One of the most interesting books of the Bible is unquestionably the book of Ecclesiastes. It is part of the wisdom literature and is very philosophical. Though many scholars believe it was written by Solomon, no one knows for sure.
In the book of Ecclesiastes there is a verse that I find to be quite significant. In the third chapter, the eleventh verse we are told, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…”
What does it mean that God has “set eternity” in our hearts? I believe it is a hint that God has made us eternal beings. Since God is eternal and we are designed and made in his image, it stands to reason that we will live somewhere in eternity. There is life after death.
A couple of years ago I read about a memoir by an award-winning novelist by the name of Julian Barnes. The memoir is titled, Nothing To Be Frightened Of. In it, he admits that he is afraid to die. This admission he says is embarrassing because he is a religious skeptic. He reasons that there is no God, and therefore no afterlife and therefore nothing to be frightened of. In the memoir he says that:
“He thinks about death every day and that sometimes in the night he is ‘roared awake’ and ‘pitched from sleep into darkness, panic and a vicious awareness that this is a rented world.’ Awake and utterly alone, he finds himself beating his pillow with a fist and wailing ‘Oh no Oh No OH NO.’
Julian’s dreams are even darker. Sometimes he is buried alive. Other times he is ‘chased, surrounded, outnumbered.’ He finds himself ‘held hostage, wrongly condemned to the firing squad, informed that there is even less time’ than he thought. ‘The usual stuff,’ he calls it. And perhaps this is the usual stuff, because death is the sum of all our fears: of being alone, abandoned or condemned.
Barnes makes it clear that the point of the book is “I shouldn’t be frightened of anything as it relates to death because none of that exists.” It is clear that Barnes is baffled by his fears and it troubles him greatly.
I do not find this to be surprising. In my most recent book, Reflections of the Existence of God, I demonstrate how this is quite common. I point out how so many of the world’s most celebrated atheists were very confident in their beliefs. They were even arrogant, deriding those who believed in God. However, what’s so interesting, and this is very well documented, that when they get to the end of their lives, they are terrified of dying.
Why is this? I think it is quite clear we are eternal beings living temporal lives on earth. For Julian Barnes, his intellect tells him there is nothing after death, but his heart senses and knows that he is an eternal being and he will live forever.
We are told in the Bible that if we don’t employ the means God has given us to find peace in the face of our mortality, that we “will be slaves to the fear of death all of our lives.” (Hebrews 2:15)
So by what means has God given us to find peace? The answer is simple: Jesus and the resurrection. Paul says that Christians are people who serve a “God who raises the dead.” (II Corinthians 1:10) We put our hope and faith in Him. And we are also told that one of the reasons Jesus came into the world was “to deliver us from this fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:15)
Do you realize you are an eternal being and that you will exist forever? Does that trouble you? Do you have faith in the God who raises the dead?
God promises us, His people, that He will walk with us through all of our fears and that He is even going to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. This is our source of peace as we face the reality of a short and temporal life on this earth.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.