Thanatophobia. Ever heard of it? It’s the fear of death. Not too many people don’t have a bit of thanatophobia. We wonder what happens the second after our hearts stop beating. Atheists say nothing happens. It’s simply “lights out.” Agnostics take a “wait and see” attitude because we can’t really know for sure. Post-modernists create and believe their own version of the moment we close our eyes in death. Of course, that version can change from day to day if they feel it to be right. An anchorless life produces the view of an anchorless afterlife. Solomon dealt with the question as well. In his conclusion that life “under the sun” was meaningless, he viewed death through the distorted view of temporal lenses.
For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
From a life “under the sun” perspective, Solomon was right. When God cursed the ground after the fall recorded in Genesis 3, he reminded man that his body would return to the ground. “For you are dust,” God told Adam, “And to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). Our bodies go to the grave, that’s for sure, but what about our souls?
The Bible is clear that there is life after death for everyone. We all have that in common. The great separator is where we will spend our eternal existence. For those who don’t know Jesus, their destination is hell. Jesus describes the place of hell as an “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), a place of “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46). The apostle John writes that “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Rev. 14:11). For those whom Jesus has rescued, they will pass from death to life (John 5:24). They will be absent from the body, but present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). The choice is clear. Trust Jesus, and live forever in heaven. Reject Jesus, live forever in hell. The just Judge will dispense justice to all.
The Trappist monks have a strange tradition. They all dig a grave together. Every day they go to that gravesite and ponder their deaths. When one of them dies, they are buried in that grave. Then they dig a new grave and start the ritual all over again.¹ That’s what Solomon does for us in his reflective journal. He reminds us that death is right around the corner. Only through Jesus can we face it with the confidence of an eternity in heaven.
Father, remind us often of the reality of death, heaven, and hell. You are the just Judge who will call into account all our actions. We thank you that Jesus covers all our sin with his death on the cross. He is our great Rescuer. Our confidence is in him. We pray in his name. Amen.
¹ Philip Ryken, Why Everything Matters: The Gospel in Ecclesiastes (Christian Focus Publications, 2015), 80-81,