Fear not? It all depends.

Hell scene from What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams

What’s going on when people who needn’t fear death…do, and those who should fear it…don’t?

A godly woman whose cancer has returned with a vengeance grips the rails of her hospital bed as she fearfully recalls her doctor’s dire words that she hasn’t long to live. She knows what awaits her at death and it’s worse than anything she can imagine ever experiencing in life. All her many years since childhood she had managed to largely avoid being reminded of the inevitable, as if it were a reserved seat ticket left in a pocket of a seldom-used purse. But now she could almost see the flames leaping in devilish delight on the other side of the hospital room wall, and feel their scorching, sanctifying heat.

A lecherous, hedonistic film producer leeringly smirks as he watches one young actress walk out his office door while another, more buxom than the first, passes her as she walks in. He’s already had a satisfying afternoon and the evening promises many more sensual delights, in his private office as well as in the studio where he will take his customary seat. He chuckles at the irony of having reaped such benefits, physical as well as financial, from “sin” and taboo. He sees no limit to the lavish lifestyle pornography affords him, other than his inevitable death, of which he has no fear beyond the horror of it coming too soon and cheating him out of many more years of pleasingly profitable vice and immorality.

Is there anything more important or less accessible than what awaits each of us after death? Both the godly woman and the lecherous man think they know their ultimate fate and live in the light, or the dark of it. She believes heaven is her ultimate destination…hopefully…but definitely not before she must suffer extreme torment for an undetermined length of time in the fires of purgatory. That millions of Christians face death with this unnecessary fear is an indefensible crime before God that the Roman Catholic Church will answer for.

He thoroughly rejects the notion of God and an afterlife, believing the material to be all that is, or ever was, or ever will be, and lives self-indulgently consistent with his faith in nothing and no one. But his awakening from the sleep of his impending death will be ruder than he can even imagine, as his prideful certainty of non-accountability comes face-to-face with his Maker and Judge.

Fear is an inhibiting, paralyzing, joy-sucking emotion when rooted in a lie. Practical jokes may be amusing to some, but death is no laughing matter. Fear that is founded on truth, however, is a desirable, danger-deterring experience that can be salvific for this life as well as the next. It prompts protective action…a quick evacuation at the rumble of a mudslide, taking cover at the sound of gunshots, fleeing a burning building.

But fear is only positive and profitable if acted on before the danger overtakes us. Once we are captured by the mud, the murderer, or the flames, fear is positively useless.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. – Hebrews 2:14-15