By Summer Marrero Cordón
The mere thought of death gets our hearts racing. We fear it for so many reasons. The pain, the letting go, the goodbyes, the permanency. For most, it’s the fear of the unknown that terrifies us.
I’m here to tell you that those of us who are in Christ have nothing to fear! For Christians, death is the door that leads to home.
A change of mindset is needed if we are to take hold of the fear of death and get rid of it forever. Are you with me? Let’s ask for God’s help.
Father God, we are thankful for your love for us and we come to you with this crippling fear of death that we struggle with so often. We lay it before you, believing that you’ll help us to be set free from its power so that we can see death in a different light. Teach us your truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Acknowledging the Fear of Death
Let’s say it together: “I am afraid of death”. Did you say it out loud? You should. It’s like being in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The first step is to acknowledge your problem. Once you admit it, you’re on the right track.
Being honest with ourselves is an important part of growth. It’s also the key to opening up that prison door that has kept us from true freedom. If we want to have a fulfilled life this side of heaven, we have to learn to embrace death.
“How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”
– George Macdonald
Once we acknowledge our fear of death, we can move on to understanding what death really means. There are two kinds of deaths, according to the Bible: physical death and spiritual death. Today we’ll focus on physical death.
What Death Means for Christians
I think one error we have so often made is believing that our bodies are the most important aspect of our time lived on Earth. It is not so. Our bodies are clothing for our souls. George Macdonald once said, “Never tell a child, ‘you have a soul’. Teach him, ‘you are a soul; you have a body.’ As we learn to think of things always in this order, that the body is but the temporary clothing of the soul, our views of death and the unbefittingness of customary mourning will approximate to those of friends of earlier generations.”
Life on Earth as it is now was never meant to be permanent. It was never “all there is”. We are pilgrims here, yes, with a purpose. And that purpose has been thwarted by our own selfish pursuits and Satan, who tirelessly works to distract us from our kingdom duties.
We love this life so much that we fear having it ripped away from us by death. We see death as an immense faceless figure cloaked in a dark robe grasping a scythe with one hand and beckoning us with the other. You can thank Greek mythology for that image. It’s fake news.
“For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.”
– William Penn
Jesus’ death on the cross was not a tragedy, but a victory. An astonishing victory over sin. And his resurrection was the ultimate victory over death. “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10 NIV)
See what the gospel has given us? Jesus destroyed the works of Satan, including his power over death. Hebrews tells us this amazing truth: “Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too 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.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV)
So, what does death mean for Christians? It means release from the trappings of sin. It means no more pain and suffering. In the words of Helen Keller it means, “no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
“Let your hope of heaven master your fear of death.”
Charles H. Spurgeon, dubbed the “prince of preachers”, taught about the difference between the death of Christians and the death of unbelievers: “There is an essential difference between the decease of the godly and the death of the ungodly. Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction, but to the righteous as a summons to his Father’s palace. To the sinner it is an execution, to the saint an undressing from his sins and infirmities. Death to the wicked is the King of terrors. Death to the saint is the end of terrors, the commencement of glory.”
Dear Christian, death for us is God himself summoning us into his presence! Death is not just the end of something, it’s the beginning of glory!
Victory Over the Fear of Death
Now that we understand what death means for Christians, it’s time to take action. We’ve acknowledged our fear of death but now it’s time to disown that fear. Let’s say “goodbye and good riddance!” and embrace biblical truth and faith in God’s promises.
If I’ve read this passage in Romans correctly, we will enjoy the same resurrection that Christ had. “For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5 NIV). We’ll get a new, glorified body that will never see death or decay!
I think God new just how attached we would become to this life and to these bodies. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knew about all our fears before we ever had them. Paul wrote, “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4 NIV)
In order to have victory over the fear of death we have to embrace the true meaning of life. True life is knowing personally and experiencing daily the God who brought us into existence and gave us new life in Christ. This is eternal life, a life that has no end. This is abundant life. Abundant means, “lavish, liberal, generous, bountiful and overflowing”.
Life is sharing at God’s banqueting table, receiving bountiful helpings of his love. Life is communing with other believers. Life is living out the sovereign will of God.
Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death.
When we fill our minds with what the future holds for us as Christians, death loses its sting. And then we’ll understand what Matthew Henry wrote: “He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave”.
I think that the group of people who have readily overcome their fear of death, and even embraced it, are the persecuted Christians around the world and the martyrs who gave up their lives long before God summoned them. Jim Elliott, who was one of them, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.
Don’t you have moments when you ache to leave this world behind? I know I do. It’s because we weren’t made for this world.
Death can be compared to the pains of childbirth. When the moment is right, God will usher each of his children into his presence where we’ll soon forget the process we went through to get there.
What the Bible Says About Death
The following verses will give you more insight into this topic. The more we bathe our minds with the Word of God we’ll be able to resist the temptation to fear death.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55 NIV)
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For 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 NIV)
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26 NIV)
“He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8 NIV)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NIV)
“It is grace at the beginning, and grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our death beds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us in the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the Grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The Christian life starts with grace, it must continue with grace, it ends with grace. Grace wondrous grace. By the grace of God, I am what I am. Yet not I, but the Grace of God which was with me.”
– Martyn Lloyd-Jones
About the Author
Summer is a graduate of Biblical Studies/Youth Ministry/Evangelism at Word of Life Bible Institute. Upon graduating she served at an inner-city community church for ten years where she gained leadership experience in the areas of youth ministry, women’s discipleship, worship ministry and small group ministries.
In 2002, Summer moved to Guatemala City as a single missionary where she was part of a team that started a ministry to prostitutes in the heart of the city. She also worked with a local children’s ministry as a fundraiser.
Summer’s final three years as a missionary were spent coordinating logistics for North American short-term missions teams which served with Guatemalan-based ministries that worked with the most marginalized of society.
Now married, Summer still resides in Guatemala City with her husband and two children. She is a stay-at-home mom, a blogger and serves in worship ministry at her local church.