What the Bible Says About Death
I bent over my mother as she lay on the hospital bed taking her last breaths. “We have done everything we can for your mother,” the doctor whispered, shaking his head, “I’m so sorry.” My father slumped beside his dying wife holding her hand in his as tears ran down his face. And I was crying too as we watched her blood pressure continue falling lower and lower on the screen that monitored her vital signs. My husband slipped out into the hall to call the family.
We all knew that my mother had a bad heart, but we weren’t prepared for this final ending since it happened so fast. One minute she was so alive, laughing and loving, so involved with her family. And the next minute she was gone. How fragile is this mysterious gift of life! Scripture says our life is like a mist. “…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14b)
We all live knowing that someday we will die – someday our loved ones will die. We fear death - dance around it- play games and pretend it isn’t there. And then death comes and separates us from our loved one. And because we can’t see the loved one or physically feel their touch any longer, we fear that they have vanished – that maybe they no longer exist!
The Bible tells us that a person who dies still exists afterwards but is in another place. Scripture says: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8) If we have a loved one who has died, we will see them again. Scripture says we will be reunited. This is what King David said about his infant son who had just died: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:23b)
Since we can’t see beyond the grave we tend to view life as ending at the grave. But we need not be so near-sighted but instead look at the whole picture - look with the eyes of faith beyond physical death to eternal life. We need to put on spiritual (faith) glasses. We need to view temporal things in the light of the eternal.
Here on earth we believe in what we can see and hear and feel. But the Bible teaches us that we are not to live just by outward appearances –by what we can see and feel - but we are to live by faith – faith in God and in His Word. Let’s see what the Word of God – the Bible – says about death and what happens to a person after they die.
First let’s read the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as He has determined, and of each kind of seed He gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Humans have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies: but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. …So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, but it will be raised imperishable: it is sown in dishonor, but it will be raised in glory: it is sown in weakness, and it will be raised in power: it is sown a natural body, and it will be raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, then there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first human Adam became a living being’ the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. …and just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly man .
…Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and this mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Where, O Death is your victory. Where, O Death is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15: 35-40, 42-47,49,51-57)
We read in Philippians of how our life after death is tied to Jesus’ life after death: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21) And Jesus tells us: “Because I live, you shall live also.” (John 14:19)
In 1 Peter we read: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1Peter 1:3-5)
Jesus left us with these words concerning the gift of life He gives us: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die….” (John 11:25-26) and He also said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one can snatch them out of my hand…” (John 10:29)
Here in 1 John we read about the future glory that will be ours: “Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we will be has not yet appeared: but we know that when He (Jesus) appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2) And also: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
About life after death we read: “God will live with them, and they will be His people … and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)
And concerning our own death, God promises to be with us and comfort us at that time. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You (God) are with me: your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Death is our graduation day – our transition to eternal life. Scripture says: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15)
Here on earth it seems so natural to believe in what we can see and hear and feel. But the Bible calls us to live by faith and not by sight. When we are faced with death – our own death or that of a loved one – if we go on what we can see (pain, trauma and disease) we may be afraid. But if we replace our fearful thoughts with faith in God we will have peace.
Each time we have a fearful thought we can replace it with a “faith” thought. We can pray for Gods’ help to do that. Scripture says: “We demolish arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. And we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)
If the fear and dread of dying settles in on us, let’s learn to take these thoughts captive. We can make each thought obedient to the knowledge that God will take care of us when we die. He will comfort us and hold our hand when it is our time to walk through that valley of the shadow of death. And on the other side of that valley there will be eternal life and unspeakable joy forever more.