Jer 9:20-21 contains a call to lament, for ‘death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses.’ This could, in some ways, be perceived as what we have been experiencing in 2020 with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. Certainly, an awareness of death and the fear of death seem to have been rising as we witness a global pandemic for the first time in our lives, and the social and economic consequences of the pandemic will be felt for many years. But what is perhaps more alarming is how much panic and fear have become a part of people’s lives, for this is not how God wants us to live.
Heb 2:14-15 makes it plain that Jesus shared in our humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. People have been woken to the reality and possibility of death (often by persuasive rhetoric), but fear of death is not the only response we can have to this inevitable conclusion to life. Jesus has made a way for us to live without fear of death. Rom 8:15-17 makes it clear that God has liberated us and set us free. We can rest in God’s love for us and perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18) This is not a delusion, but a reality based on the fact that the reason for fear of death (punishment) has been removed.
We fear death largely because it is unknown and we are not sure what (if anything) lies beyond death. Some maintain there is nothing beyond death and therefore no reason to fear, but for those who believe in eternal life, there is the question of judgment and punishment (and blessing and reward). Christians believe that the death of Jesus meant He took our punishment and judgment and so we can face eternity with hope. His resurrection gives us the hope that we too will live beyond the decay of our mortal bodies. (1 Cor 15:50-56) There may still be apprehension (because we do not know with certainty what this new life will be like), but as Sara Groves sings in her poignant song ‘What Do I Know?’, ‘I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of him, that must be very good.’
To leave this world is to be with Jesus (John 14:1-4, Luke 23:39-43, 2 Cor 5:6-8) Ultimately, our lives and times are in God’s hands and therefore we have hope, not only for this life, but for life beyond death. No matter what happens to us, no matter that we are living through a pandemic, we can live without a fear of death, for Jesus has conquered sin, death and the grave. Don’t let the statistics, politicians or scientific advisors box you into a place of fear. Jesus has broken the power of him who holds the power of death and gives us the opportunity to experience eternal life.