I have two words for people who fear death so much, they can’t enjoy life: Merry Christmas. These words offer hope to a once hopeless world because through the miracle of Christmas, God has arranged it so that no one has to be afraid to die anymore. The Bible says “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’
But let’s examine how death fits into the picture in the first place. “Death came into the world,” the Bible says, because of what one man (Adam) did, and it is because of what this other man, (Christ) has done; now there is the resurrection from the dead.” (1 Corinthians 16.)
In essence by coming back from the grave, Christ rendered death moot. It was set in motion by sin, and that couldn’t change. But because Christ rose, we now know death is not final. It no longer has a hold on us. It can’t hurt us anymore. It’s lost its “sting.” Our Savior, Jesus, has vanquished death, and the Bible affirms the good news. Isaiah 25:8 tells us the Lord “will swallow up death forever.” David says “God has delivered my soul from death.” John says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn (it), but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jesus, Himself says, “Don’t be afraid. I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death.” Rev. 1:18. TEV and Paul says, “He has ended the power of death, and through the gospel has revealed immortal life.” (2Tim 1:10 TEV ) but probably spells it out best for us worrywarts by explaining, “He became flesh and blood to destroy the devil, who has the power over death, and in this way set free those who were (are) slaves all their lives because of their fear of death.”
Because the scary part for most of us isn’t so much the dying—but what comes afterwards: final judgment. Our sins make us fear and tremble at the thought of the Almighty. And that’s the worry that Jesus has done away with. By coming to earth and suffering for us, Jesus has removed the fear because He’s removed the sin. Jesus stood in for us, was judged, paid our debt, and God accepted his offering. In that magnanimous effort, our sin slate was wiped clean, and our ability to say “No” to sin and (spiritual) death were secured.
So if we accept Jesus, following His Word as best we can and begging His forgiveness when we fail, we have no reason to fear God’s wrath—and can stand before Him without quaking. We have Jesus’ promise on that: “I assure you,” He tells us, “those who listen to my message, and believe in God who sent me shall have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.”
As if that weren’t good news enough, there’s more. Because our old sinful selves were joined with Jesus and died with him, they will also rise with Him. “For I will live again,” Jesus explained, “and you will, too.”
Okay, but that doesn’t mean the bodies we’re in now won’t go the way of all flesh. On the contrary, we are temporary people. We are destined to expire. The Bible says “Yet, even though Christ lives within you, your body will die because of sin; but your spirit will live, for Christ has pardoned it.” So it’s as though we get rid of our outer casing which was dust in the first place and will decompose back to dust, and free up the other part of us, our spirit, to be joined to the new improved bodies Paul tells us about.
Actually, Paul says that getting rid of these earthly bodies is a prerequisite to getting into heaven. He says, “These perishable bodies are not the right kind to live forever.” And if that’s the case, why anguish about letting them go?
Indeed, because of God’s immense love for us, and what happened in that stable long ago, we don’t have to agonize over losing our bodies or our souls. “We will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment,” the Bible says, “but can face Him with confidence and joy because he loves us…. And His perfect love eliminates all dread of what he might do to us.” So we can take death—and for that matter, the struggles and pain of life—off our worry list for good. We no longer have to behave like “cowering, fearful slaves,” anxious about living and petrified of dying because Jesus gives us the strength to survive one and has broken the bond of the other. So let’s exchange fear and terror for faith and hope. Let’s rejoice in what Christ’s birth and death accomplished. And let’s never stop thanking God for the gift of Jesus, because as the choirs and carolers remind us each year in their songs of praise: “Man will live forever because of Christmas Day.”