Some fear death and consider it evil. In contrast, the illustrious Greek philosopher Plato, who lived much before the Lord Jesus, ridiculed mankind’s fear of death, “No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.” 1
The Bible teaches that death is not to be feared. Apostle Paul welcomed death (Philippians 1: 21). Psalm 23 urges its believers to not fear death (verse 4). Having been seated at the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2: 6), Christians should eagerly await their death (Philippians 3: 20-21).
If Christians fear death, it is because they remain ignorant of the biblical teaching behind life and death. When a Christian fears death he remains spiritually weak.
So our question is, “If a Christian fears death is he a Christian?” Or, “Do genuine Christians fear death?”
Genuine Christians (those with mature faith in Christ) welcome death. Genuine Christians understand that they are crucified with Christ; they no longer live but Christ lives in them and their life is lived by absolute faith in Christ (cf. Galatians 2: 20). In other words, these Christians would have entrusted their life – all of it – to Christ.
In my blog written in 2013, I had expressed my lack of fear of death, “Until I experienced God through HIS Word and deed, I was fearful, apprehensive and didn’t desire death. But when I believed in Christ and became aware of the glorious life that awaited me, the fear of death vanished. Today, I welcome death anytime, for when I die I will be with my God forever. The fear of death is dead in my life (cf. Psalm 23: 4; Romans 8: 38-39; 2 Corinthians 5: 8; Philippians 1: 21-23), for death is the gateway to a glorious eternity with God.” 2
Am I a genuine Christian because I do not fear death?
Many non-christians do not fear death. So lack of fear of death cannot be a primary criterion to measure the genuineness of a Christian.
Christians would not cease to be Christians because they fear death. If a Christian fears death, we ought to examine the extent of his faith in Christ.
A common deterrent to faith is wealth. A Christian’s absolute faith in Christ could be suspect during his prosperity.
Wealth and faith are mutually antagonistic. A wealthy Christian would not be too concerned about the financial welfare of his family, even if he were in his deathbed. On the other hand, a poverty stricken Christian or a sole breadwinner-christian would worry for his family’s welfare.
Wealthy Christians ought to ask themselves whether they trust Christ or their wealth. The Bible teaches that it would be difficult for a wealthy Christian to trust Christ completely (cf. Matthew 19: 24 & Mark 10: 25).
So should we infer that wealthy Christians cannot trust Christ completely? How then can wealthy Christians trust Christ totally?
Wealthy Christians cannot be attached to their wealth (cf. Matthew 6: 24, 19: 21-22). Nothing should come between Christ and the Christian (cf. Matthew 19: 29; Romans 8: 38-39).
Wealthy Christians could be champions of faith in Christ. These wealthy Christians either give sacrificially or do not hesitate, at any point in time, to give up all they own for the sake of Christ.
Uncertainty is another deterrent to faith in Christ. Those who fear death could be plagued by uncertainties.
A couple of common questions predicated on uncertainty are:
1. Will I really go to heaven when I die?
While asking this question, the Christian doubts his status as a Christian. He doubts the promises offered in the Bible. More importantly, he doubts the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. What will happen to my family when I die?
This question is loaded with unbelief in God. This question implies that, if I live, I will do all that I can to support my family. This is incorrect.
God enables us to care for our family. We support our family only when God blesses our life with health, sanity and wellness. Superficially it may appear that we are doing our utmost to care for our family, but we cannot do anything without God’s blessings.
When God has enabled us to provide for our family, why should we doubt that God would not care for our family upon our death? Excessive concerns about our family, disputes God’s presence and goodness.
On a side note, some Christians may not fear death but they may fear the manner in which they may die; paranoia of a long and painful death may haunt some. This fear may be unnecessary, since our death may or may not be painful.
We fear because we forget that God is in total control over everything, and that God will help us even if we are to go through pain. Suffering Christians who are strong in their faith would testify to this fact.
How do Christians overcome their fear of death?
Faith in the Lord Jesus should replace our uncertainties and our security in material possessions. Let us totally trust God that HE will usher us into heaven because we believe and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us totally trust God to care for our family even if we were to die, because God cares for us while we live.
When we totally believe in Christ, we would not fear death. If our faith is not strong, we could earnestly ask Lord Jesus to increase our faith (Luke 17: 5). Amen.
1 Written by Plato in his work “Apology,” (universally known as Plato’s ‘Apology’ of Socrates), p27.