I know someone who recently wrote something about a fear of the afterlife. It wasn’t a fear of dying so much as it was just the unknown of the afterlife. I cannot tell why exactly this person was afraid of it. I can relate to it and I can understand it. I’m not putting down the fear or anything. I’ve thought about it though and I’ve decided to write on it more with some of my own fears I’ve had about the afterlife.
The first is simply that it is the unknown. I think that is helped by learning who we trust. Consider for me my fear of water. I think one thing that makes it easier to face is that my roommate is great in the water and the recognition that when I learn to swim, I do not learn alone. I have someone with me that I can trust.
So when we are walking into the afterlife, we do not walk alone. Christ is with us every step of the way. The question might be just how much we really trust him. Do I give my roommate perfect trust now for instance in the water? No. If I did, I’d already be learning. I have to accept that and it is one thing that motivates me to learn. He’s a great friend and I want it to be clear that I do trust him. I think of what the man said in Mark 9. “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”
We could also fear the afterlife is boring. Now to be honest, most of the descriptions I’d heard of Heaven growing up sounded boring. You sit around on clouds all day playing harps and singing. I’m sorry, but I’m not really a musical guy and that kind of thought just didn’t really get me excited about Heaven at all.
Here’s something that does get me going though! Consider taking a course on systematic theology under the apostle Paul for the rest of the afterlife! God is an infinite topic and we will always be learning new things about him so we can keep exploring that forever. I think of all the books I won’t have time to read here and realize I can spend forever in the ultimate heavenly library.
Now knowledge might not be your thing. That’s alright. Consider what you do love and think “Will I find that in Heaven?” For this, I definitely recommend Peter Kreeft’s book “Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing.”
However, we Christians have to be honest. It could be that we fear the afterlife at times because we fear coming in contact with God. That could be because we are aware of our own fallenness more and more. When we approach God in the afterlife, we cannot have any sin on us. God spends our time here sanctifying us.
This is something we don’t like. A guy does not like being made aware that he has to give up internet pornography. A girl does not like to be told that she needs to get her spending habits under control and manage money properly. A husband does not like being told that he has to put his wife before himself. A wife does not like being told that she has to submit to her husband.
We can think of any sins in our lives and if they’re a habit, one reason we do them is that we honestly enjoy them. The reason a guy watches pornography on the internet is because he enjoys pornography. Maybe in his rational side that is more in tune with Scripture, he will realize he shouldn’t enjoy it and maybe after he watches he realizes he doesn’t, but the reason he returns is that he enjoys it and he wants to.
Consider the case of people who want to give up smoking for instance. They say they want to, but they show up in the check-out line week after week buying cigarettes. Why? Ultimately, it’s because they want to. We do not sin out of necessity. We sin out of choice and we are the only ones ultimately responsible.
In our fallenness, it is natural to avoid God. We might say that we love him, but do we really? Think of the man who treats women like sex objects. Now he is not just wronging one woman. He is wronging all women. If I do something to one woman that has nothing to do with her femininity, I have insulted her. If I do something though to her that exploits her in a way because of her femininity, I have exploited femininity. I have not just wronged one woman by committing lust. I have wronged all women.
If I wrong someone else for their humanity, I have not just wronged one person. I have wronged all of humanity. Consider this then. How can a man who is exploiting women say that he is a great lover of beauty when he is wronging the image of beauty itself? He does not love beauty so much as he loves his own pleasure and is using beauty to get that. He is exploiting beauty and doing such is really a wrong against God himself. It is quite proper to say that God is beauty.
All the things we might want to avoid, God is. We should not think of properties being abstract things God has as if they existed separately from him. He is those qualities. He is holiness. He is justice. He is beauty. He is truth. He is love. Of course, he is also personal and tri-personal at that. We dare not leave that part out lest we end up with a notion of God that is not God at all.
That could be a strong reason though for fearing the afterlife. We all still cling to our little claims of deity in some way. If we didn’t, we’d never sin. We need to examine ourselves and see how we need to be more like Christ. What do we need to remove? What do we need to add?
It’s also about relinquishing control and submitting to God. I’m not talking about decision making and the will of God in the sense usually talked about. (Individual choices that are not violations of the moral law.) I am talking about the moral law itself. What do I need to do to be in accordance with it? What do I need to not do to be in accordance with it?
Rest assured of one thing also. I am saying this to myself as well. I am fallen just as you all are. Pray for me then in that as I pray for you. There are times I fear the afterlife for I know how fallen I am and the thought of coming into contact with God is frightening. The operation for removing that fallenness is never said to be painless, but the end product is guaranteed to be excellent!
Christian. I believe the fear of the afterlife is common. Be assured though that you do not enter it alone. He is with you and will be with you as you enter and forevermore after.