The Fear of Death

We are first introduced to death in the garden, where man’s moral evil — Adam’s choice to eat the fruit — introduces natural evil in the form of death. Death is evil because it is, by definition, the corruption of a good thing. Life is good, a gift from God, and death corrupts the good thing created by God. I would go so far as to say that death is an aberration for humans. Death seems out of place for beings initially designed to live eternally.

Our views of death lead to very different approaches to life. Some see death as the ultimate end, so why not live life to the fullest? When confronted with death, others question the point of life: does anything matter since I’m just going to die? The Bible encourages us to live responsibly because we will be held accountable after death.

Though our various responses to death may lead to different ways we choose to live, we all share one response to death:  we all, at one point or another, fear death to some degree. The Greek philosopher Epicurus attempted to dismiss death:

Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And once it does come, we no longer exist.

While some attempt — and may well accomplish — to put on a brave face, all of us share a fear of death, even those who do not believe in God. Greg Epstein, a humanist, wrote,

For a Humanist, the mourning process begins with accepting that death is real and final and that, with apologies to Epicurus, we fear it. Our fear of death is not only normal and not to be dismissed, it is part of the motivation we feel to live a good life now, while we still have time.

The bottom line is our will to live is vital and our fear of death is genuine.

The Fear of Death as a Weapon

The Bible teaches that Satan uses our fear of death against us.

Hebrews 2:14-15, “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, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Satan has the power of death. We can interpret this literally since Satan killed the children of Job with a windstorm. His role as our tempter means he is responsible for perpetuating death. But it’s not just death he uses against us; he uses our fear of death. Our fear of death traps us in a state of spiritual slavery.

Jesus Assaults the Fear of Death

God raised Jesus from his death by crucifixion to defeat Satan. In Luke 11:14, Jesus casts out a demon. Some witnesses accused Him of doing so by the power of Satan (verse 15). Jesus dismissed their accusations with some simple logic, concluding He casts out demons by the Spirit of God (verses 16-20). He then uses a parable to explain His purpose:

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils” (Luke 11:21-22).

The miracles Jesus performed — healing the sick, the lame, the blind, and the demon-possessed — were a direct assault on the dominion of Satan. Jesus assaulted Satan’s greatest weapon, death, when He died as an innocent man falsely accused of blasphemy and sedition (“…through death, He…destroy(ed) the one who has the power of death,” Hebrews 2:14). When Jesus was raised from the dead, the state of human death was conquered:  John 11:25-26:  Jesus said to (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

When John sees the resurrected and glorified Jesus in Revelation 1:18, Jesus says, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”  When Jesus conquered Death and Satan, He took the power of death from Satan. Thus, the greatest evil we must face has been destroyed by Jesus Christ.


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Wade Stanley Written by:

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