Tag Archives: death

If Christians believe in heaven, why do we still fear death?

Christians believe that when we die we will be resurrected with new bodies. But just like other people, we try to avoid it.

Change can be unnerving, and death is the ultimate unknown. We spend our entire lives investing ourselves in this world, assuming that our investment is meaningful. Death challenges that investment. It seems to deny the ultimate value of careers, possessions, friends, and families. Christians have to face this harsh reality just as much as unbelievers, and while faith in resurrection offers comfort, it isn’t easy to imagine how a future life can offer continuity with our investment in this one.

As human beings, resistance to death is physically and instinctively ingrained in us. Recently our family made the difficult decision to euthanize a pet terrier dying painfully of cancer. As I cuddled her in my arms, the veterinarian gave her an injection of anesthesia to relax her and put her to sleep in preparation for the fatal dose of barbiturate that would follow. She was afraid. She fought the drug’s relaxing effect, looking at me and making heart-rending sounds.

Deeply bonded with our little dog, I rocked her like a child until she gave in to the medication and fell asleep. It wasn’t easy. Knowing that life was departing from a little creature that was a cherished part of our family for nearly twenty years brought deep feelings of sadness and loss. Yet losing our little terrier, Effie, didn’t compare to the loss of parents and other human relatives we had experienced in recent years.

Humans easily overlook how much of our experience isn’t under rational control. Our emotional life (including our affection, joy, anger, and fear) is as influenced by instinct and hormones as by imagination and reason. The life within us, like that in our little terrier, reflexively seeks to avoid death. Our hopes and beliefs transcend death, but as physical creatures, we resist it.

Death reduces living bodies to physical objects—soon to become decaying corpses. It mocks relationships, personhood, and hopes (John 11:38–39). Facing the ugly physical and emotional reality of a close friend’s death, Jesus wept (John 11:32–25). The apostle Paul viewed death with such seriousness that he referred to it as the “last enemy” that the kingdom of Christ will overcome (1 Corinthians 15:25–26). Even when Christians approach death with faith and hope that has been reinforced by God’s faithfulness through a lifetime of experiences, facing such a hideous enemy is never just a dispassionate decision. It is a time for courage.

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Why did God Give our Pets Such Short Life Spans?

Although land tortoises can live over 150 years and parrots sometimes live as long as people, most pets have short life spans Perhaps the Lord gave our pets short life spans to keep us from getting more attached to them than to our fellow human beings. Since the love of some intelligent pets for their human masters is remarkably unconditional, they often establish a deep emotional connection with us. In fact, we sometimes find it easier to love them unconditionally than each other.

The emotional impact of the death of a family’s pet is like the loss of any family member, though on a lesser scale. It offers opportunities for learning important lessons in preparation for future losses that will be worse. The grief at a pet’s death can bring an awareness of our need for deeper relationships with the people in our lives.

 

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Does the Bible Assure We Will Reunite with Loved Ones Who Preceded Us in Death?

The Bible doesn’t offer any details about relationships in heaven. Based on the words of Jesus and the New Testament writers, we can be confident that heaven will be a far better place than anything we have experienced in this life and will include reunion with people we love.

The rich man recognized Lazarus even though they were in different places and separated by a great gulf (Luke 16:19-31). The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, though the two great prophets lived many centuries earlier (Matthew 17:1-5). Jesus told the repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (nkjv). The apostle Paul said that we will someday have more knowledge than we have now, implying that we will have greater knowledge of other people than now (1 Corinthians 13:12). He also said that it is “far better” to depart and to be with Christ than to remain on earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:22-23).

Christ will be the heavenly Bridegroom and believers will fellowship with Him as His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7-9). There will be no marriage or reproduction in heaven (Matthew 22:23-33), but the fact that God will resurrect us as individuals (See the ATQ article, Does God Value Individuality?) implies we will recognize each other as individuals and remember earthly relationships.

We will no longer need the exclusive relationships that protect us from loneliness and despair in this fallen world, but since heaven is a place of greater and fuller experience than our current life, we will still know and cherish our earthly loved ones. The joys and ecstasy of marital and family love will be far surpassed by perfect intimacy and trust. Perfected bodies and minds will find fulfillment in perfected relationships and a full sense of heavenly joy and gratitude to God.

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Is There a State of Existence Between Death and Resurrection?

The New Testament doesn’t give a detailed description of what has been called “the intermediate state” of those who die as Christians. The focus of the apostle Paul is on the wonder and joy of the resurrection ( Romans 8:18-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ). However, he said that to die is gain because it is to “be with Christ” ( Philippians 1:21-23 ), and that to be away from the earthly body is to be “at home with the Lord” ( 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ). Another significant passage is Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross that when he died he would be with Him in “paradise” ( Luke 23:43 ).

It’s likely that even in the intermediate state we will have some kind of body. Paul said that at death “we have a building from God” ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 ). Man was created to be whole only as a being with a body.

These strong assurances that death brings us into the immediate presence of God are comforting. They clearly imply that Christians who have passed on are enjoying a conscious state of blessedness in God’s presence.

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How Can a Decomposed Body Be Resurrected?

A body buried in a wooden casket would normally be entirely decomposed after a few hundred years, depending upon the conditions of the soil. Similarly, a seaman buried at sea would leave no traces. (Not a trace seems to remain of all of those who went down with the Titanic, for instance.)

The apostle Paul made it clear that our new body, though possessing some identity with our mortal body, will be a new “spiritual body” ( 1 Corinthians 15:35-44 ). God will not need to gather up the scattered molecules of our earthly bodies. (Remember that the bodies of many Christians have already decomposed, been completely destroyed by fire, or have been devoured by animals.) Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 doesn’t refer to a bizarre scene in which the ashes in funerary urns or decayed bodies in earthly graves are suddenly reconstituted. Rather, the resurrection is the wonderful occasion in which believers who have died will again be granted full bodily form, this time in a glorified heavenly body that can never again die or experience decay.

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