There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. – 1 John 4:18a
The fear of death is universal. So many people fear death that the field of thanatology was created. Death is a big issue for the living. One article wrote the following about the fear of death in society:
- “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,” wrote Earnest Becker in his book, The Denial of Death. It’s a fear strong enough to compel us to force kale down our throats, run sweatily on a treadmill at 7am on a Monday morning, and show our genitals to a stranger with cold hands and a white coat if we feel something’s a little off. But our impending end isn’t just a benevolent supplier of healthy behaviors. Researchers have found death can determine our prejudices, whether we give to charity or wear sun cream, our desire to be famous, what type of leader we vote for, how we name our children and even how we feel about breastfeeding. And, of course, it terrifies us. Death anxiety appears to be at the core of several mental health disorders, including health anxiety, panic disorder and depressive disorders. And we’re too scared to talk about it. A ComRes survey from 2014 found that eight in ten Brits are uncomfortable talking about death, and only a third have written a will.
Eight in ten people fear death! Another study found that only a little over 20% of people are “afraid” or “very afraid” of dying.  I question that figure. I think the young are much less likely as demographic to fear death. They are young and full of life. For them death is far off. But the older you are and closer you believe you are to death, the more likely it is that you will be concerned about or fear death. Such fear can be paralyzing. The fear of death can be all consuming. And death doesn’t only come to the elderly, it can come at any time. No one is exempt from the possibility that they may die. But you don’t have to fear death.
The Bible is God’s revelation to humanity. It contains the truth about the reality of our existence. It speaks of our reason for being. That is the presupposition for this writing. I am writing from the Biblical worldview. You may not agree with this world view. You may have a more secular or “scientific” or psychological or another religious oriented world view. But the secular, science, psychology, and religions other than Christianity are all limited in that they don’t have Someone who has died and lived again to talk about it. Jesus tasted death and rose from the dead and He, through His word, has provided us with “the truth” about death and what follows. Christians have an Eyewitness to death and what follows.
You may not accept my Biblical world view. I pray you would change your mind. I pray you’d be curious enough to read on. And if you fear death, this teaching will provide you a solution to such fear.
I’m going to write a bit differently than I normally do for this piece. I’m going to keep my words to a minimum and let the scriptures speak for themselves. I’ll insert a few guiding words. But the power rests in the word of God itself. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). I’d be happy to respond to any questions you have in the comments section of this blog. The Bible states clearly, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). That’s the spirit in which I share with you now. I’m giving you over to God. I pray you listen to Him through His word.
Even Christians can get caught up on the fear of death. But for us, the perfect love of God in Christ helps us deal with such fears. The Apostle John, also known as the Apostle of Love, was inspired to write about this saying:
- 1 John 4:17–19 (NKJV) – 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.
“Perfect” (Greek telieos) means spiritually mature. In other words, when you come to know God’s love in a mature informed way, you won’t fear the prospect of judgement which comes at the point of death. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Yes, there is judgement after death. But God in His love has made a way for us not to fear such judgment.
The Bible has a lot to say about life and death. The words, “die, death, and dying” occur 708 times. (“die” – 272 times; “death” – 423 times; “dying” occurs only 13 times). The words “live, life, and living” occur 903 times in the Bible (“live” – 260 times; “life” – 470 times; “living” – 173 times).
The Bible says that people fear death:
- Psalm 55:4–5 (NKJV) – My heart is severely pained within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.
Why do people fear death? Perhaps it is because to many death is a big black hole of the unknown. Ignorance often breads fear of one sort or the other. Perhaps people fear death because they inherently know that it might lead to something very bad. That very well might be the case. There may be good reason to fear death for some people.
The Bible speaks of two ultimate destinations at death:
- Daniel 12:2 (NKJV) – And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
- Matthew 25:46 (NKJV) – 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
- John 5:29 (NKJV) – 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:1–9 (NKJV) – Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
- Revelation 20:15 (NKJV) – 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
- Revelation 21:8 (NKJV) –8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
So, there is a very bad eternal destiny that will be experienced by some people. There fear of death is connected to this potentially devastating eternal destiny. That’s the bad news. But the fear we experience about this possible dark destiny is in and of itself evidence of God’s grace and mercy, His love. The Holy Spirit warns people about this doom and gloom eternal destiny (cf. John 16:8-11). And the Holy Spirit also conveys that there is good news, very good news to counter the bad.
In the Bible God provides a solution to the fear of death. That solution is in Christ:
- John 6:40 (NKJV) – 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
- John 11:25–26 (NKJV) – 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
This is a wonderful truth. If Jesus’ words are correct, (and I believe they are) then there is no need to fear death. That’s because those who believe in Jesus need not fear death. According to Jesus, it is possible to “never die.” Whew! That’s an awesome statement, an incredible truth, a relief to those who fear death.
Why is belief in Jesus the solution to death?
- John 14:6 (NKJV) – 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Jesus is the way to overcoming death. He is the truth concerning the matter of life and death. He is the means to experiencing life. “The life” is particularly eternal life. It is a special kind of life for those who believe in Jesus. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
But why don’t all people experience the life Jesus speaks about? What causes death? The cause of death is sin. While humanity is born physically and mentally alive, they are spiritually dead. Humanity is born in sin:
- Psalm 51:5 (NKJV) – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
- Psalm 58:3 (NKJV) – The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.
Sin separates us from God:
- Isaiah 59:2 (NKJV) – But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
- Jeremiah 5:25 (NKJV) – 25 Your iniquities have turned these things away, and your sins have withheld good from you.
- Habakkuk 1:13 (NKJV) – 13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?
Sin is the cause of death:
- Romans 6:23 (NKJV) – 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As we are born in sin and continue to sin we work death in ourselves. But there is a willful decision involved here. We are born in sin, but that doesn’t remove our culpability. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:7-9). The “flesh” (Greek sarx) is our sinful nature. The sinful nature is that part of us as human beings that lives for, lives by and is preoccupied with self. The sinful nature is that selfish part of us that sees the world revolving around us.
At this point you may think you’re in the clear. You may think “Hey, I’m not a selfish person.” But its not merely a question of not being very selfish. It’s a question of being selfish or sinful at all. That is God’s standard. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Why is God so strict? Why can even one single sin convict me? Because sin is cancerous; it never stays “little”; it always grows or spreads. Sin infects us. Sin warps our world view. Sin breaks us down. Sin debilitates us. Sin infects us. And God isn’t going to allow any sin in heaven. Sin separates us from God.
What’s the bottom line? What are we really talking about here? We are talking about a spiritual condition. Spiritually, death is not knowing God. Spiritually, life is knowing God. Jesus implies this in His statement on eternal life:
- John 17:3 (NKJV) – 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Sin is really about whether or not you “know” Jesus. The word “know” here is translated from the Greek term ginosko. The idea of this word “know” in the original language meant to become aware, perceive (as in “seeing is believing”), to understand, to be conscious of, to see something or someone as it/they truly are (not merely opinion or speculation).
When this word is used in the sense of knowing someone it means:
- To know someone personally
- To be personally acquainted with someone
- To trust someone
- To have a friendship with someone
- To have an intimate personal relationship with someone
In light of this the question arises, do you know Jesus?
How can we come to know Jesus in a saving way? Jesus said it was necessary for a person to be “born again”; to experience spiritual birth similar to the way they were physical born. It isn’t a matter of mere religious activity. Proof of this is seen in a conversation Jesus had with a Pharisee (the most religious people of His day). To this religious pharisee named Nicodemas, Jesus said the following:
- John 3:1–7 (NKJV) – There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
Later in the conversation Jesus says some very famous well-known words about salvation from sin:
- John 3:14–17 (NKJV) – 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Belief in Jesus is the basis for God’s forgiveness of sin for those who ask. The reason for this is that all people are sinners and sin is the cause of death in life:
- Romans 3:10 (NKJV) – 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;
- Romans 3:23 (NKJV) – 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- Romans 6:23 (NKJV) – 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The reason why belief in Jesus is necessary for our sins to be forgiven is that Jesus paid our death penalty. The consequence or “wage” of sin is death. This death is not annihilation but death penalty existence of torment as described above. But God has provided us a free gift in Jesus. A gift is not something worked for, it is something simply received. We receive a gift by faith. What is the gift bound up in Jesus? Jesus, as a Perfect Human Representative paid our death penalty for us on the cross. This is what we call Atonement.
Atonement means Jesus died to make a way for us to be AT-ONE-MENT with God. The Apostle Paul described the holy transaction in one verse being inspired to say:
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) – 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
That is the holy saving transaction in a nutshell. To believe that, to trust in that holy truth, results in our being forgiven of our sins and given spiritual life – being “born again.”
How do we appropriate or receive such a gift of salvation? First, we “confess” our sins to God.
- 1 John 1:9 (NKJV) – 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
To “confess” our sins (Greek homologeo) means to say the same thing as another, to agree with, assent, to concede. To confess our sins means to acknowledge and agree with God’s assessment of them. When we do that in conjunction with believing in Jesus God forgives our sins.
How do we know this is true and sufficient for salvation before God who is Holy? By the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus proves that He has defeated death. Therefore, believing in the resurrection of Jesus is an essential part of this saving faith.
- Romans 10:8–10 (NKJV) – 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
When we trust in Jesus as our Savior we are given spiritual eternal life by the Holy Spirit Who indwells us:
- Titus 3:4–7 (NKJV) – 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
When we experience this eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ we receive an assurance, a calming influence from God concerning death. Hear the soothing comforting blessed words of God concerning this magnificent truth:
- Romans 8:11 (NKJV) – 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
- 1 Corinthians 15:20–21 (NKJV) – 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
- 1 Corinthians 15:56–58 (NKJV) – 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
- 2 Timothy 1:8–12 (NKJV) – 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
- Hebrews 2:9 (NKJV) – 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
- Hebrews 2:14–15 (NKJV) – 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
- Romans 8:37–39 (NKJV) – 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These are truly beautiful words from God to us. We need no longer fear death.
What happens when we die? The Bible says:
- Psalm 17:15 (NKJV) – As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
- Psalm 73:23–24 (NKJV) – 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. 24 You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
- 2 Corinthians 5:7–8 (NKJV) – 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
The instant we die, those who have been saved from their sins through faith in Jesus, go instantly into the presence of the Lord. No black hole to fall into. No grace to fear. Just the light of God’s glorious truths to run to. Death is us running into the loving arms of Jesus. That picture, that thought, dispels all fears of death.
Those are comforting and assuring and gloriously truthful words. They are the reason why Paul wrote:
- 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) – 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
These words give us a solid basis to not fear, but to live in power and love and soundness of mind. My prayer for you is that you trust and know Jesus as your personal Savior, that you experience His blessed eternal life, and that you pass this good news on to others. That’s the truth about death. That’s the truth about life. That’s the perfectly loving truth of God that casts out the fear of death. God’s loving provision in Jesus destroys our fears of death. Enjoy that my friend. Don’t fear it. Embrace the love of Jesus. God bless you. I’ve said enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.