Released from Fear (Hebrews 2:14-18)
I never will forget seeing someone die for the very first time. I was a young youth minister and the mother of one of our elders was very ill. The family had been called in and the family called me. Tammy went with me. We were dating at the time and the elder’s daughter was Tammy’s best friend.
Tammy and I spent a good deal of time with the family that evening. I don’t remember that lady’s name, but there’s much of that night I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget that lady’s struggle for every breath. I’ll never forget that final breath as I stood by the bedside. I’ll never forget the helplessness and fear I experienced watching her die. I dropped Tammy off back at her house sometime after this lady had died. I called her when I got back to my apartment and we spent most of that night on the phone-we were badly frightened-far too frightened to sleep-and we needed each other that night.
I’ve seen quite a few other people die. It’s always a feeling of helplessness-there’s really nothing I can do except be there with the family. I’ve been asked on a few occasions to say a prayer or to say a few words after someone has died. Anything I say is going to be woefully inadequate and I know that very well.
You’ve likely witnessed death firsthand. You’ve likely surrounded a loved one as he or she drew his or her last breath. Maybe there’s been a time in your life when you’ve come face to face with your own mortality-some illness, some accident.
We mortals tend to fear death. We do everything in our power to avoid death as long as possible. We fear the pain that’s going to be associated with dying. We fear what the afterlife might be like. We fear being separated from loved ones.
Yet, contrary to the world, the Word teaches “The Christian can face death with hope and expectation.” Jesus has come; Jesus has died for our sins. Therefore, “The Christian can face death with hope and expectation.”
Scripture (Hebrews 2:14-18)
Because we have flesh and blood, Jesus became flesh and blood. Elsewhere in Hebrews, the author makes the point that Jesus became flesh and blood in order to endure the same temptations we do-That enables Him to be a merciful high priest.
Here, the author says that Jesus became flesh and blood like us in order to die. We are mortal and part of being mortal is being subject to death. Jesus could never have died in His preexistent state-God cannot die. When God revealed Himself to Moses, He revealed Himself by saying: “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex 3:14). The four living creatures praise God by declaring, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev 4:8).
In His death, Jesus destroyed the one who had power of death, the devil. Death is the domain of Satan. Death came into this world through sin: Romans 5:12. Death is an enemy of Christ: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26).
In His death, Jesus has vanquished death. He was resurrected out of death. “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Rev 1:18).
Through the death of Jesus, the Christian has been released from the fear of death.
There is no reason to fear death. Paul said, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:23). The faithful child of God has comfort after death (Lk 16:25).
Jesus didn’t become like the angels in order to die for and save angels. He took upon himself the form of the descendants of Abraham. Obviously, Hebrews is written to physical descendants of Abraham, but the idea is likely that he shared a physical body like the spiritual descendants of Abraham.
Jesus needed to become like His brethren that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest to make reconciliation for our sins. In the Old Testament, the high priest would offer sacrifice for the sins of the people.
That’s precisely what Jesus has done for us. He stepped forth and offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal 1:4). “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). That’s the reason-the only reason-the Christian does not need to fear death.
Jesus suffered through temptation; therefore, he is able to help us as we are being tempted.
Since Jesus has offered Himself for our sins and has suffered the same temptations we face, “The Christian can face death with hope and expectation.”
There is absolutely no reason for you to be afraid of death.
Imagine that you’re going to die this afternoon. In that fantasy, you can choose how that happens, but you will not be here tonight.
What about the possibility of dying today frightens you? Let’s think about some common fears and offer biblical solutions.
- Does your relationship with God frighten you? You have an opportunity this morning to take care of that! Jesus has given Himself to make reconciliation for your sins. Have you obeyed so that Jesus can remove your sins? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). If you need to repent and submit to baptism, do that before we leave today!
- Do you, as a Christian, have sins that separate you from God?Simon the sorcerer did. Peter told him, “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22).
- Are you concerned about your children? Insurance policies, wills, etc. can provide for them physically. But, far more important than that is leaving them a godly heritage. Begin today living a life that will guide your children the rest of their days. Teach your children today how to live: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). We parents have no more solemn obligation!
- Are you concerned about your spouse? Live in such a way to bring him/her comfort when you die. I remember doing a funeral several years ago for a gentleman who wasn’t a Christian. As his widow stood beside his casket just before the undertaker closed it, she looked up and said, “You know what hurts so much.” If you’re concerned about your spouse, don’t make it hurt so much!
- Are you worried about dying angry with your friends or loved ones? One of my fears has-at times-been that Tammy and I would have a few cross words and one of us would leave this world before that was settled. I really wouldn’t want to have a few words with her, die, and have her regret those words the rest of her life. We get rid of that fear by getting rid of anger quickly: “26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26).
- What else frightens you about your death? Look to Scripture to find the solution. Jesus came to release us from the fear of death. He did so specifically through His death on the cross; He does so indirectly through the words of Scripture. If you need help, that’s why the elders and I are here.
“The Christian can face death with hope and expectation.” Are you a Christian? Can you face death with hope and expectation?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.