Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. - Hebrews 2:14-15
IN THE YEARS following the resurrection of Jesus Christ the world began to see an infiltration of men and women, both young and old, who lived in such a way that their lives revealed death would never own them.
These men and women were no slaves to the fear of death because of the resurrection of Jesus. They were simply called "Christians."
In the face of great opposition and often under the threat of death these Christians proclaimed Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not. In the face of a “watch-your-own-back” kind of world these Christians sold their possessions to give to those in need. In the face of religiously devout neighbors who had strong ethics, strong marriages, and purposeful lives these Christians still called on their decent neighbors to repent and trust Christ. In the face of a world much like our own today, a world filled with gods and spiritualities, a world mixed with a thousand different ideas, these Christians insisted Jesus is the only way.
When their own countrymen would not listen they would go tell the nations. When men would not listen they would tell the women. When they could not travel by land they would travel by ship. When they could not preach in the day they preached at night. When they were kicked out of one town they tried the next. When they were threatened they prayed for boldness. When they were beaten they praised God they were granted to suffer for the Name. When they were thrown into prison they sang hymns. When they were hated they prayed for their enemies. When they were insulted they did not return insults. When they were commanded to deny Jesus they said they would rather die. Many did. Yet they lost nothing important.
They were faithful to Jesus even to the point of death because they knew death could not keep them. Death could not own them. These early Christians were not slaves to the fear of death. Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, has freed every Christian from the fear of death. For those in Christ death keeps nothing because it did not keep Him. We live a liberated life, liberated from slavery to the fear of death.
When the fear of death enslaved us we served that fear with a host of actions and ambitions and attitudes.
We served the fear of death with a life overcome by worry – we just could not stop being anxious. We served the fear of death with a life overcome by greed – we just could not stop wanting. We served the fear of death with a life overcome by hoarding – we just could not stop keeping. We served the fear of death with a life overcome by cowardice – we just could not stand up for the truth before men. We served the fear of death with a life overcome by hedonism – we just could not bear to suffer the difficulties of obedience to Christ. We served the fear of death with a life of stiff upper lips – we just could not generate compassion.
Most tragic of all, we served the fear of death with a life overcome by unbelief – we just could not believe. Death was so dominant a reality we could not dare believe in a world, in a creation, without death for that is all we could see until we heard the report of His resurrection. So we tried to keep our lives – we tried to save them by serving the fear of death in all those ways: worry, greed, hoarding, cowardice, hedonism, stoicism, and unbelief. To make matters worse, there was no way the lord of death, the devil, he who held the power of death, was every going to let us work ourselves free.
Only one Lord had the abundance of love, the strength of power, and the nature of perfection to release us from the fear of death - Jesus Christ the Righteous! He released us not by some psychological adjustment but by defeating death itself before our eyes.
Why is death not to be feared? Because He whom death could not hold now holds you forevermore. Go forth and live!