David Jeremiah - Death: The Fear of Dying
Someone once observed that life is pleasant, death is peaceful, it's the transition that's troublesome. Well, dying is certainly no laughing matter. I mean, we fear what we don't know and the biggest unknown in this life is death. Even we Christians who know that death is just the door to eternity are often uneasy about dying. Does the fear of dying keep you from truly living? I think you'll find comfort in today's message as we open God's Word and see death from our creator's point of view. I mean, you might just find that a new understanding of death can give you a new lease on life. So, join me for a look at Death: The Fear of Dying as we continue our series, "What Are You Afraid Of? Facing Down Your Fears With Faith" coming up right here on "Turning Point".
What if I promised you that we could change forever the way that you look at death, perhaps move it out of the fear category all together? What if we would take on this subject for a few moments from the Bible and pull death out of the terrifying darkness once and for all? If you'll stay focused, I think I can do that because the Bible does that. Before we go any further, we need to discuss what we mean when we talk about death, the faces of death. In the Bible there are three different descriptions of death. Let me give you the key word for all three of them. It's the word separation. Say that with me, "separation". In every three instances where death is mentioned in the Bible, it always involves separation.
Let's begin, first of all, with physical death. What is physical death? Physical death is the separation of the soul and the spirit from the body. And let me tell you something, friends, I've been studying this very carefully. There are no exceptions. The statistics regarding physical death are 100% except perhaps for Christians who will be alive at the Rapture. But that hasn't happened yet, so I can say with authority that death is 100%. Someone has rightly made this observation that death is the number one killer in America. Physical death. So, I know this is kind of a serious subject, but we don't have to be so serious about it.
Let's just kind of, I'll tell you this little story that'll lighten it up a little bit. I heard about a doctor who went to see young man and he says, "I've just examined your reports, and I have bad news and worse news". He says, "Well, what do you mean"? He says, "Well, I have bad news, and they have worse news. What news would you like to have first"? And he said, "Give me the bad news". He said, "Well," he said, "we've looked at your tests and you have you have 48 hours to live". He says, "Well, what could be worse than that? What's the worse news"? He said, "We've been looking for you since yesterday". So, all right, I'm glad to hear you laugh.
So, physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Now, the other kind of death the Bible speaks about is spiritual death. This may surprise you because it almost sounds like a disconnect. but look up here for a moment. Let me tell you something that's true of every one of us, we were all born dead. Did you know that? We were all born spiritually dead because spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God, and when you are born, you do not have a relationship with God, except for the protective custody of those who are under the age of accountability. We know about that, but spiritual death is simply your soul being separated from God. You don't have any relationship with him. You don't have fellowship with him. We are separated from him because of sin and the Bible says, "The wages of sin are death". When sin entered the world through Adam, it spread to everyone so that every unregenerate man and woman is dead spiritually, separated from God.
So, physical death is the separation of your soul from your body. Spiritual death is the separation of your soul from God. And then there's a third kind of death that's mentioned in the Bible and let me tell you something, this is the one you don't want to mess with. You don't want to experience this. Of all the other things I've said so far, please make sure you don't get on this list. This is called the second death. Even though it's the third on our list, it's called the second death and we read about it in the book of Revelation. So, follow on the screen as I read from my from my copy of the Scripture. "And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the book of Life was cast into the lake of fire".
The last form of death, second death, is the final banishment from God, and the final misery of the wicked in hell, following the Great White Throne Judgment. In other words, physical death is the separation of your soul from your body. Spiritual death is the separation of your soul from God. The second death is the separation of your soul from God forever and ever, and ever, with no hope of it ever being changed. If you are born-again, you will never die spiritually. You will never, ever be separated from God. John 11:25 puts it this way, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, physically, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never, never die". So, if you want to live forever in the presence of God, you have to have two birthdays. You have to have your physical birthday, and you have to have a spiritual birthday.
If you are only born once, you will have to die twice. But if you are born twice, you will only ever have to think about dying once. That's the fact of death and the faces of death. Let me talk, most of all today, about the fear of death. I want to share with you some reasons this morning why, if you're a Christian, you should never really have to be tormented by the fear of death. There are only two ways you can ever face the future no matter what it is. You can face the future by faith, or you can face the future in fear. And if you know the Word of God, you will not have to be afraid. And there are several reasons why you won't have to be afraid of death that are presented clearly in the Word of God. And let me give them to you kind of one at a time and let's unpack them together.
Number one, you don't have to be afraid of death because the prince of death has been defeated, the prince of death has been defeated. Listen to the words of Hebrews chapter 2, verses 14 and 15. Listen carefully to every word. "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood," that is us, "Jesus Himself likewise shared in the same". In other words, he became flesh and blood. "That through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". The author of the book of Hebrews declares that Jesus has conquered death by death, and has freed us from the fear of death. When Christ, by his own death, paid the penalty for our sin, he took the sting out of the devil's condemnation. And when Jesus stepped out from the open tomb on Resurrection Sunday, Satan's defeat was absolutely certain. His weapon of death had been destroyed. He is still alive and active, but his failure is a foregone conclusion. He has to settle for winning the little battles because the war he started has already been lost to him forever. When Jesus came out of the grave victorious over death, he took death out of Satan's weaponry, and he can't hurt us with it anymore.
Number two, the power of death has been destroyed. 1 Corinthians 15 says it this way, "'O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?' The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ". In the book of Revelation, we are told that death has no part of any future that belongs to any believer. In fact, the Bible says, when we get to heaven, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall be no more death, not even physical death. The prince of death has been defeated, the power of death has been destroyed.
Here's the third one, the process of death has been described. Everywhere you go today, people want to know what's gonna happen after person dies. And all these wonderful books have been written by people who've come back from the grave. I don't know what to think about most of those. I'm sure you don't either. Some of them, I believe some of them, I think, have been for good book sales. But I don't have to read some modern book to know what happens when you die because the Bible tells me. And I want to tell you a little story here that will help you understand what I mean. Jesus told this story in the 16th chapter of the book of Luke and it offers a penetrating view of what happens after death. In fact, it may tell us more about life after death than any passage in the Scripture.
Here's the story, it's a parable Jesus told concerning two men, one rich and one poor. Now, the poor man's name we know, it was Lazarus. And we don't know the rich man's name, but we do know something about his lifestyle because Jesus tells us that this rich man wears the finest clothing, he eats the finest food, he has had the best, and he has let everyone know about it, even the beggars who lie at his gates trying to get some of the crumbs that he might drop to them. The poor man, Lazarus, who hopes to be thrown a few crumbs from the bountiful table is not only hungry, but the Scripture tells us, and this is pretty gross, that he's very ill, covered with sores, and the town dogs lick the sores on his body. He is one miserable creature, living a miserable existence.
Now watch, Lazarus does possess one thing that no one can take away from him and that is his love for God. The rich man possesses one thing, he can't keep, his life. Now, in the story Jesus tells, both men die, and on the other side of the gate that separates this life from eternity, the beggar, Lazarus, is carried by heavenly angels to the bosom of Abraham. Now he is kissed by the angels instead of licked by the dogs. The Bible just says that the rich man died. Did you know that when a believer dies, the angels come and carry that believer to God? When any of us who are believers pass from this life to the next, Almighty God dispatches angels to convey us into his presence. We won't simply be beamed up to heaven, we will be carried there by the angels. And this passage provides one of the euphemisms we employ for death.
We say, "The angels took him". It may sound like a cliche from some Victorian greeting card, but it's the biblical truth that's applied to believers in Christ. On the day when you wait for the curtains to be drawn on this life, God's messengers stand ready to bear you away on life's ultimate journey. On that journey, Christians will experience none of the travel worries we face. You won't get lost, I'm very thankful for that one. You won't miss the bus. There's no waiting for the next plane. God has a special angel assigned to bring you home and in the face of such assurance, why should you be afraid? The prince of death has been defeated, the power of death has been destroyed, the process of death has been described. And finally, the picture of death has been developed.
And there's no verse of Scripture that gives us more comforting information about it than Psalm 23:4 and that's why we love this whole psalm. The sheer beauty of this passage never fails to move us. I am certain that this verse has been read at more funerals than any other verse in the Bible. Its poetic phrases teach us several things. Here's what the verse teaches us, three things, number one, that death is a journey, not a destination. The Bible says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley". Death isn't a place that you go to, it's a place you go through to the other side. That's why Paul said, "Absent from the body, and present with the Lord," indicating that the two conditions are one in the same. Most of the time if we were accurate, we would say we're not afraid of death, we're just afraid of dying because we're afraid of what it's like, what the process is. But dying for a believer is not anything for us to fear.
First of all, the angels come and get us and it's only a temporary moment that we walk through to the other side. Number two, here's my favorite thing in this whole message, death is a shadow, not a reality. The Bible says it this way: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". Listen to this, Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of the great teachers of another generation, was driving home from the funeral of his first wife, and he had his children with them, and they were overwhelmed with grief. As he sought some way to comfort his children as they were standing at the corner, a huge moving van past them and its shadow swept over where they were standing. Dr. Barnhouse said, "Children, would you rather be run over by a truck or by its shadow"? And, of course, they said, "The shadow, it's harmless". He said, "Let me tell you something, kids. Two thousand years ago, the truck ran over Jesus Christ in order that only the shadow would have to run over us".
Isn't that a great thought? The truck ran over Jesus Christ, he suffered the death so that only the shadow has to run over us. The Bible says death is a shadow, not a reality. No longer is it true that we have to be afraid. For Jesus said, and I quote it again, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die". Third, from Psalm 23:4, death is this lonely, but you are never, never alone. And let me tell you something that's real... can I say this is really cool in this in this psalm? This is the little grammatical thing I want to share with you. Listen to me, this is how this psalm is laid out. In the first part of the psalm, the shepherd's psalmist is talking about the shepherd. He's describing it.
Here's how he talks he says, "He leads me, he restores me, he makes me to lie down in green pastures". And then all of a sudden, you get to the fourth verse and very abruptly, the third person becomes the second person. And David says, "You are with me". He moves from he to you. He quits talking about the shepherd and begins talking to him. "You are with me". We never walk that road alone. The provision that God has made for death is only applicable to those who put their trust in Christ. If you want to go to heaven when you die, you have to do something about it in the here and now. You don't get to heaven and make a choice. Your choice has to be made here and now. The Bible says that you must place your trust in Jesus Christ. If you will believe in him, he will give you eternal life as your gift. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I want to urge you today, don't play chicken with death. Don't sit back there and say, "Well, I don't need to do this now. There's some other time I can do it". Listen, you're not gonna ever hear another sermon like this the rest of your life 'cause the next time a sermon like this is gonna be preached, you won't hear it. What God has in store for those who put their trust in him is far beyond anything I have said to you today, but it's only for those who trust him. You say, "Well, that's pretty narrow". It's just as narrow as the Word of God makes it. I didn't make up the script, God did. He's offering us today this wonderful opportunity to put our trust in him, will you do it?