By: Eli Ayala
Death, the great enemy. It takes hold of all whether young or old. It comes upon us sometimes expectedly or unexpectedly. It does not ask permission to sweep us away from this life. It cares not of our plans, goals, and dreams. Like an uninvited visitor, it bursts into our comfort, into our ambitions, into our “safe spaces.” Death plunges us into the great unknown. Many have sought a glimpse into the other side, indeed, many have claimed they have seen the other side and have returned to tell the tale. Regardless, all of us can resonate with the idea that with death comes the fear of non-existence, the fear of permanent loss. Death is a dreadful enemy indeed.
In his book “Evidence for the Resurrection”, apologist Sean McDowell summarizes well in 6 reasons why human beings fear death:
1. Death is mysterious and unknown.
2. We have to face death alone.
3. We are separated from our loved ones.
4. Our personal hopes and dreams will not be realized.
5. Death raises the possibility that we will be annihilated.
6. Death is unavoidable.
However, death is not to be understood independent of a worldview perspective. It is possible to see death in a better light. Within the context of atheism, death is the end. Many have sought to comfort themselves by asserting that because of our finitude we are in a better position to appreciate this life and live with courage, passion, and virtue. But if this life is all there is, what value is there in facing this meaningless life in which even one’s expressions of courage, passion, and virtue are ultimately “sound and fury signifying nothing” as Shakespeare wrote? If this life is nothing more than a purposeless, meaningless blip on the radar with no hope in the end, then why does it matter how we live our lives in the present? All is meaninglessly moving towards the blackness of death and non-existence.
Death within the context of the Christian world and life view is not as bleak as the atheistic picture of reality. Indeed, on the Christian worldview, death is an enemy, but an enemy defeated. Given the Christian context, death entered this world through sin which separated man from his maker. Death was the penalty of man’s disobedience (Romans 6:23), it was the physical expression of the spiritual reality of separation (2 Corinthians 5:8): As physical death separates man’s body and soul (the body being buried in the ground, and the soul returning to the Lord, or being separated from the Lord) so does spiritual death separate man from God. And the only hope of reconciling man to his maker is Jesus Christ, who came to earth (as God in flesh, John 1:1, 14), lived a perfect life thus obeying God’s Law perfectly (1 Peter 2:22), died the death only he could die while “bearing our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24), and was raised to life again after 3 days (1 Corinthians 15:4).
On the Christian picture of reality, man may appear to be enslaved to the dreadful master, death; but in actuality, death is a slave to God. God has demonstrated that he is the master over death by raising Jesus from the dead, and promising to do the same for all those who are in Christ Jesus through faith. Death placed within the context of the Christian worldview is something every believer can confront with the knowledge that its fangs and ferocity have been removed such that the apostle Paul could rhetorically ask: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Granted, the fact that it’s the Christian worldview that can provide for us a way of viewing death in a different and more optimistic light doesn’t demonstrate that Christianity is true (that is done through means of argumentation and evidence), but it does go a long way in encouraging believers to confront death as a conquered enemy and remind them that it is because of Christ that we can live this life with hope and objective meaning and purpose, which spills over into eternity. Lastly, the hopeful picture of the Christian worldview can provide an existentially better alternative to unbeliever’s who grapple with the darkness and bleakness of a world without God.