Fear Not! is a helpful and concise book on what the Bible teaches concerning death and the afterlife. The book started off stronger than it finished. The most beneficial chapters were the first two: chapter 1, What is Death?, and chapter 2, What Happens After Death? The rest of the book remained on task by answering questions biblically, but in my mind it lacked the punch and depth of the first two chapters.
Duncan’s writing partner, Nicholas Reid, writes in the Introduction, “The concern behind this book is less about trying to satisfy curiosity and more about trying to equip people to approach death from a Biblical perspective.” This mindset helps the book be more effective in its cause. The book does comfort, but it more so wants to renew our thinking concerning death. The book does challenge unbelievers, but it wants to build up saints in the way they talk about death. In other words the book wants to help disciple and mature readers as opposed to just help give “blurb-type” answers concerning death.
I thought this was an especially positive aspect of the book. In our culture it is very easy to go along saying and thinking quite silly things about death. On top of that conversations about death occur for us quite frequently as death occurs around us quite frequently (to say the least). Heck, when celebrities die the whole country is pondering death. At these times we have ample and quite natural opportunities to share the hope of the resurrection of Jesus. Still, it is so easy to maintain shallow conversation when talking about the most grave of subjects. This book did not merely help us sober up about the present situation in our culture, but it helped to mature our thinking and thus our conversing. Hopefully we talk more biblically, more truthfully, and more compassionately when death comes into a dialogue.
The most helpful thought that the book offered was its comparison of how Christians think about heaven and how non-Christians think about heaven. What I am referring to is captured in this sentence on p. 15-16, “The unbeliever prefers Heaven over Hell; the believer prefers Heaven over this earth.” No one wants to go to Hell, duh. That is not the crucial question. The important question is “Do we want God?” Do we desire God above all else? Is our treasure in heaven or on earth?
Often times when evangelists speak to unregenerate folks they will cap their message by putting forth “Do you want to go to Hell? No, you say. Then become a Christian?” However, they should more helpfully say, “Do you want God? Or will you pursue the vain, empty, passing pleasures of this fallen world? Will you exchange the glory of the immortal God for things created to look like mortal man?” I think this would help unbelievers know what legitimate salvation is like. It is not mainly about getting out of hell but mainly about getting God.
The other portion of the book that was really beneficial for me was thinking about the cause of death: sin against God. Duncan commented that before death was even possible God had already warned Adam about it and let him know that death’s cause is disobedience towards the Lord. He then spoke of the two separations that take place because of death: (1) separation between us and God (We were kicked out of the garden) and (2) separation within ourselves (Our spirit leaves our body when we die.)
It will be important to communicate sin as the cause of death when we are talking about death with our friends and trying to present the gospel to them. Once they understand that sin is the real problem, then that will lead them to understanding why they need the slain Son of God. Death is not their ultimate issue; God is. They have turned from him; they have offended Him. In His holy justice He must be appeased. That is where God stepped in by coming to us in Christ to conquer death by becoming sin on the cross. Wow. Crazy good news. May those who we speak to about death hear of Him. May it be so, Lord.