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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: How Do Non-Christians Face Death?

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Don Stewart
Those who do not believe that the Bible is God's Word still have to deal with the problem of death. They too must face the great unknown. It is something that none of us looks forward to facing. The humorist Woody Allen said.

I don't mind dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens.

Terrifying Nature Of Death

The Bible recognizes that all of us have a natural fear of death. In Job it is called the "king of terrors."

They are torn from the tent in which they trusted, and are brought to the king of terrors (Job 18:14).

The psalmist also recognized the terrifying nature of death.

My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me (Psalm 55:4).

The writer to the Hebrews said those who fear death are in slavery.

and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).

Non-Christian Responses

Non-believers deal with death in a variety of ways. The following are some of the attitudes in which they face the issue of the afterlife.

1. Denial Of Death

Some people deny the reality of death - they think death is just an illusion. Therefore, they claim they have nothing to fear since death does not really occur.


Unfortunately no one can live consistently with this idea. It is a denial of the obvious. Death is a reality we all must face. Pretending it does not exist will not make it go away.

2. Say We Cannot Know

Many people think that it is impossible to know what will happen to people after this life. Consequently death is something that is out of the realm of discussion. They live their life as an agnostic toward death. This is one who does not know, or cannot know, what will happen in the future.


By taking this position, they have shut themselves off from biblical revelation that gives us an answer as to what will happen after this life is over.

3. Death Is The End

According to many, there is no hereafter. Death is the end of all existence. Life developed on this planet by the chance forces of evolution. Everything, including humanity, is a result of natural forces. Since there is no supernatural, there is nothing that happens to a human being after death. The material that makes up the human body will eventually dissolve. Nothing will be left of that person.


Yet the Bible says that death is not the end. Humans are made for eternity. Scripture not only makes the claim, it provides evidence to back it up. Paul wrote of people like this.

There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18).

4. Fatalistic

Fatalism sees everything in life as pre-ordained. What will be, will be. We really can't do anything about anything. This includes death. Since humanity does not have any say in the matter, each person should be unconcerned about death.


The Bible teaches that it is our decision where we will spend eternity, not the decision of fate. We are held responsible for the decisions we make. Jesus said.

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins (John 8:24).

5. False Optimism

Some have a false optimism toward death. They believe that everything will be fine in the next life. Perhaps they have heard stories of people who have had out of body experiences who report that everything is great on the other side. Whatever the case may be, they think that the next life holds only good things for them.


This hope is based upon a false optimism. Scripture gives no such hope to all who have died. The Bible says.

There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked (Isaiah 57:21).

If a person has not made peace with God in this life, there is no hope for them in the next. Death cuts off that person from the possibility of obtaining eternal life.

6. Religious Martyrs

Many people have died for some religious cause thinking that it will usher them into some type of heavenly existence. Their religion teaches them that the afterlife can be gained by dying a martyrs death. Consequently death takes on the idea of promotion to something better.


Unfortunately, there is no objective basis for their belief. Dying for a cause will not automatically bring one into heaven, no matter how noble the cause. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Faith in a misguided object will not bring anyone into heaven. Heaven will only be achieved by putting ones faith in Jesus Christ.

7. Escapist Attitude

For many, death is something they do not want to ever think about. Consequently they live life as an escapist. Escapism can take many forms: work, money, alcohol, drugs, school, or pleasure. Whatever form of escape people take, it is in an effort not to think about the hereafter. By devoting themselves to other pursuits, they have busied themselves to the place where they do not have to think about the afterlife.


The Bible warns about those who attempt to escape the responsibilities of dealing with God by turning to money or power. Jesus said.

Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of things they possess (Luke 12:15).

So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God (Luke 12:21).

There is no escaping the judgment of God. No amount of diversion will change this fact.

8. Lose All Hope

Finally, there are those who lose all hope and eventually take their own life. They think this will end their trouble. Death, to them, is the ultimate escape to all their problems.


Death is not the end. By taking their own life they have not solved the problem. They still have to face the judgment of God. The writer to the Hebrews said.

Just as humans are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Taking ones own life will not solve any problem since death is not the end.


If the Bible had nothing to say about the afterlife, then we would have no hope whatsoever. Fortunately we do not have to be in the dark with respect to the next world because the living God has spoken. Non-Christians, like Christians, have to face the reality of death. They deal with the issue in various ways. None of these, however, have any basis in reality. They are merely forms of denial of the biblical truth about this life and the next.
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