“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” -Hebrews 2:14-15
Fear is a real thing. Your fears keep you from doing those things which might or really would take your life. Other fears bring you worry and anxiety, impacting your health and shortening your life. I think we can safely say fear is a universal human trait. Fears do protect you; they also produce adrenaline, propelling you beyond yourself to greater accomplishments. Fear brings consternation, but it also guides your path through life.
Fear for their own lives drove Jesus’ disciples into hiding after the crucifixion. They had been recognized as associates of Jesus when He was arrested and tried, so the same could certainly happen to them. They were petrified of being discovered by Pilate’s soldiers, who I imagine were actually searching for them, especially after Pilate’s tomb-guarding soldiers lied about what happened. Pilate and the Jewish leaders wanted terribly to find the missing body of Jesus.
One of the greatest proofs of Jesus’ resurrection, then, was this sudden and dramatic flight of fear from these disciples, transformed immediately into bold and fearless witnesses to a living Lord. They were now more than willing to suffer martyrdom for His sake.
They were transformed from petrified characters in hiding into bold communicators of Jesus and His gospel. All except John became martyrs for His kingdom, though John was equally willing. Young John instead lived to see the return of his Lord, as Jesus prophesied in John 21, in his majestic vision on the Isle of Patmos after all the other disciples were already in glory.
Consider this transformation from abysmal fear to bold expanders of the church, which was exploding exponentially in the world, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Fear was erased and boldness was magnified; this was a sure proof that the resurrection really happened. These followers of Jesus lost all fear of death, which is, after all, the greatest fear of most.
Death suggests to your fearful imagination an utter isolation. This is due to what you experience when a loved one takes their final breath. When my late wife breathed her last, all communication between us ended; then we knew she would not smile upon us the next moment or the next day. We experienced an awful isolation from her companionship, her love, her intimate self with us.
In a moment, she became to us a lifeless, inanimate body. We personally see and feel such isolation immensely. We grieve this separation from our loved one. We are not party to her immediate experience of Paradise.
This feeling of isolation then is translated to your own memory when you reach this portal yourself. For this very reason, you should not avoid thinking of your own death in light of Scripture. Instead of its promises, many pursue vapid entertainment in its place so as not to think about the ugliness and sorrow of death itself.
Banish the fear of death by your faith. For the Christian, it is but a momentary separation not beset by the dreariness of slow-moving time. It is timeless waiting, which I imagine is no wait at all. This “death” is rather an exciting entrance to a life in eternity with those you love and who love you, not the least of which is your Savior.
Overcoming fear of death is one of the believer’s obtainable goals of their growth in grace. Meditate on the promises surrounding this river crossing of death to life. You will not drown! Your feet will reach dry ground, and a great welcoming crowd will cheer your arrival.
“I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless; ills have no weight and tears no bitterness. Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still if Thou abide with me.”
(Fourth verse of Henry Lyte’s hymn, “Abide with Me,” 1847)
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