We have been examining the hope that God gives us as a gracious gift. This hope comes to us from Scripture and is secured for us by the resurrection of Christ. It is communicated through God’s Word and confirmed to us by the Holy Spirit. It defends us against the doubts that Satan would bring. It is the source of our ongoing blessedness and joy. It is strengthened and confirmed through trials.
This hope, then, removes our fear of death. What is there to be afraid of if all death does is release you into the fulfillment of your hope?
When you came to Jesus Christ and you acknowledged Him as Savior, what did you want? You probably didn’t come to Christ and say, “I want to be saved so I’ll be a better wife,” or, “I want to be saved so that I can have God working in my corner to make my life more successful.”
When someone is truly saved, what’s overwhelming them in the moment is not their circumstances, but the reality of their own sin. The prayer of the truly saved is, “God, deliver me from my sin and its consequences into the blessedness of that eternal life which you provide.”
People approaching God for salvation know that they are engaging Him in a matter that has eternal consequences. It’s not just a temporal issue. People are saved when they look all the way down into eternity and realize the path they are on has immensely frightening eternal consequences.
When you came to Christ, then, you were given eternal life. And in this same moment, the fear of death should have been conquered.
Now, I don’t mean that the fear of dying was conquered. There are normal things to be afraid of. I would just as soon not suffer the pain of a fatal accident or of a terminal illness. I don’t look forward to suffering. It is normal to fear the process of dying. God built that into us. But that is not the same thing as fearing death.
I had a conversation with Larry King once. He asked me, “Are you afraid to die?” And I said, “I have no fear of death.” He asked me again, “You really mean that, you have no fear of death?” And I said, “I have no fear of death. I have normal anxiety about the way I might suffer prior to death, but I have no fear of death because of my hope in Christ. That’s the fulfillment of everything that matters to me.” Then he said, “I wish I could have that faith.” And I said, “Oh, you could. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.”
When you have this hope, the sting of death is gone. It disappears because death simply ushers you into the presence of the Lord, and that’s why the apostle Paul looks forward joyfully to death. He says,
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
We are victorious over sin. We are victorious over the indictment and punishment of the law, and so we can look at the future toward “a hope laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5).
Is there anyone afraid of heaven? Is there any believer afraid of the presence of Jesus Christ? Is anyone afraid to go into the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, the capital of the eternal state? Is anyone afraid of an eternity in fellowship with the saints? Nothing about heaven frightens me, and death is the door into that experience. So we don’t have anything to be afraid of when it comes to death.
Death is our releasing, freeing us up to be what we were redeemed to be. This hope is sure. It is an absolutely fixed hope. In fact, Titus 1:2 refers to “the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.”
Don’t you just love that? God, who can’t lie, promised this hope of eternal life before time began. He promised it to His elect, and He wrote their names down in a book. And before you were ever created, before Adam was ever created, before the universe was ever created, God had already written down the names of those who would receive the hope of eternal life. And God cannot lie. And that is why Hebrews 6:19-20 says this:
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
This is amazing language. We have a hope that’s anchored to Jesus, who is inside the veil in the very throne of God, interceding for us. This is our hope.
But this hope doesn’t only have implications for how we think about death. It also has implications for how we live our present life. That will be the topic of the next post.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2003, titled “A Theology of Hope.”