Sarah Winchester’s husband had acquired a fortune by manufacturing and selling rifles. After he died of influenza in 1918, Sarah sought out a spiritist to contact her dead husband who supposedly told her, “As long as you keep building your home, you will never face death.” Believing the spiritist, Sarah bought an unfinished 17-room mansion and started to expand it.
The project, which cost about 5 million dollars at a time when workers earned 50 cents a day, continued until she died at the age of 85. She left enough materials so that they could have kept building for another 80 years. Today that house stands as a silent witness to the fear of death that holds millions of people in bondage.
However, the Bible gives reasons as to why people don’t need to live in fear of death. But before we look at those reasons in detail, let us ask a simple question: What is death? Death in simple terms is a separation. That’s the basic answer. Now, the Bible describes three kinds of death.
1. Physical Death. This is a separation of the soul from the body. Hebrews 9:27 teaches us that all “people are destined to die once.” This is a reference to physical death.
2. Spiritual Death. This is a separation of soul and body from the life of God. Ephesians 2:1 reminds us of our condition without Christ, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” This is a reference to spiritual death. All of us come into this world spiritually dead. This leads to physical death and eventually eternal death—should we die without the life of Christ in us.
3. Eternal Death. This is a separation of soul and body from God forever in hell. Revelation 20:15 teaches us of the final destination of those who die without Christ, “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” This is a reference to eternal death where all unbelievers for all eternity will be separated from God.
With that basic understanding of death, let’s see 3 reasons why Christians can confidently face death.
Reason # 1. Death has no power over the Christian.
By taking on a human form and dying as our substitute for the punishment of sins and by raising again, the Lord Jesus sets “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” [Heb 2:15]. In other words, since God already punished Christ for our sins, he will not punish us in the future because we have trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. We have thus been freed from the consequences of eternal death.
You see, physical death is just a passage into the next life—life forever in the presence of God for the believer. It’s like sleeping and waking up. No wonder, the Bible describes the Christian’s death as “sleep” [1 Cor 15:51; 1 Thess 4:13]. Death indeed has no power over the Christian and that’s the first reason as to why we can face death boldly.
Reason # 2. Death enables the Christian to be immediately in the Lord’s presence.
When a Christian dies, the physical body goes into the grave. The soul, however, goes immediately into the presence of the Lord. Paul said that he would rather be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” [2 Cor 5:8]. Being “away from the body” refers to the condition where the soul is away from this physical body and “to be at home with the Lord” refers to the soul being in the presence of the Lord.
On the cross, Jesus himself promised one of the repentant criminals, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” [Lk 23:43]. The promise of being in God’s presence was not a reality for the distant future—not even a few days from the time of death—but “today” indicating immediate presence with God. There is no waiting period or a temporary holding place before a Christian’s soul goes to be with the Lord. That’s the second reason as to why Christians can confidently face death.
Reason # 3. Death enables the Christian to possess a new and perfect body.
The physical body with which we come into this world is subject to sin and sickness. That is why there is physical death. However, when Christ comes in the future for his people, all Christians will get perfect and new bodies—bodies that are sin-free and sick-free. Even those Christians who have died and whose souls have gone to be in the presence of the Lord will receive new bodies at that time. This is the event the Bible calls “glorification.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 explains this process, “51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 gives more details about this new body we will receive in the future, “42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” This new spiritual body is also called as the resurrection body, imperishable or glorious body. That is why we Christians are waiting eagerly for “the redemption of our bodies” [Rom 8:23]. That’s the third reason as to why Christians can confidently face death.
These great realities should enable the Christian to face death boldly. At times, questions such as “What will happen to me? Will I become an invalid? Will I experience pain?” grip the Christian as he or she gets older. While these are very legitimate concerns, we still need to look at God’s promises and protection and thus respond biblically. God has promised, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” [Isa 46:4]. If it is God’s will that we have to go through physical affliction, we can still be calm and fearless knowing that our Father’s will is the best for us. He will carry us through this earthly pilgrimage and to our final home in heaven [Phil 1:6]. As every day goes by, we are closer to being with the Lord. That should help us persevere faithfully through dark times!
While these are great realities for the Christian, the future is very dark if one is not a Christian. The Bible says that when the unbeliever dies, the body goes into the grave, but the soul goes into a place called Hades (similar to hell), which is a place of suffering [Lk 16:23]. That is where the souls of unbelievers remain until the final Judgment Day when they will be raised to stand before God for the final judgment for sins before being cast into hell—for all eternity. Revelation 20:13 says that all unbelievers will be judged, “according to what they have done.” And as a result of their unforgiven sins, they will then be “thrown into the lake of fire [hell]“ [Rev 20:14]. Indeed, a terrible and tragic ending!
However, life need not end that way. By turning from sins and trusting in Christ, one can experience spiritual birth and avoid this terrible judgment because Christ took God’s judgment for sin. Jesus himself promised in John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” This verse has 3 promises for those who believe in Christ: (1). They have eternal life. (2). They will not face judgment in the future for their sins. (3). They have crossed over from spiritual death to spiritual and eternal life thus avoiding eternal death. These are phenomenal promises if believed, can free a person from the fear of death.
Our meeting with death is inevitable. No medical plan can overcome death! Hebrews 9:27 says, “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Death is one appointment that all will have to keep! About 10,000 people die every hour. Sooner or later, you will be among that number.
Are you ready for death? You can be—if you are a Christian! For it’s a Christian alone who can assuredly and joyfully sing, “55 Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Cor 15:55, 57].