Overcoming the Fear of Death

funeralc_2319We often avoid talking about, or even thinking about, death. But if you trust Jesus, Hebrews 2:14-15 tell you that it is a fear that can be conquered.

Christ shared your humanity. Like you, he is flesh and blood. All human beings, since the fall in the Garden, are mortal. We are flesh and blood. Jesus Christ shares in that. He became human. At a particular point in tome, the second person of the Trinity, God himself, partook of, or began to partake of, your humanity. Look back to Hebrews 1:1-4 to see how great this Son is. This Son became man. The purpose of his incarnation is his death and resurrection. By becoming human and through his death and resurrection, he made you who trust in him his brothers and sisters. He is your comfort and strength when you are tempted.

If you trust in Jesus, even death cannot break your union with him. Your body is not the ouse for the soul. You were created as a body-soul unit. Death temporarily ruptures that unity. The redemptive work of Christ is not fully complete until the day of resurrection. You, in your raised body, will serve God for eternity—if you are one who trusts in him. He Christian, death does mean being immediately in Christ’s presence. Paul spoke of being with Christ, Philippians 1:23, and Jesus assured the repentant, dying thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” Luke 23:43. Even the body of the believer is “asleep “with Jesus, I Thessalonians 4:15.

Christ has set you free! By his death Jesus overcame the devil. “The power of death is held by the devil h, but only in a secondary, not in an ultimate sense. Death is indeed the dark reality of his tyranny. But God is still supreme in his sovereignty.” P. E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 112. There is no cosmic dualism between God and Satan, between life and death. Death, rather, is the sentence God pronounced against disobedience. He turns his back on the rebel and gives him over to the destructive power of Satan’s realm of death. The euthanasia movement misses that contrast and aligns itself with the destructive power of death. Christ destroyed the one with the power of death. Ironically, he did this by his own death. He broke the enslaving power of sin. This was not just any death, but the self-sacrifice of the God man. He turned away God’s wrath against your sins.

You can be free from the fear of death. Fear of death enslaves. It is a lifelong fear. It expresses itself in the world’s desperate pursuit of pleasure. Behind the fear of physical death lies, recognized or not, the fear of eternal death. Christ, by going through death for you who trust him, by bearing your guilt and punishment, has set you free. Hebrews is not telling you that all Christians face death without any fear. Yet, “Although we must still meet death, let us nevertheless be calm and serene in living and dying, when we have Christ going before us. . . . An overdose of fear comes from ignorance of the grace of Christ. . . .” (John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews, at Heb. 2:15). Hebrews is not telling you not to grieve in the face of death. Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb. But you do not grieve as those who have no nope. It is a a conquered enemy.

How do you overcome the fear of death? Don’t wait until you are about to dies. Instead, turn now to the one who has gone through death and emerged triumphant.

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“The greatest and the least of us will be humbled in death. So long as we live and breathe we are scarcely able to take this fact in. The difference between life and death is absolute; the difference life and death is absolute; it is shattering. Yet we have been so desensitized that we are almost blind to its inevitability. We struggle to avoid contemplating the end of life to which we are daily and irreversibly heading.

“The New Testament has a telling way of putting this. It speaks of us being in lifelong bondage through the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). This is the mother of all lesser fears. In fact, it is often obscured by them. . . . The message of the gospel is that there is a way of deliverance. . . . ‘Do not be afraid’ are Jesus’ most frequently spoken words. Be assured that he will be with you as you make your way from the bondage of fear to freedom and assurance.” (K. Oliphant and Sinclair B. Ferguson, If I Should Die Before I Wake: What’s Beyond This Life?, p. 20).

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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