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Why Do People Fear Death?

Why do people fear death?  Death is the one certainty in life.  One day, we are all going to die.  We do not know when that day will come.  It may be decades away, or it may be before you finish reading this article.  There is simply no way of knowing.

Much of the fear surrounding the current Covid crisis is based on the fear of death.  We are afraid to die and think, even though the facts are against it, that catching Covid will bring about our death.  Covid is a painful virus, to be sure, but the vast majority of people who do contract it fully recover.  Nevertheless, people are being manipulated through the fear of death by Covid to surrender all types of liberties that will be difficult, if not impossible, to recover later.

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So why do people fear death?  Why do you fear death?  Why do I fear death?  Death is the great unknown.  It is something that we cannot control, but we know we will have to face.  We like to maintain the illusion that we are in control.  Death shatters that illusion.  We can no longer pretend to be in control of even our own lives.  

Death has been with the human race for so long that we think of it as a natural part of life.  Something in us rebels at that thought, though.  We instinctively know that we were intended for more.  The fact is, death is unnatural.  It goes against our original design.  We look at the reason for that in our article: What Is Death?

Why do people fear death?  What can be done about it?

Why Do People Fear Death?

1.  For many people, it represents an unknown.  What we don’t know, we fear.

2.  It is beyond our control.  By foolish actions or suicide, we can enter death early, but no matter what we do, we cannot guarantee even a second more of life.

3.  It will definitely be a dramatic change.  We tend to dislike or have anxiety over change, especially if we don’t know what will happen.

4.  It is a separation from family, friends, and everything we know now.  It is not like moving to a new country with its culture shock.  This is total separation.  There is no communication from beyond the grave.  [People who claim they can communicate with the dead fall into one of two categories.  They will be talented charlatans or in contact with demonic spirits - either way, it is not the real deceased they are communicating with.]

5.  While we may have family and friends around us as we are dying, we ultimately face this foe alone.  There is no hand to hold going through that doorway…and death is a doorway.

6.  Some have a specific fear of going to hell, a place of eternal torment.

7.  The fear of death can be a loud warning of danger.  For example, most people have a fear of placing their hands on a hot stove.  They know that it will both hurt and damage them - perhaps permanently.  They take precautions to avoid burning themselves.  The fear of death can be a warning call from God to get non-Christians to think about the eternal consequences of their actions and the horrible danger they are in.

8.  For the Christian, the fear of death can be an attack of the devil to have them living in anxiety.  The devil loves to torment Christians and render them ineffective in the Kingdom of God.

Should You Fear Death?

Many people try to comfort themselves with either the thought of death leading to nonexistence - no pleasure, no pain - or with some version of a heavenly paradise.  This can lead to false comfort and false security - neither of which will change reality.  I think of the popular song with the lyrics along the line of when he gets to the gates, he knows St. Peter will let him in but he doesn’t know why.  That is a cruel concept leading people into false security.

The idea of death leading to nonexistence is an excuse to live selfish, self-centred lives without having to worry about consequences later.  God is eternal.  Everything He creates will existent, in one form or another, forever.  Unlike God, we have a beginning, but like God, we will never have an ending.

Death is only a doorway from this world into another world beyond.  It is a doorway with only two possible destinations: heaven or hell.  Once through death’s opening, a person is locked into their decision forever.  There is no second chance.  There is no purgatory.  It is a conscious existence forever - ultimately in an indestructible body.

just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, Heb. 9:27, NIV

Should we fear death?  The answer to that question depends on our destination.  

If our destination is hell, we should fear death.  The worst atrocities we hear about or experience now are only shadows of what is coming…and there will be no escape through death because we are already dead.  No escape, no change.  Some fools say, “I want to go to hell because that is where all my friends are.”  They reveal their total ignorance of reality.  Every good gift we have comes from God.  None of God’s blessings exist in hell.  For example, friendship is a gift from God, everyone in hell is a bitter enemy no matter what their relationship is now.  Health is a gift from God, hell is sickness and chronic pain forever.  Purpose and enjoyment of life are gifts from God; in hell there is total boredom, frustration, meaninglessness and depression.  And so on…

Some people try to get over the fear of death by deluding themselves into thinking God will let them into heaven because they are basically good people.  The fact is every human being ever born, except Jesus Christ, has been born with hell as the default setting.  It takes a conscious choice to move the setting from hell to heaven.  We all deserve hell.  People who think their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds at the judgment are not even thinking logically.  What would you think of a murderer standing before a judge with his only defence that he gave a lot of money to charity and there were a lot of people he could have killed, but didn’t?  The judge only cares whether he committed the crime, not what else he did or did not do.  The judgment book on each one of us lists every wrong thought, word, and deed we have done since birth to the moment of death.  Even one bad item is enough to get the sentence of hell.  [God is perfect and can only live with perfect people.]  Still think your good deeds are enough to get you into heaven?

[To see how to change your default setting, read this report:  Introduction To The Christian Life.]

Should you fear death if you are a Christian?  No.  Death anxiety should not be a part of your life.  The verse after the one quoted above states:

so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Heb. 9:28, NIV

Jesus Christ came and died for all your wrong deeds.  That means when the Judge looks at the sheet of charges, He sees a blank page.  All your sins - past, present, future - have been placed to the account of Jesus Christ as if He had committed them.  And He has already suffered and died for them.  A just Judge cannot punish twice for the same offence.  Because your record is clear, you will pass through death’s doorway into heaven and into the arms of Jesus, Who loved you enough to die for you.  Death holds no fear for you!

Why do people fear death?  They are afraid because they either don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, or they have accepted Jesus but they don’t have confidence in their new position.

We take a detailed, Scriptural look at the issues involved in Death and the Afterlife in our free email course: Death And Beyond.

For more information about Glenn Davis, see our About Glenn page or visit Glenn Davis Books.

Sign up for our free monthly newsletter or take one of our free Bible Study courses.

Please note: We no longer have the commenting feature [maybe again in the future].  Joshua Institute students who have questions or comments on their courses can use the contact button and mention the course name and lesson number in the email.  Thank you.  Glenn

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