By Jon Kauffman
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, Jesus too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14, 15. NIV
I am currently reading the “Case for Heaven” by Lee Strobel. 1.
In the first chapter, Lee interviews Clay Butler Jones, DMin, and provides many quotes concerning the fear of death.
Harvard researchers released a new study documenting that attendance at religious services dramatically reduces deaths from suicide, drugs, and alcohol. Attending services at least once a week cut these so-called “deaths by despair” by 33 percent among men and a whopping 68 percent among women, compared to those who never attended services.
“People often talk about an epidemic of suicide,” concluded Jones, “but the real epidemic is the increasing rejection of a robust belief in an afterlife. That’s what is miring more and more people in hopelessness. 2.
Strobel and Jones discussed methods people use to gain immortality. For example, they may have children or build something great or track down their genealogy. But the fear of death remains.
In his book, Clay Jones quotes an exchange between atheist Richard Wade and a spiritual skeptic named Anne, who wrote to say that her fear of death was causing her such severe panic attacks that she would almost pass out.3.
Faced with the abject failure of various attempts to achieve immortality apart from God, many atheists have taken another approach to dealing with the fear of death. Maybe, they say, dying isn’t so bad after all. Perhaps it’s actually better than the idea of immortality. Maybe the grave is a blessing in disguise. “They try to paper over the fear of death by maintaining that they wouldn’t want to live forever anyway,” Jones said to me. “They claim that eternal life would be supremely boring.4.
Jones pointed out that heaven will not be boring, “if heaven is real, then God will make all things new, and he will be continually creating a world of joy and wonder for us. If God can create all the beauty and excitement of our current universe, he’s certainly capable of creating an eternally stimulating and rewarding experience for his followers in the new heaven and the new earth.” A Bible verse that says as much popped into my mind: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”5.
But what if heaven is not real? As philosopher Thomas Nagel said, “if life is all we have, then losing it would be ‘the greatest loss we can sustain.’”6.
As a physician wrote in Psychology Today, ‘I’ve tried to resolve my fear of death intellectually and come to the conclusion that it can’t be done, at least by me.’”
….Christianity, in contrast, offers the best possible outcome for followers of Christ after they pass from this world. Reveling in God’s presence. Reuniting with loved ones. Living without tears or struggles or fears. Experiencing a wondrous world of adventure, excitement, and exploration. Contentment, joy, love—forever. It’s no wonder that even the atheist philosopher Luc Ferry concedes, “I grant you that amongst the available doctrines of salvation, nothing can compete with Christianity—provided, that is, that you are a believer.” 7.
Caeli, the author of the “Modconspiracy” blog recently said in her post “Life on ‘D’ Street”:
I was one who feared death and hell. Though I lived a life fit for that dreaded place, the fear of the unknown would come to haunt me at night. That was what life in D Street (Matthew 7:13b) was for me before I decided to take permanent residency on ‘C’ Street (Isaiah 35:8, John 14:6)…. When you become a new creation, the fear of death loses its power. Fear of the unknown only remains when the soul has no certainty on its destination. Death is like closing your eyes to sleep.8.
“There are no atheists in foxholes.” War correspondent Ernie Pyle may have been the first of many to use this quote. This quote demonstrates that when death is lurking nearby, people often turn to God.
Susan Kelley performed a study, “Are There Atheists in Foxholes? Combat Intensity and Religious Behavior,” and found many World War II veterans participate in religious activities and even today (75-95 years of age) are still deeply involved in religious activity.9.
My fear of death is the number 1 reason I searched for Jesus and wanted a “born again” experience. Before my rebirth, I gave very little thought to serving Jesus or a relationship with him. Before finding salvation in Jesus, I was terrified of death. Perhaps that is why I was blind to the fact that Jesus required that I forgive those who have harmed me. See “Is it Possible to Forgive?”
But Jesus is the antidote to the terror of death. I know from experience. Soon after I experienced the rebirth, I nearly drowned swimming in a river. I tried to swim too far. My arms and legs were weak, I could no longer swim, I was sinking, and had no hope of rescue. I felt a great calm and knew I would see Jesus soon. Suddenly a fisherman who could swim like a fish grabbed my arm and rescued me.
Many atheists claim they have no fear of death. I wonder, is it true?
1.Lee Strobel, The Case for Heaven, A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for Life After Death. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2021)
2.Strobel, Case for Heaven, Page 12.
3.Strobel, Case for Heaven, Page 17.
4.Strobel, Case for Heaven, Page 20.
5.Strobel, Case for Heaven, Page 21.
6.Strobel, Case for Heaven, Page 22.
7.Strobel, Case for Heaven, Page 23.
8.Caeli, Modconspriacy, “Life on ‘D’ Street”, WordPress, 2021
9.Susan Kelley, No Atheists in Foxholes: WWII Vets Remain Religious. (Cornell Chronicle,2013)
Copyright © 2021 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.