This week I and a handful of others started a discussion on Heaven using Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. I am really excited to begin exploring Heaven and eternity. I have hopes of growing even deeper in my love for God and my relationship with Jesus. As a result I have spent some time chewing on death versus dying. I know many who believe there is no afterlife – when we die we get placed in the dirt or burnt to ash and there is no more, nothing, nada, zilch; we simply cease to exist. Yet, the sense we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history. Australian aborigines pictured Heaven as a distant island beyond the western horizon. Mexicans, Peruvians, and Polynesians believed they went to the sun or the moon after death. In the pyramids of Egypt, the embalmed bodies had maps placed beside them as guides to the future world. Although these depictions of the afterlife differ, the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death. Anthropological evidence suggests every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal –this world is not all there is.
Is the fear of death the same as the fear of dying? I suspect they’re 2 different things; intertwined for certain, yet different. I know as a Christian I should not fear death, because Jesus came to deliver us from the fear of death, “so that by his death he might destroy 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.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Honestly, I have had a fear of death for years. The whole works versus faith and grace theology can certainly set one on a spin. I came to know the Lord, in a works based church. Works being defined as serving out of obligation, not lying, not cheating, not stealing, obeying the 10 Commandments and obeying all the “thou shall’s” and not doing all the “thou shall not’s”. I was so afraid if I didn’t confess a sin, because I’d forgotten I did the dastardly deed, Hell would be my final destination. I feared the day of Judgment as I pictured a Heaven sized plasma screen revealing all my sins to the world; oh my the shame of it all.
Then I began attending a grace-based church, which taught the grace of God’s goodness and mercy. Here I learned my faith in Jesus Christ is what determines my eternal home. I learned the outpouring of my love for Jesus would produce, should produce, good works. There is nothing I can or cannot do from a “thou shall or thou shalt not” perspective which would guarantee me a place in Heaven. The gift of eternal life with Jesus is a free gift offered willingly to us by God through his son Jesus. I only needed to accept his gift with a surrendered and willing heart. What a difference! However, because of my upbringing and my prior indoctrination in God’s word, at times I still wrestle with works versus faith and grace. The enemy knows my weak spots and never misses a chance to poke me in those tender spots. As I’ve aged and grown in the Lord, I have become more comfortable with death.
As for dying, I think we all fear the process just a little. We don’t know how we will leave this world. Will we move on in our sleep? Will we move on as a result of some horrific tragedy, illness, or will old age simply catch up with us? What about those things we’ve left undone? I want to know my loved ones will be okay and to know I am not leaving anything of vital importance left undone. I want to know I will be meeting God face-to-face rather than the alternative. I do not desire to suffer a painful exit, and would simply love to go to sleep and awake in the presence of Jesus. Nowhere in life are we given assurances to the outcome. The only 100% certainty in this life is we will eventually cease to exist in this present life; every single one of us. The promise of an eternity with a God who would send his only son to die a cruel and horrible death so I, Sandra (and you too) might live with Him is something for which I/we can look forward. The enemy would have me doubt and fear. But when my day comes to leave planet earth for an eternal destination, all my doubts and all my fears will cease.
Until next time,
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God…”