“..And also that he might deliver and completely set free all those who through the haunting fear of death were held in bondage throughout the whole course of their lives.” These are the words used by the writer of the book of Hebrews to explain the epic power and dominion that death has held over mankind.
When we read the phrase “haunting fear of death,” it’s not only referencing the cessation of life. It’s also referencing anything having to do with loss itself. Whether it’s the loss of a car, the loss of a home, the loss of money, or simply the loss of our place in line. The bottom line is, we as human beings are deathly afraid of losing. We fear loss of any and everything. We even stress when we lose our train of thought. We struggle with loss because it symbolizes death to us, and no one wants to die, everyone wants to live. Even the martyr takes his own life with the warped expectation that he’ll have a better afterlife because of their valiant actions. The confused teenager takes their life to experience a life free from pain and disappointment. Each and every day, some person, somewhere on the planet, attempts to kill themselves, not because they want to die, but because they want to live.
Every person wants to live, but not every person wants to pursue life. Sadly, most people spend their limited time on this earth fighting to stay alive. And there’s a big difference between a person who pursues life and a person who fights to stay alive. For the person who fights to stay alive, “self-preservation” is the primary goal. That person’s life revolves around protecting themselves from life’s hurts, pains, and disappointments. They desperately want to experience life, but the fear of death paralyzes any and all attempts that they make to pursue it. As a result, this person enlists themselves in a lifelong fight to stay alive at any expense.
The person who pursues life sees things from a much different perspective. This person focuses on “the giving of self” as a primary means to life. They are motivated by the joy that springs from their obedience to Christ, and they challenge themselves to love others in ways that increase their faith. They make decisions, based not upon what they’ll gain in the end, but rather, whether the end will bring them closer to Christ. The person who pursues life has no need to fight to stay alive.
When the first man (Adam) ate of the forbidden fruit, it was an act of disobedience that brought death, sickness and disease into the world. Through one single act, death gained dominion over man. This left man with no other choice than to live his entire life “in bondage, haunted by the fear of death” as described in Hebrews. Ever since then, man has walked the earth engulfed by a prison of fear, marked by insecurities, paranoias, and an intense fight to stay alive. This is the death legacy passed down from Adam. But when Jesus Christ died on the cross, the death sentence that once loomed over man finally was repealed. This removed death’s legal power and dominion over man. And with death no longer occupying legal power and dominion over man, man no longer needed to fight (or fear) death. Therefore, for the man who is “born again” (born of the Spirit of Christ), he can rest assured in knowing that the power of death that once plagued him finally has been overcome.
I would love to report that Christians no longer struggle with the fear of death or death-related issues; but of course, that is not the case. Many Christians, though spiritually redeemed and made anew in Christ, still walk in that remnant of fear, which for thousands of years was interwoven into the fabric of humanity. Before Christ, fear permeated every aspect of man’s being, from how he related to God, all the way down to how he related to people (even himself). But Jesus took away man’s “life of fear” and substituted it with “a life of faith.” That’s what Christians call “the good news.” The “not so good news” is that the obsession with fear that once dominated man for so many years didn’t depart from him so quickly.
Unfortunately, for many Christians, the fear of death still holds the same power that it had over them when they were in bondage to the law of sin and death. As a result, we see Christians in the world today living lives dominated by the fear of death. We see Christians living lives dominated by the fear of unhappiness. We see Christians living lives dominated by the fear of hurt. We see Christians living lives dominated by the fear of loneliness. All of these fears are sourced from man’s central and most prolific fear; the fear of death.
As Christians, we must work through our own death-related fears in order to love in ways that God calls us to. If a husband or wife fears their own death, fights to stay alive, or puts a greater premium on their own life than they do their spouse’s life, they’ll never walk at the level of freedom necessary to sacrifice their life. This is an individual’s first step towards love. They must confront their own fear of death. So tell me, “Are you afraid to die?”