Is A Physical Death Something To Fear?
My home town was at one time the maintenance facility for Burlington railroad during the days of the steam locomotives and I had a number of experiences with Hobos or Tramps. One Sunday morning when I was about 12 years old, while attending worship service two Tramps came into the worship service in the middle of the sermon. One of the men sat on the back pew and the other one walked all the way to the front pew and sat down. You could imagine the fear that everyone had during the next few minutes. What in the world is going on as there has been some tramps that have caused problems in the past begging for food or money? After about fifteen minutes the man on the front row interrupted the preacher and said he had a question. The preacher said that is what we are here for. The Tramp then said: “I am afraid of dying.” The preacher said you need to get over that and continued preaching. The Tramp got up after a few minutes and walked out. One of the elders followed him out and began talking to the man. I never knew what happened as a result of that conversation but I have often thought about that statement. Why would anyone be afraid of dying? Is it because we are afraid of the unknown? Is it because we enjoy the pleasures of this earth to much? Or is it because we know the life we have lived is not the life that God expects of us and our destiny is one of torment in the spiritual world?
We have all lost loved ones and we have all lost dear friends that have had a great influence on our lives. However, as we age, we should realize that for the faithful Christian, death is not to be feared but is something to look forward to because we will be home with our heavenly Father. When Jesus had been told of Lazarus sickness and death, He certainly loved Lazarus as John 11: 35 tells us that “Jesus wept.” It is only natural that when a loved departs from the earth, there will be many tears shed due to the loss. Tears will not only be shed by family members but by those whose lives have been touched by the deceased. Those tears will be tears of sadness but they can also be tears of joy knowing that the departure of the loved one is no longer in pain but in a much better place if they are a faithful child of God. Lazarus’ sister Martha was mourning the death of her brother and Jesus said to her in John 11:25, 26:
“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?”
The point that Jesus made is that faith does not save one from a temporal death. The believer will die a temporal death but if he dies, he shall live eternally. The obedient believer shall be restored to life in the resurrection. The apostle Paul told the Corinthian brethren in I Corinthians 5:10:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
This is good news for the faithful Christian as we will look forward to hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
The apostle Paul told the Corinthian brethren in I Corinthians 9: 24-26:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (25) And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. (26) Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.”
Paul never thought of entering heaven by inactivity. He urged, by every possible argument, the necessity of making an exertion to secure the rewards of the just. His reasons for this effort are many;
- The work of salvation is difficult. The thousand obstacles arising, the love of sin, and the opposition of Satan and of the world, are in the way.
- The danger of losing the crown of glory is great. Every moment exposes it to hazard, for at any moment we may die.
- The danger is not only great, but it is dreadful. If anything should arouse man, it should be the apprehension of eternal damnation and everlasting wrath.
This why Paul exhorted Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called…” (I Timothy 6:12). In other words, Paul says live the Gospel, and defend the cause of God. Unmask hypocrites, purge and build up the Church, live in the spirit of your Christian faith and give yourself with all diligence to this work. Fight, conquer, and seize upon the prize; carry off the crown of eternal life! If Christians do this then we should not be able to say: “I am afraid of dying.” Death is not to be feared by the faithful Christian but is to be looked upon as victory. The apostle Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:6-8:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. (7) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (8) Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Paul makes it clear that he started for the prize, and has come up to the goal and has gained this prize also. Though his life has been spent laboriously endeavoring to spread God’s word; though he has suffered much, and labored long; though he has struggled hard to win the prize, and now has it in full view, he recognized that it is for all faithful Christians that fight the good fight. I Peter 5:4—“and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” James 1:5—“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”