By P.J. Casebolt
What the Hebrew writer says makes no sense whatever, if we are afraid of death, have no certain knowledge of death and what lies beyond, and fear the unknown.
Yet, there are those among us who not only claim that men are afraid of dying and fear the unknown because of their uncertain knowledge, but that since Jesus was human he must also have embraced these qualities.
In the first place, I emphatically deny that all men are afraid of dying, or that they fear the unknown because they lack certain knowledge. Some may, but some don’t.
And I even more emphatically deny that the life of Jesus was characterized by doubt, uncertainty, lack of certain knowledge, or fear of dying. Jesus “feared” in the same sense that we should “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). It is this kind of fear that caused Jesus to be heard in his hour of trial (Heb. 5:7).
A time or two in my life, I have faced not only the possibility of death, but accepted the fact that such a possibility could turn into a certainty, but I did not face those hours with any uncertainty or doubt as to what lay beyond. We may not prefer to die, may not enjoy the prospect of it, and a certain amount of emotion may accompany that prospect, but that has nothing whatever to do with the other things mentioned.
I have stood beside others who faced the certainty of death, but there was no fear of dying in their hearts, or uncertainty because of the unknown. On the contrary, the fact that the scriptures are clear and complete in the knowledge of death and what lies beyond, gives us the faith and hope that is necessary to face death unafraid. And a part of that knowledge is the example that Jesus left for us to follow.
Jesus had certain knowledge of who he was, from whence he came, and where he was going (Jn. 16:28). This did not keep Jesus from subjecting himself to those temptations, pain, and sorrow which accompany a fleshly form.
But some seem to have a problem with understanding how Jesus could be divine and human at the same time. With men, human wisdom and reasoning, and a lack of faith this would be impossible to understand. But walking by faith, and “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13), we have no problem whatever with either the divine or human characteristics of Christ.
We may not understand just how one is “born of water and of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5), but we accept it. We may not understand just how the “operation of God” (Col. 2:12) raised Jesus or how it raises us from baptism into a new life, but we believe it. We may not understand how Christ could still be the Son of God even while he was “manifest in the flesh,” or how he could say “the Son of man which is in heaven” (Jn. 3:13) even while he was in the flesh, but if he said it, we believe it. It’s that simple.
But if we insist on comparing spiritual things with carnal, using human standards of measurement or percentages to limit the power and nature of God, we may have trouble accepting some of these truths which others hold to be self-evident.
David said, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psa. 23:4). Paul was not afraid of dying, expressed confidence in the thought of such (2 Tim. 4:6-8), and even preferred that option over the prospect of abiding in the flesh (Phil. 2:23,24). And it is this confidence instilled in us by our knowledge of God and our relationship to him that causes us not only to say, but to boldly say, “The Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5,6). And the fear of what man shall do includes the fear of death (Matt. 10:28).
“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 Jn. 4:17,18).
To those who are tormented by the fear of death, uncertainty, and the unknown, I say: learn of God’s love manifested through the gift of his Son in the flesh, and claim the boldness which lies in a faith in God and a hope which lies in the resurrection.
Only then can we give confidence to the dying, and say to the living concerning the dead, “. . . that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 15, pp. 451-452
August 6, 1992