Many people, including Christians, can be afraid of death or dying (Heb. 2:14-15). In fact, some may be terrified. Why is that and what are we to do with this fear of death? There are several reasons for this fear of death.
“You have not gone this way before” (Joshua 3:4b)
That is what the Lord said to Israel, who were called to cross the River Jordan without a bridge or a boat. They were not the only ones afraid at the unknown way before them. Spurgeon said even of Christians: “We are afraid to sail upon seas which we have never navigated before, even though our unerring Pilot steers the ship in that direction.” Questions and fears can fill our hearts and minds at the untrodden pathways in life but especially in death. We can be afraid of the suffering we may have to endure prior to our death. We can be afraid about having to meet God. No, we have not gone this way before. And that is how the Lord lets us run stuck, so that we see we cannot save ourselves.
“…after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)
Death is not the end. After death comes the judgment. God will judge our lives. Everything will come into judgment: our thoughts, words and deeds; how we treated our parents, friends, peers; what we thought and did in church and outside of church. It will not be enough to have lived a little better than others. Our own righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Is. 64:4). Only if Jesus is our Saviour, only if His blood and righteousness covers our lives can we stand before God. “There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). You feel how serious this is, don’t you? To die, and then the judgment! If we are outside of Christ, then we should be afraid: “…fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28b).
In light of such fears, what should we do? In short, we do well to seek peace with God, live by the word of God, seek to know the comfort of God, and trust the leading of God. Let us look at this biblical counsel in light of our fear of death.
1. We need to have peace with God
After all, we have to meet God, and appear before our Judge. Things are not good between us and Him by nature. By nature, we miss the righteousness that God requires, and we are at enmity against God (Rom. 8:7). Because of this, His wrath is on us. But when we take refuge by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are reconciled to God, and restored to His favour and communion. How? Only through the blood of Christ shed on the cross (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:14). I know true believers can be haunted by their sins of long ago, and their joy is gone and their assurance is weak. But those who have fled for refuge to Christ have their sins pardoned and have peace with God. And those who have taken refuge to Christ before will do so again. The best illustration of this is found with an aged Simeon who took Jesus in His arms and confessed that he could “depart in peace” (Lk. 2:28-29). The fear of death is removed when we lay hold of Christ with arms of faith.
2. We need to live by the word of the God
The Psalmist confessed this was the secret to his life: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path” (Ps. 119:105). What else gives light and direction through this dark world to heaven, but His Word? It is what marked the Lord Jesus too, especially in His suffering and dying on the cross, He was busy with the word of God (Jn. 19:28; Lk. 24:46; Mk. 15:34). The Word of God is a trustworthy and reliable book (Is. 40:8) that John Burton put it this way in the 3rd stanza of his hymn, “Holy Bible, book divine, precious treasure, thou art mine”:
”Mine to comfort in distress;
Suffering in the wilderness
Mine to show, by living faith
Man can triumph over death”
3. We should seek to know the comfort of God
That is what the Lord Jesus seeks to give. Before speaking of the Father house with the many mansions, He wants to calm the many fears of His people: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (Jn. 14:1). Faith that fixes on the Lord Jesus, and the promises of God can say with Paul: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” or “we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (Phil. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:1). We even hear Paul, in the face of death, singing a song: “O death, where is thy sting, o grave where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Since Christ has defeated the great enemy and has taken away the sins of His people, death for His people is as harmless as a bee without a sting. It cannot harm God’s people. The bee can buzz, but it cannot sting. If you are going into eternity with Christ, you may be fearful, but you cannot be hurt.
4. We should trust the leading of the God
David could rest in the leading of the Lord, and even if he had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he did not need to be afraid (Ps. 23:3-4). Can you not trust Him in life and death? As Joseph Gilmore put it: “He leadeth me… by His own hand He leadeth me.”
“And when my task on earth is done,
When by thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
Even death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.”
John Bunyan said this: “To go back is nothing but death: to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward.” William Gurnall put it this way: “Let your hope of heaven master your fear of death.” Here we may fear, but bring those fears to Him who has gone through death, and has opened a doorway into Paradise (Lk. 23:34), and trust Him who has begun a good work to bring you home where tears will be wiped away, and where His people may be with their Lord (Rev. 7:17; 1 Thess. 4:17).
To read more on our series called, “Help!” you can also click the tag “Help!” below.