Have you ever thought about death? Have you ever thought about eternity? Have you every thought so long and hard about either (or both) of those subjects that you get a nice, big knot in the pit of your stomach, your heart starts to race and your breath gets short because you just can’t understand it? Phew…I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.
Death is scary. There is no getting around it. Yet the Bible tells us, very explicitly, that we are not to fear it. In fact, we are to rejoice in death, a life event on which Paul reflects in his letter to the Philippians:
Philippians 1:21-24: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Paul minces no words here. If given the choice between staying on the Earth and departing – dying – to be with Jesus, he would choose death. In fact, he looks upon his departure from the Earth so favorably that he says death is far better than to ‘remain in the flesh,’ or stay alive. Paul did not fear death; he looked forward to it. So then why do we fear it?
Enoch is another man who looked forward to death. Enoch was an Old Testament prophet who, with great persistence, sought after the Will of God. Enoch is unique because he is one of very few Bible characters who was translated – lifted straight from Earth and into Heaven without ‘dying.’ His ‘death’ is glossed over in Genesis 5:24: “…And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him,” and further explained by the author of Hebrews:
Hebrews 11:5: “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Smith Wigglesworth explains the circumstances of Enoch’s escape from death beautifully in one of his sermons:
“Enoch walked with God. That must have been all those years as he was penetrating, and going through, and laying hold, and believing and seeing and getting into such close cooperation and touch with God that things moved on earth and he began to move toward heaven. At last it was not possible for him to stop any longer. Oh, Hallelujah!” (www.smithwigglesworth.com/sermons/ftp1.htm).
Enoch strived to see the things of Heaven come to Earth. He spent such time and effort reaching for the things of Heaven that God plucked him up and gathered him into his bosom. God will do the same with us when we die. If Enoch was not afraid, then we shouldn’t be either!
Paul and Enoch had complete faith that the eternal life that follows death is far better than anything we could ever imagine. Anything you have learned to love on this Earth – nice meals, fancy cars, the company of loved ones – is but a shadow of everything that we, those who believe in Jesus Christ, are destined to experience in Heaven.
We are meant to look forward to death. The Bible describes heaven as a place crafted out of pure gold, where there is no need for a sun or a moon because the glory of God Himself illuminates everything (Revelation 21:18-23). Jesus Christ Himself tells all those who call Him Lord and Savior that He will personally prepare a place for us in heaven (John 14:1-3). Why, then, do we fear something that Jesus Christ has already conquered (Hebrews 2:14-15)?
We have to make a conscious choice every time the fear of death rears its ugly head. We can choose fear, or we can choose peace. The Bible talks about a peace that surpasses all understanding:
Philippians 4:7: “…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I believe this passage is often misinterpreted. This text is not talking about a peace that is so peaceful that we just won’t be able to understand it. The text is talking about a peace that is better than understanding. The text is explaining the choice that all of us must make whenever we find ourselves in a difficult situation. We can choose peace, or we can choose to try and understand everything that is happening around us. The text also explains that choosing peace always surpasses (is always better than) choosing understanding.
Trying to understand death will only result in fear. My prayer is that all of us, every day, would choose to let God handle the deep thinking. Paul and Enoch chose peace, and they faced death not with fear and trembling, but with eager anticipation. Let us choose peace.
by Pastor Mike White