Fear of death stands as one of the most significant fears people have held throughout all time, in almost all cultures. Nobody loves the idea of death, and certainly most people are so uncomfortable with the idea that they do their best to never think about it. I know it’s a little different for each person, but I think that one of the biggest reasons that we are afraid of death is because of its finality. Once someone has gone, there’s separation. I’ve had close relatives pass away, and naturally, I miss them. They’ve gone. I can’t speak to them anymore. Death can be extremely painful, and grief is natural. But death isn’t final. Those people aren’t gone forever, and there won’t always be separation. This isn’t all we’ve got.
Without considering what happens after death, life lacks meaning. Life is somewhat beautiful in and of itself of course, but it is also harsh and cruel at times. What is it for? Why are you here? What does it point to? Life is a prelude. In music, a prelude is an introduction. It normally features musical ideas that will be heard fully developed later in the piece. Once you’ve heard the full piece, you’re able to see the prelude in an entirely new light. It’s still a crucial part of the piece, but it’s not the whole piece. Composers would obviously hope that you would move from the prelude into their full work. In the full piece, you’re able to enjoy the complete revelation of their creativity and skill. This life is a prelude that contains glimpses of the goodness, love, glory and beauty that will be shown in full measure in eternity. We are not limited to the prelude. And the full “piece” of Heaven is not only endless, but we get to participate in it, rather than just listening to it. As Paul says in Philippians 1, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. It is gain, because we move from the prelude into the fullness.
Hosea 13:14 says “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting”. At that point, death had a significant sting! If things were left as they were, death would’ve had a vicious sting forever. But Paul tells us in First Corinthians that what is written “will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’”. Sin has intended that death would sting, for it would leave us in the finality of death and separation forever. But Jesus beat death. He did what no one could, and made sure that death won’t get the final say. He even made sure it didn’t get the final say in some people’s lives in a physical sense too, not just a spiritual sense (there is a great Biblical precedent for praying for the resurrection of the dead – it might sounds crazy to you, but God is able!).
Resurrection is not a matter of mythology – there’s significant historical evidence that Jesus appeared to people after His death. Read some Nicky Gumbel (for a simple examination), Ben Witherington (for a complex look at it), or articles from the Centre for Public Christianity such as this. The point is that embracing Jesus means having death conquered in your life. Will you still die one day? Most probably (in my opinion!), unless He returns first. But that won’t be the end. Death need not have any hold over you. Death’s sting can be removed, and you’ll go from this prelude into the glorious, full masterpiece you were made for!
Scriptures to check out: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Philippians 1:20-21.