Most recent generations have exhibited a widespread unwillingness to face the reality of death, and perhaps none more so than ours. People constantly attempt to cover it up or to ignore its existence in the hope that perhaps it will just go away. But of all people, Christians ought to be prepared to do what many will not: look death full in the face and acknowledge that there is no way to deny it and there is no way to escape it—but that there is also no need to, for it has been defeated.
Indeed, Christianity changes the way we view everything. The Bible confronts us with the reality that life is brief, death is certain, and judgment awaits. But we also have within the Scriptures clear, wonderful, and guiding statements concerning how to think of a believer’s death.
For the Christian, death’s sting is drawn. Consider it in this way: if you’ve ever gone outside with a little one and an angry wasp comes around, you will purposely put yourself between the child and the wasp to take or “draw” the sting. Once that’s done, the child has nothing to fear. So Jesus, through His work on the cross, has dealt with the penalty of our sin. He has broken the bondage of sin’s power in our lives. He has drawn the sting of sin and death. Christ’s victory is our victory; death has been defeated. We shall still experience death, but we shall pass through it. It shall not claim us.
Scripture uses the picture of sleep to describe a Christian who has died, for sleep is a temporary, not a permanent, state. And it uses it in relationship to our bodies, not our souls. In one of his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul says, “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). In other words, we may say to Jesus what many young children say to their moms or dads at bedtime: “Will you stay with me while I fall asleep?” And Jesus says, Yes, I will. But even better than that, I will be with you in that sleep. To fall asleep—to die—in Christ means we are ushered immediately into His presence, into the enjoyment of the Lord in glory.
Jesus is alive, and every new day can remind us of His resurrection. Every morning, we awaken to a new sunrise as a reminder of that glorious day when the trumpet will sound, the dead in Christ will rise first, and all who are alive and remain on earth will be caught up together with them. As believers, we have been born again with the living hope that because Jesus Christ was victorious over the grave, we will forever be with Him. That is how we look at death: we look through it. And once we are able to die without fear, we are able to live without it too.