Of course, we could probably add a whole lot to that list if we really wanted to. But one thing we know, we know that one day we will die. James 4:14 puts it rather bluntly…. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
The most common reaction to discussions about death is fear. We fear death. But why? Why are we so afraid of death? Or, to put it another way…. why do we fight so hard to extend life as far as humanly (and as scientifically) as possible? Why do we fear death so much and treat it like an enemy that has to be conquered at all costs, especially when we know that we will all submit to it in the final battle?
I think part of the reason why we resist death so much is because we were never meant to die. Death was not part of God’s plan for us when he created us. We were not designed to die – and frankly, I think that’s one of the reasons why we have such a hard time with it. In a way, death is unnatural – even though it has become very natural.
So why do we die? We know that death came as a result of sin. Of course, the warning was there. When God placed Adam in the garden and told him about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God warned him, “for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). And in that sense, death reminds us of our own sinful nature. “All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But there is also more. The very next statement is that the gift of God is eternal life.
While death is a forgone conclusion… there is also more.
In 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57, Paul was writing to a church that was concerned about death. And in reference to the work of God he said “’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56). That agrees to what we already read in Genesis. If there were no sin, there would have been no death. But now there is death. It can’t be avoided. But the power of death has been broken because the power of sin has also been broken. We still die, physically, but death has no power over us – it merely becomes a transition to eternal life. In essence, for the believer at least, death becomes the passageway to victory. Which takes me back to the question I started with earlier… why then are we so afraid of death?
When a runner is running a marathon… I don’t know how many miles that is, but it’s a lot. Does the runner see the finishing line and say, “Oh great…. now my race will be over” and pout across the line? Of course not! He or she sees that end and gets excited. We see the end and we tremble, moan, groan, etc. Why?
Instead of seeing death as a defeat, or even a symbol of our sinful nature, we need to see death as one who crosses the finishing line into victory; where the power of sin no longer has any dominion over us.
Paul even used that imagery in his second letter to Timothy, in 4:7-8. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will aware to me on that day…” That doesn’t sound like someone who is facing death kicking and screaming – resisting it to the very bitter end? No. He knows his work on earth is done and he’s ready to cross the line. No fear.
Listen to how he expresses it to the Philippians. He wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). That’s amazing! It’s not a loss…. It’s a gain!
Going back to the Corinthians in a second letter, we see why Paul is so confident. “We are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…” And then he goes on to say he “would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). To die is gain because he will be with the Lord! What could possibly be better than that?
There was the time when Lazarus was sick and his sisters (Mary and Martha) had called for Jesus to come. Remember what Jesus did? He intentionally delayed before he went to see Lazarus – who was only 2 miles away. What’s two miles? A 40 minute walk? Maybe 45 minutes? Jesus waited even though he knew Lazarus was dying.
Sure enough, by the time Jesus came, Lazarus had been dead four days! Do you remember what Jesus said, when he was comforting Martha? “Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). Even though a person dies physically, they will live on spiritually, with a new body – eternal life.
That is why death is a non-issue. Death has no power. It has no sting.
Yes, I know we will miss people – of course we will – we’re attached to them. And yes, we will grieve and mourn – I understand that. I have no problem with that. But in the overall scheme of things, death is a transition into eternal life – it’s a day of victory. It’s a day when there will be no more mourning or crying or pain. It’s a day when we will be free from the burdens of this world – and the temptations of this world. It’s a day when we will be with the Lord – forever. That’s the best part of it all!
But it didn’t happen that way by itself. Remember, “the wages of sin is death”. What happened to that? Hebrews 2:14-15, “he [Jesus] shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
Jesus broke the power of sin. Jesus sets us free from the fear and despair of death. Our hope is in Him. The Bible is very clear – that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. It’s not a matter of being a “good person”, whatever that means. It’s not a matter of our works, even though they are important. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
The question becomes; have you put your faith in Jesus? If you have, then death has absolutely no power over you. If it means anything, it means victory! You’ve simply crossed a finish line. If you haven’t put your faith in Jesus, you need to. It is the only way to cross over from death to life.