Death is inevitable for all of us, yet no one talks about it. Rarely are we sure what happens after death. The Bible is crystal clear about the afterlife, and gives us both certainty and hope. The Bible teaches that death is an enemy to be defeated. Life isn't over when we die. Death is a door into the experience we were created for— eternity. Question is, where will you spend forever?
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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?
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
JOHN 11:25-26 ESV
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
But the serpent
said to the woman,
“You will not surely die."
"We were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow!" (Job 8:9 NIV)
"They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.” (Job 14:2 NIV)
"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14 NIV)
All is shadow here below! The world is a shadow—and is passing away! The creature is a shadow—and the loveliest and the fondest may be the first to die! Health is a shadow—fading, and in a moment gone! Wealth is a shadow—today upon the summit of affluence, tomorrow at its base, plunged into poverty and dependence!
Human friendships and creature affections are but shadows—sweet and pleasant while they last; but, with a worm feeding at the root of all created good, the sheltering gourd soon withers, exposing us to the sun's burning heat by day, and to the frost's cold chill by night!
Oh, yes! "Passing Away!" is indelibly inscribed upon everything here below!
Yet how slow we are to realize the solemn lesson: "What shadows we are—and what shadows we pursue!"
Unconverted reader, what is your life—but a vapor that passes away?
And what are your pursuits, but shadows—unreal, unsatisfying, evanescent?
Your rank, your wealth, your honors, your pleasures, are but phantoms which appear but for a little while, and then are lost in the deeper shadow of the grave, and the still deeper and longer shadow of eternity!
Oh, turn from these dreams and hallucinations, and, as a rational, accountable, immortal being, on your way to judgment—fix your mind upon your solemn, endless future! You are going to die! And, oh, when that dread hour comes, so real and appalling—how then will your past trifling life appear?
Death serves all alike; as he deals with the poor, so he deals with the rich: is not awed at the appearance of a proud palace, a numerous attendance, or a majestic countenance; pulls a king out of his throne, and summons him before the judgment seat of God, with as few compliments and as little ceremony as he takes the poor man out of his cottage. Death is as rude with emperors as with beggars, and handles one with as much gentleness as the other.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Two Histories of Death
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
So teach us
a heart of wisdom.
“So teach us to number our days,
that we may present to You
a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12 NASB)
Since Jesus died for us, why do we still have to die?
Question 42 and 57 of the Heidelberg Catechism comfort us regarding death. We made this graphic for you to save on your phone as your background or screensaver!
Give glory to the Lord your God
Before He causes darkness,
And before your feet stumble
On the dark mountains,
And while you are looking for light,
He turns it into the shadow of death
And makes it dense darkness.
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?... For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.
but the gift of God
is eternal life
in Christ Jesus
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.