For many people, 2020 brought change and challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic turned normal, as we know it, on its head, causing our society to collectively contemplate death in a deeper way.
Death Is Not Natural
Most people would agree that things in this world are not as they should be, especially when it comes to death. If you have ever watched someone on the doorstep of death, every gasping breath is a fight to live. This is because death is not natural for us; we were made to live.
The Bible explains that in the beginning God breathed into man the breath of life so that he could dwell together with Him. But tragically, humanity’s first parents, Adam and Eve, chose to disobey God’s good, life-sustaining command (Gen. 2:16-17, 3:1-6) and were cast out of Eden. God cursed them, saying, “for you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19b). Since that day, out of consequence for humanity’s disobedience, our bodies have continued to decay and will one day bring forth death (Rom. 6:23).
Death is not natural; we were not made for this. God created humanity in His image and after His likeness to live and walk in perfect fellowship with Him (Gen. 1:27). Sadly, death is the unnatural consequence of humanity’s sin.
What the Bible Says About Death
Although we live in a fallen world, Christians should not despair or grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). Our hope is in Jesus Christ, who died so we could live—forever (John 3:16). In his book A Reason For God, Timothy Keller notes that Jesus became the man of sorrows (Is. 53:3) by taking “our suffering so seriously that he took it on himself.” Jesus Himself tells us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:1, 6).
One of Jesus’ most encouraging promises is that He is coming back for those who put their trust in Him to bring them to live forever with Him (John 14:2-3, Rev. 21:3-4). According to Scripture, nothing in creation can separate those who have trusted in Jesus from the love of God, not even death (Rom. 8:23).
As believers walk through the shadow of death, there is ultimately nothing to fear because Jesus is there beside us. He is our comfort (Ps. 23). We can grieve what suffering does to us and what death takes from us, but we should always remember where our hope lies. Our hope is anchored in the Lord who shares in our suffering and is acquainted with great grief (Is. 53:3). We can find joy in our suffering by keeping our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He is always with us and He will strengthen our faith. These trials will produce steadfastness and endurance in the long run (James 1:2-4).
When we suffer, it is important to remember that Christ is with us. When we go through something difficult, it might seem that God has abandoned or forgotten us. But even on the darkest nights, we must remember that God hears and sees us and will not leave or forsake us.
Christians have hope despite death because of the promise of the resurrection. The Bible teaches that being human means we are embodied souls/ensouled bodies. Upon physical death, we will be disembodied, meaning our body will be separated from our spirit but our spirit will return to God (Ecc. 12:7). Scripture says that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corin. 5:8). In other words, death will separate us from God, but believers will always be with the Lord in the present Heaven free from sin and suffering in the fullness of joy, awaiting the bodily resurrection and permanent home in the New Heaven and New Earth (Rom. 8:38-9, Rev. 21:1).
On the cross, Jesus tasted death to give us eternal life. Those who believe in Him “shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus declares, “‘I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live’” (John 11:25), thereby extending the invitation of eternal life to everyone.
For believers, what waits on the other side of death is what we love, namely, the presence of the Lord. When we grieve the loss of someone we love or are weighed down by suffering, His peace and His presence revives our soul. We may be overwhelmed or sad, but this present pain is not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed and the perfect restoration that even creation groans for (Rom 8:18-20). Although we may come face to face with our darkest hour, God fills us with all joy and peace so that through His Holy Spirit, we can have a steadfast hope (Rom. 15:13).
We Were Made To Live
We were made to live. Scripture tells us God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecc. 3:11) and is “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). Life is a gift of God, but physical death is an effect of the fall. From the beginning, humanity has fought against physical death, establishing hospitals to ease suffering and its decaying effects because we long to live.
We do not have to fear death. We can live abundantly in Christ, walking in step with the Spirit, knowing death is coming but making the most of every hour. This is because we know that death is not the end of us. Rather, it is a small interruption before we step into eternal life with our Lord.
We all know someone who is suffering, maybe even facing death. When we are invited into someone’s pain, we have the opportunity to share the burden of their suffering, to be still with them, and speak words of life. Our words can impart the aroma of Christ and give the peace and hope that people hunger for. Without Christ, we will die physically and spiritually. With Christ, though we die, we have eternal life. It is only when we lose our fear of death that we can truly live.
Mikayla Simpson was a summer intern with the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.