Death. The very word strikes fear in the hearts of humanity. We do what we can to avoid it, always seeking longevity for both ourselves and our loved ones. We avoid what we perceive to be risky activity ad we seek life-prolonging measures. It's a sensitive topic often considered taboo and shied away from awkwardly during any conversation. What is death and why is it so terrifying for humanity to comprehend and discuss? As stated in Romans 6:23, death is the penalty for our sins against God, and separates us from Christ in which we are severed by our rebellion. Because of sin, we are subjected to destruction of both our body and soul.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 6:23 (ESV)
Death was never intended to be a pleasurable or flippant occurrence; it is a curse and a consequence and is rightly encountered with trepidation. There is absolutely nothing we can do the conquer death or overcome it. "No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death." - Ecclesiastes 8:8 (ESV). It seems all hope is lost. Are we all doomed to a life that only ends in death and destruction and is there nothing to be done to reverse this curse? Not at all! The same God that we rebelled against through our selfish sins and immorality took it upon Himself to bear and break the curse through His death upon a cross to save His beloved creation. He shattered the weighty chains of death and obliterated the penalty for all of humanity's sin. There couldn't be a more perfect love shown in all of history! After receiving such an miraculous gift of freedom and redemption, how could we ever want to live for anyone or anything else?
"Our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." ~ 1 Timothy 1:10 (ESV)
I believe we as Christians ought to alter our perspective of death. All too often, we greatly fear both the path to the end of this earthly life as we know it and death itself just as much as the unbeliever who has not encountered Christ's gift of life or refuses to accept the gift. Both the path to and process of death are unknown, uncharted territory for each of us, the journey is different for each believer, no one can come back to report what it is like to die, and most people do not like living in the unknown and knowledge of separation from those we love, thus fear is invoked. However, what is known is the ultimate destination and what we can expect upon arrival to this destination: eternal life forever dwelling in a renewed body with our beloved Lord and Redeemer in Heaven free from pain and death and sorrow.
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'” ~ Revelation 21:4 (ESV)
Physical death is imminent (who would want to live forever in these deteriorating bodies anyways?), but our souls are forever saved from the clutches of destruction and separation from Christ. We know this to be true. Why have faith in one of God's promises, His salvation, but be unsteady in our faith of another one of God's promises, Him conquering death? The two go hand in hand. He has overcome death, a feat we could not ever accomplish. There is no longer a sting to death. Is there pain in the separation from our loved ones that we leave behind here on earth? Yes. However, this is a temporary pain for those who love Christ and in the grand scheme of life, life on earth is but a blip on the radar of eternity, and we will be reunited with fellow believers in what will soon seem to be no time at all. For the believer, death is a beautiful thing in the eyes of the Lord. Just as Paul eagerly longed to be with the Lord and it pained him to remain on earth (though he recognized the necessity for his remaining in order to accomplish the Lord's work), do you not think it also pains Jesus to be apart from us in a physical sense? He eagerly has built a home for us in heaven and cannot wait for us to come home to His arms to dwell forever.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.'" ~ Revelation 21:3 (ESV)
Perhaps it is in the best interest of our sanity and for those who are watching us believers in Christ that we stop living a fear-riddled life and start living a faith-riddled life, in which we live confidently in the good works the Lord has laid out for us and stop worrying about how much time we have left on this earth, knowing that the Lord has far better things than earthly treasures for us when we pass through the door of death and are reunited with Him in heaven. We know what lies on the other side of death, which, for the believer, is a mere passage from this broken, earthly life to a restored, eternal life. There is freedom in not living in fear.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." ~ Psalm 116:15 (ESV)
For me personally, I relate greatly to Paul's longing to be with the Lord, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again." - Philippians 1:21-26 (ESV). It's a constant battle between my anxiousness to be with Christ free from disease and pain and brokenness of this world and sometimes slipping into the "everything is meaningless" mentality, and yet also realizing and knowing that my life here on here does indeed have a purpose, and it is a purpose only I can fulfill for the glory of Christ and His kingdom. For me ,death itself often seems to be more of a merciful relief than a curse as it is a known ending to afflictions and pain and the beginning of a restored life where we can dwell with Christ and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ forever. I've had quite enough of my own personal painful struggles of battling cystic fibrosis, dealing with heartbreak and daily negativity, and I am too often deeply grieved by the injustice, cruelty, and sorrows that the world encounters daily. The Bible speaks many times of the beauty of eternal life in Heaven with our Lord, and I cling to these promises with eagerness. I do not fear death. The promises of eternal life with Christ far outweigh and nullify any fears I may have. Frankly, the longer I live, the more I yearn for eternity away from this distressed world, as it pains me to both observe and live a distressed culture and a deteriorating body. I have come to terms with the fact that death will occur, as I have come very close to encountering it many times. It has been something for me to grapple with and discuss with the Lord; it is not something anyone else can wrestle with on my behalf or decide my thoughts on it. I am grateful I have come to terms with it while still being considered to be young. Age is no determinate for whether someone dies or not. So many people say, "Wow, that person was so young, much too young to die", and make comments such as, "Oh, you're young. You've got so much life ahead of you!" yet they forget that death does not discriminate based upon age. Thus, perhaps it is in the best interest of believers to confront the reality of death and realize its beauty from the perspective of a child saved by God's grace.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." ~ Romans 8:28 (ESV)
The death of a believer is not something to be feared, but anticipated. We will finally be joined together with our Lord, forever released from the bonds of sin, suffering, and separation, and see the fruition of our work for Jesus and His kingdom. Nevertheless, this anticipatory perspective on death ought not induce flippancy or recklessness in living, but should instead drive us with a greater eagerness to accomplish our work for the Lord in whatever time we have on this earth and to spread the Gospel to others so they can also find hope of our Savior and their chains of fear surrounding death may be broken. Knowing that our days are numbered and we cannot neither add to them nor take away from them, I encourage you to live your life on earth confidently, fearlessly, and wisely in faith, always striving to serve and glorify Him so that we may put Him on display and trust in the promise that our Lord has prepared a place for us where we will dwell in perfect restoration with Christ. What a beautiful day it will be when we will finally see His face and greet the One who made and loves us! There is no sting in death when it is simply to gateway to an eternal life more beautiful and amazing than we could ever imagine.
"When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (ESV)