, “In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground; for out of it you were taken: for dust you are and unto dust shall you return.” Those are not inspiring words for sinners but remains a fact. David understood. That is what helped him be strong even when his body was so weak it would not stay warm.
David in one particular instance noted, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psa. 116:15). David knew death was God’s plan and not something to be dreaded. David was a man who lived in the midst of death, brushed with it often and was delivered, often miraculously. We can learn from him to be mindful of death’s uncertain coming. It is important not to dread death, but rather to understand our limited time here on earth (Jam 4:14). Therefore, as he sought of God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps 90:12).
Paul speaks of being “in a strait betwixt two,” the desire to live and serve the Lord longer and his desire to die and reap the rewards of his labor ( Phil. 1:20-24). For the apostle, unlike David, the future was much clearer. He had a genuine desire to depart, not simply to escape the harshness of a first century preacher’s life, but in expectation of heaven.
A simple lesson Paul teaches from this passage is in his readiness for either eventuality. Ready to magnify Christ in his life and teachings, which he realized would benefit others, he was prepared and willing to do so. Yet, he was prepared also if life left him. This is the key principle-being ready to live, or to die.
Paul’s calmness in contemplating death is explained further in his teaching. He says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). While like us, Paul thought of what his death would take from loved ones, he was ever cognizant of God’s superior promises.
A student of God’s word realizes that death is a blessing of God. It is an end to labor, temptation, disease, sorrow, all the things that sin introduced to our lives. A place with God in heaven means what the writer of Revelation described this way: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
We must prepare for our inevitable death. We must put our house in order and be prepared to be judged by God (2 Kin 20:1). This preparation must begin as soon as we are accountable unto God. Few can say as Paul, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
The ultimate question of this study is: Are you ready to die? Are you prepared like David and Paul? Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:53-57, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This victory comes by our obedience to the gospel of Christ and is sealed by our continuance in the doctrine of Christ (Mk 16:16 f; 2 Jn 9). Christians are already dead and their life is hid with Christ (Col 3:3). Christians are buried with Christ by baptism and raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:3,4). Therefore, the second death (hell and damnation -Rev 21:8) has no reign over them (Rev 2:11).
Death often comes without warning and catches many unprepared. Don’t fear death, but rather fear God who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28). Don’t fear death, but rather fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl 12:13). Are you prepared to die? Is your house in order? Why stand in jeopardy every hour (1 Cor 15:30)? Don’t fear death, prepare for it!