All of us will face death, one way or another, yet it’s a reality that none of us ever feel comfortable facing.
We avoid the sheer mention of death at all costs. We use euphemisms like, "passed away" or "no longer with us" to soften the blow of this hard reality.
Some try to downplay death by speaking of it as dispassionately as they can. For example, secular scientists treat death as nothing more than an inevitable part of an endless process of evolutionary change.
Others try to make light of death by turning it into a positive experience. They frame death as the one reality that gives meaning and purpose to our otherwise meaningless existence. They reason that a person’s life is only meaningful because of its inevitable end.
But the Bible offers a radically different picture of death, one that is both more terrifying and more hopeful than anything the world has to offer.
The Bible portrays death in two primary ways—as the consequence and judgement for our sin and as a powerful enemy that will one day be defeated.
First, the Bible portrays death as the just consequence and judgment from God for our sin and rebellion against him. We have all sinned against God, our eternal creator and sustainer, and God has declared that the just penalty for our sin against him is death (Romans 6:23).
The Bible teaches us that this death comes in two stages—the first death, which is the death of our current physical bodies, and the second death, which is described as the consigning of both our body and soul to eternal punishment in Hell.
In this light, the biblical view of death is far more terrifying than we can possibly imagine. But there’s hope.
The first death is unavoidable; we all die. But God has made a way for us to escape the second death (hell).
Yes, the wages of our sin is death. But the Bible tells us that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV). Jesus, God’s Son, voluntarily suffered the wrath of God due to our sin, by becoming a man and suffering a horrible death by crucifixion. In some mysterious way, Jesus endured not only physical death, but the eternal agony of God’s wrath for all those who would put their trust in him. Jesus didn’t stay dead. Having suffered hell on the cross for all who trust him, he rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 ESV). The Bible gives us hope beyond physical death, hope of everlasting life.
Now we come to the second way that the Bible portrays death—as an enemy to be defeated.
For those who trust in Jesus and repent of their sins, the Bible makes it clear that death carries no more fear or dread. That is because death is not only the just consequence of our sin but an enemy that has been defeated through the death and resurrection of Christ.
We who have come to hope in Christ are given the sweet promise and assurance in Scripture that, in Christ, the sting of death is gone, because we no longer need to fear God’s judgment (1 John 4:18; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Because Christ has already died for us and been raised to life, so we too will be raised, and we too will receive eternal life with Him (Romans 6:4-5)!
And God has promised that one day he will not only raise us to eternal life but he will remove all the effects of death from the new creation.
Ultimately, the Bible's dual portrayal of death as both the just consequence for our sin and an enemy to be defeated both warns and encourages us.
Death is the grim and just consequence for our sin—that’s a wakeup call. Fear, dread, and grief over death arouse our appropriate discomfort. Death is not good. It’s a judgment for our sin, and a grim reminder that greater judgment awaits us apart from Christ.
Our fear of death is a gracious motivator for us to repent of our sin and turn desperately to Christ—the only one who can free us from the power and penalty of death.
Death also leads us to hope—hope that death is an enemy which will one day be defeated for us in Christ. Death and final judgment will not have the final say in our lives. Jesus will.
When it comes to death, the central question that the Bible lays before you is this: Will you face death on your own or will you face it with your hope in Jesus Christ, who can walk you through death’s door into life everlasting?