In eating from the tree of which God said, “In the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17 NASB), Adam actualized the specter of death. This specter has been part of the human condition from then till now. In place of fearing death, the Christian worldview pro- vides a realistic view of death and a way to overcome the fear of dying through resurrection and relationship.
First, unlike contemporary culture, the Christian perspective on death is eminently realistic. Postmodernity seeks to deny death by driving it into the closet, trivializing it by treating it irreverently, or circumventing any thought of it through the use of clever clichés. Cultural thanatologists (those who study death) go as far as to view death as a friend. Christian theology, however, provides a more realistic perspective: death is the enemy. Death is the unnatural rending of the body from the spirit and, as such, should be regarded as a curse. Nonetheless, believers look forward realistically to the time when the Lord Almighty “will swallow up death forever,” the day when the “Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8).
Furthermore, though death continues to be our last enemy, resurrection has removed its sting. By viewing death with eternity in mind, believers no longer “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). As Saint Paul explained in the book of Hebrews, Christ shared in our humanity “so that by his death he might destroy 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” (2:14–15). While as yet we die, death spells freedom, not fear.
Finally, just as the metaphysical reality of death is removed through the reality of resurrection, the psychological reality of death is relieved through the deepening of relationship between redeemed and Redeemer. Put another way, an ever-deepening relationship with Christ is key to overcoming the psychological fear of death. This is the very thing I witnessed as my father breathed his last. He had spent a lifetime deepening his relationship with God and, in the end, transitioned peacefully into His loving presence. This is the transformational truth that Paul was driving at when he wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NASB).
In sum, believers throughout the ages have viewed death realistically. On the one hand, death is viewed as the enemy, an enduring reminder of the consequences of sin. On the other, death is viewed as a foe defeated through resurrection and an ever-deepening relationship with Christ, who is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In the end, “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).
In part adapted from AfterLife
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:15–19 NASB
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, AfterLife: What You Need to Know About Heaven, the Hereafter, and Near-Death Experiences (Brentwood, TN: Worthy, 2013).
***Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming in Fall 2023. When available for pre-order we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***
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