Recently, I came face to face with my own mortality. Not in the "I almost died" manner I have before, but in the "I may be disabled for life" manner of thinking. For some time I had lost my ability to speak clearly. I could read and write and think normally, but speech was difficult beyond single-syllable words. This caused me to re-evaluate my life.
Meaning for my life has only been accomplished with my spiritual life. Everything else is "vanity and a striving after the wind," (Ecclesiestes 1:14). I had to come to terms with the possibility that I wasn't going to get any better. In my view, this was more difficult than facing death because at least when you die, all suffering is over. Don't get me wrong, I value my life and enjoy it. However, knowing what is in store for me in the future is difficult to accept.
Fortunately, I recovered and am returning to work at the end of the month if all continues to go well. This experience has taught me that this system of things has no lasting joy in it, becuase if nothing else, we age and die. People often talk of freedom and decry religion in general for imposing rules of conduct on people. Yet, this only brings to mind 2 Peter 2:19, which says, "while they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption." A religion-free life does offer maximum freedom, but you are still a "slave" to death.
Is death something that we should truly fear? I recently learned of a concept known as death denial. In short, it teaches that people create governments, ideologies, religions, and social groups in order to feel connected in a larger way to the world at large and to a longer time than their own life. When a person's method of death denial is threatened, people often respond with violence or intolerance. This doesn't have to be a true threat, but only a perceived threat.
This makes a lot of sense to me. Since we cannot deny that we all will die someday, as the evidence is forcefully upon us, we attempt to find a belief that eases the thought, such as an afterlife. This belief has permeated humankind for millennia. However, this is not what the Bible teaches about death.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us, "the living are conscious that they will die, but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all." This is not a concept taught in the OT exclusively. Recall that Jesus likened death to sleep when speaking of Lazarus (Luke 11:11-14). In addition, the Scriptures speak of death itself being abolished at 1 Corinthians 15:26, Isiah 25:8, and Revelation 20:12-14.
If death were simply a gateway to another form of existence, one far superior to that which we now have, why would God promise to do away with death? In addition, since Jesus likened death to sleep, it would mean that he was either misinformed or lying about the condition of Lazarus. Since Satan is referred to as the "father of the lie" (John 8:44), and Jesus says that he speaks the words of his father (God) at John 14:10, and since God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), then Jesus cannot lie. Therefore, if Jesus says that death is like sleep, then his is telling us the truth and so therefore the traditional concepts of the afterlife are lies themselves. This argument also dismisses the misinformed argument because surely God knows what happens to people at death.
Of course, this argument falls flat if one does not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. However, since I am convinced that the Bible is inspired of God and therefore accurate and in agreement in every way (remember, God cannot lie) then I accept that death is like a deep sleep, or in other words, nonexistence.
The Bible does offer hope for those who die. Romans 6:23 promises everlasting life to those who are faithful to God. This hope is also found in 1 John 2:17 and John 3:14-16. In addition, the Bible speaks of God putting "time indefinate" into mankind's heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Why would he do this if we were made to grow old and die?
It is clear that this life we now live is not what God originally intended. It is also clear that death is not something that is supposed to be natural to us. Mankind has a strong desire to avoid death, and death brings great sadness to those who remain alive. All of this, including that God will destroy death itself, points to the fact that we are not supposed to die and that death is unnatural to us.