The reason I’m not afraid to die

Australians avoid talking about death, and so many avoid confronting its inevitability. Almost 150,000 Australians dying every year, death has never been high on the list of dinner-party talk. When it is talked about, the conversation is often to do with postponing death, or denying its hold on us.

In the April 2003 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Good Weekend’ magazine, Philip Rhoades, a 55 year old biologist and IT consultant, said: “I’m going to live forever. When I die I’ve made arrangements to have my body flown to America, and go into cryonic suspension. There are 100 people in cryonic suspension now, including four Australians, and 1,000 others signed up. It costs $70,000. Most of us are involved in medicine or science, and believe it will one day be possible to revive and repair us.” Rhoades admits lying suspended in liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees Celsius is not everyone’s cup of tea. But his story is a memorable summary of our society’s denial of death’s hold on us. He reckons he’s going to be revived and repaired and live forever.

Death is usually feared because we are unsure about what happens next. Even those who deny the afterlife witness that God ‘has set eternity in our hearts’ – we long for more than 70 or 80 brief years. If you have ever cried at a funeral you will know how death is an unwelcome intruder. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Our culture knows it is the enemy, but cannot face it because of fear. So we long to extend life, to avoid that final moment. As Dylan Thomas, that Welsh poet, wrote as his own father died, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

But what if someone could defeat death? What if someone could grant us life beyond the grave? What if death could be swallowed up by such a victory? The Bible tells us Jesus Christ is that person, who was raised to life on the Easter Sunday after dying on Good Friday. He conquered death on our behalf.

So the reaction of those who trust in Jesus is radically different when they face death. The response is given in 1 Corinthians 15:55: ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The writer goes on to say this victory is through the Lord Jesus Christ. To shift from fear to triumph is stunning.

Do you know this Jesus who can transform our approach to our death? Jesus is the reason that I’m not afraid to die – he has the answer to the question ‘what happens next?’

Rod Bayley
Wollongong Baptist Church