The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
32 – Concerning Death
"And just as it is appointed for men to die once" (Hebrews, 9:27). These words of St. Paul and the history of all humanity teach us beyond any doubt that we will all die. Exceptions such as the case of the Prophet Elias, who was taken up to the heavens, can only occur by a miracle or by divine intervention. The law is death for all. This, of course, is a result of sin. Man was created immortal. Sin made him mortal. "The wages of sin is death"--spiritual death and physical death (Romans, 6:23).
Everyone thinks about and fears death, for obviously different reasons, but this is the truth. Let us see, though, what death is, and then see if we should fear death or life or even ourselves.
When people think of death they put in their minds catastrophe and the end. This is not how things are. Death is a stage and a starting point. It is neither the end, nor a catastrophe. It is a change of circumstances. It is birth.
Just as the embryo grows in the womb of its mother for nine months and is then born, so too man in his earthly life works for his salvation, and then he dies. In other words, he is born into eternity. The child that is born is born crying. Why? The reason is that it does not know where it is going. It fears the unknown. We who know the reality of the situation do not cry when a child is born, but are happy. The same applies to the person who dies. He cries and thinks about death because he is afraid of the unknown. Christ who "has become the first born from the dead" has told us everything. But then why are Christians afraid of death?
Christians are afraid of death for three main reasons: a) they do not have enough faith in Christ, b) they do not live a holy, but rather a sinful life and are therefore afraid, and c) they know that after death repentance for salvation no longer exists and so they are afraid of death and the uncertainty that it brings for them personally.
Non-Christians are afraid of death for the same reasons, if they have some faith, but also because they do not know the things that follow after death. Non-believers are afraid of death because they consider it catastrophe and the end. But it is not. It is, as we said, a stage and a starting point.
Christians should not be afraid of death. More than death they should fear their earthly life. In essence and actuality they should not be afraid of their earthly life. They should fear their bad selves. They should fear their unrepentance and disbelief.
LET US PRAY
Christ, Who became man for us, were crucified and died on the cross, descended to Hades and were raised up and became "the first born from the dead," Who told us "he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live"(John, 11:25), You, Lord, help us. Give us faith. Teach us about death. Make us not to fear death. Give us Your grace so that we may work out our eternal salvation in our earthly life, be victorious over our sinful selves, and not remain in our sinful state--our unrepentant state. Help us to live and grow in a state of repentance, to think of death for what it is, a stage and starting point for eternity, a birthday in Your heavenly Kingdom, and a return to our fatherly home. We thank You, Lord.