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Dear Reading Friends, do you have a fear of death? Recently, a reader asked for a specific type of story with a biblical truth to be used in a unique way. A few days later, the following story flowed from my pen. Many fear death, but they don’t need to—not if they have placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior from sin. Share that good news with someone, and you may bring relief concerning their eternal future. (Though this story seems to start off as sad or gruesome, it does have a happy ending!) See you on the next page!—David Telbat
Fear of Death or Peace in Passing
by D.I. Telbat
Curt Rawlings lay perfectly still on his hospital bed. The wave of pain somehow pierced through the medication the nurses said would keep him comfortable. No, this wasn’t comfort. This was pure misery. But it wasn’t as horrifying as the idea of passing into the void of death. Nothingness awaited him. The thought of indefinite unconsciousness plagued his mind.
He lay with his eyes closed, but he wasn’t sleeping. Behind his eyelids, he imagined what death would feel like. So final. So helpless. So terrifying. Would he be able to scream if he couldn’t take it anymore? Screaming probably wouldn’t help him, he figured. Screaming wouldn’t help him now, as he was dying, so he doubted screaming would rescue him from the abyss of a empty existence.
“Oh, Lord,” he prayed, “where is the peace I’m supposed to feel right now, in the hour I need it most?”
Tears ran along his ear and dropped onto the pillow. Why wasn’t faith in the salvation he’d received from Jesus Christ bringing him any peace now? He knew the verses about heaven—the streets of gold, the perfect light, no more tears, no more death, the presence of Jesus. But what about the transition to that perfection? Had he missed something in the Bible about what happened between now and then? There seemed only horror at the prospect of facing the unconscious void. What deity had thought up this nightmare?
He opened his eyes and saw a figure standing next to his bed. He blinked until he could focus on the familiar face of Doctor Walter Bayonne.
“Sorry to wake you, Curt.” Walt looked tired. “I was called in for a midnight consult. Figured I’d stop in and see how you’re doing. The nurse said you had some family here today, saying goodbye. How’re you feeling?”
“Like a man who everyone keeps saying goodbye to, but who doesn’t want to say goodbye himself.”
Curt heard his own voice. It sounded weak, crackled, strained, almost a whisper. But Walt didn’t withdraw or frown. He was more than just his oncologist. Walt was a true friend who had even prayed with Curt in the weeks leading up to his hospice care.
“We’ve talked about this, Curt.” Walt drew the nearest chair closer to the bed and sat down. “You’ve said you’re a believer. You’ve placed your faith in Jesus. You’ve repented from your sins and trusted God to resurrect you as a man who has eternal life. It’s okay to let go. It’s really okay, Curt.”
“No.” The tears welled afresh. He hadn’t wept this much since his wife had died eight years earlier. “The end of the end isn’t the problem. It’s the in-between that has me panicked.”
“The in-between?” The doctor leaned closer. “You mean between death and being with the Lord?”
“Yeah. Where’s the comfort in that?” Curt tried to scoff, but ended up only coughing. “The nothingness.”
“Oh, I see.” Walt nodded slowly. “Some people think there’s some sort of lapse between this life and the next. But you don’t need to fear this, Curt. There is no lapse. The Bible says so. There is no in-between. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians Chapter One that we’re either here in the flesh, or we die to be with Christ. Remember that?”
“Are . . . you sure?” Curt raised his left hand and touched his chest. “Because I’m feeling something dreadful right in here about this.”
Walt took Curt’s left hand and held it tightly.
“Yes, I’m sure. As sure as I know the Bible tells us the truth.” Walt smiled reassuringly. “Look, the word ‘sleep’ in Hebrew and Greek often refers to death, not actual sleeping after death. You can tell by the context, Curt. I don’t mean to lecture you on your deathbed, but you know the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, right?”
“Right. I know.”
“So, clear verses that refer to a conscious existence in heaven immediately after death shouldn’t give way to obscure verses that refer to going to sleep at the time of death. Sleep is a common word for departing this life, even in English. You ever heard of sleeping with the fishes? Does that mean physical death, or just sleepiness with the aquatic life?”
“You’re cracking jokes right now?” Curt asked. But he wasn’t offended. Walt was already starting to calm Curt’s worry. “What evidence is there?”
“Remember Revelation Chapter Six? What are the people doing who have died? Are they unconscious or conscious?”
“They’re conscious. They’re crying out to God.” Curt smiled. “Of course. They’re crying out for justice. If they’re sleeping, they wouldn’t be crying out, conversing with God to avenge their martyrdom. They’re actually talking to God from the dead, Walt!”
“That’s right. See?” The doctor chuckled. “The dead aren’t unconscious. They’re totally aware. Our bodies may not be resurrected until later, but that doesn’t mean we’re not conscious throughout the experience. There is no in-between. It’s either here in the physical, or there, in the eternal.”
“Tell me another one.”
“Okay, here’s a simple one. The thief on the cross. What’d Jesus tell him?”
“Something like, he’d be with Him in paradise later that day.”
“Exactly. There wouldn’t be much comfort for a dying man if you told him he’d make it to heaven someday, just not right now. God doesn’t put us in the freezer, Curt. John Chapter Five says we already have eternal life. Jesus told that thief that it would all happen today—that day. There’s no indication that the thief would experience an unconscious existence.”
“You’re right.” Curt licked his chapped lips. “A dying man needs real assurance that salvation is immediate. Trust me—that’s what I need!”
“Okay, here’s another one.” Walt grinned, his eyes bright even in the low light of the room. “Remember the record that Jesus shared about Lazarus and the rich man? Jesus indicated that there is a conscious existence for the dead—not only for those waiting for eternal hellfire for their unbelief, but also for those who are in heaven, because of their faith.”
“That’s a good one.” Curt took a deep breath. “It’s strange. I’m . . . not exactly afraid right now.”
“That’s because when we believe the truth, it affects us deep inside, even our emotions.”
“It’s true. I guess I just let my fear get in front of what I knew the Bible has said all along.”
“How about in Luke Chapter Fifteen? Everyone always thinks it’s the angels who are rejoicing in heaven over one lost sinner who is found. But the Bible actually says in verse ten that there will be rejoicing in the presence of the angels. I like to think that it’s people who are in the presence of the angels rejoicing, people who’ve gone before us—conscious, aware, celebrating individuals, Curt!”
“I like that.” Curt couldn’t stop smiling, and he didn’t want to. His tears were for a different reason now.
“Here’s another one. Luke Chapter Sixteen. Jesus seems to say that your believing friends will receive you in heaven when you die—people will receive you upon your death, Curt. Your friends. They’re conscious, waiting for you to join them.”
“My friends.” Curt closed his eyes. “Tell me another one.”
“The writer of Hebrews said that a cloud of faithful witnesses exists in heaven, and Jesus said that God is the God of the living—not the dead, or half-dead, or half-asleep, or sleeping. You have nothing to fear, Curt. It’s okay to go. Go be with the Lord. Enter eternity.”
“It’ll be okay . . .” Curt felt his body relax, and his spirit felt light. Knowing he would be in the presence of Jesus immediately changed everything! “Tonight, I’ll be with Him . . . in glory . . .”
He no longer felt his body. There was a sound . . . a sound of cheering . . . a sound of rejoicing.
COMING UP: Join us next time for, “Long Manuscripts and Life’s Mistakes.” And our following post will be a review of a favorite fiction book David read by Craig Parshall.